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Rock, an adventurer based in the city of Morksi, was busy hunting that day with the same D-class adventurer party that he was always with, the Iron Boulder Brigade.
Rock and his companions had been regularly visiting this Devil’s Nest since their adventurer school days; it was a familiar hunting ground for them.
“Alright, let’s go home after we bring down a few more monsters,” he said.
“Yeah,” agreed one of his companions. “We want to sell the ingredients before sunset.”
The value of materials sold to the Adventurers’ Guild didn’t change based on the time of day. However, the Guild employees certainly appreciated receiving meat and other food ingredients before the time of day when wholesalers would fill their stocks.
“Since I have a debt to the Guild, I have to show them that I’m earning good money,” Rock added.
“It’s just so unlucky that your old man got so badly injured right after you bought your new weapon,” said another. “Rock, apparently there’s going to be a beautiful Dark Elf giving a sermon at the Communal Church. How about you go and pray the bad luck away?”
Rock gave a grim frown. “Hey, are you trying to say that my old man’s injury was punishment for not being devout enough? You know I pray to the gods in gratitude every time I hunt monsters.”
“You should pray to gods other than the god of soldiers and the god of thunderclouds,” said his friend. “And according to the rumors, the Dark Elf is apparently a real beauty.”
“Not interested. If I have the time to attend something like that, I think it’s more worthwhile to go on a solo Goblin hunt –”
The party’s light conversation was interrupted by a loud, echoing howl coming from a short distance away.
“Did you hear that?!” He asked his companions.
“Yeah, it’s nearby… Over there!”
They braced themselves, picked up their belongings and headed towards the source of the sound.
They were greeted by the scene that they had imagined.
A gray-furred dog that was larger than a wolf. The fur around its mouth was stained with fresh, crimson blood. At its feet was a boy lying face-up, his neck covered in blood.
The boy’s eyes, which were turned towards Rock and his companions, were lifeless and empty.
“A Demon Dog… We were too late,” Rock muttered.
Demon Dogs were Rank 2 monsters, dogs that had been transformed by corrupted Mana. They were only about as physically strong as wolves or perhaps a little stronger, and they had no special abilities. Even rookie adventurers who had only recently become accustomed to battle could defeat them.
And since dogs rarely wandered into Devil’s Nests, such monsters were few in number.
But Demon Dogs were even more aggressive to humans than wolves, never mind ordinary dogs, and they did not falter even when wounded. Every year, rookie adventurers lost their lives to these beasts after letting down their guard.
And Demon Wolves would let out a howl of victory and joy after killing a human. Rock and his companions had rushed over here after hearing a howl, but…
“What the hell is the Adventurers’ Guild thinking, letting a child go hunting on his own!” one of Rock’s companions shouted, enraged.
“Don’t say that. Once someone has chosen to become an adventurer, anything that happens to them is their own responsibility, whether they’re a rookie or a child. It’s his own fault for underestimating the monster,” said Rock, but he raised his sword and shield nonetheless.
The Demon Dog let out a low growl.
“But we need to at least avenge him,” said Rock. “This is quite the end to our hunt, but –”
“Umm, excuse me. Don’t be so hasty. Aren’t you misunderstanding something here?” said Vandalieu.
“This is part of our duty as adventurers… Wait, did the corpse just talk?!” Rock shouted, jumping back in surprise.
“I’m alive. I’m not a corpse. I was just playing around with my familiar,” Vandalieu said, still lying on the ground as he looked up at Rock and his companions.
Through several hunts, Fang had successfully hunted Giga birds… Rank 2 monster birds that used their fangs and talons as weapons, without the help of Vandalieu and the others.
Being praised for this, Fang had let out a roar of joy, pushed Vandalieu down and began licking his face and neck despite still being covered in Giga bird blood.
Right at that moment, Rock and his companions had arrived on the scene and misunderstood the situation.
Vandalieu explained all of this to Rock and his party, who were all wearing looks of disbelief.
