Thanks to the sponsor of this chapter: Pichu ($150)
Having flown in the air for a short while to put on a show, Cuatro landed back in the water and approached the harbor.
“It’s just as the prophecy said!” the people gathered on the harbor cheered, and a human man who seemed to be their representative stepped forward.
“Welcome, brethren from the surface! We welcome you to – What is wrong with your face?!” he shouted, his words of welcome turning into words of astonishment mid-sentence as he saw the members aboard Cuatro. “The skin on the right side of your face has been torn off! Your bone is exposed! H-hurry, we need to treat you!”
“Wait, Mayor! This person over here is completely made of bones! And everyone else is all pale, and their eyes are hollow!” said someone else.
“Bring as many Potions as we have! And gather everyone who can cast healing magic!” the mayor shouted.
“Wait, calm down. Don’t worry about my face,” said Borkus, the one with the right side of his skull exposed, trying to calm down the people of this underground world and explain to them that he wasn’t an injured person.
“Jyuuh, we appreciate the sentiment,” said Bone Man, who not only had a head that was just a skull, but was in fact composed entirely of bones beneath his armor.
The people of this underground world had come to welcome Cuatro, the ship that soared across the heavens, which had been guided here by Doraneza at the instructions of a Divine Message. However, they had not noticed that most of the people aboard Cuatro were Undead.
From afar, Cuatro had a somewhat ominous atmosphere around it, but it still looked like an ordinary ship other than its enormous size. The Titan Zombies and Undead sailors also looked like ordinary, living people from afar. They were wearing armor and clothes, and there was nothing unnatural about the way they moved.
Doraneza explained this to the young man who was apparently this town’s mayor.
“Many of those aboard the ship are Undead, but there is no need to worry,” she said. “These Undead are as powerful as gods, having exchanged blows with Colossi and Elder Dragons, but they are very capable of rational thought. I can vouch for them, Mayor Yurak.”
The mayor, whose name was Yurak, recovered from his shock and nodded, his previous calm expression returning to his face once more. “I see. If you are willing to do that, Doraneza-san, then I am sure there will be no problems.”
None of the people gathered at the harbor had any objections to the mayor’s decision. It seemed that Doraneza was significantly trusted by them.
“Still, to think that you are an Undead… even though you are so young. I am sure you suffered many hardships before your death,” Yurak said sympathetically.
“… Excuse me, I’m still alive,” said Vandalieu.
“Huh? Really? Pardon my rudeness,” Yurak apologized. “Your skin is the color of candle wax, so I was sure that… Well then, are you the younger sister of that Scylla over there? You have quite a lot of tentacles.”
“No, these are Tama and Gyoku’s tentacles. I am a Dhampir, and my name is Vandalieu Zakkart. Also, I’m a boy,” said Vandalieu.
Tama and Gyoku made squeaking noises in greeting.
“What?! To have inherited the name of the champion Zakkart, you must be in a very special position. Again, I am sorry for all of the rude things I have said,” said Yurak, apologizing for mistaking Vandalieu for an Undead and a Scylla. He scratched his head with a troubled expression. “Well then, could we bring you to the temple? We call this place Gartland, and we have an ancient custom of guiding visitors to the temple when they first arrive here. Meanwhile, we will prepare your accommodation and a welcome for you, so we will arrange for someone else to accompany you as well. Ah, come to think of it, are our Undead guests able to eat food?”
“Very well. The Undead can eat, so please include them in your preparations,” said Vandalieu.
Borkus and Bone Man could enjoy food. It wasn’t essential to them like it was for the living, so it was nothing but a recreational activity for them. Still, they were happy when there were feasts precisely because it was a recreational activity, and it would provide an opportunity to interact with and speak frankly with the people of this underground world.
However, Vandalieu felt that things were moving along too quickly, and something occurred to him.
He had explained the situation regarding the Undead in the cities of the nations within the Boundary Mountain Range and on the Dark Continent, and the people had accepted it. However, this acceptance usually took more time… though it was still considerably quick, as the people trusted Vandalieu and were guided by him.
However, Mayor Yurak and the rest of the people here had needed only about ten minutes to accept the situation. If they were all members of Vida’s races, it might have been possible that the effects of Vandalieu’s guidance was stronger on them, but Mayor Yurak was a human as far as Vandalieu could tell.
