This chapter was sponsored generously by: Michael O. ($5) Felix H. ($20) Marc K. ($10) Christopher S. ($25) Arnold A. ($10) HiddenStorm ($100) James F. ($10) Kevin M. ($20) Joshua C. ($1) Joseph T. ($2) Jeff H. ($50)
A celebratory parade was held two days after the victory over the rampaging monster horde and the mysterious bandits.
In ordinary circumstances, such a parade would be held on the day of the victory, but nothing about that battle had been ordinary – that was how significant a battle it was for the city of Morksi.
In the end, the only deaths were those of the bandits and a few who had been too late to escape from the forest. Many had been injured, but none had suffered any permanent injuries. Considering that there had been Rank 8 Thunder Dragons and Mountain Giants among the enemies, it might have been one of the victories with the least casualties in all of history.
But upon hearing of the size and power of the monster horde closing in on the city, everyone – including Earl Isaac Morksi, the city’s lord – had been certain that the city would be destroyed. Thus, a messenger on a fast horse had been sent to Duke Alcrem and the nobles who governed the surrounding regions before the battle began.
The messengers had carried letters containing news of the powerful monster horde assaulting the city, that the city would likely fall, and that losses needed to be minimized. They had also contained a request for the refugees to be treated warmly.
On top of that, the messengers had called out to all of the merchants and travelers they rode by, shouting and warning them that the city of Morksi was under attack – in order to prevent them from unknowingly heading towards the city and being attacked by the monster horde.
Like the earl, the Commerce, Mages’, Adventurers’ and Tamers’ Guilds had used various ways to contact other Guild branches.
After the long battle, the earl and the Guilds’ leaders were swamped with the task of sending out the message that the city was safe.
At the same time, the bandits’ corpses and belongings were also examined.
The bandits were the two people that had appeared at the front gate, the ten or so that had attacked Vandalieu, and the one that had fought against the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael – Miles – in the forest.
Ordinarily, an investigation into the identities of bandits would not have so much effort poured into it. Such an investigation would merely check whether they had bounties on their heads, confirm whether or not there were any other bandits with them, examine their faces and belongings, and interrogate them to see what they knew. It would not go as far as to conduct an autopsy on their corpses.
But to the Earl and the others in the city, these bandits – Hajime Fitun, his subordinates, and Murakami’s group – were no ordinary bandits.
The peculiarity of their actions didn’t need to be stated, and the strangest thing about them was their strength.
The Tamer woman and the young mage that had appeared at the front gate had been far too powerful to imagine that they were mere criminals. The same was true for the bandits that had attacked Vandalieu, who had been witnessed from the watchtowers and whose battle had even been heard from the front gate. The one that Miles had defeated in the forest, judging from the state of the forest afterwards, had likely been as powerful as a B-class… or possibly even A-class adventurer.
A part of the grassy area had been turned into a patch of burnt land, and as trees had been felled by the shockwaves produced during the battle, the forest now had a small clearing in it.
No matter how one looked at it, this was not the kind of strength that any bandit should possess. Their actions had indeed been peculiar, but there was enough information to suspect that there was some unknown power making a move behind the scenes.
Vandalieu’s group and Miles had repelled such bandits; their power was also far from ordinary, but… the earl had already suspected that they were no ordinary people, and more importantly, they were the ones who had been attacked by the bandits and fought to protect the city.
Thus, the earl had decided to leave Vandalieu and his companions alone for now in order to prioritize a detailed investigation into the bandits.
He would have liked to interrogate the bandits themselves, but as all of them were dead, only autopsies could be conducted on the corpses.
The ones conducting it were the mages employed by the earl’s house, mages and alchemists from the Mages’ Guild, and some individuals selected from among the priests of the Communal Church.
This was a different procedure from Earth and Origin’s forensic science, but all of them were well versed in the structure of the human body.
“This is strange. Are these really the corpses of bandits? They’re like the corpses of sick people on the verge of death, or elderly people. And yet, there is a vast amount of Mana left in their body structures. That’s true not only for the mages, but for the front-line fighters and shield-bearers who would normally tend to have relatively little Mana,” one of the mages murmured.
“Their muscles and tendons are in pieces, their bones are brittle, their cartilage is worn down, and several of their organs were on the verge of failure. And the insides of their skulls are covered in blood, possibly because of the rupture of small blood vessels,” Priestess Paula observed. “These people weren’t just half-dead; they were nearly completely dead.”
The results of the autopsy: The majority of the bandits had already been in a near-dead state at the time of their deaths.
“There are records of autopsies finding people in this state –berserkers who repeatedly used ‘Surpass Limits’ or ‘Transcend Limits.’ But even if the front-line fighters did this, why are even the mages from the back-lines in this state?” another mage muttered.
