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Birkyne stood behind the rows of orphans and nuns of the orphanage who were smiling with empty, puppet-like eyes, protected by his four close confidants that were also his most elite warriors.
“How impatient, asking me what I want straight away,” said Birkyne, speaking to Vandalieu in a leisurely tone. “Even if we do away with the introductions… don’t you want to ask, ‘What is going on here?’ or, ‘What did you do to them?’”
“… I never heard that you were the type to be concerned with such dull clichés,” said Vandalieu, showing no signs of preparing for battle.
He was still standing right next to Matthew, who had led him here, right in front of Birkyne. He appeared defenseless and full of openings.
But Birkyne and his confidants were on full alert.
“Move to his side, on the opposite side of that boy… and if he tries anything, protect me,” Birkyne whispered to Seris.
“Yes, my lord,” she said in response.
He was restricting Vandalieu’s movement as much as possible by having Seris stand next to him, even if it only made the tiniest of differences.
It was a fact that Vandalieu had defeated Ternecia, though she had been wounded at the time, as well as Gubamon completely on his own. Among the three Pure-breed Vampires who worshiped Hihiryushukaka, Ternecia had possessed the most powerful offense, and Gubamon had possessed the most powerful defense and a skill for space-attribute magic.
Even now, Vandalieu’s empty expression and flat-toned voice was exerting an unbelievable amount of pressure on Birkyne and his confidants.
That was exactly why Birkyne was acting in a leisurely manner towards him.
A society enveloped by such darkness that it made even criminal organizations pale in comparison. A society where it was normal for its inhabitants to toy with and devour those who were weaker than themselves. A society where if one did not do that, they would become the ones to be devoured. Birkyne was one of the individuals who had built such a twisted, hierarchical society.
Birkyne couldn’t even remember how many hands that were grasping at straws he had stepped on and crushed underfoot.
That was why he was afraid of ending up on the side that would be crushed and devoured.
“I suppose it is Eleanora who told you about my nature,” Birkyne murmured. “Bellmond and Miles would not be so well-informed about me.”
What he was trying to show Vandalieu, someone that he could not so easily lay a hand on, was half-instinct.
“Yes, Eleanora is very good to me,” said Vandalieu.
Naturally, he was not speaking in a leisurely tone. He had indeed made preparations so that he would be ready no matter when Birkyne showed up, but… him infiltrating the city without warning and taking everyone in the orphanage hostage had been beyond his expectations.
Even if he used space-attribute magic to teleport here directly, Gufadgarn would have noticed. And I’m examining Matthew and Seris right now, but there’s no sign that any spells, poisons, diseases, parasites or Magic Items are affecting their minds. Just how did he infiltrate this place and take over their minds? Vandalieu wondered.
Until he understood this, he could not engage in battle with Birkyne so easily. His feelings of frustration at this fact was what was pressuring Birkyne and his confidants now.
Matthew laughed. “What’s the matter, Vandalieu?”
“Matthew, be quiet. Don’t interrupt Vandalieu-san and Birkyne-san’s conversation,” said Seris.
The strangest thing about this situation was the people of the orphanage, who had been taken hostage by a Pure-breed Vampire and were being exposed to the pressure that Vandalieu was emanating.
Even now, they didn’t appear to have taken any notice of the tense atmosphere. They showed no nervousness as they continued smiling and laughing. Vandalieu was certain that they were being manipulated in some way.
I want to examine their minds in detail, but if I use the ‘Mental Encroachment’ Skill, I really will be full of openings.
“If you order it, we will create openings for you,” said Chipuras.
Kimberley cackled. “Is it finally time for us to make an entrance?”
Vandalieu told them telepathically to wait.
“Eleanora has treated you well, huh… It seems that she has become much more useful than when I was disciplining her. I thought that I had trained her to her limit by the time that she joined your side, but… even just considering this one fact, it is clear that you are no ordinary being,” said Birkyne. “But leaving that aside, I would certainly prefer if you would ask me the clichéd questions. I believe our conversation would progress much more smoothly if you had an accurate understanding of the situation, you see.”
