Thanks to Alan D. ($150) for sponsoring this chapter!
The God of Strings Hirshem had a large problem on his hands. Up until a short while ago, the God of Heat Hazes Rubicante also had a large problem, but Hirshem’s was a greater problem now.
They had sent Divine Messages to the young potential heroes whom they had granted their divine protections to and nurtured, but for some reason, they had headed to a city that the Demon King was using as one of his bases, and they were now among the Demon King’s allies.
Fortunately, the Demon King’s allies had not noticed that Ediria, the one whom Hirshem had granted his divine protection, or Carlos, the one who had received the divine protection of Rubicante, were potential heroes who were being nurtured for the sake of defeating Vandalieu.
… Hirshem and Rubicante believed it was probably fortunate that their potential heroes had not made any attention-drawing achievements as adventurers in this city.
However, that fortune would not last much longer. The Demon King Vandalieu was expected to return to the city soon.
If Ediria and Carlos were to meet Vandalieu in their current state… Although Hirshem and Rubicante didn’t want to admit it, it was possible that they would be guided by him.
Vandalieu’s guidance was still quite unclear to Alda’s forces. They didn’t know what kind of ideologies people needed to have in order to be guided by it, so they had no idea how to counteract it.
It seemed that Vandalieu called himself a follower of Vida; in ordinary circumstances, the gods would think that the ideologies needed to be guided by him were likely to be similar to the teachings of the Vida, the Goddess of Life and Love.
However, if that were the case, why was he able to guide monsters? Perhaps beast-type and plant-type monsters were understandable, but why was he able to guide Undead and even insect-type monsters that were considered to have no true intelligence? This was impossible to explain with the knowledge the gods had.
Thus, it was possible that Ediria would be guided by Vandalieu despite being a worshiper of Hirshem, a god who belonged to Alda’s forces.
Especially if she was surrounded by the Demon King Vandalieu’s allies.
“That is precisely why I sent Divine Messages telling her to leave this city, but for some reason, almost none of them have reached her. No, now that I think about it, is it because her heart is more drawn to the new music that is being taught to her by that girl than it is to me… To think that even this girl would become a Guider as well and guide Ediria!” Hirshem muttered to himself, expressing the regret and anger he felt towards his own negligence by playing a nonsensical mixture of notes on his harp.
Just when did that happen? Hirshem thought, but the moment this question crossed his mind, he realized that it was pointless to think about it.
There were several places that Alda’s forces could not see, such as the region within the Boundary Mountain Range and the Demon Continent. And Vandalieu was constantly accompanied by the evil god Gufadgarn. Kanako had likely teleported to such places, then built up experience and changed Jobs there.
Where, and when? Such questions weren’t important; the greater problem for Hirshem was that although he was a wind-attribute god, he was also a god of string instruments – in other words, his authority was related to music – and yet, he had never considered the possibility that Kanako might become a Guider. This fact had him seething in frustration.
“There have been plenty of musicians in the past who made eccentric performances, sang unique songs, created original dances, and attempted to spread their methods to others. Why was this one able to become a Guider? Guiders are defined by their ideologies – their own original ideologies. It should be impossible to become a Guider simply by turning Vida’s teachings and Vandalieu’s ideologies into songs.”
One could not become a Guider simply by spreading Vida’s teachings. If this was possible, every clergyman who spread their religions would be Guiders. The same was true even if it was Vandalieu’s ideologies being spread. Even if one were a fanatical worshiper of his, they could not become a Guider.
A follower – one who followed another – could not become a Guider.
“Then that girl… Is it because Kanako Tsuchiya is a reincarnated individual? Is it that her singing and dancing has something beyond mere novelty, something that did not exist in this world up until now? If that were the case, I can understand why Alda-sama detests Rodcorte… the god who sent the reincarnated individuals to this world.”
A hundred thousand years ago, all seven of the champions who had been summoned to this world from another had discovered Guider Jobs. That was because they had possessed ideologies that had not previously existed in this world, and they sought to spread those ideologies. In other words, this had been inevitable, as they were people from another world whose help Alda and the other gods had begged for.