“… I have heard one story, a long time ago. A hero, beloved by a certain god, was willing to give up his life to defeat a powerful Majin. He prayed to the god – requesting that he send a being too powerful for himself to handle,” said Priestess Paula. “The records didn’t say whether the being that descended upon him was a heroic spirit or a spirit clone of the god himself. However, these corpses are in the same state as that of the hero.”
The autopsy-conductors listened to Priestess Paula intently. Many of them had been present at the battle at the front gate, and they had seen the bodies of the Tamer woman and the mage glowing faintly.
No pillars of light like the ones produced by familiar spirits and heroic spirits’ descents had been witnessed around the city of Morksi since Darcia’s use of ‘Familiar Spirit Descent.’ However, the bandits had been so powerful that it wouldn’t be strange to think that a god’s subordinates had descended upon them.
And one of the bandits, the ex-‘Strong Arm’ Gordon, was a C-class adventurer who had been seen in the city of Morksi not too long ago. At that time, he had not possessed any more strength than a C-class adventurer should. It was difficult to imagine that he had somehow acquired strength rivalling that of a B-class or A-class adventurer within such a short period of time, so if this really was Gordon, the only conclusion was that he had borrowed some other being’s power.
Murakami and Akira’s corpses had suffered little damage other than the wounds that had caused their deaths, but the rest of the bandits showing these signs could not be ignored.
Just then, the alchemists that had been examining the bandits’ equipment came with a report that would support the findings of Priestess Paula and the others.
“Orichalcum! Orichalcum weapons were being used by the bandits! And the most fascinating thing – these Mythril and Adamantite weapons that have been plated with Orichalcum!” one of the alchemists said. “All of them are new… They were created less than a year ago!”
It had been discovered that there were Orichalcum weapons among the bandits’ equipment – ones that had been created within a year ago, no less.
Orichalcum didn’t occur naturally; it was the metal that stood at the top of the hierarchy of magical metals, and it was said that it could only be refined by the gods.
That would mean that the gods had created these weapons and given them to the bandits. These weapons were proof that the bandits had the support of the gods.
“D-D-Demon King equipment! There is no mistake! Thirty years ago, I once conducted research in how to seal away fragments of the Demon King. During that research, I once saw real Demon King equipment! This equipment is different from the equipment I saw back then, but it is certainly Demon King equipment!” another alchemist announced.
The continuing report made not only the priests, but the knights present as well, almost lose their composure.
“There were reports that these swords mysteriously grew their blades back no matter how many times they were broken, but to think that they were Demon King equipment!” one of the priests murmured.
“Priests! Quickly! You must seal them away at once!” the second alchemist cried.
Demon King equipment was equipment crafted from sealed fragments of the Demon King so that they could be used as weapons. Seals upon such equipment were, by their nature, weaker in effect than the seals used before they were crafted into weapons.
With that said, the seals were still not easily broken, but… the terrifying nature of Demon King fragments was well-known, especially in recent times, where there had been multiple instances of fragments’ seals coming undone and rampaging out of control.
“Seal them away, you say, but the fragments used in the equipment are already sealed! It is not a simple matter for us to take any further steps than that,” said Priestess Paula.
“Ordinarily, we would be able to do nothing beyond storing them within an Orichalcum or Orichalcum-lined container in a chamber blessed by the gods,” said another priest. “But that is impossible, as the Communal Church does not have facilities of such a scale.”
“Then where are such facilities?!” the alchemist demanded.
“If I recall, the closest is the Church of Alda, the Church of Fitun and the Church of Ricklent in Alcrem City…” the priest replied.
“Out of those, we don’t know what’s going on with the Church of Fitun,” said Priestess Paula.
The statue of Fitun at the Communal Church of Morksi had cracked during the battle against the monsters. And the priest of Fitun, who had joined Priestess Paula and the others in providing support for the soldiers, had suddenly lost consciousness despite not having used up all of his Mana. He remained unconscious even now.
If it was just the priest fainting, it could be assumed that it was just a personal health problem, but… the statue had cracked at the same time. It was only natural for the leaders of the Communal Church, the earl and everyone else to link this incident with the one that had occurred just the previous month – the incident in which the tome held by the statue of Alda crumbled and the priest of Alda lost consciousness.
“Very well. For now, let us report our findings of the equipment to Duke Alcrem and ask for support so that we may store it safely. Until that support arrives, our knights’ order will watch over the equipment twenty-four hours a day to ensure that nobody comes near it,” said one of the knights.
