Thanks to Alan D. ($150) for sponsoring this chapter!
While Vandalieu was receiving (?) stamina improvement training, Pauvina was being struck.
One of her classmates gave a spirited shout as he swung a training mace – one made of wood, wrapped in multiple layers of cloth – at Pauvina’s raised shield.
But with a small noise of exertion, Pauvina thrust her shield out, causing her classmate to scream as he flew backwards and rolled across the ground.
“Your momentum is good, but you need a more solid stance. You’re full of openings, too,” Pauvina told him. “Next!”
“O-okay!” said the next student, who was holding a wooden spear with a rounded end.
He charged at Pauvina and performed a series of swift thrusts, but all of them were blocked by Pauvina’s shield.
“Then how about this!”
He performed a quick but light thrust towards Pauvina’s face, causing her to raise her shield defensively, then thrust his spear at her legs.
The spear hit the top of Pauvina’s foot with a fairly solid noise.
“I did it –” the student began, before grunting as he was sent flying by a swing from Pauvina’s shield.
“That was good! When you’re fighting against an opponent that’s bigger than you, like me, aiming at the feet is an effective tactic! But I think you should have aimed at my toes, not the top of my foot! And I think it’s really good that you immediately defended yourself with your spear!” Pauvina said.
“Y-yeah,” the spear-wielding student gasped as he got unsteadily onto his feet.
A female student holding a wooden sword and shield stepped forward to take his place and face Pauvina.
Although they were all students, Pauvina was acting like an instructor.
Meanwhile, the instructors that were supposed to be providing Pauvina with instruction were training other groups of students.
“… Training is a lot easier on us now that we have an extra instructor,” one of them remarked.
“Is it really okay for us to charge her an enrollment fee?” questioned another.
Pauvina’s class was comprised of the new students who had achieved top-class results at the entrance examination, but even so, their initial training was for improving their base stamina.
One’s Stamina increased with their Level. But the rate of its increase was better if one possessed good physical capabilities as a base.
If there were two people with the ‘Apprentice Warrior’ Job at Level 100, if one of them had a burly physique with ripped muscles, and the other was a man so ragged and thin that his ribs were clearly visible, the burly man would be more likely to win in a contest of pure strength.
Another aim of this training was to make sure that each student’s abilities were known to the instructors and the other students. This information would be useful for forming parties and coming up with strategies for practical training sessions.
However, although it was not as pronounced as Vandalieu’s case, there was too much of a gap in strength between Pauvina and her classmates. And she wasn’t as good as Vandalieu at holding her strength back.
She was confident that she could be careful enough to not kill anyone, but if she made a mistake, it was possible that she might break a few bones. And her favored weapon was a club – it would be a big problem if she were to hit someone’s head and break their skull.
… Naturally, the school had a healing mage on standby at all times to deal with such accidents during training, and the students were wearing protective equipment.
On top of that, all the students in Pauvina’s class had undergone at least two Job changes. They were boys and girls in their early teenage years, but all of them were stronger than the average city guard. Naturally, their bodies were tougher and more resilient than the average person’s.
However, from Pauvina’s perspective, these students were still weak. Thus, she had decided not to use a weapon at all – she was using only ‘Shield Technique,’ and even when she attacked, she was only bumping them lightly with her shield without using any martial skill.
One could say it was only natural that she had taken the role of an instructor rather than a student.
“It’s awkward, but it can’t be helped. She is a student, after all,” one of the instructors sighed.
“That’s true, but… what could we possibly teach her? Look at those movements. She’s clearly stronger than we are,” said another.
“You’re right. And not only is she not tired, she’s not even out of breath… This isn’t the kind of talent that only comes around once a decade, it’s more like once a century… No, once a millennium.”
The reason the instructors weren’t sparring with the students like those of Vandalieu’s class was because the instructors for Pauvina’s class were even more skilled than the instructors for Vandalieu’s class.
