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Marduke, the Dragon Emperor God.
He was one of the eleven great gods, born simultaneously with Vida, the Goddess of Life and Love, and the rest of the great gods who governed over the attributes. He was the god and father of all Elder Dragons.
Marduke, as he was described in the myths that still remained, was an enormous and great Elder Dragon. In a world where monsters did not yet exist, he and his descendants, along with the Colossi, were symbols of nature that were revered and respected by the people.
However, when the Demon King Guduranis appeared in this world with a horde of evil gods at his command, Marduke took up the role of protecting the world.
He led his descendants to fight against the Demon King’s army, sweeping away swarms of newly-created monsters with a swing of his tail, tearing evil gods apart with his fangs and claws, and spitting a breath with such immense power that even the Demon King Guduranis himself could not approach easily.
But the Demon King Guduranis was too powerful. After the destruction of Ganpaplio, the Beast God, Marduke’s entire body was shredded to pieces.
A hundred thousand years later, a fragment of one of his bones was discovered in the depths of the Demon King’s Continent, inside a tunnel that was being created in Gartland.
The fact that it was discovered in the depths of the Demon King’s Continent was not strange in and of itself. Although the commonly-told myths did not include this detail, the place where Marduke was defeated by Guduranis was the Demon King’s Continent, as Ricklent had said in the past.
And the first fragment of bone to be discovered was about the length of a dagger. There were no accurate records of the exact size of Marduke’s enormous body. Considering that his body had been torn to pieces which were then strewn across the continent, it was not strange for such a bone fragment to be discovered in a tunnel beneath the continent’s surface.
The thing that was strange was that the bone fragment had been inside the body of a Mythril Golem that had formed deep within the earth. Vandalieu and even Luvesfol, the one who had discovered it, found it suspicious.
After the champion Bellwood defeated Guduranis, the Demon King’s Continent had been thoroughly destroyed. The possibility that this destruction included the soil far beneath the surface was… unlikely. If that had been the case, it would have been impossible for the current upper surface of the Demon King’s Continent to physically exist.
But it was a fact that a bone fragment of Marduke had been found. As there was no chance that someone had placed it here on purpose, this fact could not be denied.
Vandalieu had put the tunnel excavation on hold and searched the Mythril and Adamantite ore veins to see if there were any more of Marduke’s bones.
This had led to a series of consecutive battles against Mythril and Adamantite Golems, but it had paid off, as several more bone fragments were found. When Vandalieu cast ‘Corpse Healing’ – a spell that reversed damage on corpses – on these fragments, they had grown into bones like large trees. And currently, he was showing them to the person who knew Marduke best.
“These are… indeed the bones of my leader and father, Marduke-sama. These are likely to be from his tail, rather than his teeth,” said the Mountain Queen Elder Dragon God Tiamat, the most powerful of the surviving Elder Dragons, as she gazed at the bones with a loving gaze. “Though they are faint, Marduke-sama’s residual thoughts linger in them. It is no wonder Luvesfol panicked.”
The bones contained Marduke’s residual thoughts. Luvesfol had likely felt these when the first bone fragment had pierced his tail. He had betrayed his allies and joined the Demon King’s army after Marduke’s death; Marduke was a being to be feared for him.
“What are Marduke’s residual thoughts saying, I wonder? I asked Luvesfol, but he wouldn’t give me an answer,” said Vandalieu.
Ordinarily, he would have been able to read residual thoughts. But as the residual thoughts were the roars of an Elder Dragon in this case, he was unable to comprehend them.
“There are no words with any particular meaning. Things like ‘Curse you!’ and ‘You bastard!’ In other words, they are his roars of fury and dying screams. These feelings are likely directed at Guduranis, but… I suspect Luvesfol lost his mind for a moment because he felt as if that anger was directed at him,” said Tiamat.
It seemed that there were no words in the residual thoughts to begin with.
“As the humans’ myths and legends say, the Demon King slew Marduke-sama by tearing him to pieces. As these bones are from the tail, it cannot be helped. Perhaps there would have been more meaningful thoughts if they were from his skull,” Tiamat said.
“I see,” said Vandalieu. “I’m sure Luvesfol will recover when I tell him all of this.”