To the people of this world, the champions had been symbols who fought on the frontlines; they had invented weapons that had previously never existed and spread their knowledge; they had taught new methods of training and fighting battles.
Thus, when the gods learned that Vandalieu became a Guider, many of them had thought that it was because he was a reincarnated individual.
However, no reincarnated individuals other than Vandalieu had acquired a Guider Job up until this point.
The circumstances weren’t clear for the second reincarnated individual to be sent to this world, Kaidou Kanata, as he had met his destruction without undergoing a single Job change, but Hajime Inui and Junpei Murakami – reincarnated individuals who had arrived later and had also been destroyed – had not shown any signs of potentially becoming a Guider either.
The same was true for the ones who were currently alive –Asagi Minami and his companions; Mao Smith and Kaoru Gotouda, who had left the Bahn Gaia Continent; the eldest daughter of Duke Hartner’s house, who hadn’t yet regained her personality and memories from her previous life.
Thus, the gods of Alda’s forces and Rodcorte had arrived at the comforting conclusion that not all individuals from other worlds could become Guiders.
After all, if the world was flooded with new ideologies that had never existed before as numerous as the reincarnated individuals, and the people of this world were influenced by these ideologies, the people would become divided. In the worst-case scenario, wars between humans would become so fierce that the gods would have no time to worry about the Demon King.
And yet, less than a year after the gods had arrived at this conclusion, Kanako had become a Guider. To Hirshem… and to every god belonging to Alda’s forces, this was a fearsome surprise attack, equivalent to being stabbed in the back.
It wasn’t a simple matter of Kanako and those around her becoming even more powerful; the bigger threat was that worshippers of the gods of Alda’s forces would be converted to worshippers of Vida’s faction.
On top of that, one of the potential heroes who was supposed to be growing stronger in order to be used in the battle against Vandalieu was deeply involved with her… and it looked like a second would soon follow.
“What should I do… I must report right away that Kanako Tsuchiya has become a Guider. That goes without saying. But what should I do about Ediria?” Hirshem wondered, producing more incoherent notes with his harp.
Should he abandon Ediria or not? Hirshem thought hard, not just about her, but also about his dignity as a god, the way that gods should be.
Thinking logically, it was clear that he should let go of Ediria immediately. As she had received Kanako’s guidance, he should have concluded that she would not be of any use as a pawn, and cut his losses. He needed to remove his divine protection and quickly find a new potential hero to raise.
Rodcorte would certainly advise him to take this course of action.
However, the way that gods were supposed to be to their followers… Was this the correct way to be for Hirshem, the God of Strings?
He asked himself this over and over, but he could not say that it was.
It was true that Ediria had been drawn by the music that Kanako had taught her. That was not a sin – or at least, Hirshem’s teachings did not consider it to be a sin. He taught his worshippers to be connected to one another, just like strings on an instrument. To play their notes together, to produce a rhythm and order – and to be sensitive to the things around them.
With that being the case, Ediria being drawn to Kanako’s music meant that she was following his teachings correctly. As a result, she had become guided by Kanako, but… even that was just her being drawn to the music and the stage it was performed on.
It wasn’t as if she had failed to resist some wicked temptation.
“… The note has been decided.”
He would not conceal the fact that Kanako had become a Guider; he would report it to Alda. It was possible that Rodcorte had already informed him.
However, he would leave his divine protection on Ediria. It wasn’t impossible for a guided person to leave the Guider. As a guidance was an ideology, there were cases of this happening in the past.
And most importantly, she had done nothing wrong as a worshipper of Hirshem; there was no sense in punishing her.
“The other thing is, what should I do about Rubicante… I shall keep an eye on him for now,” Hirshem murmured, playing his harp as he prepared to send a message to Alda.
What were muscles? They were strength. And strength was power.
Then what was power? The ability to perform exercise? Energy? Heat?
Vandalieu thought about this and arrived at a conclusion: It was all of these things.
“There is a lot of depth to ‘Muscle Technique,’ isn’t there,” he said.