The instructors at ordinary Adventurers’ Schools were often D-class adventurers – the most common class of adventurers. D-class adventurers with good behavior and friendly personalities often became reemployed as such instructors.
But this was the Hero Preparatory School. Those who graduated from it were not expected to merely survive as adventurers; they were expected to at least reach C-class, which was considered to be impossible without a certain level of talent or an exceptional amount of hard work.
Thus, those employed as instructors at the Hero Preparatory School were generally adventurers of C-class or higher, or former knights or mages from the Mages’ Guild who were deemed to be at least as capable as C-class adventurers.
The instructors that were in charge of students who had achieved exceptional results like Pauvina were the best among them; many were former B-class adventurers.
Thus, they had been able to gain a fair idea of how skilled she was based on her movements and make the swift decision to remove her from the students’ side.
Incidentally, Reinhardt, who was in the same class, was already crawling on the ground, gasping for breath.
Despite struggling to breathe, he let out a small, satisfied laugh. “As expected of Pauvina-sama.”
The news that there were two new students who were stronger than the instructors spread quickly across the school. There had been the occasional student that was stronger than the instructors in the past. But most of them had been those who surpassed the instructors through the training they received at the school; the number of students who had been stronger than the instructors when they first enrolled could be counted on one hand.
Not only that, but Vandalieu had fought practice battles against multiple instructors and students one after another, and stood unharmed despite all of his opponents having spent all their stamina. The instructors had decided that Pauvina should be giving instruction rather than receiving it before she even fought. Students like these two were unprecedented.
Randolf visited the principal’s office to give his report on the situation.
“As a former A-class adventurer and teacher, am I supposed to call the former C-class and B-class instructors a ‘disgrace to our school’ for losing to students?” Meorilith asked with her arms crossed.
“Don’t say what you don’t mean. Leaving Pauvina aside, Vandalieu just showed one small part of his strength,” said Randolf.
“Indeed. I have heard that Vandalieu played a big role in stopping the monster stampede that happened in the Alcrem Duchy, but even you’re wary of him. I should have expected something bigger to happen. But it would not be good if this current situation were to continue.”
As a principal, the deeds of exceptional students were to be celebrated. But it wouldn’t be good if there were rumors that the instructors at the school were weak – not for Meorilith, and not for the instructors themselves.
“Let’s revise the curriculum, shall we? Let’s have the students do self-study for the time being while allowing those who receive training to do so. And we’ll explain the situation to the two students in question and ask them to show some consideration,” said Meorilith.
“In other words, we will have Vandalieu and Pauvina just watching the other students’ training, but it can still be called mutual encouragement… Is this really what an educator should be doing?” Randolf questioned.
“I know it’s pathetic. But there’s nothing else we can do, unless capable instructors start growing on trees.”
It was difficult to raise the standards for instructors any further. After all, given that an instructor’s job was to instruct students, the school had to prioritize the instructors’ ability to teach rather than their pure fighting strength. And when high-ranking adventurers left active duty, many of them worked as guards or instructors for nobles. Others formed marital relations with noble families, and others still even began their own businesses. Thus, unless they were the kind of people who saw the value of passing on their knowledge to the next generation, they would not work at the Hero Preparatory School.
And although the Hero Preparatory School paid its instructors more than ordinary Adventurers’ Schools, their pay was still less than the income of the average C-class adventurer.
“Our virtuoso teacher with a mysterious past won’t take the two of them on, will he?” said Meorilith.
“Spare me,” said Randolf, who was going by the fake name Dandolip, as he shook his head. “It might work for Pauvina. But Vandalieu is immeasurable. He looks frail and weak, but he’s a monster on the inside.”
That was Randolf’s opinion of their strength after seeing them – both in their normal state and during training. Pauvina’s strength was still something that he could understand. If he went all-out, he would be able to defeat her in a one-on-one fight. He would even be able to provide her with meaningful instruction in a practice battle.
But he couldn’t even predict how strong Vandalieu was.