“In that case, we will investigate the source of the equipment. The Demon King’s equipment is created by mortal hands altering the seal on the fragments. Due to their nature, it is impossible to discover them in Dungeons,” said Priestess Paula. “They are even rarer than Orichalcum equipment. Asking every Church and Mages’ Guild will likely reveal where this equipment was taken from.”
“There is a possibility that they excavated them from some ruins, or perhaps they belonged to some secret military force or an evil god’s cult. But even so, we must investigate,” said one of the mages.
“Very well. All that is left is the questioning of the people who fought against these bandits, but… the earl will be attending, and it will be conducted with limited people, so that will happen later,” said another.
Generally, questioning was carried out by city guards and Adventurers’ Guild employees. But in this case, the city’s highest-ranked authority was attending, and only a limited number of people would be involved.
This was proof that the earl and his advisors suspected that Vandalieu and his companions would speak truths that could not be made public.
Having entrusted the Demon King fragment he acquired in the Minotaur King’s nest to the Church of Ricklent, Randolf ‘the True’ immediately left the Alcrem Duchy and returned to the center of the Orbaume Kingdom – the royal domain.
This was the domain that was under the direct rule of the king, who was elected from among all of the duchies in an election that took place once every ten years. But in reality, it was the realm of the marquises and earls that served the king.
There were many nobles that one needed to be wary of in the royal domain, such as Prime Minister Tercatanis and Marshal Dolmad, but it was also a place where dukes other than the current king had little influence. That was why Randolf had kept his hideout here for the past several years.
… It would be easier to escape from interference by nobles in a remote countryside, but that would make gathering information difficult. If he lived in such a place, it was entirely possible that the country could be on the verge of annihilation by the time he received word of any of the events leading up to it.
Information was necessary in order for Randolf to stand up in times of national crisis and prevent or avoid disaster. And receiving news more quickly would likely give him more time to save not only himself, but his friends and acquaintances as well.
And right now, Randolf was eating at an ordinary bar.
But he was not in the mood to enjoy a peaceful meal.
“First, the god of records, and now the god of thunderclouds as well. The Vampire organization that served the evil god of joyful life seems to have been annihilated as well, so it’s not clear what became of that evil god… What am I supposed to do when something could happen to the gods before the kingdom faces any threat of destruction?” he muttered to himself.
It had been a long time since Randolf stopped praying to the gods. But even so, when statues of Fitun crumbled, the high priest of the Church of Fitun lost consciousness in the middle of a sermon and other priests and holy figures collapsed one after another, news of it would find its way to his ears.
And even though this information had found its way to his ears, it was difficult to say that he had an accurate understanding of the situation. What he did know was that significant events were taking place one after another in places that were beyond his reach.
Even if an event took place that resulted in the destruction of the kingdom, Randolf was confident that he would survive. But even he did not have the same confidence if it was an event that caused something to happen to the gods… a global crisis whose only precedents were the war against the army led by the Demon King Guduranis, and the battle between Alda and Vida.
He could escape from the Bahn Gaia continent, but he could not escape from this world.
Randolf felt something of a resentment towards himself for being able to imagine the seriousness of the situation.
He had never imagined that he would see the day where he would feel envious of the bar patrons who were laughing without a care in the world, saying that the priests were old, or that the Church’s kitchen must have used ingredients that had gone off, or that Fitun’s statue had crumbled because the offerings made to him had been rotten as well.
“… If I had stayed in that city, I might have learned something,” Randolf murmured to himself.
He had not stopped in the city of Morksi; he had simply left Natania and Juliana in the care of the one-armed man who had tamed a Hellhound, then left with the sealed fragment of the Demon King that had gone berserk.
He did not know the fine details of the events that had occurred afterwards, but… what did reach his ears was all stories that sounded like nothing more than idle gossip.
According to these stories, a Dark Elf priestess had summoned a familiar spirit of Vida in a city called Morksi in the Alcrem Duchy.
A Deputy Guild Master of the Commerce Guild had tried to set up an ambush for that Dark Elf by hiring corrupt city guards, and he had been punished by knights serving the earl.
A Dhampir food cart owner had begun selling Goblin and Kobold meat from food carts across the city of Morksi, and to everyone’s astonishment, they were selling incredibly well.
There was a Dhampir with an incredible mastery over taming, and he had tamed strange and previously undiscovered races of monsters one after another.
Randolf thought that at least half of these rumors were false. But he believed that the other half was true – especially the last rumor.
“It seems to be a fact that there is a Dhampir in Morksi. And the hellhound that I saw… The man I saw that time was a human, not a Dhampir, but I might have been too hasty to jump to conclusions,” Randolf said, continuing to talk to himself..
