|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: Scribble Hub|
“Fleur! Anne! I’m back!” Carmen shouted.
“Camilla! How did it go?” Fleur asked, waving as Carmen and Kagriss walked into view. She and Anne were sitting against a tree, with Fleur on top of Anne, leaning against the larger girl.
Each side saw the other from a long way off through the trees, but really, it was too much effort to shout. Sound didn’t carry all that well in the forest either, so they all saved their breath.
Before they got too close, Carmen and Kagriss made sure to hide their auras to avoid startling the horses too much. Kagriss was a lot happier than normal as well. When Carmen asked her for the reason, Kagriss simply said that she was happy that Carmen taught the pest his rightful place.
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Technically, she wasn’t wrong, but Carmen didn’t know how she felt about the way Kagriss put it…
“I think it went great. Some hurdles here and there, but the important thing is we got someone to heal you!”
There was a slight pause as the words registered and all of a sudden Anne jumped up with Fleur in her arms, literally picking Fleur up and spinning her around. “Fleur, you did it!”
What followed was a moment of chaos as Fleur tried to say that she didn’t do anything while Carmen tried to get Anne to stop, hovering over her to make sure Anne didn’t lose her footing while she spun and fell with Fleur.
When Anne finally stopped spinning and safely put Fleur on the ground, both swayed a little as they tried to get over their dizziness. The dizziness didn’t stop either of them from smiling though.
They were rightfully giddy. The illness from that strange mana had plagued Fleur for weeks now and required a lot of attention from Anne to keep it suppressed.
Neither of them had dared hope that they could be free of that burden so soon, so that Carmen found someone that could actually help was a huge blessing they didn’t expect.
“Who is it, who is it?” Fleur asked. “Is it someone we know?”
Carmen hesitated, then decided to answer, since Fleur was going to find out sooner or later. However, even among the acolytes, especially the ones from the orphanage, Pavlor’s reputation wasn’t exactly stellar. “Probably? It’s Pavlor. You should know him.”
“Eh? Pavlor? But he’s…” Fleur’s voice faded away as she remembered what the man was like. Even Anne’s jubilance was replaced with apprehension. Pavlor was more notorious than Carmen had initially thought if even Anne, who’s been gone from the Church for two or three years, was still worried about Pavlor.
Still, beggars couldn’t be choosers.
“Don’t worry. We’ll make sure he doesn’t do anything suspicious to you, okay? Right, Kagriss?”
Kagriss bowed. “Yes. Leave it up to us,” she said with a rare smile that wasn’t directed toward Carmen on her face. Despite her usual cool outward demeanor, Kagriss seemed to have quite the soft spot for Fleur and Anne, which was good. It was better if everyone got along. Kagriss even apologized to Fleur in private about the accident during the chimera attack, so their relationship was especially good.
Fleur just had a friendly personality after all. Anne got that part right.
Thanks to everyone’s reassurances, eventually Fleur relaxed, no longer apprehensive about her upcoming encounter with Pavlor. Toward the end, even Anne joined in, pledging to fight Pavlor if anything went wrong, which drew a laugh from all of them.
Carmen clapped her hands together, drawing all of their attention. “Alright, it’s time to go. I’m sure Fleur is excited to see her father, so let’s make the last stretch of our journey go back quickly!”
Her words injected some energy into the already happy atmosphere. Anne helped Fleur onto their horse and then jumped on herself. If just a few short moments, they were off at a rapid trot. The only one still on the ground was Carmen, dragging her and Kagriss’s trophy behind her.
Even so, she easily kept up with the horses. At times, Carmen had the illusion that she was the actual pack animal just ahead of her.
At their current pace, it took them a little more than a dozen minutes to get to the place where the advance team was encamped.
Although a few of the resting clerics jumped to their feet upon their arrival, most remained seated, staring at a spectacle. There was a frosty atmosphere over the camping site, originating between Arvel and Pavlor who were glaring at each other.
Orlog laid on the ground behind them, seemingly having given up on resisting. However the Church took no chances and put more bindings than ever on him, renewing them far faster than he could dismantle the bands with his holy magic.
Both men turned when Carmen and others arrived. Arvel’s eyes widened as Fleur excitedly waved at him with her left arm.
