|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: Scribble Hub|
“Do you think they’ll send us back to the outposts?” Fleur asked.
As the party neared the city gates, Fleur suddenly half turned to Anne, who sat behind her in the saddle on the same horse.
Anne tapped her lips as she considered the answer. “I don’t know. Technically our mission ended, so we have to report back, don’t we?”
Oh, that was right. Camilla had forgotten that she had basically taken Fleur and Anne from the outpost. Now that she thought about it, will Barsig get in trouble for helping an undead once the truth about her nature came out?
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Although, the messengers that Pavlor sent ahead to the Church probably already told the bishop and the archpriests all about her. She’ll have to be on her guard, and she nudged her horse closer to Kagriss and gestured for Kagriss to lean down.
If Kagriss didn’t lean down, Camilla couldn’t reach her ear for whispers.
“What is it, Camilla?” Kagriss said, tilting on her horse but keeping the horse going straight with her knees. Camilla never really whispered, preferring instead to keep things simple and out loud, so this time was an exception.
However, Camilla didn’t want the clerics around them to know she’s putting her guard up, or the goodwill she earned with them will be gone from displaying her lack of trust for the Church.
It’s better to play the victim if something happened, and at least the clerics might be persuaded to support them.
“When we reach the gate, be on guard for spellcasting, especially from archpriests. You know how to detect them, right?” she whispered, leaning up to put her lips right by Kagriss’s ears.
A shiver ran down Kagriss’s body and she nodded. “Yes. They feel like Justin. What about you?”
What about her? Camilla wasn’t that worried about herself. Holy magic bindings were less effective on her than they were on Kagriss. If she was caught, she might be able to break the enchantment with a brute force burst of holy mana, but Kagriss’s undead mana won’t be as effective.
“I’ll be fine. If you feel them casting, just run, okay? I’ll be right behind you.”
Kagriss nodded. “I will. But if they dare hurt you…”
Before she could finish, Camilla moved her lips from Kagriss’s ears and brushed them against Kagriss’s cheeks, causing the girl to shrink back in surprise at the sudden touch. “I’ll be fine. I can promise you that much. Don’t underestimate me,” she said, facing Kagriss’s startled face with a grin that quickly dyed red under Kagriss’s hungry gaze.
She deserved that. She really should poke the viper’s nest if she didn’t want to be bitten, although this viper’s bite caused only pleasure and fuzzy minds…
“Ahem! So just be careful, okay? I promised you I’ll be fine, so you promise too, okay? Also, we don’t even know if they’ll really be hostile.”
Kagriss nodded seriously. “I promise!”
With the biggest worry that she had resolved and everything else being fairly minor compared to Kagriss’s safety, Camilla could finally relax and enjoy the view on the way toward Moltrost.
They had just gotten out of the forest and were moving past the cleared fields and little settlements that dotted the landscape between the forest and the wall city of Moltrost.
Perhaps if she had returned a few weeks or days earlier, the fields would be golden with grains thats waved like the surface of a lake with every gust of wind, but now all that was left in the fields were the broken stalks being buried back into the farmland to return what nutrients could be salvaged to the soil.
Honestly, it looks quite messy with the unpleasant mix of yellow lines breaking up the rich brown color of healthy farmland.
Thanks to how conspicuous the party was, many peasants gathered to watch and wave, treating the returning clerics as they would heroes returning from war. To be honest, with the clerics being armed with maces and bucklers, and wearing the official combat garbs of the Church, they really did look like a military.
Most eye-catching of them all are the people on horseback: Arvel, the leader of the expedition; Pavlor, the archpriest; Camilla’s group who brought their own horses.
Kagriss drew the most eyes, dressed in her wine-red gown with her straight black hair and strange violet eyes. It was like she was a noble lady being escorted by the clerics.
Whereas someone as pretty as her dressed poorly might have been accosted by some rough men, Kagriss’s apparently station put her far above the reach, ruling her out as a possible target by a significant margin. The same went for Camilla, and to a lesser extent Fleur and Anne.
Just as the villagers stared at Kagriss, Kagriss stared back, further reinforcing her image as a naive highborn girl out to see the world for the first time.
“Camilla, Camilla, it’s the first time I’ve seen so many people!” she whispered, a hint of excitement in her voice. She leaned down as she spoke, something she did so naturally whenever she wanted…whereas Camilla had to get her to lean down when Camilla wanted to whisper.
Life wasn’t fair.
A bit glum, but managing to hide it decently enough that Kagriss didn’t notice, Camilla nodded. “There’s actually a lot more. But isn’t it the same as in the fortress? There are many zombies and skeletons in there, right? Far more than there are here.”
“Mmm…that’s true, but it’s different,” Kagriss insisted. “Mostly in the noise; in the fortress, you either have absolute silence where the little zombies and skeletons walk peacefully around or just stand there doing nothing…”
Camilla could imagine the scene pretty easily.
“…Or you have a hideous screaming that happens when one of them finds something exciting and begins howling, and the others start howling. Skeletons are better in that regard because they’re more quiet…”
Kagriss paused as if a thought suddenly entered her mind. Turning, she looked with her violet eyes straight into Camilla’s, startling Camilla.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“No…I just want to say even if skeletons are good because they’re quiet, I like you more even if you’re a zombie,” she promised.