“Hey, Vandalieu. It’s tea-time right now, so you have to relax. Make the Demon King Familiars around us rest as well,” said Darcia. “You too, Legion.”
“Okay,” said the various voices of Legion.
Vandalieu had created muscular-type Demon King Familiars… humanoid Demon King Familiars made of just muscles and bones, to acquire muscles and ‘Muscle Technique.’ He turned his attention away from them and back to the food in front of him.
Legion, who had split into several masses of flesh in order to practice, returned to a single mass of flesh as well.
In front of them were a variety of items one would not expect to see at tea-time in a Dungeon. Teapots with three kinds of tea, coffee, and enough teacups for everyone present. A mountain of fluffy pancakes, jam and butter to spread on top, syrup, cheese, and fruit.
However, Vandalieu wasn’t reaching for any of these.
Instead, he was being served by Saria and Rita, the Living Armor maid sisters.
“Bocchan, would you like milk in your tea? Or lemon? Or would you prefer coffee?” asked Saria.
“You wanted butter and syrup on your pancakes, right?” said Rita.
Saria blew on Vandalieu’s drink. “It’s still quite hot.”
“Okay, Bocchan, say ‘ah,’” said Rita.
The two of them were feeding Vandalieu.
The children of the orphanage were eating pancakes as well.
“Van-oniichan, you look like a baby, being fed like that,” Marsha said, laughing as he watched Vandalieu.
“Wood lady, I don’t like this ‘coffee’ stuff. Isn’t there anything sweet?” said another, looking at Eisen.
“There is. Here,” said Eisen, who was a Skogsrå, as she plucked apple-like fruits from the branches growing from her back and crushed their juice into an empty pot to serve to the children.
“Van… I think your ‘family service’ is kinda weird,” said Matthew.
The family service that Vandalieu was receiving was him being served by the maid sisters and the others who were like family to him. However, he was… not sitting on Darcia’s lap.
TLN: The irony here is because in Japanese, ‘family service’ = spending time with your family, you are ‘serving’ them by spending time with them. But here, it is the opposite.
He was sitting on top of the Ghouls Basdia and Tarea, and was also being waited on by Eisen and Quinn, the queen of the Gehenna Bees.
“Van, I get the feeling that you’ve become a bit heavier. Have you grown bigger?” asked Basdia.
“Perhaps you have put on some muscle,” said Tarea.
“Do you want some honey in your tea?” said Quinn, who was able to produce honey from her mouth.
“Here, some apple juice,” said Eisen, who was making more juice.
Darcia, as well as Zadiris who looked only two or three years older than Matthew in appearance, were sitting in front of Vandalieu while facing him, along with the rest of the children of the orphanage.
“Matthew, would you like to sit on my lap?” asked Zadiris.
“Don’t go acting like you’re all older than me, Zadiris. I’m not a kid anymore,” said Matthew.
“I-I am older than you! I have been alive for about thirty times the length of time you have; I am an adult!” said Zadiris, who was three hundred years old.
“You’re lying!” exclaimed the ten-year-old Matthew. “Adults don’t do embarrassing poses like that!”
Incidentally, the ‘embarrassing pose’ he was referring to was Zadiris covering her mouth with closed fists while looking up with a cute expression.
“Th-that is part of the dance, so it cannot be helped, can it! And Kanako and Darcia perform that as well!” said Zadiris, desperately trying to convince Matthew that she was actually older than him.
“Darcia-san is Van’s mom, right? And Basdia-neechan was singing the same song but she didn’t do that,” said Matthew, still doubtful.
Tarea was struggling to contain her sniggers.
“Matthew, that’s because I was given other roles because doing that wouldn’t suit me,” said Basdia, trying to back her mother up.
“I see, Va –” said Matthew, turning towards Vandalieu to get a corroboration for Basdia’s testimony.
However, he saw that his good friend was covering his mouth with his fists. With his mouth covered, Vandalieu’s eyes were even more prominent than they usually were.
“Va… n… When you do it, your eyes are a bit scary,” said Matthew.