Vandalieu could understand Luvesfol’s panic upon feeling the pain of his tail being pierced by a sharp object and, at the same time, the wrath of the great god that he had betrayed after his death.
“Is he still in a frenzied state?” Tiamat asked.
“No, his panic has settled down, but he’s limp, as if he’s completely spent. I can’t get any reaction from him, not even from brushing his body,” said Vandalieu.
“It seems that this experience was more effective than my punishment,” Tiamat remarked.
It seemed that Luvesfol’s mind had been struck hard by the rage in Marduke’s residual thoughts. Now, he was lying as still as… no, even stiller than a corpse.
“Well, he seems to have a bold and impudent nature, so he will be fine,” said Tiamat as she returned Marduke’s bones to Vandalieu.
Vandalieu gave her a puzzled look; the bones were larger than his own body. “By the way, what should I do with these bones?”
“What should you do with them? I would not know… We have never considered how to make use of our own bones, after all. The people of the Demon Continent happily take my shed scales and turn them into arms and medicine, so perhaps you should ask them?” Tiamat suggested. “I do not recommend eating them. They are mere bones with no marrow.”
A large but beautiful hand performed a light karate chop on Tiamat’s head, and she groaned and turned around to look behind her.
“W-what do you think you are doing, Deeana?!” Tiamat demanded.
Tiamat stood a hundred meters tall; the owner of the hand was the Moon Giant Deeana, who was a hundred meters tall herself.
“Turning them into arms and medicine is fine, but why would you even bring up the idea of eating them? It is disrespectful,” said Deeana with a disappointed tone, a frown appearing on her dignified, beautiful face.
Vandalieu sensed Deeana’s great respect for the great god Marduke, even though he was not her own parent.
“But, I mean, this boy looks like he could eat the bones and enjoy them, does he not? And I believe I said that I do not recommend doing so,” said Tiamat.
“Have you not heard? These bones of Marduke were found in pieces, buried deep beneath the continent’s surface. How could you even mention the idea of eating them? If you do not recommend it, you should not bring it up in the first place. It is disrespectful to Vandalieu,” said Deeana.
… It seemed that Deeana had not scolded Tiamat out of the great respect for Marduke.
“Umm, what I wanted to ask is, do we not need to bury Marduke’s bones or anything?” said Vandalieu.
He had devoured numerous gods and their followers in the past, but he considered Marduke to be different from them.
The gods he had devoured had either belonged to Alda’s forces or were remnants of the Demon King’s army… in other words, they were enemies. Thus, he felt no reluctance to make use of them like he would monsters.
But Marduke was the great god of the Elder Dragons, and he had fallen before the gods were divided into Alda’s faction and Vida’s faction. Thus, Marduke himself was not an enemy – though he was not an ally either, of course.
But there were Tiamat; Luvesfol, who was now more lifeless than a corpse; the Crystal-horned Dragon God Lioen, who was guardian deity of the Drakonid nation; the Dragon God of Five Sins Fidirg… no, Fidirg had no relation to Marduke, as he was an evil god who had betrayed the Demon King’s army.
Leaving Fidirg aside, Vandalieu had many Elder Dragons among his allies. Thus, he believed it only natural to treat Marduke, the father of all Elder Dragons, with respect.
However, Elder Dragons felt differently from humans on such matters.
“There is no need for that. A hundred thousand years ago, after the Demon King Guduranis was defeated and the surface of the Demon King’s Continent was purged, Bellwood erected a memorial at the final base of the champions’ army. The fragments of Marduke-sama’s horns and pieces of Zerno’s hair that could be recovered were gathered there and buried along with the remains of the dead soldiers of the champions’ army, but… finding that memorial would be difficult,” said Tiamat.
“A hundred thousand years have passed, after all. I’m sure it’s long-gone,” Deeana agreed. “The monument built by Vida was apparently turned to rubble by stray attacks during the battle against Alda’s forces… There might be a replica of that monument in one of the larger churches of Alda; do you want to bury them there?”
“No, I don’t,” said Vandalieu.
No matter how much respect he had for Marduke, it would be impossible to go out of his way to bury Marduke’s bones – which were priceless materials – in the heart of enemy territory.
