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As March began, it was already spring according to the calendar, but the Alcrem Duchy, like the Sauron Duchy, was on the northern side of the Orbaume Kingdom. The duchy was separated from the frozen sea to the north by a mountain range, but perhaps because a part of that Mountain Range had become covered in Devil’s Nests, snow fell in the duchy even at this time of year.
But Alcrem, the capital of the duchy, was a large, lively city on any given day, and today was no exception.
In a private room in the back of a bar were three people who had gathered in a meeting.
“I can’t believe it,” one of them said, over the chatter of the drunkards on the other side of the wall. “The threat of the Demon King is approaching, but the city is the same as always.”
“Don’t speak so carelessly, Carlos. I know the other customers are making a lot of noise, but what if someone hears you?” said a second man – a young, blonde fellow.
“Don’t worry, Hendriksen. You probably don’t know this, but this private room’s walls are Magic Items that let sound in from the outside, but don’t let any sound escape from the inside. We can hear the drunkards out there, but we could sing loudly in here or plot a conspiracy to destroy the authorities of the nation, and nobody outside this room would hear us,” the man named Carlos said with a laugh. “Do you want to sing a song to test the walls out?”
“I’ll pass. Do you intend to defile Lady Ediria’s ears?” said Hendriksen.
“I don’t think my ears would be defiled, but you should display your singing voice on another occasion. Let’s move on to the problem at hand,” said the third person in the room, a female mage with shoulder-length, chestnut-brown hair.
“Yeah. Well then, getting right into it… I received a Divine Message this morning,” said Carlos.
“Again? Your god seems to be quite overprotective… but then again, I got one as well,” said Hendriksen.
“It’s too strange to say that it’s a coincidence. I got one too,” said Ediria.
Carlos, Hendriksen and Ediria were adventurers working in Alcrem. All of them were hero candidates, and each of them had received a divine protection from a different god.
Carlos had received his divine protection from Rubicante, the God of Heat Hazes, who had once been a subordinate god of Zantark.
Hendriksen had received his from Elk, the Goddess of the Holy Spear, a subordinate god of Alda who had been hand-picked by Bellwood.
Ediria had received hers from Hirshem, the God of Strings, a subordinate god of Nineroad.
The three of them each had a divine protection, but they were not companions belonging to a single party of adventurers. It was by coincidence that they had gathered here.
They were competing against one another, but there was no hostility between them. In the sense that they were all trying to become stronger to stand against the Demon King that the gods warned them of, they were allies.
However, it was difficult to say that their personalities meshed together very well. They could be allies in battle, but not friends. But nevertheless, they were meeting here in order to exchange information.
“All three of us got a Divine Message at almost exactly the same time… Did your Divine Messages tell you to stay away from this place for a while, and to pray to some god called Rod-something?” Carlos asked the other two.
Hendriksen and Ediria nodded.
“I received a Divine Message telling me to take my companions and head to ‘a certain place,’ spread the name of a god that I’ve never heard before, and pray to him. But don’t tell anyone about it,” said Hendriksen. “I really haven’t ever heard of this god, so I am unsure what to do. And I haven’t been told anything about this ‘a certain place.’”
“Mine was similar to that,” said Ediria.
In truth, there were others in Alcrem who had received divine protections from the gods as well. However, all of them had taken their companions and left Alcrem between the end of the previous year and early this year.
That was around the time when Carlos, Hendriksen and Ediria had received their Divine Messages as well.
However, the three of them had disobeyed their Divine Messages. They all had different reasons for that – such as not being able to simply abandon commissions that they had already accepted, or simply being too proud to flee after having received the divine protection of a god.
A month had passed, and then two, and then finally a third, when even the gods could wait no longer and had sent a second Divine Message to them.
“I see. Leaving aside the matter of this god called Rodcorte, my party has decided to flee as well. After carefully considering the contents of the Divine Message, we figured that the threat of the Demon King was closing in on us, not the city,” said Carlos.
“As for Rodcorte, I’ve figured out that he’s really a god. I prayed to that name, just as my Divine Message told me to, and I received his divine protection. Of course, I still don’t know what he’s the god of, though. And… he told me that everyone should leave Alcrem, and I’m going to listen this time,” said Ediria.
Hendriksen nodded in agreement. “I’m going to carry out a strategic retreat as well… As unfortunate as it is, this meeting may be the last of its kind.”
Carlos, Hendriksen and Ediria were individuals who had received divine protections from the gods. If a threat was approaching, it was their role to fight and protect the unsuspecting people. That was why they had made excuses to themselves to remain in Alcrem.