Perhaps the one-armed man was just an acquaintance of the Tamer, and the real Tamer was a Dhampir who had not been there at the time.
But even so, there was no proof that this Dhampir was involved in the events that had occurred recently. Even if he was a member of a scarce race and was blessed with talent, he wasn’t the center of the world.
But there was one thing that Randolf was sure of.
“Now that I think about it, the Demon King fragment might have reacted back then because that Dhampir was about to return to his familiar,” he murmured to himself.
Back then, the Demon King fragment had become quiet again as soon as Randolf gained distance from the city. And during the time it had taken him to take it to the Church of Ricklent, the seal on the fragment had not threatened to break, and the fragment itself had made no further noise.
Randolf suspected that the fragment almost going out of control was not because the seal had weakened. Perhaps there was something in that city… something that the Demon King fragment longed for so much that it had affected the seal.
Perhaps it was the Dhampir who was spoken of in the rumors. And although Demon King fragment rampages had previously only occurred perhaps once every few centuries, Demon King fragments had been rampaging frequently in recent days with a goal that they were trying to achieve.
That goal could only be the Demon King’s resurrection.
“The only thing I can think of is that this Dhampir is the ‘Demon King’s core,’ or he has been infested by the ‘main body’ or a fragment that is classified as such… although this theory only holds up assuming that such a fragment, which has never been heard of, even exists,” Randolf muttered.
Fragments of the Demon King would seek out other fragments, fuse with them and attempt to resurrect the Demon King. This information had been known and passed down for tens of thousands of years before Randolf was born. A fragment would not care what body part of Guduranis another fragment originated from – as long as they were fragments, they would try to fuse.
Whether it was the heart or the pinky finger, fragments would not prioritize one fragment over another. Randolf had never heard of fragments trying to gather at the location of a specific fragment.
Thus, it was highly likely that a ‘core’ fragment didn’t exist. Even if it did, it would have been sealed away by the gods themselves, rather than sealed away inside a Church – just like the Demon King’s soul.
“If that’s the case, there’s no reason for me to be in a rush to act, but…”
The Dhampir himself may be the Demon King’s main body, Randolf thought, finishing his own sentence silently in his head.
Whether this conclusion was correct or not, even though he was using spiritual magic to ensure that his muttering under his breath to himself could not be heard by those around him, these words were not words to be spoken aloud lightly.
“Fortunately, I no longer have the fragment. I guess I’ll do some investigating myself,” Randolf decided.
Even he could not abandon the world if it was in danger.
Leaving the payment for his meal on the table, Randolf stood up out of his seat to go and make preparations for his journey.
The parade was a magnificent one. As a band played music for the parade, the one walking at the front of it was… not Vandalieu, but Darcia.
She was followed by Zadiris and Basdia, and Vandalieu and Miles were behind them, walking alongside Simon, Natania, Kanako, Melissa, Doug, Fang and the rats.
“Ah, it’s the ‘Holy Mother of Victory!’”
“Holy-Mother-sama! Thanks to you, my husband came home safe! Thank you very much!”
“So, that is the ‘Holy Mother of Victory’ that people are talking about. Some people are calling her the ‘Steel Mother’ or the ‘Ferocious Mother,’ so I was wondering what kind of brave warrior she would be, but…”
“What, did you just come to this city this morning? If you go to the red-light district, Holy-Mother-sama will always give you a smile.”
“Huh… That sounds nice. So, what’s the store’s name? And how much does it cost for a night?”
“Food carts don’t have store names, do they? And there’s always different kinds of meat skewers every day, so you’ll have to ask for the prices yourself.”
“Huh? Food cart? Meat skewers?”
Though there was a strange misunderstanding for some, most of the attention from the city’s people was on Darcia. She was the one who had performed outstandingly during the battle at the front gate to protect the city, in front of all the soldiers, adventurers, mercenaries and mages.
She had not only fought against the monsters herself, but simultaneously also strengthened her allies with enchantments and used healing magic to treat the wounded.
“The ‘Giant Slayer’ is there, too!”
“And the ‘Magic Staff Master!’ How considerate of the earl to not only let them be a part of the parade, but have them walk as a part of the leading group!”
Immediately behind Darcia was Basdia and Zadiris, who had also stirred the hearts of the knights and adventurers with their contributions to the battle at the front gate.
Zadiris, who had defeated monsters with spells even more advanced than those of the mages of the Mages’ Guild, and Basdia, who had cut down the Giant that had been created by one of the bandits.
Their actions in the battle were known not only by those who had been a part of the battle, but almost every single person living in the city of Morksi.
Bards had already written songs about their feats.
Naturally, there had been some who disapproved of Darcia, a Dark Elf, and Zadiris and Basdia, who were Ghouls, leading the parade.