“Us demigods are different from humans. We do not detest the thought of being consumed after our deaths. After all, creatures that die in nature are consumed by birds, beasts, and insects, and they return to the earth,” said Tiamat. “The same is true for having our bodies turned into arms or medicine. In fact, we believe that it is an honor for our bodies to become weapons for outstanding warriors and tools for wise men.”
“If we built graves like humans, the continents would be covered with them. That’s especially true for gods like Marduke-sama, who were more than ten times larger than I am. The task of digging the holes alone would be a huge undertaking,” said Deeana. “Of course, we do not feel good about our remains being treated crudely, but being put to use in the ways that Tiamat suggested is not an unpleasant thought. In fact, we would feel proud.”
To Elder Dragons and Colossi, being of use to their descendants and the humans who worshipped them even after their deaths was a great honor.
“An exception is being turned into Undead or monsters under the Demon King’s command. Well, I am sure there would be no problems if you were the one turning us into Undead,” said Tiamat.
“Most Undead other than the ones I create lose their sanity and don’t retain their personalities and memories from when they were alive. I understand that you would have thought that way in the past,” said Vandalieu.
The majority of Undead that Vandalieu didn’t create possessed nothing but a hatred for the living; they were dangerous beings that indiscriminately attacked living creatures on sight.
There were some with high degrees of intelligence, but their personalities that wielded that intelligence were twisted in an evil way, so in most cases, this intelligence was only used for the purpose of attacking the living in more cunning ways.
Thus, being turned into Undead after death was something that demigods, humans, and intelligent humanoid monsters all wished to avoid.
It was only natural, as there was a chance that if they became Undead after death, they would attack people who had been their companions and loved ones when they were alive.
“In other words, I’m free to use these bones as I like?” said Vandalieu.
“Yes, you are. I am sure that Lioen and the others in the Drakonid nation will not object, either,” said Tiamat. “Madroza and her ilk may scream in objection, but let them scream.”
“They would see it as their great god being used by the Demon King to bolster his forces, after all. Well, there’s no need to care what they think,” said Deeana. “Ah, the same would be true if you find any remains of Zerno-sama. If possible, I’d like to see them at least once before you use them, but I don’t mind you using them after that. I’m sure my brother feels the same way.”
Tiamat was the leader of the Elder Dragons of Vida’s faction, and Deeana was the demigod who was second-in-command among the Colossi. There was no doubting their word.
“But even if you say that, what should I do?” Vandalieu wondered.
Ordinarily, he might create equipment for himself, but given that he commanded the fragments of the Demon King, he had no need for ordinary equipment. As for a staff, he had the Gyubarzo staff, and he was already in the process of building an even superior one.
Everyone else also already had transformation equipment and arms made from fragments of the Demon King.
Vandalieu couldn’t think of anyone who immediately needed equipment made from Marduke’s bones.
“I suppose I’ll give them to Knochen,” Vandalieu said.
Knochen was an amalgamation of a countless number of bones; he would be able to absorb Marduke’s bones as well.
“It seems that you are unsure about how to use them. Then let me impart some of my wisdom!” said Tiamat in a lively tone, holding an enormous palm that could fit several houses on it out in front of Vandalieu.
“… I have a bad feeling about this,” muttered Deeana.
“First, place Marduke-sama’s bones on my palm,” Tiamat instructed, ignoring Deeana.
“Excuse me,” Vandalieu said as he climbed on top of Tiamat’s palm and followed her instructions without any hesitation.
“Next, pour blood on the bones,” said Tiamat.
“Blood? Well then, I’ll use the Demon King’s blood vessels…”
Black tubes came out of Vandalieu’s wrists and began pouring red blood on the white bones.
“That is enough,” said Tiamat, once Vandalieu had covered the bones with a volume of blood that would cause an ordinary person to die of blood loss.
She put Vandalieu back down on the ground with her other hand.
“Now, I shall consume these,” she said, wrapping her red tongue around Vandalieu’s blood and Marduke’s bones and swallowing them. “Hmm, with this, an egg will form in a week, and it will hatch and give birth to a new Elder Dragon in a month. You should think of a name for your firstborn child.”
