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In the western region of the Bahn Gaia continent, a remote region that the Amid Empire had ruled over for around five hundred years, were a number of hidden Dark Elf villages.
The Amid Empire heavily persecuted members of Vida’s races, but to Dark Elves, who had lifespans of a thousand years, this was just something of a long storm that they needed to hold out against. If they just kept an eye on things from the depths of the countryside, the empire would likely be replaced by a different nation in a century or two.
The Amid Empire’s persecution was not so significant that the Dark Elves would abandon the forests and mountains that they were accustomed to living in to take action against it.
However, the Dark Elves were currently assembled to discuss whether to take large action – not because a threat was closing in on them, but because the place they would move to in the future wanted them to.
“Everyone, let me ask you once more,” said Elder Chief Dierion, addressing the chiefs and wise individuals from every village gathered in one place.
Though he was the Elder Chief, Dark Elves did not age. Dierion was no exception to this; he had the appearance of a kind young man in his mid-twenties. However, everyone here knew that he was the Elder Chief who possessed the wealth of experience that came with living for over nine centuries, and even those of the younger generation adored him and his gentle character. And that was why nobody was angry when Dierion said his next words:
“Is lunch ready yet?”
“Great Jii-chan, we’ve already eaten. It’s already afternoon, and this is the fifth time you’ve asked everyone that question today,” said his assistant… or rather, his great-grandchild who was responsible for his care.
“Ah, so I have. How troubling,” said Dierion, putting a hand on his forehead with a pleasant smile.
“We are the ones in trouble here,” said one of the other Dark Elf chiefs. “You are going and showing your senility in front of visitors and heroes.”
“Completely right!” another agreed. “Whatever shall we do if they were to think that our meeting is taking so long because you are senile?”
“It cannot be helped; Dierion is considerably old, after all,” said a third. “He is the Elder Chief in the first place because he is the eldest among us chiefs.”
Like Dierion, most of the other chiefs had the appearance of people in their twenties or their later teenage years, and since their voices sounded young as well, this appeared to be a meeting of a group of young people who liked talking as if they were old.
“I told you, right? Everyone’s just like Schneider.” said Dalton, whose mohawk, leather clothing and muscular figure made him stand out in this meeting.
“You are indeed correct,” Zod sighed.
“I heard that all Dwarves look middle-aged because of their beards, but Dark Elves are even weirder,” said Lissana.
“Well, I’m used to it because of Schneider, so I’m not too bothered by it,” said Merdin.
Schneider looked at his companions with a stiff look on his face. “You guys… I’m right here, you know.”
“That’s exactly why we’re saying it,” Dalton told him.
“As the saying goes, one man’s fault is another’s lesson,” Lissana added.
Since Schneider was always talking and acting like he was old, nobody paid any attention to his small objection.
Schneider and his companions were proceeding with the plan to migrate the Dark Elf villages, including the ones where Dalton and Darcia had been born, into the Boundary Mountain Range. But unlike members of the other races created by Vida such as Ghouls, each group of which made separate decisions, the Dark Elf villages had maintained communication with one another. Thus, the decision-making process had taken longer for them.
Unlike Ghouls and Majin who were constantly exposed to the threat of adventurers hunting them, and Beast-kin and Titans who were heavily persecuted, the Dark Elves had successfully hidden themselves in a place where human society could not influence them. Thus, they lacked a motive to immigrate to Talosheim in a hurry.
“I see,” Dierion. “I am getting old… Oh my. My great-grandchild, why are there two of you?” he asked a nearby Dark Elf.
“Elder Chief, I am your wife’s twin sister’s daughter. In other words, your niece-in law,” the Dark Elf sighed.
“We just have similar faces and hairstyles, Great-grandpa,” said the real great-grandchild.
The conversation had a relaxed, light-hearted tone. But the Dark Elves were not all simply senile.
“Now then… Everyone, I hereby declare my retirement as the Elder Chief,” Dierion announced. “I will give my position as chief of my village to my son-in-law, and the position of Elder Chief will fall upon the next eldest, Jeerizius –”
“I decline!” said the Dark Elf named Jeerizius. “Dierion, I’m only one year younger than you. Next year, it’ll be me being the punchline of jokes by asking people multiple times whether I’ve had my meal or not and causing trouble for everyone.”
“Hmm, the next eldest is Lideria. What do you say?” Dierion asked.
Chief Lideria was a woman with her hair standing on end, multiple piercings in her ears and revealing leather clothing despite it being winter.
She snorted and turned away. “I refuse. An old hag who always reminisces about the past like me is too hard-headed to be Elder Chief. I can’t even find a bride for my grandson that I’m pleased with.”