“… Conversation? After you’ve taken hostages?” said Vandalieu.
“I do not mind if you think of it as an exchange. What I am offering is everyone in this orphanage – head, the nuns and the orphans, and I’ll throw in many more as well. I cannot fathom how much you value the lives of those whose names and faces you don’t even know, but… as a believer of Vida, you can never save too many women and children, can you?” said Birkyne, hinting that he had hostages outside the city of Morksi as well.
“… ‘What is going on here?’ And ‘what have you done to them?’” said Vandalieu, asking the questions that Birkyne had suggested before.
Birkyne gave a small laugh. “What we need as Vampires who worship Hihiryushukaka, the evil god of joyful life, is sacrifices. It is troublesome to kidnap people every time we wish to make a sacrifice, so we have been running facilities for human trafficking since a very long time ago. Bandits, mercenaries, slave traders, brothels, monasteries that are deep in the mountains, and in the past thousand years, many orphanages as well.”
Orphans were far more convenient even than slaves and prostitutes for Birkyne and his Vampire organization. An orphanage in a slum inhabited by the poor was absolutely perfect.
Such orphanages allowed them to house and manage children from an age before they were even self-aware, and even if they grew to become adults before there was an opportunity to use them, they could simply be thrown out of the facility.
The majority of people didn’t even glance at the orphans, so in many cases, nobody would even notice if they abruptly went missing. Even if someone did wonder, the guards would not investigate in detail after being told that the orphans had died of illness or injury.
There were some cases where relatives and former acquaintances of slaves, prostitutes and those living in monasteries would come to take them back. There had even been more than a few times where the facilities’ true purpose had become revealed due to such problems.
The Vampires running the facilities would actually be happy to hand over one or two of their livestock in order to prevent any trouble, but… that would be suspicious in and of itself. Slave traders that sold slaves for cheaper prices, brothels that let their prostitutes go from their bondages without the full required amount not being paid, monasteries that encouraged their inhabitants to return to a secular life… It would be unavoidable for such facilities to draw the suspicious gazes of other slave traders or related Guilds and Churches.
However, there was almost no such trouble for orphanages. Children who became orphans were those who had no relatives in the first place or those whose relatives couldn’t afford to raise them. On very rare occasions, relatives living in distant places might come to adopt a child, but in those cases, the orphans could simply be handed over.
The orphans of orphanages were simply let go. Nobody suspected anything.
That was why Birkyne and the other Pure-breed Vampires had operated orphanages in various cities to secure sacrifices and individuals that would become new Vampires.
“This orphanage is just one of them. It is not a place that we took over recently; it has been this way since it was built. It has been run without any problems other than one perceptive priest of Alda taking notice of it once. Of course, there is a limit to the number of orphans that orphanages can accommodate, so we are running some facilities of other times as well. Just like the mine that I found Eleanora in. I consider it fortunate that I did not tell her about these activities,” Birkyne said as he placed a hand on Sister Vestra’s shoulder. “The reason that these people worship Vida is merely that having a sign reading ‘the goddess of life and love’ over the orphanage is convenient. If they worshiped the gods related to Alda, most of the Churches in the cities would interfere with donations, charity, introductions to new connections and what have you. It would be problematic for the management of our puppets.”
Birkyne moved his hand from Vestra’s shoulder to her waist and pulled her close towards him, demonstrating that she really was a puppet under his control.
But Vandalieu noticed that Vestra’s cheeks were stiff after having this done to her.
Sister Seris left Vandalieu’s side and briskly walked towards Birkyne… and pinched the back of Birkyne’s hand that was on Vestra’s waist.
“Birkyne-san, please do not hold Vestra like this,” she said with a smile.
The four Noble-born Vampires’ tension reached a peak with her behavior, but Birkyne calmly removed his hand from Vestra’s waist.