“To that extent? … How would you describe him, then?” Meorilith pressed him to elaborate.
“He’s like a mysterious, terrifying monstrosity whose only weakness is being unskilled at acting, amusing itself by swinging a toy weapon and pretending to be a human. That’s how I’d describe him,” said Randolf.
“… Well, your evaluation makes me question whether we should be allowing him to spar against our students. What about the other students in his class?” Meorilith asked.
She was thinking that if the students were terrified of him, she should move him to another class or at least advance him to the next grade.
“By the time the training was over, everyone was looking at him with respect, including the instructors, excluding myself. Not a single person is afraid of him,” said Randolf.
This answer took Meorilith by surprise. “I can’t imagine that, given your opinion of him.”
“The students and other instructors almost certainly just think of Vandalieu as an ordinary ‘genius.’ After all, he’s not the first student that the instructors stood no chance against, is he?” said Randolf. “And he has a reputation that precedes all this. He is a capable tamer. He was one of the people who saved a city in the Alcrem Duchy from a monster stampede. His mother is a hero who sealed away an evil god. And he’s someone who is acknowledged by Kanako-sensei. He’s not like any other new student.”
No ordinary new student at the Hero Preparatory School was an exceptional individual or hero before they even enrolled. But Vandalieu was a student who had become a hero before enrolling at the Hero Preparatory School.
Given that, Meorilith realized that it was only natural that the students in his class held him to different standards than themselves.
“I see… Other than that part about Kanako-sensei, I understand your point,” Meorilith said.
“He was good at teaching, too – and I heard Pauvina was the same. He didn’t just defeat his opponents; he comforted them and offered them advice on what they should improve on… though that probably only served to wound the instructors’ pride even further,” said Randolf.
“… I’d like to hire him as an instructor right away.”
“You should rethink that idea. I’d be left with no choice but to flee this place.”
“Leaving that aside, the question is, the practical training takes place in a week – no, six days. What should we do? I have a feeling that he will clear the Dungeon managed by our school with ease.”
The Dungeon that was owned and managed by the Hero Preparatory School for practical training was one whose upper floors were easier, but its lower floors were difficult for the students to clear. But Vandalieu and Pauvina would probably clear them with the same feeling as going for a stroll in a field.
“That won’t happen,” Randolf said. “The first practical training for the new students only involves getting to the third floor under the instructors’ supervision, then learning how to dismantle monster corpses and how to camp and rest safely inside Dungeons. They haven’t strayed the boundaries of training yet, so it’s unlikely that they’ll descend to the fourth floor or below.”
Meanwhile, it was lunch break, so Pauvina, carrying Vandalieu with one hand, went to ask Alex about his behavior yesterday… To ask him why he had stared at her fixedly and then left without saying anything.
As expected, Alex broke out into a cold sweat, and gave a reasonable-sounding answer. “I went to have a look at the new student that everyone was talking about, but I could see how strong you are just from how you move, and I felt overwhelmed. I’m sorry if I looked suspicious. I didn’t mean to.”
Vandalieu, who was listening while being held in Pauvina’s arm, found his behavior to be suspicious. He was sweating despite it being spring, and he was clearly very shaken. His voice was high-pitched, and he was doing his best to avoid looking in Pauvina’s direction – even though two of his party members were staring up at Pauvina in astonishment.
Chipuras whispered in their ears, informing them that the black-haired boy was the dual-spear-wielding Robin, and the half-Elf girl with chestnut-colored hair was a mage named Anabelle.
“I see. I was just surprised by your weird behavior,” said Pauvina.
“Yeah, I’m really sorry,” said Alex.
“Yeah, alright, then. See you.”
Alex’s excuse for his behavior had been a normal one, and he had only stared at Pauvina without actually doing anything to her, so the second instance of contact between Vandalieu and Alex also ended without incident.
As Pauvina walked cheerfully down the corridor with footsteps that made heavy thuds against the floor, Vandalieu twisted his head to look back towards Alex.
