|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: Scribble Hub|
Instantly, a chasm opened up between Camilla and Arvel as Camilla cast off the last of the ties she had with her old life in front of her old friend.
Although she wanted to keep her friendship with Arvel, she didn’t want to do it under the guise of her old self. She wanted Arvel to know who she really was now: not a human templar who fought for humanity, but a vampire who still had unfinished business with humans.
A child like Fleur liked her as a person with almost no regard to her status as a templar. Someone like her simply accepted her undeath and will probably do the same for her new vampire nature.
On the other hand, the ties she had with Arvel went much deeper than simple friendship. It was that of a partner in the same organization, standing on the same side in protecting humanity. Now, she had severed those ties, so it was inevitable that her relationship with Arvel will change. Nothing could stop those changes.
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Arvel closed his eyes. “I see, so you’re Camilla, a vampire. So…what’s Camilla the vampire doing here?”
“I’m investigating the Church.”
“Investigating?” Arvel asked. However, he didn’t seem very interested at all in the answer. It was just a question to prompt a more in depth explanation, one that he seemed to already know.
Camilla answered him anyway. “I didn’t know about your program to enslave the undead, so naturally I thought it was something niche and done in secret. I had assumed that there was corruption and rot in the Church.”
“Obviously there is. It’s present in every organization,” Arvel pointed out. “But that couldn’t be what you’re talking about. Investigating.”
It wasn’t. “I’m talking about…traitors. People who have turned to the power of undead for their own gains.”
Camilla stiffened. “I didn’t have a choice…but yes, like me but at the same time not. I’m using this power to root out those that might cause harm to the Church, to humanity. It’ll be my last contribution to the race that raised me.”
“So what have you found out so far?”
“Enough about me,” Camilla said. This whole time Arvel had been dictating the pace of the conversation. It was her turn. “You’re part of the Church, unlike me. You should know better than me what’s going on. You must have suspected some traitors that defected to the undead before now, right?”
Surprisingly, Arvel shook his head.
“Of course not. There’s never been precedent of any members of the living betraying the living to undead. That’s like feeding something that will eventually kill you,” he said. “Of course, I have my suspicions now after analyzing the mana from Orlog. There’s holy mana in there, but I’m not sure if it’s because of a traitor or because of an anomaly like you.”
Arvel took the reality that she could use holy magic surprisingly well. He was probably already desensitized by exposure to Orlog though.
“So what have you found so far after investigating Orlog’s trail for so long?”
“Oh? Are we moving to that now?”
There was a shift in Arvel’s demeanor, becoming more neutral as the topic shifted toward his passion: research. Despite Camilla having revealed herself as a vampire and no longer the Carmen that Arvel knew, there was some old familiarity remaining that allowed Arvel to trust her.
Besides, talking about a clear mutual enemy was much easier than talking about hidden traitors, even if the topic was related.
Taking out a roughly bound book filled with notes, Arvel began to thumb through the contents before stopping at a specific page. He also took out a clear crystal tainted with wisps of black, sealed in a box.
The book contained notes of Arvel’s research. The crystal was a sample of the mana from Orlog that Arvel had been studying. Arvel quickly went over his findings, most of which Camilla already knew, but there were some intricacies about Orlog’s nature that were new to Camilla.
Foremost among them was the fact that some of the undead mana that she had thought she sensed wasn’t really undead mana. It was merely an imitation of it, a corruption of holy mana. The strange mana remained fundamentally holy, yet was undead in all but name. In other words, Orlog wasn’t really an undead. His true nature was actually something holy.
But it wasn’t that simple. The same thing was true for the holy magic she sensed. It was actually undead mana corrupted into holy magic.
Holy into undead, and undead into holy. It was like what she did, not at the same time complete difference in that it was formative rather than destructive.
Camilla could scarcely breathe when she learned of this revelation. It was insane. Utterly unheard of.
How could something so twisted exist? At least the weird magic she could do thanks to her dual affinity made logical sense.
“Does that mean all undead can use that perverted holy magic now?” she demanded. A ball of dark mana formed in her hands. “How can I do it?”
“Wait, wait, calm down! It’s a lot more complex than you think!” Arvel shouted. His voice made Camilla realize that she was being hasty and reckless and the mana disappeared from her hand.
“Then what the hell is this? How could something like this be possible? Are there any other records of other mana being corrupted into another type?” she asked. As far as she knew, there weren’t. She was going to have to ask Victoria about it at another date. If even Victoria didn’t know anything, then she was truly lost.
Arvel grabbed Camilla’s shoulder, shaking her a bit. “For starters, calm down! This is all we could get from the mana itself. We have Orlog now so we can study his body too. I suspect the secret is in Orlog’s body.”
“No, you calm down! Stop shaking me! What makes you think that anyway?”