To be more precise, even if having Darcia at the front was unavoidable, the Ghouls should be in a less conspicuous part of the parade. At the very least, they should not be walking in front of the knights’ order. These were the claims made by several of the earl’s vassals.
Earl Morksi had political enemies. With this parade, he was showing that he valued Ghouls – creatures that were considered monsters in the Orbaume Kingdom – more highly than the very knights that served his house. Would this not be a weakness that those political enemies could exploit?
That was what the vassals had been apprehensive about.
But the knights themselves had insisted that their pride as knights would not allow them to march in the parade in front of Basdia and Zadiris, and if they were to be ordered to do so, they would rather create an excuse of being in poor health and refrain from participating in the parade altogether. And thus, the opposing vassals had been left with no choice but to fall silent.
“The ‘Flying Sword’ Simon and ‘Iron Cat’ Natania are there, too. I had Simon in my party for a commission once, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah. The punchline is that it was when you were doing a day job to clear some weeds, right? I’ve heard this one already.”
“That running that Natania did, that wasn’t humanly possible. Her teamwork with the rat monsters was mesmerizing.”
“Hey, hasn’t that Hellhound become kind of huge? And those rat monsters look a bit different as well…”
“Their Ranks probably increased. It was apparently a fierce battle, after all. All of the people who took part in the battle apparently changed Jobs afterwards.”
“They got that many Experience Points?!”
“Yeah, my buddy was happy that he’d overcome his growth barrier. I mean, there was a countless number of Rank 5 and 6 monsters, as well as Dragons and Giants.”
“That’s amazing. There won’t be any more D-class adventurers left in this city, right? They’ll all be promoted.”
“No, I wouldn’t go that far, but… there might be more C-class adventurers.”
It could be said that the city’s ability to defend itself had increased a considerable amount. The knights and city guards hadn’t been very powerful before the battle; their increase in strength was a particularly significant improvement for the city’s security.
With that said, the knights’ order and city guards had become so much stronger that they would be able to defend another monster rampage of a similar scale on their own.
Meanwhile, the people of the city didn’t have much of an impression on the others among the group at the front of the parade.
“Hey, that man is the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael, right? Why is he walking at the front of the parade? I know that Starving Wolf Security are doing pretty well, but even if you wanted to publicly acknowledge that, there’s no need for him to be at the front…”
“And that Dhampir, Vandalieu, if I recall correctly. Holy-Mother-sama performed wonderfully during the battle, but isn’t he riding on his mother’s coat-tails a little too much?”
“And that Dark Elf, Elf and the dark-skinned guy – who are they?”
Vandalieu and the others had not fought in the battle at the front gate, and only two guards at the watchtowers had witnessed their battle – and even they had only seen it from a distance. Thus, the average person didn’t have much of an impression regarding their feats.
Thus, although Vandalieu had defeated Hajime Fitun, the enemy’s leader, the feats of Darcia and the others were more well-known and highly praised.
“I’m proud that Mother, Zadiris, Basdia, my apprentices and my companions are being so highly praised,” said Vandalieu.
He didn’t mind this at all. In fact, he was proud of it.
“… Well, I didn’t expect you to be concerned about the little details, but doesn’t it bother you? I am, a little. If I could, I’d love to slip out without anyone noticing me,” said Doug.
People in the crowd were pointing at him and murmuring, “Who is that guy?” amongst themselves.
Doug had no doubt that Vandalieu was unconcerned when it came to public recognition of his achievements. He had known how Vandalieu would be treated, given the fact that he was keeping silent about the fact that Hajime Fitun was no mere bandit, but an incarnation of the god of thunderclouds himself.
And if Vandalieu wanted to make a name for himself, he could achieve as many things as he put his mind to. He could show off a return journey to the Dark Continent that he had reached long ago, show off and clear the Orbaume Kingdom’s A-class Dungeon on his own… or if he wanted something closer and more easily accessible, he could look for the Dungeon that was likely, in the forest, the one that the monster rampage had originated from, and clear that. Vandalieu could easily make history by achieving any of these incredible feats.
What Doug was bothered about was the fact that he was being exposed to the gaze of others. Though their gazes contained no disdain, their looks of confusion being directed at him wasn’t particularly pleasant.
“It’s alright. You’ll receive more praise over time,” said Vandalieu, indicating with his eyes that Doug should look at the crowd.
“You don’t know who they are? There were bandits at the front gate, right? Those bandits’ buddies were outside the city as well, and these guys fought them.”
“My little brother’s a city guard, and he told me they’re amazing. He was talking about how that kid blocked a spell that a bandit sent towards the city.”