“My apologies,” he said.
“Birkyne-san, it would be problematic for anyone to make advances on our sisters, even you,” said the orphanage’s head with a bitter, exasperated expression.
“Hey, Mr. Birkyne’s a pervert!” the children jeered.
Within seconds, Birkyne covered the back of his hand, which had returned to its ordinary color, and gave a bitter smile.
“Silence,” he said.
In an instant, everyone in the orphanage stopped moving. The orphanage’s head, the children, Matthew, Seris who had returned to Vandalieu’s side again – all of them had frozen in place with no expression on their faces, as if they really were just puppets.
“Now then… as you can see, they are –” Birkyne began.
“This city was under your influence long before I came here. But all of their personalities are their own, and none of them intended to deceive me. That’s true not just for Matthew and the other children, but for the nuns and the orphanage’s head as well. They are brainwashed, convenient puppets for you,” Vandalieu summarized.
Birkyne was surprised for a moment, and then his smile widened.
It seemed that Vandalieu’s summary was correct.
“Brainwashed… That is a good word. It was apparently often done in other worlds, wasn’t it? Bellwood mentioned it often, to the anger of Zakkart and the others… though when I think about it now, I think Bellwood was the brainwashed one,” said Birkyne.
Though he admitted that the people of the orphanage had been brainwashed, brainwashing someone wasn’t such a simple task. Vandalieu, who possessed the ‘Mental Encroachment’ Skill, knew this from experience.
“From the way you ordered them to be silent, you must have brainwashed them yourself. How did you brainwash them all? And is Sister Seris a Vampire?” Vandalieu asked.
“… Oh my, how did you notice that she is a Subordinate Vampire?” Birkyne mused, ignoring his first question.
“When she pinched your hand, the back of your hand turned red. An ordinary nun would not be able to even scratch a Pure-breed Vampire if she swung a club with all of her strength. There is no way that she could have made your skin turn red if she was an ordinary nun,” Vandalieu replied.
Vandalieu had taken no notice of this when he had examined her with his spirit form and spells, however, as he had simply assumed that she was a human.
“I see. The act has backfired… That is right. This orphanage’s nuns, Seris and Vestra, are Subordinate Vampires… Not that they have been given my blood,” said Birkyne. “They are well-made, are they not? They remain unfazed by sunlight, do not have crimson eyes and do not need to act, as they themselves are unaware that they are Vampires.”
Approximately a hundred years ago, Gubamon had acquired a Subordinate Vampire servant who was able to move about in sunlight without any problems… Valen, Vandalieu’s father.
Having heard this and wanting Vampire servants of his own who could serve him in daylight, Birkyne had begun experiments, partly as a way to pass the time as well.
He had first gathered a hundred children and bathed them in sunlight. It was not ordinary, warm sunbathing; powerful, burn-inducing rays had been produced by magic, and their wounds had been healed by magic afterwards. This was repeated over the course of days and months until the children acquired the ‘Sunlight Resistance’ Skill.
After the children acquired the ‘Sunlight Resistance’ Skill and grew up to a certain extent, they would be transformed into Vampires. This process would lead to artificially-created, sunlight-resistant Vampires.
But the unfortunate result was that over ninety percent of the children had died, unable to withstand the procedure. Seris and Vestra had acquired the ‘Sunlight Resistance’ Skill before they died, but they were one of the few that had managed to do so.
The whole thing had so few cases of success and took so long until it was complete that Birkyne’s interest had shifted to other things, so they were not put to use as spies like Valen was.
However, they were turned into Subordinate Vampires, had their memories altered and later deployed as nuns who managed the orphanage.
If they hadn’t been brainwashed by Birkyne, they would likely have been guided by Vandalieu the moment they saw him.
But… is it just my imagination? Why was her grip so strong when she pinched me? They are indeed Subordinate Vampires, but they have not undergone any combat training, Birkyne thought to himself.