He looked around… and saw Zod, who had his muscles still in a pumped-up state and his cheeks stuffed full with pancakes, striking the same pose with fists that were larger than Matthew’s head. No matter how one looked at it, it looked more like a fighting pose.
Rita, who had been serving the table, was also doing the same pose… but the color of her wax-like skin gave a shudder-inducing sinisterness to it.
Looking at Gufadgarn, Matthew only felt a sense of emptiness, and Legion was still in their flesh mass form, so they were still just a mass of flesh no matter what they did.
And then, Matthew –
“AAAAH! Don’t transform into me and do that pose! And you guys, stop laughing!” he shouted.
Kühl had transformed himself to take on Matthew’s appearance; he made wobbling noises as Matthew flailed his arms at him to chase him away and try to stop the other children’s innocent laughter.
Matthew then turned to Zadiris and gave her a kinder look. “… I was wrong, Zadiris. Do your best!”
“I don’t know what has changed your mind, but very well,” said Zadiris with a nod, unconvinced but accepting Matthew’s apology nonetheless.
“Matthew-kun, it’s the first time we’re doing maid-like things in a long time, so we’re just enjoying ourselves,” said Saria.
“Bocchan has been away a lot lately, and he’s spending his time in a place where there’s new women…” said Rita.
“That’s right,” agreed Tarea. “He only comes to see us when there’s work…”
“Don’t say things that will make the children misunderstand,” said Vandalieu. “Though it’s true that I’ve been going back and forth to a country where there are women whom I’ve recently become acquainted with.”
It was true that Vandalieu had recently become acquainted with Doraneza, Dediria, Zalzarit, and Feltonia, and it was true that he had been paying frequent visits to Gartland. However, that didn’t mean that he was doing anything he should feel guilty about.
“And Tarea, after we had a meeting about the transformation equipment, I gave you a massage and had a meal with you, didn’t I?” said Vandalieu.
“Vandalieu, Tarea-san wants you to spend even more time with her. And you haven’t been going on adventures with Saria and Rita lately, have you? The same goes for Zadiris-san and Basdia-san,” said Darcia. “The next time you go to Gartland, make sure to take them with you.”
“I see… Alright. The next time we go to mess with the demigods, the five of you can come with me,” said Vandalieu.
“Yay!” the Living Armor sisters cheered.
“Come to think of it, the only battlefield I have stood on lately is the one called the performing stage. My body has not grown weaker, but my intuition might be a little rusty,” said Zadiris.
“Dancing skills transfer over to battle, but it’s not my real intention to step away from battles,” said Basdia.
In contrast to Zadiris and Basdia’s excitement, Tarea was looking panicked.
“No… Wait a moment! I am a non-combatant, aren’t I?!” she said, looking pale as she pulled on Vandalieu’s arm for an answer.
“It’s alright, Tarea. It’s just training in the form of a real battle,” said Vandalieu.
It seemed that Tarea’s participation had already been decided.
Darcia smiled happily as she watched this conversation take place.
“Van-oniichan, you’re not allowed to drink, gamble, and buy women,” said one of the children.
“Marsha-chan, Vandalieu will be fine. Right?” said Darcia.
“Yes. I’ll keep it to drinking blood, firing cannons, and taming new monsters,” said Vandalieu.
TLN: This is a wordplay on the word 飲む打つ買う/nomu-utsu-kau which is made up of three verbs. 飲む/nomu is to “drink” (alcohol), 打つ/utsu is to “gamble”, and 買う is to “buy” (women). So, the word means “drinking, gambling, and buying women.” Vandalieu intends to “drink” blood, but uses a different, homophonic verbs for the other two – 撃つ/utsu for “firing” cannons and 飼う/kau for “taming/raising” pets (or monsters in this case).
“Normally, none of that would be a good idea either, but… you’re not normal, I suppose,” said Vestra, one of the nuns of the orphanage, with a stiff expression on her face.
“Vestra-neechan, rather than worrying about what Van’s doing, I think you should be worrying about getting surgery along with Seris-neechan,” said Matthew.