It was already well-known that most of the bandits had been as powerful as B-class or A-class adventurers. It was likely that the ones at the front gate had been equivalent to A-class, while the others were B-class.
This was false information leaked by the earl and his vassals, but even being as powerful as B-class adventurers didn’t change the fact that they had posed a huge threat to the city.
“That kid did that?!”
“From what I heard, it was a completely defensive battle. They kept their distance, threw things at each other and used Magic Items to shoot beams of light.”
“I’m sure it was those three that did most of the fighting. Those girls can apparently do ‘that’ thing, like Holy-Mother-sama.”
“Are you serious?! It’s actually my dream to see those girls doing ‘that!’ I hope they’ll do it for us today!”
“My son, too. And according to what I’ve heard, the earl’s son is a fan, too. I’m sure they’ll do it for us in the central plaza.”
“More importantly, the staff and axe needed for ‘that’ can apparently only be made by that ‘Food Cart King’ Vandalieu. According to the rumors, there’s some secret manufacturing method or some Unique Skill involved.”
“… This isn’t all that relevant, but everyone around that ‘Genius Tamer’ has one, don’t they?”
“I also heard that he used some kind of poison on some of the Dragons and Giants to confuse them. He might not have fought, but there’s no mistake that he helped protect the city.”
“To begin with, it’s that boy who’s tamed the ‘Giant Slayer’ and ‘Magic Staff Master.’ He’s the one who trained the ‘Iron Arm’ and ‘Iron Cat,’ too.”
People here and there in the crowd could be heard murmuring to themselves, talking about Vandalieu and his companions. And there were other voices, praising Doug, Kanako, Melissa and Michael (Miles) as well.
“… Information really does spread, even without social media,” Doug muttered.
“Of course it does. Don’t underestimate how much we spread the story when we opened the store in the plaza the day before yesterday and in the red-light district yesterday,” said Kanako, still smiling and waving at the crowd.
“We even ended up transforming, too… Thanks to that, I don’t remember how many times the customers asked the same question over and over,” said Melissa, sounding rather tired.
Kanako and Melissa hadn’t done any information manipulation. They had simply been approachable workers working at a food cart in a place that people could easily go to, and the curious customers had simply asked their questions. All Kanako and Melissa had done was answer those questions.
And as the parade reached the central plaza, Earl Isaac Morksi, the city’s high-ranking officials and the masters of each Guild welcomed them.
“Okay everyone, here we go!” said Darcia.
“… Very well. It cannot be helped,” muttered Zadiris.
“This is depressing,” said Melissa.
“… I am a little ashamed,” said Simon.
“Isn’t the color of our hair a little different?” asked Natania.
“That doesn’t matter! Let’s go, all at the same time!” said Darcia.
“Transform!” the five of them shouted in unison, taking off their outermost layer of clothes and holding their equipment in the air.
The liquid metal of their equipment separated from them like Slimes, and in the same manner, Simon and Natania’s artificial limbs changed shape as well.
A deafening cheer echoed from the crowd, and the knights and soldiers all fanatically praised their majestic figures.
“… What an incredible sight. Is it like this on Earth and in Origin as well?” asked Miles.
“The kids might be like this, but I don’t think the adults would be,” said Doug.
“As the creator of their equipment, I am very proud,” said Vandalieu.
Though Darcia and the others had transformed, they did not give a sermon (concert). Earl Morksi waited for the crowd to quiet down, then began his public speech to them.
The day before the parade.
The questioning conducted by Earl Isaac Morksi, the leader of the knights’ order and a few high-ranking officials was not conducted in one-on-one sessions, but with everyone gathered in one place.
This was a way for the earl and his retainers, the side doing the questioning, to implicitly show that they had no intention of forcing information out of Vandalieu and his companions.
In response, Vandalieu had told them everything that he did not mind telling them.
He did not speak of the physical incarnations of the heroic spirits and the god, nor did he speak about his own true identity.
Regarding the strange events witnessed from the watchtowers… Vandalieu told them that the explosions were created by Magic Items crafted through alchemy, that the beams of light were a function of his staff, that the whip-like object he had used in battle was a whip that he had hidden up his sleeve, and that him appearing to be cut down by the bandits multiple times and later being unharmed other than his clothes being damaged was nothing more than an optical illusion.
Kanako’s ‘Venus’ hadn’t been noticed at all, so she could simply play dumb. Doug lied that his ‘Hecatoncheir’ was an efficient way of using ‘Telekinesis’ that his family had researched over generations, while Melissa stated that her ‘Aegis’ was simply a barrier created by magic.