Incidentally, punk fashion was a trend that had been popular a very long time ago among the Dark Elves of the western region of the Bahn Gaia continent.
“The second half of what you said has nothing to do with it, does it, Grandma!” said Dalton.
“Dalton, you be quiet! You’re always wandering around and still haven’t gotten married!” Lideria retorted.
She was Dalton’s grandmother.
“How about learning from your friends and settling down! Though at least you are better than the one that wanders around but also just spreads his seed around!” Lideria huffed.
“Don’t make a fuss about my marital status in a place where all the chiefs are gathered! I told you I’m not planning to get married to anyone for the next fifty years, didn’t I!” Dalton shouted.
“Yes, you said that fifty years ago! I remember it!” said Lideria.
“… Schneider, she’s talking about you,” said Lissana.
“No, I mean, as a parent… I’m truly ashamed,” Schneider mumbled.
The conversation had headed in an unintended direction.
“Please continue that discussion after this meeting,” said Dierion, putting an end to the exchange between grandmother and grandson. “Searching for a bride for Dalton, the hero of us Dark Elves, can be done later. Among those of us gathered here, I am thinking that we should give the position of Elder Chief to the young Dangar. What do all of you think?”
“Me?” said the Dark Elf man named Dangar, looking at Dierion with an expression of surprise on his face. “It has not been very long since I turned 900, and the emperor of Talosheim is the son of my great-granddaughter Darcia. I do not believe that I will be capable of making impartial decisions.”
Dangar was Darcia’s great-grandfather and chief of the village that she was born in. That was why he was trying to decline the position.
But Dierion gave him a bright smile. “Dangar, none among us gathered here are able to make decisions that are completely impartial. The one we are dealing with is the person who resurrected Vida, the one whom we all call our mother, and is the successor to Zakkart, the young champion whom she loved so dearly. His power and his great achievements alone are more than enough for us to bow down and praise him.”
Vandalieu had resurrected Vida, the goddess of love and life. This had been one of the Dark Elves’ dearest wishes.
Although the Dark Elves had succeeded in living stable lives in hiding, they constantly held the desire to someday stand on the front stage of history with the resurrected goddess and teach a lesson to the humans who monopolized the easily-liveable land and dominated the continent through Alda’s authority.
Throughout Lambda’s long history, there had been numerous occasions in which Dark Elves had stood on history’s front stage. During a period where a large nation didn’t exist in the western area of the continent, there had been occasions on which Dark Elves had conquered small countries and established nations of their own. But any nations they created would only last a few centuries, and then Dark Elves would return back to the depths of the mountains. This process would repeat itself over and over.
Every time they took a step forward, they found themselves back where they had started. In the midst of all this, the goddess Vida had been resurrected and a nation under her faction had been built. There were none who could not be excited by this news.
In truth, there were some Dark Elves who wanted to cling to the rights and social status they had in their villages, but… it seemed that they had seen no option but to give these up, as the majority of them wished to migrate to this new nation.
But there were reasons that they had not been able to come to an immediate decision.
“Well, we had to think twice about it when we heard that Undead and some monsters are treated as equal citizens,” one of the Dark Elf chiefs said.
“Indeed,” Dierion agreed. “Undead and monsters capable of rational thought that do not mindlessly attack humans… It is difficult to believe that they exist without seeing them with our own eyes.”
“And transforming into Chaos Elves… It seems that there are large differences, even if they are still Elves. This is just something that I cannot understand just with my grandson’s words,” said Lideria.
The chiefs seemed relaxed, but none of them were unaware that their futures depended upon the decision that they were about to make.
Co-existing with monsters, which they would never have even considered except for tamed monsters, and Undead. Transforming into Chaos Elves. These were possibilities that they needed to consider when making their decision.
“But there are convincing factors already. The time to think about which decision to make is over, Dangar. The only thing left is for the new Elder Chief to put that decision into words,” said Dierion.
The position of Elder Chief of the Dark Elves of the western region of the continent did not have the kind of absolute authority that a king would have in human societies.
The position was more like that of a chairman who put all of the chiefs’ opinions together when they met. That was why the Dark Elves believed that it was a position that required someone with vast life experience and an exceptional personality.
“… Very well. I respectfully accept, former Elder Chief Dierion,” said Dangar. “Us Dark Elves will move into the region inside the Boundary Mountain Range in order to be a part of the coming battle. But not all of us. Some will remain behind, and we will entrust them with the task of maintaining the villages so that they may be used as shelters in the event of an emergency.”
Many of the Dark Elves who wanted to migrate to Talosheim desired to do so more because they wanted to join Talosheim’s fighting forces rather than because they wanted a place to live in peace.