“I-I see,” one of Rock’s companions muttered.
Vandalieu was indeed alive, and although it was hidden from the view of Rock and his party by trees, there was a cart loaded with Giga bird corpses and other monsters that Fang had been hunting.
And although Rock and his companions had realized it too late, Fang was wearing one of the collars sold by the Tamers’ Guild for familiars.
Though they did feel some discomfort at the situation, there was nothing that called for suspicion and investigation.
“Sorry for misunderstanding things,” said Rock. “Still, if there was a conspicuous Tamer like you at the Adventurers’ Guild, there’d be rumors of you everywhere, but I’ve never heard of you.”
Tamer adventurers were rare. Though monsters varied in aggressiveness depending on their race, they were generally enemies of humanity, and yet Tamers made use of such creatures. They were far fewer in numbers than warriors.
Vandalieu was a Tamer of just over ten years of age who had an unusual appearance and was capable of taming a Demon Dog. Rock thought that it was strange that there were no rumors about him as a promising individual.
Even though I’m talking to him face to face, he has so little presence that it’s abnormal… Could it be that there are no rumors about him because he has no presence? Rock thought rather rudely.
“That’s because I’m not an adventurer,” said Vandalieu. “I currently have a temporary registration at the Commerce Guild, and I’m an associate member of the Tamers’ Guild.”
“You’re not an adventurer?!” Rock said incredulously. “An associate member of the Tamers’ Guild… Could it be that you tamed this Demon Dog today?!”
“No, Fang is a stray dog from the slums. We came to this Devil’s Nest today, and he mutated into a Demon Dog,” said Vandalieu, telling the truth but not all of it.
Rock and his companions opened their eyes wide in shock.
“He only just became a monster?! That’s… amazing,” said Rock.
In all honesty, it was difficult to believe. But Rock did not have the knowledge he needed to deny Vandalieu’s not-entirely-true explanation… his claim that Fang had been an ordinary dog, and mutated the moment they entered this Devil’s Nest.
It was common knowledge not only to adventurers such as Rock and his party, but to all people in this world, that animals such as birds, rabbits and dogs could transform into monsters under the influence of corrupted Mana.
But there were almost none who had actually witnessed this happening in person. Corrupted Mana wasn’t visible to the naked eye, and nobody knew just how much corruption animals could withstand.
Mages and alchemists had tried to understand this process since ancient times, but their vague descriptions only stated that animals had individual differences in tolerance, and that it would also depend on the attribute and density of the corrupted Mana.
Thus, there was nothing that could disprove a dog becoming a monster on the same day that it entered a Devil’s Nest.
… Incidentally, there was no law to punish the owners of animals that happened to transform into monsters. They only had to take responsibility if such transformed monsters were to kill people or destroy property.
“Well, maybe it got corrupted while eating Goblin or Kobold ears in the slums. And then once it came to this Devil’s Nest, it reached its limit and mutated,” said one of Rock’s companions. “Shall we get going, then?”
“I guess so. Sorry for asking so many questions. Demon Dogs aren’t weak for Rank 2 monsters, but Rank 3 monsters and hordes of Goblins and Kobolds sometimes pop up around here. Be careful,” said Rock, assuming that Vandalieu relied entirely on Fang for hunting, as he seemed to be an unarmed person who wasn’t an adventurer.
And then Rock’s party turned and left.
“… We’re lucky they were good people,” said Vandalieu. “Well then, shall we start heading home as well?”
“You want to pull the cart? That would make you seem more like a tamed monster to others, so it would reduce the chances of any future misunderstandings,” said Vandalieu, nodding. “Give me a moment.”
Vandalieu quickly created a leash and muzzle to connect Fang to the cart with his ‘Thread Refining’ Skill.
When they returned to the gate at the city of Morksi, Kest and his senior were shocked to see that Fang, who was pulling the cart, had turned into a Demon Dog. They were also shocked to see that the cart was filled with disassembled monster corpses.