“Uh… Huh? Is that how it is? Wasn’t that kind of out of nowhere? There was no emotion or anything,” said Vandalieu in shock and dismay as he became aware of Tiamat’s intention and what he had done.
Through Marduke’s bones, Tiamat had become pregnant with Vandalieu’s child. They had not performed sexual intercourse in the biological sense. Ordinarily, consuming Marduke’s bones and the blood of another – one of a different race, at that – would not result in a child.
But unfortunately, Tiamat was an Elder Dragon. She was not an ordinary Dragon that had only the qualities of a mortal creature; she was an Elder Dragon that possessed the qualities of a god. She was even a symbol of abundant harvest and fertility.
It was completely normal for Tiamat to create children with mysterious methods that one would only hear of in myths.
“That’s why I had a bad feeling,” said Deeana.
“Do not be like that, Deeana. Not taking this precious chance would be ridiculous. If Zerno’s bones are found, the next opportunity is yours,” said Tiamat.
“I don’t need it! I don’t make children using methods like yours!” said Deeana, raising her voice.
“I’m glad to hear that,” said Vandalieu with a sigh of relief.
It was possible that Zerno’s remains would be found during the tunnel excavation like Marduke’s bones.
If Deeana was capable of having children with the same methods as Tiamat, Vandalieu would have had to consider keeping Zerno’s remains concealed after discovering them… It seemed that he wanted to avoid creating a child every time he found the bones of a great god.
“Ah, there is nothing to worry about. I am not going to ask you to do anything reckless like making me your official queen or naming the child heir to your empire. The child will likely be born as an Elder Dragon rather than a mortal,” said Tiamat. “Please continue to take care of the Demon Continent and the Drakonid nation in the Boundary Mountain Range.”
“Alright. First, I’ll report what happened to Mom and the others, then I’ll hurry and think of a name.”
And so, Vandalieu became a father.
On one of the several islands of a large lake, there was a small mansion. It was served by a number of well-trained servants and guarded by robust knights and skilled mages. It was furnished with high-quality items and furniture that were as expensive as that found in a castle. There were also numerous Magic Items that made life convenient.
Living a quiet life in this place without even working, the only point of dissatisfaction was that there were certainly some who would become angry and jealous of such luxury.
“I would like for such people to come to this place. I would gladly trade places with them,” muttered the emperor of the Amid Empire… or rather, its former emperor, Marshukzarl, as he looked out the window of the room that was now his with a dissatisfied gaze.
There was a group that used Eileek, the new Pope who was a puppet of the gods, as their symbol, and they had finally ousted Marshukzarl from his position as emperor. With the public reason being Marshukzarl having become too ill to carry out his duties in government affairs, Eileek and his allies had nominated a new emperor who had received much support.
How ironic it was that this new emperor was the descendant of a duke whom Marshukzarl had disposed of for planning an insurrection shortly after he became emperor.
Marshukzarl had not executed that duke’s entire house, but he had kept himself informed on them – or so he had thought. He would never have expected that the duke had an illegitimate child with a mistress who had been forced to enter priesthood. This child had then returned to secular life and, through some complicated series of events over the generations, his descendant had become the son of another house of dukes.
… No, Marshukzarl thought back and realized that he had been aware of this descendant. He had been aware, but he had ordered that the child be ignored, believing that he was too powerless to accomplish anything of importance.
Around a century had passed since then. To think that Marshukzarl’s position as emperor would be taken by the great-grandson of the child whom he had once believed powerless.
“I want to go back and tell my younger self… to erase that child,” Marshukzarl murmured.
But of course, it was too late now.
Marshukzarl’s rule had been celebrated at the coronation ceremony of the new emperor, then he had been brought to this mansion where it would be convenient for him to rest and recover, and convenient to create the story that this resting had been fruitless and he had passed away.
Marshukzarl expected that he would be kept alive here for a while.
If the new emperor failed in some manner, he would use Marshukzarl to regain the people’s support, by executing him for plotting an insurrection.
Or perhaps if those who held animosity towards Eileek and the new emperor were to use Marshukzarl as a symbol of their rebellion, he would be kept alive as bait to draw them to one place so that they could be cleaned up in one fell swoop.