“By the way, he didn’t even try to look at me,” he said. “Maybe he really does have a Demon-Eye-type Unique Skill, and he’s wary of it being reflected by my ‘Root Source?’ If so, that would mean that he has received prior information about me from someone.”
“Now that you mention it, he really didn’t look at you. Hmm, but maybe that’s because he didn’t notice you were there, Van?” said Pauvina.
“That’s not possible. We met him face-to-face, and I was glaring at him the whole time while he was talking.”
“… Maybe he thought you were a doll?”
Vandalieu thought objectively about his own appearance. He imagined himself, silently being held in the arm of an enormous, three-meter-tall girl, completely limp as he habitually was when someone was holding him.
“… Perhaps I should have at least introduced myself,” he said.
Meanwhile, Alex was clutching his head once more as Robin pointed out the same thing as he had last time.
After classes at school were finished, Vandalieu suggested to Elizabeth and her followers that they meet somewhere outside school for special training – providing an opportunity to strengthen them and foster friendship.
If he went all-out, he could complete the practical training and get through all the subjects with ease, but that wouldn’t be of any benefit to Elizabeth and the others. He believed that if they were to take Alex down, they would first need to improve their own skills.
“Special training? What are you thinking of doing? We’re not allowed to enter any Dungeons other than the one that the school manages,” said Elizabeth, seeming skeptical that Vandalieu’s suggested training would be of any use.
“And my lady has various things scheduled after her return to her mansion. I’m afraid that spending too much of her stamina and time would be a hindrance,” said Mahelia, worried about her schedule.
However, Zona and the three boys were very interested in the special training.
“Come now, Elizabeth-sama, Mahelia-chan,” said Zona. “We should listen to what he has to say. He was apparently amazing in today’s training, after all.”
“I’m interested in hearing the opinions of the ‘Genius Tamer’ that the rumors talk about…” said one of the boys.
“We need to catch up to Alex and surpass him, so we need this special training, Elizabeth-sama!” said another.
“Yes, that’s right! It’s special training, after all!” said the third.
Incidentally, the tall spear-wielder among the boys was Macht Hamilton, the third son of the house of Baron Hamilton. The plump shield-bearer was Taurus Zetts, the third son of the house of Baron Zetts. The bespectacled mage was Yuzef Catalonis, the fourth son of the house of Viscount Catalonis.
“Thank you, senpais,” said Vandalieu.
Zona was fine, but he had been extremely worried about the behavior of Macht and the two other boys, so this was unexpected.
He began to feel that perhaps they were actually good people after all. Perhaps they had a discriminatory attitude towards commoners due to the education they received after being born to noble houses, and they were not terrible people at their core. If that was the case, then Vandalieu had just happened to see their flaws at the beginning, and was so arrogant to think that he knew everything about them after that. He began to regret being so quick to judge… though in reality, they were only being extremely friendly to him now because their parents had ordered them to learn his intentions and find out any information about him that they could.
“Now then, let me explain the special training,” said Vandalieu. “First, we will leave Orbaume. My friends will bring monsters that they have captured alive, and we will fight those and gain Experience Points from them. Very simple.”
The special training that Vandalieu had come up with was based on a very simple idea – If they weren’t allowed to go into Dungeons or Devil’s Nests, then they just needed monsters from Dungeons and Devil’s Nests to be brought to them.
By having Elizabeth and the others fight suitable monsters, they would gain practical combat experience, and Vandalieu would be able to evaluate their skills for future special training sessions.
Two birds with one stone.
“I see, that’s… But will we really be able to catch up to Alex with such a method?” Elizabeth questioned.
She and the others were under the mistaken impression that Vandalieu’s friends and companions would provide monsters that they had weakened beforehand, and this special training would only involve dealing the killing blow.
But Zona and the boys seemed very eager.
“It sounds good to me, Elizabeth-sama! We’ve been struggling with increasing our Levels lately, so let’s get some easy Experience Points and increase them!” said Zona.