“Y-you needed to restock on meat…” Kest muttered in astonishment.
“Yes, though I did harvest some herbs as well,” Vandalieu told him.
The cart also contained herbs for the sauce used on the skewers… To be more precise, the herbs that Vandalieu had grown inside him with the effects of the ‘Tree Caster’ Job, put in the cart after entering the Devil’s Nest, and was now telling the guards that he had picked.
With this, if anyone were to try to investigate where Vandalieu had acquired the herbs he used, they would search the Devil’s Nest pointlessly rather than the people around Vandalieu.
“Umm… Is this kind of thing allowed, Senpai?” Kest asked the senior guard.
He wasn’t sure whether it was allowed for an underage person who wasn’t an adventurer to enter and hunt in a Devil’s Nest and bring in his spoils.
The senior guard rubbed his chin. “It isn’t a problem. There aren’t any laws punishing it, so…”
Of course, Devil’s Nests were inhabited by monsters, and they were dangerous. It was not a place suitable for underage people and ordinary civilians who were incapable of combat.
But there was no law in the Orbaume Kingdom that forbade civilians from entering Devil’s Nests.
Even without a law forbidding it, ordinary civilians did not normally enter Devil’s Nests.
But there were also cases of new Devil’s Nests forming, and existing ones spreading. It also wasn’t uncommon for Devil’s Nests to appear no different from ordinary grasslands or lakes.
It would be cruel to punish the villagers of a village in a forest or mountain that had become a Devil’s Nest, or travelers or victims who had accidentally wandered into a Devil’s Nest. That was why there was no law punishing such people.
“There aren’t any taxes for goods from hunting in Devil’s Nests if you’re just bringing them in, either. But… in ordinary circumstances, I’d be giving you a stern lecture,” the senior guard told Vandalieu.
“Yes, I’m sorry for making you think that I was just foraging for herbs rather than hunting,” Vandalieu apologized, lowering his head.
The senior guard sighed. “You’re free to pass.”
“We’ll let you get away with it because that Demon Dog was with you this time. If you go to a Devil’s Nest again, don’t forget to bring that Demon Dog with you,” said Kest, looking relieved. “And don’t take too long to go to the Tamers’ Guild to exchange your associate membership for a full one.”
“Yes, thank you,” said Vandalieu.
Fang gave a small bark.
Vandalieu gave a small wave at Kest, quickly returned to his house, sorted out the stocking of his inventory and headed to the Tamers’ Guild with Fang, where he had registered as an associate member just that morning, this time to become a full member.
“You have talent as a Tamer!” the Guild Master, Bachem, said fervently.
But Vandalieu somehow managed to leave, telling him that it was time to open his business, and opened his food cart, just as he had done yesterday.
“You’ve been busy today, haven’t you? Are you going to hunt in the Devil’s Nest every day from now on?” asked Darcia, who had been informed of Vandalieu’s visit to the Devil’s Nest by Chipuras.
“Yes, I’m going hunting again tomorrow,” replied Vandalieu as he grilled the skewers. “We were limited on time today, so we didn’t manage to get much meat. And I also need to rethink this city’s security net. Tomorrow, I’m going to adjust the security net from the outside and hunt several days’ worth of meat, as well as some Goblins and Kobolds, Leveling Fang up in the process.”
Fang barked in approval of this plan.
“Do your best, both of you. But if you’re busy, I could go and hunt for you,” Darcia suggested.
She didn’t have a membership card of any Guild, but the people of the city thought that she was a Dark Elf who had been living in a hidden village. If she were to hunt some monsters that D-class adventurers were capable of hunting, there would be more people who would assume that she was an exceptional hunter in her old village than people becoming suspicious.
“That’s a good idea… Alright, then I’ll ask you to do that once Fang has Leveled to a certain point,” said Vandalieu.
“Yes, leave it to me,” said Darcia.
“One skewer, please,” a customer said, approaching the food cart.