Unless he was in an extreme state of despair in life, it was difficult to imagine that he had been guided when Vandalieu had barely even conversed with him.
“Are you sure about this? Most people have an aversion to Undead,” said Vandalieu, intending to simply satisfy his curiosity.
“Yes, it is fine,” said Mayor Yurak, nodding. “The Divine Message did not clearly explain the existence of the Undead, but it said, ‘the Abyss will come, leading death.’ And I am also a being whom Alda would consider to be evil, just like Undead.”
“You are?” Vandalieu asked.
Mayor Yurak gave a smile that looked like that of nothing but any ordinary human. “Yes. I am Yurak Shimon. I look just like a human, but I am a Homunculus. And I am not the only one. Every human, Elf, and Dwarf in this underground world… well, almost all of them, are either Homunculi or mixes between Homunculi and other races.”
Homunculi. Artificial life forms created through evil life-attribute magic. However, many Homunculi were failed creations, unable to leave the containers in which they were created, and they were incapable of growing beyond the size of an infant or toddler.
However, it was said that Homunculi created by those who had gained the power of evil gods or mages who had studied evil magic for long periods of time looked exactly like humans and possessed advanced intelligence.
The Church of Alda defined Homunculi as monsters rather than humans, but naturally, Homunculi were not discovered in Devil’s Nests or Dungeons. Or rather, Homunculi that looked exactly like humans were half-considered to be myths, and in the Bahn Gaia Continent, the only evidence they existed was records in literature found in the Mages’ Guild’s archives.
As for whether they were actually monsters or not… the records in literature had scarce details, and it wasn’t known whether they possessed a Rank in their Status, whether they were capable of increasing their Rank, or whether they could acquire Jobs.
Vandalieu had looked into Homunculi in the past as a possible way to create a new body for Darcia.
But since there weren’t any resources to go on, and because he didn’t have any concrete knowledge on how to enter a contract with the necessary evil gods, he had put that on hold, and he had completely forgotten about it.
“I didn’t realize that you and all of the other residents are Homunculi,” said Vandalieu in surprise.
It seemed that he would learn the mysteries around the Homunculi here in Gartland.
“Yeah, you look just like an ordinary person. And there were so many people… at least dozens, if we’re just counting the ones who were gathered at the harbor, right?” said Zandia.
“Indeed,” said the Majin woman who had been chosen to accompany Vandalieu and his companions. “Like Doraneza and the others, I was surprised when we first came to Gartland. I was particularly surprised because although I have not created a Homunculus before, I did possess knowledge regarding them.”
With a distant look in her eyes, she looked up at the sky.
This Majin woman’s name was Dediria. She was a Beast-Majin, a race known as Vandals – Majin who possessed various beast-like characteristics. She was of a large build and had the tail of a lion, claws on her feet, and fin-like ears. If it weren’t for the horns on her head and her blue skin – the characteristics that all Majin had in common – one would mistake her for a Beast-kin with parents who were of different types of Beast-kin.
She was the chief of the Majin clan who had formed an alliance with Doraneza’s clan, and had apparently been known as the ‘Saint of Darkness’ on the Bahn Gaia Continent.
“Creating a single ordinary Homunculus would cost approximately a million Baums, and yet there are so many… and there is a variety – humans, Elves, and Dwarves – and they have the intelligence and the ability to conduct business needed to act as the mayor of a town. I can’t even imagine how much money and what kind of facilities would be needed to create them,” Dediria said, walking straight ahead, about to enter a narrow road between two buildings.
“… Umm, the temple is that large building, right?” said Privel. “If we go that way, I think we’ll go past it.”
“M-my apologies. It has not been very long since I came to this town,” said Dediria, making an excuse to conceal the fact that she had become engrossed in calculating just how much money so many Homunculi would cost.
Apparently, a currency known as ‘Garts’ was used in Gartland, but this was likely a habit of Dediria’s since before she left the Bahn Gaia Continent.
