"You tricked me!" Justin Karvone shouted. "I trusted you because I thought you were a templar!" He slammed his first on the table, causing a cup of water to shake, spilling over the sides and onto the wooden surface of the desk.
After meeting up with the advance team and getting Fleur healed by Pavlor, Camilla's group accompanied the advance team back, building up fairly decent rapport among the clerics thanks to their good impression and showing that they were thinking creatures as much as humans were. It helped that both she and Kagriss were pretty even by human standards.
Despite Pavlor's continued snide remarks and horror stories about battles with higher undead, most of the clerics were no longer suspicious of Camilla and Kagriss, and no longer excluded Fleur and Anne for their association with undead.
Thanks to that, the journey back to the mines was not as difficult or tense as it could have been.
During that same journey, Camilla once again confirmed that her bond with Arvel wasn't the same as before. Talks with the priest became awkward and filled with silence, and not the companionable kind either. Had Carmen been the one to survive the campaign and war, perhaps he'd be laughing and recounting tales of his heroics, but instead, Camilla returned in his place.
That changed everything. Despite her desire for things to return to normal, Camilla couldn't lie to herself anymore. Arvel wasn't a close friend anymore, but merely an ally temporarily working together in that problem regarding the traitor.
The revelation that she had truly lost a friend left a hole in Camilla's heart, one that even Kagriss couldn't patch up with a hug and a kiss or two.
The bright spot in Camilla's day was seeing how Fleur and Anne's relationship stabilized. They no longer stuck to each other all day, yet they were as close as ever, which meant their love wasn't just something born out of momentary infatuation but was something more substantial.
Although Arvel had a scare when Fleur introduced Anne as a lover, he got over the shock by the end of the day, managing to accept reality. However, whereas before he definitely would have gone to Carmen to talk about it, he avoided Camilla, instead thinking through the whole thing by himself, which put Camilla through another mental slump.
And the bad news didn't end there, because as soon as they arrived at the mines, Pavlor went to check on Justin, who obviously couldn't say anything to Pavlor because of the contract, which he wasn't allowed to talk about either.
It was then that Justin found out about Camilla being undead, and here she was with Kagriss, sitting in front of a livid archpriest-in-training.
In his anger, all of his mana was practically boiling which made the tingling of holy power on his body stronger. Sitting this close with no more than a table between them, Camilla could almost feel the mana zapping her skin, and she had to stop Kagriss from using her aura to crush right back.
Justin was actually someone she didn't want to antagonize, since she still needed him to help her in the Church. On top of that, she liked promising young talents when she was a templar, and she liked them now. Justin didn't do anything to offend her either, so unlike how she didn't mind humiliating and manhandling Pavlor, Camilla agreed to sit down and talk things out with the young man.
"Are you done?" she asked, lacing her fingers and placing them on the table neatly in front of her. "It's not productive to talk while angry, so I'll sit here and take as much verbal abuse as you want, since you have the right. I did lie to you after all."
Another huge slam on the table with both palms at full force made the cup jump and spill over, rolling off the edge and shattering on the floor. The noise startled Justin, clearing his head and snapping him out of his rage.
Combined with how Camilla just sat there without shouting back, simply accepting his shouting and slamming, Justin finally seemed to calm down. He pulled out his seat and sat down after sighing and gritting his teeth.
Against someone reasonable like Justin who was so angered that he was throwing a tantrum, the best way to calm them down was to show them just how unreasonable they were being.
That was exactly what Camilla did: by sitting there, taking the verbal abuse, and using herself as a contrast for Justin's behavior.
Now they could have a proper discussion.
"I won't admit that I lied to you. However, I have a reason, but you might not find it very good. Thinking about it objectively, if my goal is truly to root out the corruption that I have proved exists, does it matter whether or not I'm a templar or an undead?"
"You've proved nothing. You provided the so-called proof, so I have no idea if you're telling the truth or not," Justin pointed out, his voice still hard with suppressed anger.
With a start, Camilla realized that he was right. Because she found the evidence herself and knew it was real, she simply assumed that everyone knew what she knew. Luckily, there was more.