Despite his cool response to Vandalieu, he had actually been shaken for a moment when Seris pinched him. Seris was Rank 3 at most, and had not acquired any combat-related Job, and yet she had managed to slightly hurt a Pure-breed Vampire.
But Birkyne couldn’t afford to immerse himself in thought right now.
“But to you, whether they are Vampires or not is not important, is it? The important thing is that I am capable of offering them… exactly the way you know them,” he said.
This was the critical point of Birkyne’s plan. He had not taken hostages. He was negotiating under the reasoning that Vandalieu had simply grown attached to his possessions, so he was now offering them.
In preparation for this plan, Birkyne had re-brainwashed every single human in every single human-farming facility under his control.
He had described several of Vandalieu’s characteristic traits to them and brainwashed them to get closer to him once they met the individual who met Vandalieu’s description. This way, the plan would work no matter which city Vandalieu appeared in.
Matthew’s attempt to steal from Vandalieu’s food cart out of all the food carts in the area was one of the effects of Birkyne’s brainwashing… though even Birkyne wouldn’t have expected him to try to steal from Vandalieu.
After that, the orphanage had successfully come under Vandalieu’s protection as a result of the brainwashing, just as Birkyne had planned.
Birkyne had become certain of this after the event that had happened just the other day. He had learned that men who appeared to be spies had infiltrated the orphanage and then fallen back without doing anything, and that the crooked guard Aggar was being searched for.
I don’t know the fine details, but such strange events would only happen because Vandalieu did something. There is no doubt that he dirtied his own hands to protect the orphanage from the guard named Aggar, Birkyne thought.
Indeed, he had executed his plan after going down the same line of reasoning as Earl Isaac Morksi.
“If you value their lives, I will not threaten them. It is true that you and I were enemies, once. But it is a fact that Alda and his servants have been active in recent years, in a way that they have never been before. I am sure you are more informed about this than I am, are you not? Naturally, Alda and his believers are my enemies as well. Considering the current state of affairs, should we not avoid trying to destroy one another? Even if we are unable to join forces, it would be logical to form an agreement of noninterference… nonaggression. Don’t you agree?” Birkyne said reasonably.
Vandalieu simply quietly observed him. At the same time, he was examining Matthew and Seris beside him, testing a number of theories. With the ‘Super High-speed Thought Processing’ and ‘Group Thought Processing’ Skills, the time that Birkyne took to speak was plenty.
“As a symbol of good faith, I will offer these people to you. I will do as you wish in regards to the brainwashing. I can return their original memories, and I do not mind making them forget that they were my pets. I can even turn them into your slaves,” Birkyne continued. “What do you say? Tell me what you wish for –”
“I refuse,” said Vandalieu, shutting down Birkyne’s offer.
There was no value in even considering this threat that was disguised as a negotiation.
If he accepted Birkyne’s offer, it was possible that Matthew, Seris and all of the others could be saved right here. However, there was no meaning to this if the brainwashing could not be undone. Birkyne was offering to remove the brainwashing, but there was no guarantee that this wasn’t a lie.
Even though Birkyne said with his words that he would remove the brainwashing, it was possible that they may remain brainwashed. There was no guarantee that they would not go back to being manipulated by him at a single command.
Vandalieu took a step towards Birkyne.
“Now, now, calm down,” Birkyne said. “If you are thinking that you can undo the brainwashing by killing me, that is a very hasty decision. Or do you intend to brainwash them yourself?”
Birkyne’s confidants had instinctively prepared themselves for battle when Vandalieu rejected the offer, but Birkyne was still smiling.
“No, I’m not,” said Vandalieu.
He took another step forward. Mortor and the other confidants’ faces twisted in fear and dread. Birkyne’s smile gave an unnatural twitch.
“Even if they die, you will revive them as Undead… No, you will use the root of life to resurrect them? If that’s the case, you should give up on that idea. I have made every single one of these people except those two over there drink holy water before you came to this place. The moment they die, they will return to the circle of reincarnation!” Birkyne said loudly.