Even as Vandalieu and Darcia conversed, customers were coming to the food cart sporadically. During the week that it had been open, the skewers had gained a reputation as being delicious, and there were now customers other than people associated with the ‘Starving Wolf.’
“That’s three Baums,” said Vandalieu.
“Huh? You dropped your prices?” the customer asked in confusion; skewers had cost five Baums each up until yesterday.
But he handed over three Baums and purchased a skewer nonetheless. On his way back to the main street, he examined his skewer suspiciously.
The amount of meat hasn’t changed? No, it’s increased slightly. Then has the quality dropped? he wondered, having a bad feeling about the skewer.
But the moment he took a bite of the skewer, he realized that he had been wrong. The flavor had clearly improved.
“So delicious! It’s cheaper and the amount of meat hasn’t changed, so why does it taste better?!” he wondered incredulously. “I-I need one more!”
Despite having almost returned to the main street, the customer turned around and bought one more.
… Because I’ve changed the way I’m stocking meat, Vandalieu thought.
He had not purchased the meat from a wholesale store; he had hunted and butchered the meat himself, so it had cost him nothing. And since Vandalieu and Fang were the ones who had worked to acquire the meat, there were no labor costs involved.
Thus, he was making plenty of profit even while selling the skewers at three Baums each.
And the reason the skewers had become more delicious was simply because the meat’s quality had improved. Yesterday, Vandalieu had used the meat of Rank 1 monsters such as Giant Rats and Horn Rabbits. Today, he was using the meat of Rank 2 monsters such as Giant Horn Rabbits and Giga birds.
The taste of monsters’ meat and the usefulness of other materials harvested from them generally increased with their Rank. The difference between Rank 1 and Rank 2 monsters wasn’t drastic, but… that wasn’t the case with Vandalieu’s ‘Cooking’ Skill involved.
Perhaps making good food from inferior ingredients was one way a chef could display his skill, but using better ingredients did produce more delicious dishes.
“Why have your skewers become so delicious?!” the customer asked.
“My ‘Cooking’ Skill Leveled up this morning,” Vandalieu told him, giving him the shortest feasible explanation possible, not having the time to explain all of that.
“You’re not going to tell him the details? It might be convenient for us later if Joseph gets a bad reputation,” said Orbia.
If Vandalieu spread the news that Joseph had threatened every wholesale store in the city, his already-poor reputation would sink even further.
But Kimberley argued otherwise. “Orbia nee-san, if we do that, the reputation of the butcher’s store that Boss was buying his meat at before will fall as well. We don’t want that, do we?”
“Ah, you’re right. That person seemed like a good person,” said Orbia. “Then I suppose it can’t be helped.”
Though it was a small thing, Vandalieu had taken into consideration the circumstances of the old man at the butcher’s store who had yielded to Joseph’s threats in order to keep his livelihood.
As they were having this conversation, a thin, bearded man, wearing an overcoat that was dirty and torn in several places, approached the food cart not from the direction of the main street, but from the direction of the slum quarter.
“Welcome,” said Vandalieu.
“No, I’m not a customer… The name’s Simon, and the ‘Starving Wolf’ told me about yer,” the man said, lowering his head with a self-deprecating smile.
It was difficult to tell how old he was because of his beard and how dirty his face was.
“Ah, it’s you. Vandalieu, the person introduced to us by Michael-san is here,” said Darcia.
“Nice to meet you. But what business you got with a half-dead geezer like me? I’ll gladly work for you if there’s work to do, but… don’t think I’ll be of any use,” said Simon, his self-deprecating smile growing even wider.
“That’s not true,” said Vandalieu, shaking his head. “You still have your Adventurers’ Guild membership card, don’t you?”
“Yes… You can find work as long as you have one of these even if you’re missin’ your right arm, after all.”
The man named Simon, who had been introduced to Vandalieu by the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael, was a former adventurer. But before he could save up enough to retire, he had lost his dominant arm due to a severe injury and had become unable to fight.