Having left Cuatro and the Four Dead Sea Captains at the harbor, Vandalieu and his companions were following Dediria to the temple. Vandalieu could have stored Cuatro in his shadow, but the people at the harbor had been staring at Cuatro with great interest, so he’d decided to leave Cuatro behind.
Bone Man, the Undead sailors, Orbia, and Princess Levia were currently conducting a “We aren’t bad Undead” show at the harbor.
They had improvised a show involving Bone Man letting participants take part in a bone puzzle activity and doing sword dances, as well as a fire, water, and space-attribute display to show the people of the underground world that it was possible to become friends with some Undead.
“Why are we not participating? You even let the space guys join in,” the ‘Mad Dog’ Berkert complained.
“He is right, my lord. We should deceive them with our light shows and make them wish to become like us!” agreed the ‘Fighting Dog’ Daroak.
But Vandalieu shook his head firmly. “No. If you are saying things like ‘deceive’ and ‘make them wish to become like you,’ then definitely not.”
It was a Ghost-like desire to turn the living into more Ghosts. Vandalieu didn’t mind them doing that to enemies, but Vandalieu could not take his eyes off them, as they were liable to do it to people who weren’t their enemies.
… These two were good examples of cases of personalities not changing even under Vandalieu’s guidance.
“What?! What is wrong with my idea?!” Daroak protested, still unaware of this problem.
“It’s because you say such things that Vandalieu-sama keeps us within his sight! You are doing well, keep it up!” said the ‘Fine Dog’ Chipuras.
Vandalieu had brought Chipuras along to keep Berkert and Daroak in check in the unlikely event they went berserk, but Chipuras seemed to be delighted that he was able to stay with Vandalieu.
“I will pretend I did not hear these disturbing words… In any case, not all of the Humans, Dwarves, and Elves here are Homunculi, and Mayor Yurak and the others are not pure Homunculi created through alchemy,” said Dediria. “The mayor said it himself; they are people who were born as the mixing of blood between members of Vida’s races and their Homunculus parents took place. They were nurtured in their mothers’ wombs, not grown in tanks. It is likely that they are quite different from ordinary Homunculi.”
“I see. That might be why they look just like ordinary people,” said Vandalieu.
Homunculi had emotions, expressed those emotions, and felt empathy. If these things were not commonly-made artificial creations, and they were the same as those of ordinary people, then it was possible for people to believe that Homunculi were people as well.
“There are all kinds of saints out there, huh,” Borkus murmured.
“Hmm? Borkus, did you say something?” asked Jeena, who possessed the Title of ‘Saint of Healing,’ a little confused to see Borkus’s gaze shift towards her.
One of these saints was a Majin who almost took the wrong path because she got so caught up in monetary calculations. The other was a Titan Zombie who had struck down a flying boulder that was more massive than her own body.
Neither of their appearances gave off any of the purity or gracefulness that one might expect of an ordinary saint.
“Well, I may be a saint, but I call myself the ‘Saint of Darkness.’ More than half of the meaning behind it is just sarcasm towards Alda. I haven’t made any great saint-like achievements, nor have any gods recognized me. I can cast healing magic, but only for temporary relief. I’m nothing like Jeena-dono,” said Dediria.
There were cases where mercenaries, adventurers, and criminals called themselves by Titles that they did not actually possess in order to add prestige to their names. ‘Saint of Darkness’ had been one of these false Titles that Dediria had used, but as time passed, it had been recognized and appeared on her Status.
“That’s not true. Being able to use healing magic isn’t a requirement to be a saint; if it was, nobody would bother with calling me a saint of ‘Healing,’” said Jeena, who was quite far from the image of what most of the world would consider a saint.
“She’s right. And you’ve led the surviving members of your clan from your home continent to travel a great distance to come to this place. Even if you did so with a god’s divine protection and Divine Messages to guide you, that’s a great achievement on its own,” Vandalieu said in agreement.
Jeena and Vandalieu were correct. It was true that many clergymen who served at temples were able to use healing magic – after all, that made them more popular among the people. However, other than that, they were simply mages who wore priests’ robes and hung holy symbols from their necks. They could not preach the teachings of the gods.
“I’m happy that you’re willing to say such things about me, but we reached this place thanks to Doraneza and the god she and her kind worship. I did not contribute much… and it is the fault of us Majin that we had to flee the Bahn Gaia Continent in the first place,” said Dediria.