However, there was no sign whatsoever of this ‘threat of the Demon King’ that they had imagined. A monster rampage had reportedly occurred at the city of Morksi, but it had already been dealt with.
That was certainly dangerous for the city, but far from ‘the threat of the Demon King.’
However, the gods had sent a second Divine Message. It seemed that the ‘threat of the Demon King’ really was approaching, but they had figured out that it was likely only a threat towards individuals who had received the gods’ divine protections. Thus, the three of them had decided to flee this time.
“Come to think of it, what do you think about that group of four in the rumors that is causing a stir at the Adventurers’ Guild these days? They look suspicious, they stand out, and I heard that they’ve caused some troubles with several other adventurer parties,” said Ediria.
“Yeah, that group of four who only registered a few days ago but are unusually strong and look really suspicious… No, I suppose it’s three suspicious people with one other person. If I recall, the leader is a guy called Arthur, right?” said Carlos.
The rumors spoke of a party with a fierce-looking swordsman named Arthur, a beautiful yet sharp-eyed priestess named Kalinia, and a shifty Dwarf mage named Borzofoy. And there was one more, a naïve young girl who seemed to be getting dragged around by the other three.
They were apparently from the countryside, and they had caused rumors because on the day they registered at the Adventurers’ Guild, they had gotten into a quarrel with another party, and caused a stir by hunting several high-Rank monsters that no rookies would be able to hunt.
“None of that matters, right?” said Hendriksen. “It’s a group of suspicious-looking country bums who were already strong before they registered at the Adventurers’ Guild, and a girl being dragged around with them. That’s all.”
“You’re right. Even their quarrel with other adventurers were apparently guys who were essentially thugs picking fights with them,” Carlos agreed.
The group seemed suspicious, but they hadn’t committed any crimes, and they weren’t doing anything particularly suspicious. And although they seemed to be stronger than average, they were far from what the gods would fear and refer to as the Demon King.
“Yes. I don’t think they’re the Demon King or subordinates of the Demon King, either. But I was thinking that maybe they have divine protections of the gods like us,” said Ediria.
“Divine protections, huh… I suppose there is that possibility…” Hendriksen murmured.
Those who received the divine protections of gods did not really know what the requirements to receive divine protections were, and Hendriksen was no exception. There were certainly more devout, more capable worshippers of the gods than him. So why had he received Elk’s divine protection instead of them? He couldn’t understand what the goddess was thinking.
The gods seemed to have clear reasons for granting their divine protections, but… in the end, they were beyond the understanding of mortals.
Even though Arthur was a person from the countryside with a somewhat unpleasant appearance, it wouldn’t be strange for him to have the divine protection of a god.
But Carlos disagreed. “I don’t think that’s very likely,” he said. “They came to Alcrem just as the gods told everyone, including us, to get out of here. If they’ve received Divine Messages as well, then that would make them quite the problem children.”
“That’s… true,” said Hendriksen with a nod.
“Either way, we’ll never run into them. We’re leaving the city tomorrow, after all,” said Ediria. “Where are you two going? I’ve heard that there is a new form of music around Morksi, so I’m going to go and have a look.”
“What a coincidence. I’m going to Morksi as well. I heard rumors that there’s a new Dungeon there, so I’m going to have a look and take a nice stroll around while I’m at it. And I’m interested in seeing the very first food cart where Gobu-gobu originated!” said Carlos.
“… You have strange tastes as always. You’re not starving, and yet you want to go and eat Goblin meat,” said Hendriksen.
Rubicante and Hirshem, the gods who had sent Divine Messages so that they would run away from Vandalieu, were likely screaming, “No! That’s not what we meant!” But these screams did not reach Ediria or Carlos.
Having returned from the Dungeon that had been renamed to ‘Garess’s Ancient Battleground,’ Vandalieu and his companions finished reporting what they found to the Guild, and Kanako, Simon and the others completed the process of their promotion to C-class. Their next goal was to depart for Alcrem.
“It’s kind of touching,” said Kest, the wolf-type Beast-kin rookie guard.
He was the one doing the paperwork at the gate for Vandalieu and his companions’ departure.
Every guard and knight who had fought in the battle at the front gate had undergone a Job change, so it was considered that everyone had contributed equally. Thus, no particular individual had been greatly promoted as a result of the battle.
But Kest was an exception – the title of ‘rookie’ had been removed, and he was now treated as a proper city guard. It was a small improvement; the only things that had changed were the fact that his wages had increased a little, and he was no longer looked down upon by the others in his company. However, to Kest, it was a large change.