“M-Matthew! Vandalieu said that we don’t need to rush things with the surgery, didn’t he?!” said Vestra.
“That’s right, Matthew! And the sun doesn’t affect us, so there’s no reason for us to be hasty!” said Seris, the other nun from the orphanage, hastily attempting to put off the surgery.
The two of them looked just like humans in appearance, but they were actually Subordinate Vampires.
The Pure-breed Vampire Birkyne had toyed with them and made them acquire the ‘Sunlight Resistance’ Skill, then brainwashed them so that they thought that they were just ordinary humans.
Vandalieu had removed their brainwashing, and the two of them had regained their memories and the knowledge that they were Vampires. However, as they possessed the ‘Sunlight Resistance’ Skill, they had no particular restrictions on their freedom.
Of course, they felt the urge to drink blood, but Vandalieu and the others were willingly providing them with their blood, so this wasn’t a problem. The surgery that they would be having was a heavy-handed cosmetic surgery to remove the burns and scars that covered their entire bodies.
“The surgery isn’t scary. It’s just a matter of removing the damaged skin while drinking the Blood Potion made from my blood,” Vandalieu explained.
“That sounds really painful!” said Vestra, shaking her head.
“No matter how many times you tell us that, it sounds like nothing short of torture,” Seris agreed.
Indeed, this method of torture was used on prisoners who refused to spill information – using healing magic to heal their wounds while torturing them.
“As someone who’s gone through it, the surgery is not torture,” said Bellmond, who had already received a similar surgery.
Though she had erased her presence with everything she had when dances were being choreographed, she was eloquent now as she spoke of her own experiences.
“There is pain, but it is slight. More importantly, the numerous vials of Blood Potion that you consume change the body, increase regenerative ability, and quickly produce new skin. The sensation could be described as… a little itchy and painful,” said Bellmond, her cheeks flushed and tears welling in her eyes as she let out a sigh.
… This was clearly not the face of someone recalling an ‘itchy and painful’ sensation.
“Bellmond-san… It’s good that Eleanora-san isn’t here,” said Darcia.
Indeed, if Eleanora was present at this tea party, she would likely give a testimony that was considerably inappropriate for children’s ears.
“See, neechan, this lady with a tail says it’s fine,” said Matthew, who had been busy eating pancakes and wasn’t looking at Bellmond’s face.
Even so, Seris and Vestra’s faces were screaming, “No!”
However, silent eye contact was one of the things that Vandalieu was not skilled at.
“If you prefer, we could go with the surgery method that Isis recently came up with,” said Vandalieu, failing to see the look in their eyes as he mentioned Isis – one of Legion’s personalities.
“Yes, I came up with the method, though the actual procedure can only be carried out by Vandalieu,” said Isis, pausing her pancake intake to start a demonstration on Baba Yaga, whose upper body was protruding nearby.
“Hey, Isis! What are you doing?!” Baba Yaga demanded.
“First, an incision is made at the back of the neck,” Isis said as she made a cut on the back of Baba Yaga’s neck. “The Demon King’s nerves and blood vessels are then sewn onto the patient’s by Vandalieu,” she continued, poking at the tubes that she had produced to represent the nerves and blood vessels. “This way, Vandalieu takes over the patient’s body below the neck, while keeping the patient alive. Thus, the patient doesn’t experience the pain and pleasure… I mean itchiness.”
This wasn’t particularly gruesome, as neither Isis nor Baba Yaga had transformed so they were in their flesh-mannequin-like state, but it was still somewhat grotesque… though there wasn’t a single person who was scared by this demonstration; even the nuns and the children of the orphanage were already used to Legion’s presence.
“During the surgery, Vandalieu will feel the pain that the patient would feel, but he’ll be fine. And once the surgery’s over, he just needs to rejoin your nerves and you’ll be back to normal. There weren’t any after-effects in our experiments… every single one of the test subjects we used mutated afterwards, but that won’t be a problem for you,” said Isis.