These days, he was barely managing to feed himself by doing day jobs that involved things like cleaning, the kind of jobs that only rookie adventurers would be doing. He was what was known as a straggler.
“Then please go and sell these to the Adventurers’ Guild as proof of having exterminated monsters,” said Vandalieu.
His task for Simon was to go to the Adventurers’ Guild and sell the body parts of the monsters he had hunted in the Devil’s Nest today that served as proof of having exterminated them.
“Huh? Proof of extermination? Why would you go outta your way to have someone else sell ‘em? … You’d be able to sell ‘em right away, even with a temporary membership card,” said a bewildered Simon.
Indeed, the Adventurers’ Guild would purchase any proof of extermination as long as the seller was registered. Surely there was no reason to go out of one’s way to seek out a failed-adventurer-turned-beggar to sell them.
“None of us have one,” Vandalieu explained simply.
The Adventurers’ Guild would outright refuse to purchase proof of extermination from those who were not registered.
“Then you should just go and re – No, never mind. I’ll do it,” said Simon, still confused but realizing that Fang was glaring at him, and sensing that there was something in that gaze.
He lowered his head, pushing his questions and confusion aside.
He was likely mistakenly thinking that his life would be in danger if he became too interested in the matter.
“Then here are the parts you need to sell. Please return after the Adventurers’ Guild buys them from you. Your share will be half of their buying price,” said Vandalieu.
“You got it… T-this much?! I’ll go right away!” said Simon, his expression lighting up.
He took the bag containing the proof of extermination and headed towards the Adventurers’ Guild, half-running as he left.
The price for proof of exterminating Rank 1 and 2 monsters wasn’t anything extraordinary. But Simon had been able to tell that there was quite a large amount inside the bag, judging from how heavy it was. By selling such an amount, even if he received only half of the buying price, that would be several days’ worth of pay from day jobs. He wouldn’t starve for the next short while.
Considering the simplicity of the task being asked of him, the amount that Simon was being paid was extraordinary. But the money that Vandalieu acquired from selling the proof of extermination wasn’t income earned by his business, so he couldn’t write it down in his ledger. It was meaningless money.
Thus, his hiring of Simon was an act of charity, and he intended to donate the other half to an orphanage as well.
“I hope this serves as an explanation for why we have plenty of money to the region’s lord who’s sent spies to watch us,” said Vandalieu.
“I hope he believes that we were hunting monsters before we came to this city, and we saved up money to buy the food cart and the house by selling their materials,” said Darcia.
The last reason for Vandalieu doing this was to decrease any suspicions that the region’s lord might have towards him by showing himself acquiring funds, even if the amount acquired was small.
Just as Simon left, three human men in their thirties entered the back alley.
One of them gave a small laugh. “I’m telling you, it’s true. The food cart will either be selling skewers without any meat, or it’ll have closed up. All we need to do is make sure that that’s the case.”
“And then we’ll get paid by Joseph,” said another.
One of the men was someone that Vandalieu and Darcia recognized.
It was Aggar.
Up until now, Aggar had only stared at the food cart from afar with a frustrated gaze, but perhaps gaining confidence now that he had people with him, he approached Vandalieu.
“Long time no see, Vandalieu-kun, Darcia-san,” he said, a nasty smirk on his face. “Your business is – going well?! Why the hell are you still cooking meat?!” he shouted, his tone and expression changing completely as he saw that Vandalieu was still grilling skewered meat as he had done for the past week.
“Hey, what the hell’s going on, Aggar?” one of the men with Aggar whispered to him, scowling. “This ain’t how it’s supposed to be. How come they’re doing business just fine?”
“Yeah. The only thing you got right is that there’s a Dark Elf so beautiful you’d never think she’s got baggage with her, and that the kid looks really creepy,” whispered the other.
“Why, you ask… This is a food cart that sells grilled skewers. I don’t think there’s anything strange about that,” said Darcia, answering his initial question.