In contrast, fear flashed through Pavlor’s eyes before he turned pointedly and walked away. The tense atmosphere around the camp seemed to disperse even as Arvel sighed away a decade of his life, although that decade recovered as Fleur got off the horse, running unsteadily toward him before jumping into his arms.
Grunting, Arvel picked Fleur up. “Oh, you’ve gotten too heavy to be carried like this.”
“I’m light.” Fleur protested. Then she gasped in pain as Arvel squeezed her. Arvel hurriedly put her down.
“Oh, Fleur, what’s wrong?” he asked, crouching down to remain eye level with Fleur.
Fleur grimaced. “Camilla said it was just fractures.”
Arvel flashed a quick look at Carmen, who shrugged helplessly. It really wasn’t her fault, and she wasn’t good enough with holy magic to heal her completely. In the end, Arvel didn’t say anything and instead placed her hand on top of Fleur’s chest, closing his eyes.
With a series of rapid spell constructions that Carmen could never hope to match, the space between Fleur’s chest and Arvel’s hand glowed a radiant gold. After a few seconds, Arvel lifted his hand. “How do you feel?”
Fleur took a deep breath before bursting out into a wide grin. “It’s fixed!”
“My arm.” Fleur held out her arm without a single bit of hesitation. No need to be shy around family after all. A few seconds later, the fracture on her arm was healed as well, and the splint came off.
She hugged Arvel again.
Carmen sensed Anne coming up next to her, a lot tenser than normal. Looked like Anne still didn’t like to see Fleur act so intimately with anyone else, even in a familial context. Still, it was just something that Anne was going to need to learn to deal with.
When the father-daughter pair finally finished their little reunion, no doubt with tons of things to talk about, Carmen stepped forward to interrupt them. “What was that about earlier—with Pavlor?” she asked.
Her appearance broke Arvel out of his glee. Sighing, he shook his head and stood up. “Just a split in opinion regarding what to do with Orlog. Pavlor wants to kill him. I want him alive to study. However, our mission says to eliminate him, so he’s technically correct…”
Carmen shrugged. “I think I was responsible for most of the work. Tell him that I want Orlog alive as well and if he disagrees to come find me.”
Arvel sighed again. “Ah…I appreciate it. I think I might be in big trouble when I get back…although I suppose this isn’t something I should be telling you about.” He scratched his head, more than a little stressed.
“Anyways, regardless of what’ll happen from now on, thank you for your help and for saving my life. I won’t forget it.” He looked up. “But…forgive me for asking, but why is that girl, Fleur with you? And who’s the other girl? Is she human?”
Arvel couldn’t tell if Anne was really a human thanks to Carmen and Kagriss both hiding their auras, appearing no different from humans, once more proving the prowess of knight-class zombies at hiding among the living.
Considering that Anne was glaring at him, Arvel was probably leaned toward no. But Carmen nodded. “She’s human. But all your questions will be answered quite shortly, but not here. Let’s find another quiet place to talk, shall we?”
“Again?” Arvel sighed and then nodded. “Very well. Lead the way.”
This time, no one else came along, especially Kagriss who was keeping an eye on Orlog and making sure Anne and Fleur didn’t get bullied—although considering the displays of affection between Arvel and Fleur just now, it was quite unlikely that anyone would dare.
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It was just Arvel and Carmen, alone in a forest.
Although if Carmen wanted to kill him, he was equally doomed whether he was by himself or with Pavlor, it was much more psychologically nerve-wracking to be alone. Tense like never before, he looked at Carmen with suspicion as Carmen lazily looked back.
For the first time, Carmen was going to reveal everything including her status as a vampire, something she hadn’t done even with Fleur. There were no secrets between old friends after all. If she couldn’t trust Arvel, who else could she trust?
Brushing her hand across her face, she wiped away the glamour that hid her silver hair and red eyes. Opening her mouth slightly, sharp fangs now peeked out from behind her lips.
Her eyes narrowed, unintentionally giving off a charming and seductive air that caused Arvel to catch his breath. However, the priest soon caught himself and shook his head to clear his mind. He reached toward his pocket, palming the gem as he whispered a single word. “Vampire…”