Which would it be?
“I would even consider ending things myself, but… it is futile.”
Every person in the mansion, from the knights guarding it to the maids, were all specially-trained subordinates of the new emperor.
And there was no doubt that there were hidden mechanisms all around the mansion.
It was likely that Marshukzarl’s muttered words to himself were being listened to. Even if he were to create a rope with the curtains to try and hang himself, or even if he were to try and throw himself out of a window, the servants and knights would certainly come to save him immediately.
There were several considerable possibilities when it came to people who might be able to save him from this situation or end his life.
The Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords… they were out of the question. Perhaps it would have been possible if the ‘Five-headed Snake’ Ervine were alive, but the Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords were an organization under the direct command of the current emperor. If they were to save Marshukzarl, the former emperor, out of a dislike for the current emperor, it would be a sign that they were not functioning as an organization.
Unless the new emperor was extremely feebleminded, it wouldn’t happen.
The ‘Storm of Tyranny’… they were out of the question as well. They wouldn’t believe that Marshukzarl was worth killing as he was now.
There was also Vandalieu, but he was also out of the question. If he had any intention to kill Marshukzarl, he would have done it a long time ago. Even if he understood that killing Marshukzarl in this current situation would contribute to turning the empire into a barren wasteland, he would have done it.
As these thoughts ran through his mind, Marshukzarl sighed.
He himself was considerably skilled. He had physical strength and knowledge of magic that made him capable enough to fight against a single knight.
But in his current situation, such skills were equivalent to a bird in a cage having a sharp beak and claws.
Now then, will my descendant do well?
Marshukzarl’s only hope was that Vandalieu would use his son Sieg, whom he had sent to Vida’s faction through the ‘Storm of Tyranny,’ to allow the empire to survive as a vassal state or territory of Vandalieu’s own empire.
But things will likely not go that well, he thought, turning his gaze away from the window and down towards the book in his hand.
There was a large commotion in the Demon Empire of Vidal.
The first emperor Vandalieu would have a firstborn child (?) before he named anyone as his official queen, so Chezare, the general and prime minister, and his younger brother Kurt Legston, were completely baffled.
“Your Majesty, it is indeed an auspicious event, but… under what pretext should we celebrate it?” asked Chezare.
The birth of the child of Vandalieu, the emperor, would solidify his rule… His rule was solid enough as it was, but it was still necessary.
However, it seemed that a decision could not be made as to whether to treat this event as the birth of his heir.
“The mother is an Elder Dragon, and the child will also be born as an Elder Dragon. Then should we treat this event as the birth of an heir? You are not married or engaged to her, but if you are having a child with a god…” said Kurt, trying to recall any knowledge that would be of use here. “No, there are certainly no previous examples of this,” he sighed, realizing that this was unprecedented.
There were plenty of examples of young rulers or their relatives conceiving children with women whom they were not married or engaged to. The women were often those of low social status, and in many cases, their silence was bought with money.
However, Vandalieu’s partner in this case was Tiamat. She was a being who was in a completely different dimension from matters such as social status.
To begin with, the precedents that Kurt knew of were scandals that had to be dealt with in secret. The very basis of this matter was completely different.
“I believe we can just hold an ordinary religious festival. My child will apparently be closer to an Elder Dragon, so it would cause problems in the future if they were to be treated as the first imperial prince or princess… My child will probably be a hundred meters tall, so organizing national ceremonies, diplomatic meetings and formal events in the future so that my child can attend them will be very troublesome,” said Vandalieu.
With the conceiving process being what it was, Vandalieu didn’t have any sense whatsoever of the fact that he was the father of the child that Tiamat would give birth to. Thus, he was deliberately forcing himself to say ‘my child.’
He believed that if he kept saying it that way, then he would eventually become more aware of it. Once he saw the egg after it was laid and the young Elder Dragon once it was hatched, and once he gave it a name, he would feel it more strongly.
Incidentally, the birth of Vandalieu and Tiamat’s child had been received as good news by the people around him.
That was naturally true in the Demon Continent’s city, but even the people in the Drakonid nation in the Boundary Mountain Range were already holding a festival and celebrating.