According to her, she and her kind had originally lived in the Orbaume Kingdom’s Farzon Duchy.
However, they had not simply lived there in peace. Their settlement had not been in a territory that had been assigned to them. They had worshipped an evil god and secretly held a fragment of the Demon King.
On top of that, they had interfered with human society in questionable ways.
“I will tell you because it is not something we keep hidden now – we bribed and honey-trapped local influential people such as the lord of the region and the Guild Master of the local Adventurers’ Guild branch,” Dediria explained. “The Obscene-Majin – Succubi – of our clan would disguise themselves as humans, approach the targets, create things to blackmail them with, and use their bodies as well as bribes to ensure the clan’s safety. If we had simply tried to stay hidden, we would have been found eventually.”
Among Majin who lived hidden near human societies, there were some who plotted extreme conspiracies – from the scale of subverting the nation they lived in to simply taking over a remote village or town. However, it seemed that Dediria’s clan had not gone that far.
“… Doesn’t that fit under the category of staying hidden in peace?” said Vandalieu.
But it seemed that Duke Farzon had not thought so.
“It likely does not. If we wanted, we could have created as much corruption as we wished using the individuals we had in our palm, and it would have been simple to erase individuals who caused us inconvenience. In fact, we actually did do such things in the past,” said Dediria. “In addition, our existence was inconvenient to nobles who cared about their lineage. Despite our appearances, both Doraneza and I have some blood of the nobles of the Farzon Duchy.”
Honey-trapping someone was the act of having a one-night relationship with an important person, and in some cases, this had resulted in children being born. Such children had been raised and lived their lives as members of the clan. They would then go on to marry other Majin close to them as well as Merfolk from the allied Merfolk clan… thus spreading and mixing that blood.
Dediria and Doraneza both had the blood of nobles of the Orbaume Kingdom.
“And then one of the people we were blackmailing betrayed us, or perhaps they slipped up – there is no way of knowing now. Our existence was discovered. An extermination force, made up of the duke’s knights and adventurers of the Adventurers’ Guild, was sent after us. We could not repel them; we were forced to escape, and even that was just narrowly possible with the help of Doraneza and her clan,” Dediria said. “At first, we didn’t intend to go as far as to leave the continent, but… Doraneza received a Divine Message from Marisjafar. It told us that we should ‘seek a new land,’ and gave us instructions to get there.”
After that, for the sake of those who couldn’t swim, they had attacked a pirate ship that they had fortunately come across, then taken over it to sail to this place.
“Quite the grand, epic adventure,” said Vandalieu.
“Everything that happened after we left the continent has been thanks to Doraneza and her people. Including the fact that I’m alive,” said Dediria.
In the battle against a certain adventurer from the force sent to exterminate her people, Dediria had suffered a deep wound. If Doraneza hadn’t covered the wound with mucus she secreted from the Demon King’s mucus gland to stop the bleeding, Dediria would likely have died.
“But what did you do about the Flying Krakens?” asked Jeena.
“I can’t imagine you would’ve been able to fight them and win in your state, so did you just happen to not encounter them, or did the Divine Message teach you a path where you wouldn’t run into them?” asked Borkus.
“You mean the guardians,” said Dediria with a nod.
“Guardians?” Borkus repeated.
“Yes. They are the monsters that Gartland’s gods put here, and their descendants. We only learned of their existence after we arrived here and Yurak-dono and the others told us of them,” said Dediria.
It seemed that the Flying Krakens were a protective measure like the invisible cave entrance; they were monsters placed here by Gartland’s gods to prevent enemies like demigods who served Alda’s forces from approaching the Demon King’s Continent.
The Flying Krakens had intentionally been made to respond to and attack beings of a certain size… such as Colossi and Elder Dragons, when they swam through the sea or flew across the sky above. Thus, neither the Merfolk nor Dediria’s people, who had sailed using a medium-sized pirate ship, had been targets for them to attack.
On the other hand, Cuatro was an extremely large ship created by joining four originally large ships together, and had thus stimulated the Flying Krakens’ instinct to attack.
“Your-Majesty-kun, couldn’t you tell when you asked their spirits questions?” asked Zandia.