Isis seemed to have been crushed by the Giant but later emerged unharmed; she gave the explanation that she had fortunately avoided a direct hit but lost consciousness from the impact. As for her not being visible from the watchtower, she must have been in the shadow of some other object.
As for who they were, there were no deep suspicions, as they had already passed through the city’s gates before. Kanako, Melissa and Doug were adventurers, while Isis was just a wandering traveler. All of them were being treated as acquaintances of Vandalieu and Darcia.
… If they were to question the city guards in detail, the earl and his retainers would have learned that these people had not been through the front gate on the day of the battle. But they did not doubt the story that Kanako had left the city to fetch Vandalieu during the chaos at the gate after learning that there was a horde of monsters approaching the city.
As for Kimberley, Vandalieu told the earl and his retainers that he was an adventure who had happened to be passing by, assisting in the battle with wind-attribute enchantments and then going off somewhere without entering the city. As for Orbia, who had appeared momentarily, Vandalieu gave the explanation that had been decided upon beforehand: “That was a highly secret spell cast on me by the great elder of the hidden Dark Elf village. I’m not familiar with the details.”
Most of this information was lies, but Vandalieu answered in considerable length regarding the bandits. He told the earl that the enemies had called themselves heroic spirits of Fitun, and that the heroic spirits had descended upon this world. He also gave accurate answers about the names of the martial skills and spells they used.
Vandalieu also told the earl that they had been aiming to take his life.
“I see… It seems that these bandits were heroes that Fitun, the god of thunderclouds, had chosen and granted his divine protection and heroic spirits. The monster rampage may also have been caused by that god, but… we cannot say that much for sure,” the earl concluded after listening to all of this, a worn-out expression on his face. “I have received word that statues of the god Fitun have cracked and his priests have lost consciousness, all across the land. It is likely that he was punished by Alda for this incident, or that something happened to him after his heroes were defeated… In any case, I can scarcely believe that he was able to nurture Gordon, a C-class adventurer, and the Flame Blades, a group of D-class adventurers, to the point that they could serve as vessels for heroic spirits in such a short period of time. Even though their bodies were ultimately unable to withstand this and perished, it is terrifying to think about.”
The identities of Gordon, who had recently visited Morksi, and the Flame Blades, who had been active in a nearby city, were known. But the identities of the other bandits had not yet been determined.
Perhaps having left them somewhere, Murakami’s group hadn’t been carrying their Adventurers’ Guild Cards, and even Vandalieu and his companions didn’t know the identities of the original owners of the bodies used by the two heroic spirits at the front gate or Kizelbyne.
But as Hajime and the other reincarnated individuals had registered at the Adventurers’ Guild, their identities would eventually be discovered… The ‘Sylphid’ Misa Anderson would be more difficult to identify, as her body had been in vapor form from the very beginning, so nobody had seen her at all and she had left no corpse behind. But since the earl and his retainers didn’t know of her existence in the first place, it was unlikely to become a problem.
Isaac let out a deep sigh.
“I don’t think they would be able to do the same thing again, my lord,” said Vandalieu, in a tone fitting for someone speaking to an important figure.
“What proof have you of that?” Isaac asked.
“The bandit named Hajime that I fought said that Gordon and the others became stronger because of him. Though this is but a conjecture, I believe that he possessed some kind of special Unique Skill, and perhaps it was this that allowed him to produce such improvement in Gordon and the others in such a short period of time,” Vandalieu explained, leaving out the details around ‘Marionette’ and simply explaining it as a Unique Skill.
“I see, a Unique Skill,” the Earl murmured with a nod, seemingly satisfied by this explanation. “At the very least, it seems that such events will not happen again today or tomorrow… Well then, Vandalieu Zakkart and his companions. I am very grateful for your valuable testimony and information. Let us maintain friendly relations moving forward,” he said, reaching out towards Vandalieu to shake his hand.
As he listened to the earl’s speech, Miles thought back to yesterday’s questioning. “I was sure he would tell us to get out of the city. ‘Maintain friendly relations,’ huh?” he murmured.
The bandits… it had been almost fully confirmed that they were heroes serving Fitun, and that they were after Vandalieu’s life. In other words, the earl was aware that Vandalieu being in the city was the cause of the events that had taken place two days ago.
With that being the case, Miles had expected the earl to banish them from the city, but he could not have been more wrong.
“I am sure he considered it, but I suppose he realized that it would have been meaningless to do so,” said Zadiris.
“He is already aware that this city can be used as a hostage against Van. With that being the case, there’s no saying that the ‘enemy’ won’t target this city even after they exile us,” said Basdia.
“So that’s why he wants Master to remain as his ally rather than exile all of us… Noblemen’s thoughts are complicated,” said Natania with a frown.