In truth, it was possibly safer for them to stay in the hidden villages where they currently lived rather than inside the Boundary Mountain Range, which was the target of the gods that served Alda, the god of law and fate.
That was why they would migrate, but also maintain the hidden villages in case they needed to be used as shelters. That was the decision that the chiefs had come to.
“Phew, finally. Well, all things considered, it was pretty quick. But I’m glad things calmed down while that shitty emperor is still in charge,” said Dalton.
“You’re right,” Lissana agreed. “There wasn’t too much to worry about because Marshukzarl didn’t do any meaningless hunting of Vida’s races… or rather, hunting that wouldn’t yield any returns.”
Marshukzarl, the current emperor of the Amid Emperor, was persecuting members of Vida’s races, just like the emperors that had come before him. But he had never lost sight of the purpose of doing so – the purpose of keeping the empire united and redirecting the people’s dissatisfaction.
Thus, he had not sent out his army to search for and hunt down the Dark Elves living in hidden villages when there were steep mountains and forests between them and the imperial domain.
Even if he sent his army, incurring casualties in the process, the only thing he would gain is more land that was difficult to govern. Even if the captured Dark Elves were sold off as slaves, it was unlikely that this would offset the enormous costs of mobilizing the army.
“But the next emperor is probably going to be heavily influenced by the Church of Alda. He might declare a purge of all opposing forces within the nation before the battle against the Demon King,” said Schneider.
“Schneider-dono, the army is not the only problem. I believe it possible that the young individuals known as the heroes chosen by Alda and his followers may attack the villages individually or in small groups… though I find such behavior difficult to understand,” said Zod.
Zod was more worried about the possibility of attacks by heroes with the divine protections of gods, who were far more powerful than the average knight and were more mobile than an army. He could not understand the reasoning behind attacking hidden villages of Vida’s races that lived without interacting with human societies at all. But Alda’s believers had done such things multiple times in the past.
And instead of punishing those who did this, the Church would praise them as disciples of the gods who had done the right thing.
Which races of Vida were targeted depended on the age and the nation, but in many cases, races with Ranks – such as Majin, Kijin and Scylla – were targeted rather than Dark Elves. However, these heroes had the gods at their backs, so there was no telling what they might do.
“However, it seems that for now, they are still spending all of their efforts Leveling in Dungeons, hunting down the remains of the Vampire organization that worshipped the evil god of joyful life, and re-sealing rampaging fragments of the Demon King,” Zod added.
“Yeah. Dalton, tell them that only the capable ones should be left behind in the villages, and that they should set more traps and a tighter surveillance network than usual,” said Schneider. “And I suppose we’ll ask Vandalieu for a communication device for every village.”
And so, despite a few remaining misgivings, the plan to migrate the Dark Elves was put into motion.
There was a Dhampir in Morksi, a city of commerce in the Alcrem Duchy. As the numerous rumors about this spread across the Orbaume Kingdom, more and more people began to hear of Vandalieu.
Having received a report of this promptly from his spies in the Orbaume Kingdom, Emperor Marshukzarl reacted with glee. And then he immediately suppressed that information – to ensure that it didn’t reach the ears of the Church of Alda and the nobles trying to topple him from his position of emperor.
This was not a significant act on his part; it was possible that it was entirely meaningless. However, he thought that it was better than simply telling them himself.
Having heard of the breaking of the statues of Fitun, the god of thunderclouds, he smiled to himself as he began thinking of a public speech to calm the people.
But Duke Lucas, the current head of the Hartner house, froze as if time itself had stopped upon hearing these rumors.
He was aware that a Dhampir was involved with the events that had occurred in his own realm five years ago. A Dhampir who had written his name at the Adventurers’ Guild – Vandalieu.
“How can he be so bold after all of the things that he did in the Hartner Duchy?! What in the world is he thinking…? What is he planning this time?” he murmured, his normally calm and rigid face now pale and flustered.
“Your Excellency, the Dhampir named Vandalieu committed the crime of leaving the city without paying his taxes,” said one of his vassals, unable to stay silent. “Shall we use this as a pretext for summoning this Dhampir for questioning?”
Dhampirs were rare, and there was a Dhampir girl under the protection of the Orbaume Kingdom’s hero, the ‘Blue-flamed Sword’ Heinz. But in the end, those were the only notable things about Dhampirs.
A mere food stall owner, who was not even a vassal of a noble family, was at the full mercy of the authority of the Hartner house of dukes. That was what Lucas’s vassal believed when he made this suggestion.
“D-do not say such foolish things! What will we do if this castle tilts over as well… No, what if it collapses?!” Lucas said, his voice growing higher in pitch.
He did not place so much faith in the Hartner house’s authority.