“That’s right Elizabeth-sama! I mean, he’s going through the effort of setting it all up for us!” said one of the boys.
“My lady, I believe that improving your technique after you overcome the wall in your development is a valid approach,” Mahelia suggested.
“Very well,” said Elizabeth, agreeing to the special training with everyone’s encouragement.
Taurus screamed as he began running.
“Wait, Taurus-sama, you’re our shield-bearer! Don’t run!” Zona cried.
“Nobody told me it would be like this! There’s so many of them, and they’re not even weakeeeened!” Taurus shouted.
“… Did I say they would be?” said Vandalieu.
Vandalieu’s friends – Arthur and his party – had procured Orcs, which were humanoid monsters with the heads of pigs, from a Devil’s Nest.
“BUGYAROOOOOH!” they roared as they chased Elizabeth and the others around.
“Hmm… I thought this would be a suitable group to fight against, but perhaps it was too much for them?” said Arthur.
“Come now, they are just running because they were caught by surprise. They should recover once they calm down,” said Borzofoy.
“You’re right,” Miriam agreed. “They’re just Orcs, and there are only seven of them. Even with Vandalieu-san excluded, they’re only outnumbered by one.”
After being contacted by Vandalieu, Arthur and his party had cornered seven Orcs in a nearby Devil’s Nest and forced them through a teleportation gate created by Gufadgarn. They had then gone through the teleportation gate themselves to somewhere that Vandalieu and the others couldn’t see them, and sent the Orcs in their direction.
To Elizabeth and the others, this looked like an emergency situation with a group of Orcs appearing out of nowhere without warning; it was only natural for them to be panicking.
But to Arthur and his party, it was just a group of ordinary Rank 3 Orcs. They smiled as they watched Elizabeth and the others hastily trying to deal with them, but they didn’t think they needed help.
“Maybe it was a bad idea to choose Orcs. They might be too terrifying for girls of their age to be training against,” said Kalinia.
“Ah, you’re right! Then maybe we should find some Ogres next time,” Miriam said cheerfully.
It seemed that Arthur, Kalinia, and Borzofoy were starting to rub off on Miriam.
“You’re right! You didn’t mention anything about weakening them! ‘Twisting Ivy!’” Elizabeth shouted, reciting an incantation even as she ran to cast a life-attribute spell.
“Bugyah?!” the Orc at the front screamed as grass grew and wrapped itself around its legs like snakes, causing it to tumble onto the ground.
Some of the Orcs behind it tripped over it and fell to the ground themselves, and the others were forced to hastily come to a stop in order to avoid doing the same.
“Now is our chance to rebuild our formation! Taurus, Macht, Zona, get in front! Yuzef and Mahelia, provide support!” Elizabeth ordered. “And you –” she turned to look at Vandalieu, who had been running at the back of the group, but was surprised to find him standing right next to her.
But she knew that this surprise wasn’t important right now; she quickly directed her focus back to the battle.
“Well, I’ll provide a moderate amount of support, so do your best,” Vandalieu said.
Taurus and Zona had been at the Hero Preparatory School for over a year; they wouldn’t be defeated by Orcs as long as they didn’t make any mistakes or let down their guard.
They did make mistakes, however; Yuzef mis-recited an incantation for a spell, forcing Macht to defeat an Orc with a martial skill, and another Orc used that opportunity to swing a log at him like a club. But an arrow from Mahelia buried itself in the Orc’s shoulder and a pebble thrown by Vandalieu struck its eye, narrowly averting danger.
Somehow, in some way, Elizabeth and her party emerged victorious. With Arthur and the others’ help, the Orcs’ corpses were quickly dismantled to recover usable materials and the parts that would serve as proof of killing them, and then they called it a day.
Meanwhile, there were several people in Orbaume who were hard-pressed to decide what to do.
One of them was Earl Dratze Reamsand, a man with a heavy, bulging stomach and a thick mustache.
“What am I to do…” he murmured.