“I’m surprised that you took such a step when you’ve probably never even tested whether holy water takes effect from inside the stomach. I think it was a pointless measure,” said Vandalieu as he took another step forward.
Birkyne’s confidants bared their fangs, extended their claws and prepared themselves.
“S-stop! Do you really not care about what happens to these humans?!” shouted Mortor.
“Take a look at this!” said a Noble-born Vampire of Elf origin as he took hold of Vestra’s neck with his clawed hand and began to squeeze.
Having been ordered to be silent by Birkyne, Vestra remained as still as a puppet. Only her breathing and the color of her face revealed her current physical state.
“Even if this woman is a Subordinate Vampire, I could crush her neck in my hand in an instant! If you will kill us anyway, we will take all of these people with us!” the Elf Noble-born Vampire shouted.
Vandalieu stopped for a moment… though it was unclear as to whether it was because he thought that the threat was serious or because he simply thought it unnecessary to get any closer.
“I apologize for my subordinates’ unsightly behavior, but they are right. And this is not the only orphanage I am operating from the shadows. There are two more in the Alcrem Duchy alone. There are even more if you count the entire continent of Bahn Gaia,” said Birkyne. “You may not know them, but will you abandon all of the orphans that are not here?”
“Your brainwashing technique doesn’t take effect unless you give direct commands… or to elaborate, you can’t give new orders if you are not there yourself. Which means that as long as you’re here, the only ones you can manipulate are the orphans of this orphanage. Even if you scream something in this place, it will not affect those who aren’t here,” Vandalieu concluded.
Birkyne’s expression froze. “… Why would you think that? Do you have any proof?”
“This is a conclusion I made based on my own experience and knowledge. And based on you,” said Vandalieu.
He knew very well that there were no all-powerful spells or Skills. There was no way that a technique for doing something as difficult as brainwashing people would have no flaws.
The effect of Eleanora’s Charming Demon Eyes was broken when eye contact was broken, and other spells did not have long-lasting effects. Even Vandalieu’s ‘Mental Encroachment’ Skill was not simple.
It was likely impossible to perfectly control all of the thousand or so orphans in numerous orphanages across the continent.
Vandalieu, and even Chipuras and his other companions, would think that it might be possible through some spell that was advanced beyond imagination. But they would also conclude that Birkyne could not possibly be able to use such a spell.
“If it were possible, why are you people here in the first place? If you are so scared of me that you flinch every time I take a step forward, you could have stayed far away and communicated your intentions to me by manipulating someone like a ventriloquist’s puppet. If your voice alone was enough to manipulate these people, you could have used a Magic Item that can carry sound over long distances. Such Magic Items are expensive, but I would assume that you possess many of them,” said Vandalieu.
The fact that Birkyne and his subordinates were here now meant that manipulating the people of the orphanage from a distance was impossible. The fine details of how Birkyne was manipulating them were still unclear, but it was likely that Birkyne himself needed to be near the targets of the brainwashing.
Considering that, one could question how he was able to manipulate orphans and slaves all over the continent, but it was likely that he was using a special way of moving about that had slipped by Vandalieu and Gufadgarn’s surveillance web. If he was a user of space-attribute magic, it would have had to be unknown to Eleanora, Chipuras and even Ternecia and Gubamon before their souls were broken. Vandalieu thought that Birkyne likely achieved his movement through some Magic Item or Unique Skill.
“If you understand my conclusion, then… let go,” said Vandalieu as the skin of his forehead squirmed, and then slits opened in it to reveal four sinister-looking eyeballs.
“W-what is this…?!”
Each of the four Demon Eyes of the Demon King glared at one of the Noble-born Vampires. All of them froze in a fear that felt as if it were directly gripping their beating hearts. Vandalieu was not holding back their effects like he had with the upstart who had called out to Darcia before.
“Let… go,” Vandalieu repeated.