“Your Excellency, the castle tilting over was the doing of the bandit named Kanata, not the Dhampir, was it not…?” the vassal asked.
“That may be true, but… that incident happened very close to when the Dhampir was sighted. It is difficult to say for certain that the Dhampir is involved with everything, but there is not a single shred of evidence that allows us to deny that possibility,” Lucas said.
“That is true, but –”
“The appearance of a new Dungeon in the city of Niarki and the subsequent monster rampage from it. The higher-ranking members of the Mages’ Guild at the time all turning themselves in together. The collapse of the slave mine. And to top it all off, the disappearance of the Red Wolves Knights’ Order, who were sent to dispose of the cultivation villages. There is no proof or testimony that suggests that the Dhampir is involved in any of these, is there?”
“Th-that is true, but…”
“Then it would not be strange to think that he is involved in the tilting of the castle. We must take the utmost caution when dealing with unknown entities. Tell the Six Hartner Spearmen to never get involved with him. And keep an eye on my younger brother. I would not give a damn if he were to try and make use of the Dhampir and meet a terrible fate for it, but that would get us caught up in it, and I will not allow that.”
Lucas’s orders were for the elite forces he commanded as the duke of the Hartner house, and Belton – his younger half-brother who had contested him for the position of duke – to not make contact with Vandalieu.
The Six Hartner Spearmen were elite individuals who had sworn loyalty to Lucas, but they were considerably weaker than the Amid Empire’s Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords. They were certainly several levels above the Red Wolves Knights’ Order from five years ago, but even so, Lucas’s instincts told him that they were not powerful enough.
As for Belton, he had conceded the position of duke to Lucas and was supposed to have become a loyal vassal, but Lucas was already aware that he had some ulterior motive. He couldn’t bear the thought of him thinking of some foolish plan and getting involved with Vandalieu.
“Then shall we just send some spies in?” the vassal suggested. “Let us have them observe him and report to us immediately if he shows any signs of suspicious movement… especially if he approaches the Hartner Duchy.”
“… That should be fine. Give the order,” said Lucas.
When Lucas heard of the Dungeon rampage that had occurred at the city of Morksi, he became even more certain that the series of events in his own duchy had been related to the Dhampir after all.
Meanwhile, Rudel Sauron, who had taken the position of duke in the Sauron duchy, was actually thinking of whether it would be possible to summon Vandalieu to his duchy… or rather, his mother, Darcia.
“It seems that those rumors were true. A holy lady who summoned a familiar spirit of Vida, who has shown her presence in this world for the first time in a hundred thousand years. If this holy lady were to visit the Church of Vida in our duchy, it would enliven the people,” said one of his vassals.
“Indeed,” Rudel agreed with a nod.
The Sauron Duchy had been at the forefront of the war against the Amid Empire, and had been reclaimed from enemy control only just a few years ago. There were many traditional worshippers of Vida in this region.
The reason for that was because the Amid Empire’s state religion worshipped the gods serving Alda, the god of law and fate, and Vida had distanced herself from him a hundred thousand years ago. But even so, there were many passionate worshippers among the people.
Darcia was said to have summoned a familiar spirit of Vida. If she were to visit the Church of Vida here, it would brighten the dark, sinking atmosphere in the Sauron Duchy for the first time in a long time.
The retaking of the former Scylla territory is making no progress as usual, and we aren’t achieving anything spectacular against the Amid Empire in battle. At this rate, the people’s sentiments towards me will grow more and more unfavorable, Rudel thought to himself.
The former Scylla territory remained under Vandalieu’s control. Recently, adventurers and even the Mercenaries’ Guild were refusing commissions to venture into it, so Rudel was contemplating abandoning it altogether.
And although the Amid Empire was led by two powers that constantly clashed with each other – the emperor and the Church – the army continued guarding the border, as if completely unaffected by internal struggles for power.
The Sauron Duchy had not finished restoring its land and reorganizing its army; it was not in any state to achieve victories in battle.
That was precisely why the ‘Holy Lady’ Darcia’s presence would enliven the people.
“However, there may be problems with forcibly summoning someone who has become well-known in another duchy. Duke Alcrem will not be pleased about it, either,” said another vassal.
There was no law against a duke summoning someone who had become well-known in another duchy or sending a vassal out to meet them. But as an unspoken rule, doing such things was avoided.
“Indeed. Making a forceful move here would incur the displeasure of not only Duke Alcrem, but the holy lady herself,” Rudel agreed. “Let us make our move after we lay down the groundwork around Duke Alcrem and Earl Morksi.”
“Understood,” the vassal said.
Unaware that this holy lady’s son was the greatest existing threat to his rule, Rudel began making his plans to summon her to his realm.