A newfound confidence was visible in him, even as he checked identification documents and filled out forms for Vandalieu and his companions.
“It’s about ten days’ journey for a one-way trip to Alcrem, I guess. Be careful, I know there aren’t any bandits around this city these days, but… I guess you’d be fine even if there were,” said Kest.
“Well, it’s always best to be careful…” said Vandalieu, averting his gaze.
The first time he had met Kest, he had told him the false story that he had been the only survivor of a bandit attack.
“Kest, you’re right that they’d be fine even if there were bandits, but… I think the bandits would be running from this lot,” said one of the senior guards, taking no notice of Vandalieu’s strange behavior.
From a bandit’s perspective, Darcia, Vandalieu, Juliana, Natania and Simon would certainly look like easy marks. They were a group of women and children with no men other than Simon and the carriage’s coachman.
However, the carriage was jet black with spikes attached in various places, and if one looked closely, they would see that the two horses pulling it were monsters.
And to top it off, there was Fang, who gave a short bark in agreement to the senior guard. He was visibly enormous even from afar, and nothing but a complete nightmare for bandits.
Bandits might not be knowledgeable about monsters, but they were not reckless enough to attack a monster that was larger than a horse.
The rat sisters squeaked loudly to remind everyone of their presence.
“Yes, yes, I know they can count on you as well,” Kest reassured them.
Still, Fang was the one with the most impactful presence. When it came to people who weren’t knowledgeable about monsters, appearance and size were the most important factors.
“Well, we’re planning to leave the highway partway through our journey and take a side road, so I don’t think we’ll be encountering any bandits,” said Vandalieu.
“A side road? Why in the world would you do that? Leaving the highway between here and the Alcrem Duchy won’t make your journey any shorter, and only more dangerous,” the senior guard warned him.
The highway was kept maintained and guards patrolled to keep it somewhat safe. But side roads weren’t highways, which meant that there were no villages or cities on the way to replenish food supplies or rest, and there were no guard patrols. Travelers taking these roads would need to sleep out in the open while being alert against bandits and monsters.
They were roads that one wouldn’t take unless they were transporting drugs or stolen goods.
“I wanted to gather medicinal herbs and try taming monsters that can’t be found around here,” said Vandalieu.
“I see, that makes sense,” the senior guard said.
Adventurers and tamers would sometimes take side roads for reasons like this, so the senior guard seemed convinced.
“Well then, we’ll get going,” said Vandalieu.
“Alright. Safe travels,” said Kest.
Kest, who seemed much more strong-willed than when they had first met, waved as Vandalieu and his companions departed from the city of Morksi.
Several hours later, when the city of Morksi was no longer in sight and people traveling along the highway became sparse, the party left the highway as they had told the city guards they would, and entered a side road.
The plan was to continue along this side road for a while, then teleport to the Demon Empire of Vidal. They would teleport to the Alcrem Duchy ten days later… no, several days later than that, since the story was that they had passed through unmaintained forests and grasslands. They could then say that they had made the journey.
Vandalieu had already sent Undead insects to where he wanted to teleport – a forest that was a few hours away from the capital of Alcrem.
There were no problems with this.
“I’m a little worried about Zadiris and Basdia,” said Vandalieu.
Not all of his companions had departed for Alcrem; they had left Zadiris, Basdia, Kanako, Doug, Melissa and Miles behind.
The reason for this wasn’t the possibility of the gods serving Alda attacking the city of Morksi in the absence of Vandalieu and his companions. There was nothing for them to gain by attacking the city of Morksi if Vandalieu wasn’t there.
Gods needed to expend vast amounts of power in order to exert influence on the world’s surface. That wasn’t the case for small miracles… such as causing a wilted flower to bloom once more. But destroying an entire city would carry the risk of having to slumber for several centuries afterwards.
Even if they took such a risk and erased the city of Morksi, the only thing Vandalieu and his companions would lose was a single city that they could use as a base of operations… not taking into account the mental shock and rage that they would feel.
However, they could set up base in any number of cities similar to the city of Morksi.
Although this was undeniably an unfortunate thing… in any city, there was always a certain number of people in enough despair to become charmed by Vandalieu.
And in the Orbaume Kingdom, there were the duchies of Birgitt and Sauron, which both had even more Vida worshippers than the Alcrem Duchy.