“Because I know for a fact that the undead magic in that weird crystal really is undead magic. There’s no way we wouldn’t have detected it earlier when we studied it to see if it could be used,” he said. “ Since it’s not the crystal, then it’s something about Orlog’s body that’s different. Everything starts when we get back with Orlog’s body!”
In the end, it came down to more research, something that Camilla was terrible at. But that was why she was looking for Arvel, someone who was obsessed with research.
There was something else that she needed him for, though. Someone to be her eyes in the Church, and despite their now-distant relationship, Arvel had always been loyal to the Church and its mission.
He probably won’t object to helping her.
Camilla had brought along a few of the books that Kagriss salvaged from the destroyed facility, convincing her to part with it on the condition that she’ll get her more books in the future. Now, she handed them over to Arvel.
Like Justin, Arvel recognized them on sight. However, the reason the books caught his eyes was different. Rather than seeing the big picture, Arvel zeroed in on the book Camilla put at the top: the journal by Abersom.
Never in his wildest dreams did Arvel expect to see this title in a place like this, and in such a book of such terrible condition too. To Arvel who idolized Abersom Jolio, this was probably the equivalent of sacrilege.
“This…! What is this doing here!”
“I gave them to you,” Camilla said dryly.
“Well yes, I know, but where did you find this?” Arvel growled. “This…! This…!”
“In an underground facility I destroyed with Kagriss,” she said, recounting what had happened. Arvel’s eyes turned as large as gold coins when he heard about the undead monsters she destroyed, muttering things like “lost materials,” probably mourning that he couldn’t experiment on them.
Still, he didn’t go as far as to question her choices since he knew that Camilla was forced to do what she did because of circumstances. Even Arvel wouldn’t want the monsters anywhere near Fleur…probably. He could get a little research-addled sometimes.
When she got to the part about the bookshelves, and especially about the copied books that should only be found in Church hands—whole volumes of research material and journals, what she was getting at finally sank in for Arvel.
“So in the end, we’ve looped back to this topic, huh? Certainly, you make a good argument about the existence of a traitor…or even several.” Arvel pinched the bridge of his nose. “I haven’t the slightest clue who they may be just from this, though. Is that what you came to me for?”
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“That and your obsession with research, yes.”
Arvel took a deep breath and held it for a long time before he let it out. He shook his head. “Fine. I don’t like the idea of suspecting my colleagues, but it can’t be helped. Actually, now that I know about this, I can’t turn a blind eye to it. It’s my duty…”
“Hey, I’m sorry for pushing this on to you. But you’re the only person I can fully trust,” Camilla said, patting his back before giving him a big slap that made the man stand ramrod straight with a shout of pain.
“Ow! What was that for?”
“You shook me before! Did you think I’m going to let you get away with that?”
Awkwardly rubbing his back, Arvel shook his head. “I was hoping you’d forget. But what makes you think you can trust me?”
Camilla shrugged. “Instinct. Plus, if I can’t trust you, who else? Not Fleur…unless you want me to bring Fleur into this?”
Before she could even finish, she found a hand waving in her face trying to get her to stop. She looked up to see Arvel shaking his head. “Don’t! You can trust me, but don’t involve Fleur.”
“…Heh. And there you have it.”
“Okay, you got me,” Arvel muttered. “Still, I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I know you’ve been avoiding something like this for a long time,” Camilla said. For years, Arvel had been rejecting promotion after promotion, since with higher status came greater responsibilities and less time for research.
In the end, he couldn’t escape the greatest responsibility of them all: rooting out hidden traitors from within the organization. Such things involved secretly monitoring his colleagues, doing some sniffing around the organization, all of it vastly more dangerous and time consuming than simple paper pushing.
At least it wasn’t paper pushing on top of everything, though.
Arvel seemed to have come to terms with his new reality, although he still looked unhappy about it.
“Does Pavlor know about all this? You haven’t had a chance to tell him, I don’t think?”
Camilla shook her head. “Nope. Not yet. We’ll tell him together, though I’m sure his reaction will be rather predictable. Actually, I’ve already told his student Justin Karvone. I got him trapped in a holy contract of secrecy…”
“So you can still do magic at that level? That’s impressive,” Arvel said. “However, there’s no way that Pavlor will agree to a contract and we need his cooperation to cast the contract spell…”
“We’ll just have to tell him less, then. Don’t tell him about the traitor, the books, or about me. Just tell him about the undead facility…actually why tell him anything?” Camilla huffed at the mention of the man’s name.
He really annoyed her. There’s nothing wrong with keeping him in the dark when she had Justin’s cooperation. Well…once the young archpriest-in-training finds out she lied, he might not help. Still, he’ll at least remain silent.
By now, she and Arvel have exchanged almost all the information they each knew. Even if they weren’t the friends they were before, at the very least they could be considered to be on the same side in the battle against the traitor hidden in the Church.
“This is going to be a pain isn’t it?”
Despite the newly opened chasm between them, Arvel still acted the same way around her.
“By the way…you know what you should and should not say, right?”
Arvel fell silent at her words.