"Does the handwriting on that convince you that these notebooks came from the Church, or at least someone from the Church?" she asked as Kagriss dumped out a bunch of the notes onto the table.
After Justin flipped through the books again, paying special attention to the handwriting, he nodded. However, he remained unconvinced. "But all it shows is that they're copied by someone. What if they simply killed a priest and took their notes?"
"And have complete copies of multiple textbooks? Many of this stuff is basic, something you learn before you can be officially ordained a priest, right?"
"So why would a priest interested enough in researching magic, especially one advanced enough to be gathering their own data outside of the Church need these textbooks?" she asked. "Does that allay your suspicions?"
Justin hesitated, his anger seemed to be subsiding now that some of his questions were being answered. "Fine, but all that proves is that there's a traitor. Why are you trying to help? How do I know you're trying to mislead me…oh wait, you were the one that told me about this in the first place. There's no point." He groaned.
Camilla laughed. "You got it. And before you ask why…if there can be humans betraying the Church for undead, why can't an undead work with humans? Also, I don't know if you know this or not, but some undeads…what seems to be a minority at least…remember their human lives. In Amaranthine Point, those undeads are hunted down by others and killed, right, Kagriss?"
She looked up behind her at Kagriss, straining her neck in doing so.
Kagriss had insisted on standing behind her, claiming that's how the knight in the story stood behind the princess. Camilla thought she was confusing the two roles, since she was supposed to be the knight and Kagriss the princess.
However, since Kagriss had been calling her Mistress up until a few days ago, what she did now wasn't very strange. Camilla still preferred it if Kagriss sat beside her though.
Kagriss nodded. "Yes. I'm an undead that does not remember, so I followed a team sent to kill Camilla. That's how I met her."
Suddenly she stepped out of Camilla's view and Camilla felt something soft press against the back of her head. At the same time, Kagriss reached down and clasped her hand around Camilla, settling down.
"Hey, not now! Ah, stop…!"
Camilla's protests faded as she realized that Kagriss wasn't going any further. However, the feeling on the back of her head was really distracting, and Justin was watching…
She cleared her throat to grab his attention again. "So now you have it."
"But why did you have to lie? I still would have helped you knowing what I know. If you simply explained everything when we met like this…"
"You wouldn't have accepted a contract, and I would lose a valuable helper. Besides, I didn't really have time to explain. Consider that I was only just in time to save one of the priests from death, imagine if I had stayed a bit longer?"
Her expression softened. "But you are right. I'm in the wrong. How can I make it up to you, if it's possible? Negate the contract?"
Justin looked stunned at her suggestion "…you really will? Wait, no, that's a bad idea. I know myself better and I actually have a pretty loose mouth when I'm out with my friends. The contract hanging over me will warn me to keep my mouth shut…"
"What if we simply alter the punishment so it's less severe, or build in a warning?" Camilla suggested. "Or both."
"Both sounds good…"
From the drawers the ink and parchment came, and they revised the contract on the spot. However, this time, there was an additional term imposed on Camilla that she suggested to complete the last hurdle of bringing Justin to her side: if, for the duration of the contract, she intentionally does something that she knows will be detrimental to the Church overall, the contract will be nullified and Justin will be alerted.
With that last stipulation in place, both of them signed the pieces of parchment and ended the spell. Once again, the two parchments floated up and disappeared, consumed by golden flames.
Their eyes met, their shared intent to weed out the traitors clear in their gaze.
With that alliance set and enforced by contract, the start of her investigation has officially begun. She had two allies on the inside: Arvel, who had a lot of soft power, as well as a respected future archpriest with a bright future ahead of him.
Although she had gained an enemy in Pavlor, as well as revealing her existence to the whole Church, it was fine. Even if she and Kagriss were chased out of town, Anne and Fleur will be safe with Arvel's protection.
And since no one but Arvel and Justin themselves knew of their agreements and neither of the two knew about each other, then even in her absence the investigation will continue.
The stage was finally set.
Slowly but surely, Camilla is adapting the mindset of a vampire noble, seeing anyone that is not close to her as chess pieces to reach an end. She realizes this as well, which is why she said that Carmen is no longer alive.
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