The Elf Noble-born Vampire released Vestra’s neck from his trembling hand. Even though he knew that he was endangering himself by letting go of her, he could not disobey the fear that was piercing his instincts.
“So, negotiations have broken down… I admit, I have failed,” Birkyne murmured.
In his experience, he had been able to negotiate with anyone as long as he held in his hands things that were held dear by those he was negotiating with. It wasn’t only limited to families, lovers and friends; they could be mementos that would have no value to anyone else, precious documents or money.
Birkyne had determined that what Vandalieu held dear was his companions. That was why Birkyne had gone through with this very roundabout plan to make Vandalieu recognize his pet humans as companions.
But Vandalieu had shown less discomposure than Birkyne had planned, and seen through Birkyne’s hand of cards. Birkyne had also failed to take into account that Vandalieu had acquired more fragments of the Demon King.
“But… You have fallen for it, you damned midget! In the end, you failed to understand how I am controlling these pigs, didn’t you?! Taste it for yourself!” Birkyne shrieked in a hysterical voice, just as Vandalieu took another step forward.
As Vandalieu’s foot came down on Birkyne’s shadow, the shadow writhed as if it were a living creature and wrapped itself around his foot.
The shadow branched outwards as it climbed the surface of Vandalieu’s body, reaching his head in an instant. It was as if a black creeping vine had grown on Vandalieu and wrapped itself around him.
“… I see,” said Vandalieu.
He no longer had the freedom to move his body. He could move his mouth and move his eyes, but nothing more than that.
The Noble-born Vampires cheered.
“We did it! Birkyne-sama’s shadow has captured him!”
“Even you can lose your mind in your anger! How foolish, to approach Birkyne-sama directly!”
A smile of satisfaction appeared on Birkyne’s sweat-drenched face.
“It is as they say. To think that you would step on my shadow. But, well, I thought that things might turn out this way,” he said, returning to his usual gentlemanly-like tone of speech. “You have likely acquired not only ‘Status Effect Resistance,’ but also the ‘Mental Corruption’ Skill at a high Level, and it seems that you also manipulated the minds of the humans in the upper echelons of the Hartner Duchy’s Mages’ Guild. You are clearly on the side that does the controlling, so you thought that even if you don’t understand how I manipulate my puppets, you thought that you would be safe, didn’t you?”
“I understand now. You use the power of a Demon King fragment. Could it be referred to as the Demon King’s shadow?” said Vandalieu.
A large crack formed in Birkyne’s gentleman-like demeanor. His mouth twisted in such a way that even his attractive appearance could not conceal his hatred.
“Indeed, it is the power of the Demon King’s shadow, which I acquired a hundred thousand years ago. It is with this power that I rose to my current place in the world,” he said.
After being defeated in the war against Alda a hundred thousand years ago, Birkyne and the other two Pure-breed Vampires, who had left Vida’s side, had undone the seals on the Demon King fragments that Vida had entrusted them with.
Ternecia had acquired the Demon King’s horns, Gubamon the Demon King’s carapace, and Birkyne the Demon King’s shadow.
As its name suggested, the Demon King’s shadow was a special fragment. Why had Guduranis’s shadow, which didn’t normally physically exist, been sealed together with a physical body part fragment? Birkyne had concluded that it was likely due to a coincidence that was both a miracle and a nightmare.
In addition to the physical fragment, a part of the Demon King’s soul had become caught up in it by coincidence!
Even when activated, this fragment did not have any physical attack or defensive power. However, it possessed a power that the other fragments possessed – the ability to manipulate others.
“I have immersed myself in the research and study of this fragment. My ‘Demon King Encroachment Degree’ Skill has reached Level 10, but as you can see, my own will remains intact! Like you, I am able to completely control this fragment!” Birkyne said proudly with a maniacal laugh. “What do you think?! Are you surprised?! Or perhaps you are disappointed in yourself now that you have realized that you are not the only special one!”
As Vandalieu listened to this explanation, he checked his own current state and spoke with telepathy, organizing his plan.