Darcia had seemed happy at the fact that she would become a grandmother, and Zadiris, Basdia, and Tarea had celebrated the news as well… They’d already had children before or after meeting Vandalieu, so they weren’t opposed to it.
As for Kanako, Privel and the others, they hadn’t seemed particularly bothered, saying that with the conceiving process being what it was, they hadn’t been beaten to it.
… Oniwaka, someone who shared Vandalieu’s interests and was currently studying abroad on the Demon Continent, had run away from him, shouting, “How unclean! I misjudged you!”
Of course, Vandalieu had immediately run after her, immobilized her, and taken his time to talk to her to make amends.
It seemed that Oniwaka had simply run away upon hearing that Vandalieu and Tiamat had created a child, acting on her adolescent-girl-like ideas of purity.
“I’m just relieved that people are in a celebratory mood rather than a state of chaos. And even though I didn’t make this child on purpose, I’d feel sorry for it if nobody welcomed its birth,” said Vandalieu.
“Wasn’t it quite a chaotic event when you grew spider legs from your back to catch Oniwaka and captured her with your tentacles…?” said the Ghost Kimberley as he made himself visible. “No, I suppose not,” he added hastily, quickly shutting up after realizing that Vandalieu was listening curiously and sensing all kinds of vibes from him.
Although there were no large problems on the world’s surface, there were some disputes among the gods of Vida’s faction. Lioen and the other Elder Dragon guardians of the Drakonid nation celebrated the news, while Talos had told Deeana that she should be the one to make an effort next time, causing an argument to break out between the two siblings. Zuruwarn had started laughing so hysterically that he couldn’t move.
This new life had been created through a process that was far from ordinary to humans, but it seemed that it was not so extraordinary to the gods.
And so, Chezare and Kurt decided that a festival would be held when Tiamat laid the egg, and today’s discussions came to an end.
Nuaza, the head of the Church of Vida, reported: “I shall ensure that the statue of you is completed before the egg hatches, Holy Son!”
Vandalieu was feeling a complex mixture of emotions regarding that.
It was a good thing that everyone combined their efforts into completing a task. However, Vandalieu was not entirely happy with the fact that this task was the construction of an enormous statue of himself.
“Well, if it’s celebrated along with the hatching of the egg, its impact might be slightly less… Probably not,” Vandalieu sighed.
As he walked across the hall on the first floor of the castle, he saw a pair of familiar faces.
“Hmm? What’s the matter?” he said.
It was Sieg, the stepson of Zod, Vandalieu’s muscle technique instructor. And with him was Sarua Legston, nephew of Chezare and Kurt.
“If you’re looking for your fathers, they’re not in the castle. Chezare and Kurt are upstairs, would you like me to call for them?” Vandalieu said.
He was not particularly close to these two. He was closer with Matthew and the other children of the orphanage.
However, Sieg was the son of his instructor, and Sarua was the nephew of his subordinates. Thus, Vandalieu thought of them like one might think of their relatives’ children.
Seeing the two of them staying silent and staring at him with serious expressions that one would not expect to see on the faces of children, Vandalieu felt that something was off. He immediately used the ‘Super Rapid Thought Processing’ and ‘Group Thought Processing’ Skills to analyze their behavior.
Am I being challenged to a staring contest?
That can’t be, me. It’s not just their faces; their eyes are serious too.
But I get the feeling that they’re kind of frightened. Perhaps they’re trying to confess to something?
Perhaps a prank? Children often pull pranks.
But I’m impressed that they have come to apologize before someone gets angry at them for it.
It is questionable that they are apologizing to me rather than their parents or families, however.
Coming to the conclusion that the two children were about to confess to pulling a prank, Vandalieu decided to wait for them to speak. And no matter what they had done, he decided that he would only scold them lightly and quickly forgive them.
And then the two children spoke.
“We’re sorry! We were Bravers in our previous lives!”
“I see. I’m proud that you were able to confess. I’m sure it required a lot of courage… Wait, huh?”
《The Levels of the ‘Strengthened Attribute Values: Reigning,’ ‘Strengthened Attribute Values: Worshiped,’ and ‘Strengthened Attribute Values: Demon Empire of Vidal’ Skills have increased!》