She was wearing a customer service smile, but it was stiff; she had noticed that there was something strange about the behavior of Aggar and his companions… She had good ears, and she was able to hear their whispered conversation.
But it seemed that Aggar was unable to hear her words. His eyes darted about restlessly as he tried to think of an explanation.
“That’s it!” he shouted suddenly. “You’re using that dog’s meat! You got rid of your guard dog and replaced your meat with –”
Fang, who had been hidden in the food cart’s shadow, gave a series of fierce, angry barks. Aggar’s words could have caused serious damage to the food cart’s reputation.
“What the hell?! Why is your guard dog alive, and why the hell has it grown bigger?!”
Fang had been keeping out of sight of his own will, thinking that customers might be afraid to come to the food cart if he was visible from the main street. But he wasn’t able to ignore Aggar’s accusation.
Though he was rotten, Aggar was still a guard. He didn’t fall over backwards in an unsightly way as Fang bared his teeth and barked at him threateningly; he immediately took a step back and put up his guard.
“As you can see, Fang is alive and well. Aggar-san, it seems that you and your colleagues have come to the red-light district to enjoy yourselves after work, but… is there something inconvenient about the fact that there is meat at my food cart?” Vandalieu asked him as he glared at him with the Demon King’s Demon Eyes.
But unlike the rich upstart that Vandalieu had glared at last week, Aggar and his companions did have some combat experience. Perhaps it was this that made them more resistant to the fear, or perhaps Vandalieu had held back too much. Their reaction wasn’t quite as drastic; they turned pale and their voices shook, but there was nothing more than that.
“N-n-n-n-nothing at all. L-let’s leave, you guys!” Aggar said to his companions, and then he took off.
“Alright!” one of them said, turning to run as well.
“Wait for me!” said the other as he ran to catch up to the other two.
“Should I have put a little more force into it?” Vandalieu wondered.
“I don’t think you could have done any more,” said Kimberley. “It would have been more troublesome if they’d pissed or shit themselves or fainted right in front of our business.”
“Those people… They were hired by Joseph, right?” said Darcia.
“Eleanora and the others did tell us through the Demon King Familiar that one of Joseph’s family servants made contact with Aggar,” said Vandalieu.
Aggar was simply a crook guard; his personality and abilities matched that profile. But among the members of the criminal organization, he was known as one of the convenient guards who would look the other way for a bribe.
Joseph had likely paid him to carry out this excessive harassment on Vandalieu and Darcia.
Aggar had brought people with him to see whether Vandalieu’s business, which should have been completely bare of meat, was still operating. On the off-chance that it was, they were intending to accuse him of selling bad goods and threaten him into closing down, obstructing the inspection that was required for his temporary registration to become a proper membership.
… It seemed that Aggar’s two companions also intended to lay their hands on Darcia while they were here.
“Would it not be wise to dispose of those three?” suggested Chipuras.
“Hmm, it is indeed unpleasant, but when I think about whether it’s worth killing them for it… I’m not sure,” said Vandalieu.
Joseph was abusing his authority as Deputy Guild Master to carry out this excessive harassment of his own will. But Aggar was a small fry who had been hired for small change.
If Vandalieu were to bury Joseph, there wouldn’t be anyone similar replacing him for a while, but if he were to bury Aggar, similar small fry might appear again one after another.
And although Aggar was a crook, he was still a guard. If he were to die a strange death or go missing, it was possible that a large-scale investigation would be carried out.
“Yes… If he doesn’t cause a little more harm, it’s a little hard to decide,” said Darcia.
If she were an ordinary woman, she would feel a sense of danger from Aggar. But although she found him unpleasant, even she didn’t think that he was worth killing. Her current body would be completely unaffected by any paralyzing drugs or sleeping pills, and she had enough strength hidden in her slender arms to beat an armored knight to death with a single blow.
She didn’t really care about the interest that Aggar seemed to have in her.