The moment he extended fragments such as the Demon King’s jointed legs out from inside his body, they became unable to move. His tongue also froze in place when he extended it from his mouth. It seemed that the Demon King’s shadow’s controlling effects reached anything that influenced its shape.
Vandalieu tried using his ‘Magic Absorption Barrier’ just in case, but as expected, it had no effect against a fragment of the Demon King.
“It’s futile. I heard from Hillwillow, people known as ‘ninjas’ in other worlds use a technique called Kage-nui, sewing their enemies’ shadows to themselves to stop their movement, don’t they? This is just like that! Even if you possess a monstrous strength that one would not expect from your appearance, even if you possess fragments of the Demon King, you can never escape from this,” Birkyne said triumphantly. “Will you unleash light from your eyes like when you fought the Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords?! Or maybe you’ll make a part of yourself explode to erase the shadow! Feel free to do so, if you don’t mind the deaths of the children around us and behind you!”
TLN: Kage-nui/影縫い roughly translates to “shadow stitching.” It’s a ninja thing and is featured in Naruto.
Birkyne had planned for the event that negotiations broke down. That was why he had waited until not just Matthew and Seris, but many people of the orphanage, became attached to Vandalieu – in order to minimize the number of people that he would not mind sacrificing… He had not expected all of them to become attached to him, but that was convenient now.
“But rest assured. We will not kill you… or rather, we cannot kill you. I would be in danger if the countless fragments of the Demon King in your possession were to spill out, and I need you and Alda to destroy each other,” Birkyne continued. “I don’t even know how to kill you. It seems that even if I could, you would turn into an Undead and attack me. I don’t want to be targeted by Gufadgarn and Vida’s faction, either.”
It seemed that Birkyne had no intention of killing Vandalieu. In fact, he believed that he must not kill Vandalieu. That was why Vandalieu’s ‘Danger Sense: Death’ was barely reacting at all to Birkyne’s actions.
Killing Vandalieu would eliminate Birkyne’s greatest threat to himself. But that wouldn’t remove all of the heroes that Alda’s faction was raising, cause Vida and the Pure-breed Vampires of her faction to return to slumber or placate Vandalieu’s subordinates.
It was clear that he would be crushed in between Alda’s forces and the remnants of Vandalieu’s.
“That is why I will force the agreement of nonaggression and noninterference… into your brain!” Birkyne said.
Vandalieu felt the unpleasant sensation of something slipping into his ears.
“I heard an explanation of how the brain works from Zakkart when he was still alive. I will use the Demon King’s shadow to infiltrate your brain and brainwash you physically. This means that the ‘Mental Corruption’ Skill is useless. You still have the ‘Status Effect Resistance’ Skill, but… I have even brainwashed Vampires and Majin before. I will just work carefully until I overcome your Skill’s effects,” Birkyne explained. “But rest assured. Once I’m done with my puppets, I’ll release them to you.”
However, the Skill that Vandalieu possessed was not ‘Status Effect Resistance,’ but its superior version, ‘Status Effect Immunity.’ Thus, the chances of succeeding in brainwashing him was considerably low. Still, it would feel very unpleasant to continually have his brain meddled with directly.
And I’ve already got all of the information I need, anyway, Vandalieu thought to himself as he activated the Demon King’s eyeballs and luminescent organs, emitting light towards his feet.
At that moment, he regained the freedom of movement in part of his body.
“This brat has eyeballs on his legs?!” one of the Noble-born Vampires shouted in surprise.
“Stop him, even if it’s only for a second!” Birkyne shouted.
The Noble-born Vampires immediately obeyed his command and leapt at Vandalieu in order to stop him from moving. Birkyne was likely trying to use the opening they created to stop Vandalieu’s movements once more with the Demon King’s shadow.
But Vandalieu released ‘Death Bullets’ at the Noble-born Vampires. With ‘Chant Revocation’ and ‘Greater Multi-cast,’ multiple spells flew out at once, causing the Noble-born Vampires to fall back hastily.