When this surgery was tested on rats, they had become Giant Rats afterwards. With monkeys, they had become Rank 2 Orangutans. With bandits, they had become Dark Humans who worshiped Vandalieu fanatically. Thus, it was a procedure that Vandalieu could not carry out while keeping a low profile in human society.
However, Isis suspected that Seris and Vestra would be fine even after the surgery… though Seris and Vestra’s faces had turned pale immediately upon the mentioning of an incision in the back of the neck, as they had no knowledge of modern medical technology.
“Well, we don’t have to decide today, just think about it when you have time… Anyway, should we have you two do the same training as Matthew and the others tomorrow?” said Vandalieu.
With that, Seris and Vestra understood – this would be repeated until they finally agreed to receive the surgery.
Around the time Vandalieu’s group emerged from the forest and came out onto the highway to make their official return to the city of Morksi, the Alcrem Duchy’s government was busily making moves.
Duke Takkard Alcrem had begun drawing up legislation that stipulated the treatment of Ghouls as people rather than monsters, and the abolishment of the system of autonomous regions for Vida’s races.
If these laws took effect, Ghouls would become people just like adventurers, rather than creatures to be hunted, and adventurers would be treated as bandits if they killed Ghouls and plundered their belongings… And on the other side of the equation, Ghouls would be punished just like people would if they kidnapped women or killed adventurers for anything other than legitimate self-defense.
Of course, most of the Ghouls inside the Alcrem Duchy had already moved to the Demon Empire of Vidal; the main intention of these laws was to allow Zadiris, Basdia, Tarea, and Kachia to be free to walk around the city on their own and register at Guilds rather than being treated as familiars.
The larger political issue was the abolishment of autonomous regions for Vida’s races. The word ‘abolishment’ made it sound as if their right of self-government, which had been respected up until now, would be removed, and that they would be driven out of their territories.
However, the truth was that the ‘autonomous regions’ of the members of Vida’s races that possessed Ranks had effectively restricted them from leaving their lands, preventing them from passing through, doing business in, or moving into other areas. They had also been prevented from registering at any Guilds. Thus, the new law was to give them equal rights to the other races and abolish the system of discrimination against them.
And the abolishment of the autonomous regions would affect more than just the members of Vida’s races in the Alcrem Duchy who lived in such territories. If the members of Vida’s races living in isolated autonomous regions in the other duchies escaped to the Alcrem Duchy, they would become free.
Ordinarily, each of the twelve duchies in the Orbaume Kingdom would apprehend criminals who had committed crimes in other duchies and extradite them to the duchies where they were wanted.
However, the law stated that this only applied to those who had committed serious crimes that would warrant a death sentence or becoming a criminal slave. A member of one of Vida’s races leaving their territory would not be considered a serious crime.
Even so, it was possible that the other dukes would request for Duke Takkard Alcrem to extradite such people, but… Takkard had formed an unofficial alliance with Vandalieu; there was no way that he would obey such requests.
How the Tamers’ Guild would treat members of Vida’s races who possessed Ranks in their Status such as Ghouls was a more difficult issue, but… even prior to this new law, it had been impossible to discern whether Ghouls and their tamers were truly in a master-and-servant relationship or whether they only pretended, while actually being equals as friends or lovers. So perhaps there was no reason for a reform at the Tamers’ Guild to be prioritized over new legislation; the house of Duke Alcrem had not placed any pressure on the Tamers’ Guild for such a reform.
The Tamers’ Guild would likely change their rules to prohibit tamers from using members of Vida’s races as familiars, at around the same time that the Adventurers’ Guild would allow Ghouls, Scylla, and Arachne to register as adventurers.
The Church of Alda, having sensed the political movements within the duchy, had quickly lodged their objections, but these had been rejected as these were political, secular matters and clergymen had no say in them.
And the people were still unaware of this new legislation, which was a great reform to the members of Vida’s races but an outrage to Alda’s worshippers.
The nobles who served Duke Alcrem were split into a faction supporting the legislation and a faction against it. Their influence would spread to other nobles who were related to them but served other dukes, and also to nobles in the royal capital, dragging the political world of the Orbaume Kingdom into a great vortex.