Thus, the gods of Alda’s forces wouldn’t take any direct actions. And… if they made too many of these hasty moves, the people might start having hostile views towards them, believing that Alda, the God of Law and Fate, intended to destroy their nation in order to unite all of humanity on the continent in the Amid Empire.
With the destruction of Fitun, the God of Thunderclouds, the gods of Alda’s forces were likely looking for a way to calm the situation down, so they wouldn’t take such risks. Probably.
“Even if we think it’s alright in theory, we can’t help the fact that the earl and the others are uneasy about it,” said Darcia.
The reason for Kanako and the others remaining in the city was that Earl Morksi had made an unofficial request, with the exception of Miles who ran and directed Starving Wolf Security who were contracted officially.
“I am sorry to ask this of you, but could you please leave a few capable fighters in the city?” Isaac Morksi had asked Vandalieu.
The B-class Dungeon, ‘Garess’s Ancient Battleground,’ was near the city. With a monster rampage having already happened, it would be a considerable amount of time before another one could occur, and the earl knew that. But there were some monsters from the rampage who had not headed for the city.
Even though the knights and city guards had changed Jobs and grown considerably stronger, there was considerable doubt as to whether they could defend the city from Rank 7 or 8 monsters on their own.
That was why the earl had made this unofficial request for some forces to be left behind, even if he could not stop Vandalieu and Darcia from leaving as their presence had been requested by Duke Alcrem.
Thus, Kanako and the others, who had received permission to hold concerts in the city’s plaza in return for accepting this request, had remained behind, along with Zadiris and Basdia.
“And it’s a good thing that the earl isn’t concerned anymore about the two Ghouls being legally treated as Vandalieu’s familiars,” said Darcia.
She was happy for the opportunity for Ghouls to become treated as people rather than monsters in the city of Morksi, elevating their position in society.
“But I’m a little worried that someone will try to get their hands on them while I’m not there like Gordon, and they’ll overdo things when they deal with them. Both of them are very attractive, after all,” said Vandalieu.
“Ah, so that’s what you meant when you said you were worried… I think it will be fine, Master,” said Simon. “The earl said that he would have people to protect them and ensure that those kinds of things don’t happen, didn’t he?”
The earl, seeming to have the same concerns as Vandalieu, had arranged for some members of the Knights’ Order to prevent unpleasant individuals from approaching the Ghouls and causing trouble. These knights were fans of Basdia and Zadiris, so it was also unlikely that they would have any trouble getting along.
“You’re right. It might be too relaxed a job for Basdia, but I’m glad that it shouldn’t be an unpleasant one,” said Vandalieu.
Among the monsters who hadn’t headed to the city, the Thunder Dragons, having been influenced by Vandalieu’s ‘Scaled Emperor’ and ‘Elder Dragon Emperor’ Titles, had already been dealt with.
The other monsters had been teleported to the fake-Morksi Dungeon, and Juliana, Kasim, Fester and Zeno were defeating them, so there were no actual threats around the city.
Thus, Kanako and the others were in the city as a defense against a threat that didn’t exist. But with that said, the city wasn’t entirely safe, as there were still the heroes being nurtured by the gods of Alda’s forces, and there were some people in human society who felt animosity towards Vandalieu and his companions.
“There’s Jadal-chan in the Dungeon in the basement, and Zadiris-san has the concerts to keep her busy, so I’m sure it’ll be fine,” said Darcia.
“Yes… though it might be better for Zadiris to be more relaxed,” said Vandalieu.
“Incidentally, Vandalieu-sama, are you not worried about Kanako-san and Melissa-san?” asked Juliana, poking her head out from inside Sam’s carriage. “I think they are quite attractive as well.”
Vandalieu thought for a moment. “Kanako will be fine, since she’s used to having those kinds of troubles. As for Melissa, Doug can worry about her so I don’t have to. But I’m not so sure about Jessie-san, so you can turn back and return to the city if you want to, Simon.”
“What are you saying all of a sudden, Master?! She and I are certainly close, but… right now, my priority is having Master Borkus train me again so I can improve myself,” said Simon.
As Vandalieu lightly teased his apprentice, the carriage had traveled a considerable distance away from the highway, so the party teleported to the Demon Empire of Vidal.
Vandalieu and his companions had various things to do during the two weeks or so that they were in the Demon Empire of Vidal.
One of them was diplomatic work.
“I have brought our guests,” said Gufadgarn, opening a dimensional gate.
The members of the Storm of Tyranny came through, along with a group of Dark Elves.