“I think he had the city’s people in mind. And maybe he thought that it would make no difference whether we’re here or not,” said Darcia.
Vandalieu and his companions had been accepted by the city of Morksi before it was attacked. Vandalieu’s business in the red-light district, his feats in the slums, the ‘Familiar Spirit Descent’ that Darcia had displayed at the Communal Church.
They were already famous among the people who didn’t know the truth, and their reputation had risen even further after they suppressed the monster rampage.
The number of Vida worshippers in the city had increased, and the Ghoul extermination requests had been removed from the Adventurers’ Guild’s commission board due to the voices of the adventurers and civilians.
With Vandalieu and his companions having this much popularity and fame among the people, even if they were exiled from the city, the people might think that they had simply left to prevent more enemies from targeting the city. And if they did leave the city, the city would end up being attacked again regardless.
With that being the case, the earl exiling Vandalieu and his companions would only worsen his relationship with Vandalieu and create negative emotions within his realm; nothing good would come of it.
“Still… I wonder if we can do anything about this. This is too much fame for me, I think,” Simon muttered, the corners of his mouth twitching.
“Simon, there will be another parade once we return to the empire that I rule. I think it’s best that you get used to it while you can,” Vandalieu whispered to him.
After recent events, Vandalieu had told him everything. The truth had far exceeded what Simon could have possibly imagined; he would never have even dreamed that he would be the apprentice of an emperor. But it was too late for him to be ungrateful and pretend that he didn’t know anything.
“… There’s no need for me to take part in that, is there? I’ll just be cheering for you on the side of the street, so don’t mind me…” said Simon.
“If you resist, I’ll give you a court rank and dub you Sir Simon. Or I could adopt you, and then you’d be Prince Simon,” said Vandalieu.
“Spare me, Master,” Simon sighed.
Just as this heartwarming whispered conversation between master and disciple came to an end, the earl’s speech to the crowd came to an end as well.
“Now then, I shall now present these decorations from the Morksi house of earls in recognition of your deeds,” the earl announced.
In the Orbaume Kingdom, nobles with a court rank less than duke could not grant court ranks to others, not even a single-generation noble status that could not be inherited.
Incidentally, there were also regulations on the decorations that could be granted; the highest decoration, the platinum order, could only be granted by the king. The gold order could be granted by the twelve heads of the houses of dukes, and nobles between the court rank of marquis and baron could grant the silver order.
“To the ‘Holy Mother of Victory’ Darcia Zakkart, and the ‘Patron Saint of Transformation Equipment’ Vandalieu Zakkart, and to the nameless heroes, I grant upon you the silver order,” said the earl.
The crowd stirred upon hearing the earl’s mysterious words ‘nameless heroes.’
Kanako and Doug put their hands over their mouths, and Melissa sighed.
“Some people were too late to escape when the monster horde advanced on the city. There were some individuals that sacrificed themselves to buy the time needed to escape for those people. They were young men and women, and some were elderly,” said the earl. “Their remains were never found, and nobody knows their names. It is likely that they were residents of the slums who lived in poverty. It is my wish to praise their bravery and the goodness of their hearts, to praise them as true heroes. And I shall make a declaration here: I shall place great effort into combating the poverty in the slums and solve that problem within my generation!”
A cheer erupted from the crowd. Among the people were the young men and women who were saved by a mysterious old woman, their eyes wet with tears.
Incidentally, there were plans to erect a stone statue of these ‘nameless heroes.’
There were multiple reasons that the earl was doing this. In addition to being moved by these heroes’ brave acts, he also wished to turn some of the people’s goodwill back to himself, as it was currently too focused on Darcia. He was also aiming to gain so much support that his plan to combat poverty could not be opposed, and also to declare to the ‘enemy’ that had directed Fitun’s heroes to the city… to the gods, that those were the true heroes.
“It must be hard on Isis – or rather, Legion,” said Melissa.
It seemed that Legion, the ones being praised, were overwhelmed with guilt. There were two reasons Isis wasn’t a part of the parade – one was that her deeds had not been witnessed, and… this was the other.
Meanwhile, those who had fought the heroic spirits in the Dungeon were either watching over the house or preparing for the parade that was to be held in Talosheim… and the change of the nation’s name to the new one that would be revealed by Vandalieu afterwards.
“I really wanted to see Bocchan in his best clothes,” Rita said wistfully.
“You’ve already seen him in them multiple times, so once is enough, isn’t it? And Talosheim’s parade is going to be even more grand,” said Saria.
This conversation was suddenly interrupted by Juliana.
“Umm, I have figured out the meaning of the Divine Message. I think it is about where a goddess is,” she said.