“Hmm, you’re right in saying that the guards might investigate Vandalieu-sama if we were to dispose of them,” said Chipuras. “Not that they would find anything. They should just stay quiet.”
“They can’t do that, it’s their job… Speaking of jobs, they’re still there, aren’t they? The spies of the region’s lord,” said Orbia.
“Then the region’s lord is aware of the harassment that we are receiving. He should do something, shouldn’t he? It’s a problem involving his own uncle and the guards of the city that he rules,” said Princess Levia.
“You’re right about that. But Boss looks like he’s doing fine, so he might not make a move, thinking it’s not a big deal,” said Kimberley. “Hey Boss, maybe you should try looking at the window on the second floor of that building and saying, ‘This harassment is so tough.’”
“… That would do nothing other than make fun of the spies, wouldn’t it?” said Vandalieu.
As the conversation shifted from a discussion into light conversation, Fang, the only one who perceived Aggar as a threat, gave an unhappy bark.
Fang seemed to be insisting that Vandalieu never go near Aggar again.
“It’s alright, Fang. They can’t resort to direct violence. Power and authority are the only weapons both Joseph and Aggar have, and other than that, they’re unimportant,” said Vandalieu.
Joseph was a Deputy Guild Master at the Commerce Guild, and uncle of the lord of the realm. Aggar was a guard. Both of them were using their positions to harass Vandalieu and Darcia.
But Vandalieu couldn’t do too much to avoid the harassment. If he did, things would only become harder for himself.
“Well, it’s only human to not notice or forget about those kinds of things… I need to be careful not to as well,” Vandalieu told himself.
Fang gave a confused bark; why would Vandalieu need to be careful when he wasn’t a human being?
What Fang didn’t understand, no matter how many times Vandalieu said it, was that he truly thought of himself as a human being.
In a Divine Realm far away from the city of Morksi, Vida, the goddess of life and love, sat at a table with her close brothers and sisters.
“The reconstruction of his soul has been completed without problem. This week has been the period of greatest vulnerability for Vandalieu, but we can breathe easy again,” said Ricklent, the genie of time and magic, with a sigh of relief.
“He may have been vulnerable, but there is no way for Alda and his followers to exploit that. With only a week available to them, even if his heroes were to make a move immediately after that battle, only the ones already in the Alcrem Duchy would have made it in time. The reincarnated individuals do not seem to be nearby either, and Birkyne is not the type to make hasty moves,” said Zuruwarn, the god of space and creation as he polished a magnificently decorated silver cup. “You worry too much, Ricklent.”
“… Was there not a possibility of heroic spirits and gods descending directly upon the world?” said the gods’ newest sister… Gufadgarn, the evil god of labyrinths, formerly of the Demon King’s army.
Though the other gods had gathered here with their original appearances, she alone was present in this Divine Realm in her vessel.
“That wasn’t possible,” said Vida, shaking her head. “Even if the heroic spirits and the gods descended upon the city of Morksi to strike Vandalieu while he was weak, it would have been a wasted effort if you were to take Vandalieu and Darcia and teleport them inside the Boundary Mountain Range.”
Considering the energy that was expended when gods and heroic spirits descended upon the world, they would have been on the verge of death afterwards. Knowing that Gufadgarn was constantly nearby Vandalieu, this was a plan that would have been impossible to consider.
“And it’s unlikely that Alda and his followers would descend upon the world for a direct battle against Vandalieu; that would only happen if Vandalieu were to invade their Divine Realm,” said Ricklent. “Our brother Alda is trying to defeat Vandalieu under the pretense that it is for the world’s sake. But he would not risk destroying the world in order to achieve it.”
Indeed, the gods were necessary for the maintenance of the world. Alda did not wish to risk the gods being destroyed or exhausted to the point that they would no longer be able to maintain the world.
Of course, there was some room to work with, and even if there was some lack of gods, the world would still last for over a thousand years. But if the gods sustained more losses than they expected… in the worst-case scenario, the world could collapse and become extinguished within a matter of seconds.