Although his appearance was more like that of a corrupt merchant than a noble, he was Elizabeth Sauron’s patron – the noble who supported her.
“Who could have imagined that Vandalieu Zakkart would become one of Elizabeth’s companions… If anything were to happen, it’s possible that I would be held responsible. And if he were to swipe her away, then… all the support I have provided thus far would go to waste, wouldn’t it? Even though I’m so close to having my way with her.”
When Elizabeth’s mother and the young Elizabeth escaped from the Sauron Duchy, Dratze had protected her and become her patron under the over-ambitious delusion that he would be able to make Elizabeth his puppet and effectively rule over the Sauron Duchy through her.
But the young Elizabeth had been crushed in the struggle for succession. Dratze had tried to sell her to Rudel, the victor of the struggle, but this had not gone well, as Elizabeth herself had rebelled fiercely against Rudel.
After that, while Dratze wondered what he should do with Elizabeth and her mother, Elizabeth had grown into a beautiful young woman. She was still in her early teenage years, but she would certainly be a fair, beautiful woman in five years’ time.
With that in mind, Dratze had plotted to make her his concubine. He had made an impossible demand of her and threatened to cut off his support if she failed to achieve it, with the intention of cornering her and saying, “If you want my continued support, then you’ll have to…”
“But the honorable marshal has told me to help find out what Vandalieu Zakkart and his mother are planning to do… Since I have Elizabeth’s mother under control, I’m sure she won’t run away from me. But I shall order for there to be more people to keep an eye on her mother, just in case,” he decided as he gulped down the full glass of wine in his hand.
“What am I to do…”
There was another person asking themselves this question.
Prime Minister Tercatanis was struggling with how to deal with Vandalieu and his allies, who were roaming about freely.
“I need the king’s approval to deploy the force that is under his direct command. But even if I do, I can’t imagine that it would gain us any more information than we currently already have. The Churches that we have requested to purify cursed mansions are oddly slow to act. Only the Church of Alda has begun to do anything at all… Those damn corrupt priests. They’re nothing but parasites that call themselves worshipers of the gods.”
The overall policy on how to deal with Vandalieu had been decided at the meeting with the other nobles, but Tercatanis didn’t trust Marshal Dolmad and the others.
What Tercatanis wished for was the preservation and perfection of the order by which the Orbaume Kingdom was ruled.
Duke Alcrem had suddenly begun clamoring about making reforms, and Vandalieu was likely the reason behind it. These two were nothing but a pain in the neck to Tercatanis. But the problem was that they were too big to deal with.
If Duke Alcrem and Vandalieu were to become their enemies, there wouldn’t be any order to worry about. It could even cause the collapse of Orbaume – the dissolution of the nation’s center that unified the duchies. It was possible that the Orbaume Kingdom would return to its former state – a mere group of small, separate countries.
And in order to solidify his own social status, he needed to deal with Vandalieu and Darcia without delay.
“It seems that the children of the nobles under my thumb have failed to curry favor with him. Now that it has come to this, should I target his mother…? Or should I make contact with the adventurers that he has partnered with? Should I strengthen our information gathering operation in the Alcrem Duchy?”
Tercatanis came up with a variety of ideas, but couldn’t come to an answer. Vandalieu and Darcia hadn’t done anything big in Orbaume yet. But that didn’t mean that they wouldn’t in the future.
Tercatanis had already received information that Vandalieu had made contact with Elizabeth Sauron at the Adventurers’ School. It was possible that he was trying to use her to gain control over the Sauron Duchy, or perhaps he was plotting an even greater conspiracy.
Tercatanis racked his brain, but there was little he could do for now. If he were to make a hasty move and provoke Vandalieu or Darcia, it would be disastrous.
Not having come up with a single plan today, either, he decided to head to bed.
And then he heard a god’s voice, directly inside his consciousness.
“Do you wish to do something about Vandalieu Zakkart? Then work with me. My name is Rikudou Hijiri. I need your cooperation.”