Today, there was a meeting with a group of Dark Elf visitors from the west side of the Bahn Gaia continent. They would be discussing matters related to immigration and inspecting the city.
The leader of this visiting group was a calm-looking young man… the Elder Chief Dangar. He bowed in greeting to Vandalieu.
“Thank you very much for greeting us in person, Emperor. My name is Dangar, and I have recently succeeded the position of Elder Chief. I am honored to meet you,” he said.
“The honor is mine, to be able to welcome the Elder Chief to my city. I am Vandalieu Zakkart, the emperor of the Demon Empire of Vidal,” said Vandalieu. “I am sorry to be abrupt, but may we put our work on hold and treat this meeting as a private one?”
“I would love nothing more. I was about to request the exact same thing,” said Dangar.
Both of them bowed slightly to each other, then shook hands. Vandalieu turned around and gave a nod towards Darcia, who had tears in her eyes.
As soon as he did, Darcia rushed past Vandalieu and Dangar towards a pair of other Dark Elves.
“Mother, Father!” she cried.
“Darcia!” the man, who seemed to have a similar air about him as Darcia, shouted in joy as she embraced him.
“Darcia, it’s really you!” said the woman, who resembled Darcia as if they were sisters.
These two were Darcia’s parents – Vandalieu’s grandparents.
“Darcia! After we heard that you’d died, there wasn’t a single day we didn’t regret not doing more to stop you from leaving the village!” Darcia’s father cried. “But Dalton-dono told us that you stayed in this world as a spirit, and that you were with your son…!”
“At first, we couldn’t believe that you’d come back to life, but I’m so glad! We never thought we’d see you again, but to be able to hold you like this now!” Darcia’s mother said joyfully.
“Mother, Father, I’m so sorry! I… I never hated you, it’s just, I had to –”
“It’s alright, Darcia. Everything is alright now. We’re with you now, and that’s what matters. But your father looks like he’s struggling to breathe a little, so loosen your grip on him a little,” Darcia’s mother said gently.
Normally, Darcia was careful to control her strength, but it seemed that she had failed to do so because of the emotion she felt at having been reunited with her parents.
“I-I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself!” she apologized, hastily releasing her father from her embrace.
Having escaped the danger of being asphyxiated and crushed to death, Darcia’s father took a few moments to regain his breath, then examined how his daughter had grown.
“Darcia, you’ve grown so strong…” he said in a newfound calm, joyful tone.
“Gah, I’m crying…” muttered Schneider, wiping his eyes.
“It’s times like these when I feel glad that I betrayed the Demon King,” Lissana whispered.
Schneider and his companions were watching quietly so as to not interrupt Darcia’s reunion with her parents.
“Mother, Father, let me introduce you. This child is Vandalieu. The son that I had with the man who loved me, the son that I’m so proud of,” said Darcia.
Vandalieu was expressionless, but nervous. This was a new experience for him.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Darcia’s father, Zerethia. I’m your grandfather, though I find this somewhat strange,” said Darcia’s father.
“And I’m your grandmother, Fidaril,” said Darcia’s mother with a giggle. “It really is strange, introducing myself to my grandchild who’s already grown so big.”
Dalton had already given them a general explanation of Vandalieu’s story – they knew as much about him as the average citizen in the Demon Empire of Vidal, such as the fact that he was a reincarnated individual and the fact that he used death-attribute magic.
Vandalieu was also aware of this.
“I’m Vandalieu Zakkart. I also find all of this quite strange. But I would be most grateful if you just thought of me as your grandson that you’ve met for the first time,” he said. “After all, it’s the first time in any of my three lifetimes that I’ve had grandparents.”
During his first life on Earth, Vandalieu’s grandparents had passed away before his parents were married, and there hadn’t been any photographs of them at his uncle’s house.
During his second life in Origin, he hadn’t even ever seen his parents’ faces.
It was during his third life here in Lambda that he was able to meet his grandparents for the first time. He didn’t really know how he was supposed to behave.
“I see… You are the grandson born between our beloved daughter and the man who loved our daughter enough to protect her with his life. As your grandfather, I hope that we can grow closer,” said Zerethia.
“And you brought our daughter back to life, didn’t you? I think it’s a little odd to say that you’re our savior, but we are very proud of you, our grandson. Thank you for being born to our tomboyish daughter,” said Fidaril.
Vandalieu and his grandparents were related by blood, but that didn’t cause them to instinctively realize anything, nor had they been able to feel each other’s thoughts the moment their eyes met.
But nevertheless, Vandalieu gained two blood relatives on this day.