“The ones we defeated were probably the descendants of the Flying Krakens created by the gods. Unlike demi-human monsters, the Flying Krakens don’t possess language and have no way of passing on history or culture, so the ones we defeated didn’t even know where they came from,” said Vandalieu. “Even if they’re charmed by me, there’s no way they could tell me if they didn’t know in the first place.”
It was likely that the gods of Gartland had chosen to create Krakens as monsters to guard the continent so that Alda’s forces would not become aware of their presence on the continent through the presence of guards.
As this conversation took place, the temple they were heading for came into view.
This town was apparently something like the capital of the underground world of Gartland. Each race had their own separate village, but as the people gathered to have discussions, trade, maintain the harbor and their ships for fishing at the underground lake, and set up places to process the things they gathered from the sea, this place had eventually developed into a town.
Thus, the temple was enshrined with the god of each race, as well as Vida, the Goddess of Life and Love, and Zantark, the War-god of Fire and Destruction. Vandalieu’s overall impression of it was that it was similar to the Communal Church in the city of Morksi… though its architecture was a little sinister-looking.
“This is the temple,” said Dediria. “I believe this is where Divine Messages from the gods are sent. That is how it was when we came here.”
“In the kid’s case, I suppose he’ll be able to talk to them directly, right?” said Borkus.
“Directly? Just what do you mean by –”
But Vandalieu didn’t hear the end of Dediria’s sentence; in the next moment, he had been summoned to the gods’ Divine Realm.
“I see. As I thought,” he said to himself, seeing the gods before him and realizing that they were evil gods who had belonged to the Demon King’s army in the past.
Creating Homunculi that perfectly resembled ordinary people and placing Flying Krakens some distance from the continent to guard it were not things that gods of this world were likely to do, so Vandalieu had suspected that this would be the case.
One of the gods who had revealed themselves was a two-headed shark whose heads had been replaced by the upper bodies of men; another was a monkey… no, a giant, whose entire body was covered in white fur. Another god, in contrast, had no eyes or nose and not a single hair on his body but had attractive-looking skin. There was a god who looked like internal organs of every kind piled together in a humanoid shape, one who was beast-shaped and made of countless bones like Knochen, and one that was like a Dragon made entirely out of flesh. One god was like a group of mushrooms with eyes and mouths on their caps.
And for some reason, all of them were raising their hands – or the parts of their bodies that corresponded to hands – into the air, as if they were cheering.
Maybe it’s a greeting in Gartland? Vandalieu thought, imitating them and raising both hands into the air.
“Nice to meet you. My name is Vandalieu Zakkart,” Vandalieu said in greeting. “I was in a bit of trouble, so you saved me by summoning me here.”
For some reason, the gods flinched, looking frightened.
After a moment, the two-headed god with the lower body of a shark steeled his resolve and opened his mouth to speak. “It is our honor to welcome you here. I am Marisjafar, the Righteous Evil God of the Crimson South Sea, the god who has kept Doraneza’s clan safe. The other gods are all also gods who have protected members of Vida’s races for a hundred thousand years. Thus, we ask you to please calm yourself, remain composed, and listen to what we have to say.”
“Of course. As you can see, I’m calm and composed. I’ll listen to what you have to say… Is there something wrong?” Vandalieu asked.
“What are… those numerous arms that you have raised into the air?”
“I was just imitating you guys. I thought it was some kind of greeting or sign of welcome.”
“No, we raised our hands into the air to show that we submit to you and bear no hostile will.”
“… I see.”
It seemed that the meaning of this action differed between Vandalieu and the gods. Vandalieu quietly lowered his hands, and Marisjafar and the others breathed a sigh of relief as they lowered their own.
“But why would you do something like that as soon as we met? I’m not intending on harming you… I don’t recall becoming a beast that eats the soul of just anyone I come across,” said Vandalieu, under the impression that Marisjafar and the others feared him because they had witnessed him devouring Radatel’s soul.
But there was another reason they feared him.
“No, Holy Son of Vida, successor of the champion,” said Marisjafar. “We fear you because we are not gods of Vida’s faction. We are gods who would be considered as remnants of the Demon King’s army.”