Birkyne clicked his tongue in frustration. “Go!” he shouted, commanding his puppets.
At that moment, Seris, Matthew and all of the other people of the orphanage gathered in the chapel rushed towards Vandalieu and clung onto him.
Under ordinary circumstances, this would be a very heartwarming scene, but… it was simply ominous now.
At that moment, Vandalieu stopped resisting.
Birkyne gave a wide smile and laughed. “Your attacks against my subordinates avoided the brat and the woman behind you, and were more for protecting them rather than yourself. You can’t resist any more now that my puppets that are so precious to you are all clinging onto you, can you? They will cling onto you even if all of the bones in their limbs break, until I order them to stop. If you understand the situation, you should stay still and let me perform the brainwashing. I don’t mind killing a few of them! If you don’t want me to do that, then be obedient!”
Vandalieu decided that he could no longer maintain his disguise.
“I will not be obedient, precisely because I don’t want you doing that,” he said. “Please come out, the four of you.”
In response to this, Chipuras and two others appeared around Vandalieu.
Birkyne opened his eyes wide in shock upon seeing these familiar faces. “The ‘Fine Dog’ Chipuras and the ‘Mad Dog’ Berkert. And even the ‘Fighting Dog’ Daroak. So, you turned Ternecia’s Five Dogs into Ghosts after they were defeated! … But so what?”
He had been shocked at first, but since they were Undead… Ghosts with no physical bodies, at that, they didn’t represent any threat, no matter how strong they had been while alive.
Birkyne’s confidants thought the same; they calmly raised their weapons and faced the three Ghosts.
But that was a fatal mistake.
“So what, you ask? This is what!” Chipuras shouted.
Berkert began laughing maniacally.
“Burn the image of our reborn forms into your eyes!” screamed Daroak.
The three of them began to shine violently, as if they had become incarnations of the sun.
Being defenseless against this attack that struck them directly, Birkyne and his confidants, who were Vampires that could be burned by the sun, screamed in agony as their entire bodies were scorched.
“GAAAAH! Light-attribute Ghosts?! Impossible, my eyes, my shadows?! AAAAGH!” Birkyne shrieked as he twisted his body and covered his face.
The Demon King’s shadow was forced behind him by the light being emitted from the Ghosts.
“Now is the time, Vandalieu-sama!” shouted Chipuras.
Vandalieu extended his spirit form to wrap all of the people of the orphanage in it, used ‘Embodiment’ to materialize it and then cast ‘Flight’ to float into the air.
In the next moment, he used ‘Golem Creation’ to create a hole in the chapel’s wall, which he had silently turned into a Golem earlier, and escaped through it.
From there, he regrouped with the waiting Gufadgarn. Seeing this, the Ghosts returned to Vandalieu’s side.
“Congratulations on your safe return, Vandalieu,” Gufadgarn said.
“I’m back, Gufadgarn. I’m glad that he acted exactly as you told me he would,” said Vandalieu.
“I knew of him before I even came to this world, after all. It seems that some things were mixed up, but it was fortunate that it went largely as expected.”
“B-Birkyne-sama, what shall we do?! Should we retreat?!” asked Mortor, flustered.
“Chase him!” Birkyne ordered, his regenerated face twisted in anger. “What use is there in running?! Since negotiations have failed, there is no way for me to survive other than to brainwash him and turn him into my puppet!”
As long as Gufadgarn was outside, there was a high chance that they would be chased no matter where they ran. Attempting to run would simply be a slow way to commit suicide.
“The puppets are still under my control! And there are countless more humans outside that I can use as hostages! Hurry and get outside!” Birkyne shouted in fury.
Knowing that they would be killed if they disobeyed, the confidants flew out the hole that Vandalieu had created.
Birkyne himself leapt out to chase Vandalieu as well, but… he was still unaware that even if he left the chapel, he could not get outside.