“But the world collapsing and evaporating within seconds would also happen if all of us were to be destroyed, so I think you really do worry too much,” said Zuruwarn.
“It is you who is too optimistic,” retorted Ricklent. “More importantly, what is that cup? I have not seen it before.”
“It is my personal cup. I am intending to drink cola from it,” said Zuruwarn.
“… Vandalieu is busy; do not rush him so much,” said Ricklent.
“Zuruwarn, cola is that sweet ale-like drink, isn’t it? Won’t a deeper container be better so that the bubbles don’t spill over?” said Vida.
The serious, heavy-discussion atmosphere in the Divine Realm had loosened up all of a sudden.
“Leaving that aside, the form of Vandalieu’s soul has been settled. It should be easier for him to utilize the power of the death attribute from now on,” said Zuruwarn.
“His soul was distorted up until now, since Rodcorte just put it together carelessly… Well, his soul is still grotesque for a human’s soul,” said Vida.
“It was likely an impossible task from the very beginning to reconstruct the soul of a single human from the broken soul fragments of four,” said Ricklent. “It seems that there were no problems on the surface on Earth, where humans do not possess Mana, but… he awakened to the death attribute in Origin, where magic does exist, and now that he has been reincarnated in Lambda, which has the Status System that I created, he is as we see now.”
“Vandalieu’s death-attribute magic… His ‘Dark King Magic’ Skill is a Passive Skill. To him, the power of the death attribute is like his heartbeat or his breathing… No, it’s like his bones, muscles and organs. It’s a function that he can use unconsciously,” said Vida.
Humans were capable of standing without understanding the structure of their legs, and their organs functioned even if they did not understand how they did so.
The Status System had determined that the power of the death attribute was similar to these phenomena for Vandalieu.
“Even in the event that Vandalieu were to be reincarnated again, the power of the death attribute is unlikely to ever leave his soul. That should apply even if he were to be reincarnated in a world without magic, such as Earth,” said Zuruwarn.
“I am looking forward to what the future holds for him, but that means I can’t take my eyes off him,” said Vida.
“Great gods, there is something I wish to confirm,” said Gufadgarn, who had remained silent up until now. “Has the reconstruction of Vandalieu’s soul really finished? There appears to be parts that have spilled over, and others that have separated into countless pieces.”
Some fluids and eyeballs had overflowed and fallen off the enormous Vandalieu, creating a swarm of Vandalieus that varied in size between fitting in the palm of a hand to about three meters tall.
It seemed that Gufadgarn was worried about this.
“It’s fine. Those fluids and eyeballs are like an aura, or… something like the flames that Zantark’s body emits,” said Vida. “Also, the Vandalieus that aren’t a part of the main body are just separated from him to serve the role of familiar spirits and divine protections.”
“They will likely appear in groups in the dreams of those with his divine protection and become one with them. They do not seem to be performing any work other than that at present, however,” said Ricklent.
It seemed that the current state of Vandalieu’s soul wasn’t a problem.
“I see,” said Gufadgarn, nodding as she put her trust in the judgment of the gods of this world.
“Now then, Gufadgarn has finally allowed you into the Boundary Mountain Range, so I’d like to relax for a while, but… there’s so many things to do, like keeping an eye on Peria who should be reviving soon, searching for where Botin is sealed and trying to convert the people from Alda’s faction to ours,” said Vida.
“We should leave that last task almost entirely to our followers,” said Ricklent. “Even if we send Divine Messages or appear in their dreams, humans’ choices are their own. That is how it should be.”
“Yes, I must lead the priests in human societies properly now after having slept for so long… But there’s an unexpectedly small number of people who actually receive my Divine Messages,” said Vida disappointedly. “There are quite a few people who call themselves my followers but actually aren’t, too.”
“I shall return to being Vandalieu’s shadow,” said Gufadgarn.
The gods returned to their respective tasks, and silence returned to the Divine Realm once more.