Camilla wanted to laugh. Was that what Kagriss was worried about? About her being offended by Kagriss saying she liked skeletons more? “I like you too. I like you the most. You’re so cute sometimes, Kagriss.”
It was a rare moment that Kagriss was taken aback by something she said. Usually, it was Kagriss’s words that caused her to blush, so seeing Kagriss look away embarrassment was always a treat.
However, soon Kagriss turned back, eyes glowing fiercely. “You’re cute all the time!”
“Eh?” Just as Camilla thought she finally won, Kagriss’s counter caught her off guard. “Eh? No, I’m not really…Urgh, damn it.” Camilla sighed.
She was really weak to being called cute, but mostly because she never really thought of herself as cute. If she was called cool, or handsome, she’d happily accept the compliment thanks to her previous experiences as Carmen with ladies, but cute and pretty were things she still had yet to get used to.
If the person calling her cute was anyone else other than Kagriss…and Victoria, since she couldn’t do anything against her mother…she’d just snap back a denial, but with Kagriss, the compliment was so heartfelt that it wormed its way into her heart and changed her little by little to accept it more.
Seeing Kagriss’s victorious smile, Camilla was a little speechless. Not only was Kagriss cute, she could also be pretty petty at times as well.
“As I was saying, it’s different. Even the atmosphere is really different, you know? They move so much, with such energy. They talk amongst themselves, a gentle buzz,” Kagriss continued. “Is this what the princess meant by ‘the people are the heart of the country,’ I wonder?”
“You sure quote that book a lot.”
“I have it memorized, after all,” Kagriss said. “Do you have any books memorized?”
“I do not, since I never run out of books to read. I’ll make sure you never need to memorize another book again,” Camilla promised. “With the antlers and pelt, we’ll have plenty of money left over to buy anything you want. Or, we can keep the antlers and have a focus made out of them?”
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The more she thought about the idea, the better it sounded. Camilla could scarcely believe she hadn’t thought of it before.
If Kagriss had a focus made from the stag’s antlers, she’ll be able to use lightning magic as well.
It won’t be as powerful as Kagriss’s native magic since the lightning magic will require unprocessed raw mana which Kagriss had to gather on the spot instead of using her more plentiful undead mana, it still expanded Kagriss’s available options in a battle.
“What do you think?” she asked, proud of her idea.
Unfortunately, Kagriss didn’t share her opinion. “But what about your armor?” Kagriss protested. She shook her head. “I don’t agree.”
“It’s not as important.”
“Yes it is. You will be in the most danger, after all. You said that you’ll be the one stopping the enemies from reaching me, so you need good armor to not get hurt. I just won’t use the focus.”
Camilla sighed. “You can be really stubborn!”
“Am not,” Kagriss said, crossing her arms, and Camilla saw a shadow of a younger Fleur in her.
And immature, Camilla thought to herself. Despite the thought, she gave in to Kagriss’s tenacity. “Very well, armor it is,” she grumbled. “If we ever have free time, we should go magic beast hunting, and I’m not kidding this time. We just have to do research on the one we choose…and we’ll get your focus then. Kagriss, are you listening?”
Kagriss was looking around again, taking in all the sights the outskirts of the city had to offer. Compared to the architecture of Amaranthine Point that Kagriss had looked at every day for decades, everything was a breath of fresh air.
At Camilla’s question, she nodded. “I am. However,” she said, pointing straight ahead. Camilla followed the way her finger pointed and was confronted with a huge wall that loomed no more than a few minutes walk away. “That depends if they let us in at all, right?”
Although Kagriss’s observation sounded fairly pessimistic, it couldn’t be helped.
Although the wall wasn’t as tall as the primary defenses of the dark fortress, it was still plenty tall. Built to resist siege engines and also act as points of defense, the walls of Moltrost had people manning the walls.
At ground level, soldiers checked all those that approached before letting them in one by one.
Nothing’s changed in the more than two years that Camilla has been gone. Camilla remembered skipping the check every time when she went to visit Arvel as Carmen, and a wave of nostalgia washed over her.
There was even a little bit of sadness as well, since those days will likely never return.
Before she could sink any deeper into that thought, Camilla shook her head. Those days will never come back, but she didn’t want them to. She was a different person now, and she was strong enough to leave her past behind where they belonged. Clenching her fist, she looked toward the walls. She will enter as a new person with no connections to the past.
With each step of the horses they rode, they neared the wall. She reached over to grab Kagriss’s hands, reminding her to remember her warnings. Who knew if there were archpriests behind or on top of the walls?
“Hey, Kagriss, are you worried or scared? I am taking you into the middle of what is essentially enemy territory…” Camilla asked.
Kagriss shook her head. “I’m not.”
“Really? I can sense your doubt, you know?” Camilla squeezed Kagriss’s hand. “You don’t have to lie to me.”
“Ah…the bond goes that far?” Camilla heard Kagriss mutter, and Kagriss looked down. “It’s not like I’m lying on purpose; I just don’t want you to worry about me. I just can’t help but feel it’s wrong to just walk in like this.”
“It’ll be okay. I’m familiar with how the Church works, after all, and they’re not unreasonable. It’s the same as heading into that outpost. Even if we can’t beat them, we can still escape.”
Slowly, the doubt she felt from Kagriss disappeared after she explained the reasoning, and so they continued on as before.
You know what’s really sad though? I didn’t manage to build up my stockpile so I’m constantly at the edge of fall behind. The stress…