This chapter was sponsored by: soliton ($15) Devilsunfish808 ($10) Shaq ($15) Anymouse ($50) Gracz ($10) anteopta ($50)
It was the fourth day since Vandalieu was hospitalized. The atmosphere in the Hospital of Psychotherapy, also simply known as ‘the hospital,’ was changing.
It was as if something had gone critically wrong in the once gloomy, prison-like building; a liveliness and brightness that hadn’t been there before was making its way inside.
There was one patient whose mind had been broken before Vandalieu was hospitalized, resulting in his personality splitting into multiple.
“Good morning, Doctor,” he said, greeting the doctor in charge of his treatment with a demeanor that was as calm as a saint’s.
“Hello. Perhaps this is my first time meeting you?” said the doctor, thinking that the patient had developed yet another new personality.
But the patient’s original personality had returned.
The patient gave a gentle laugh. “What are you saying, Doctor? It’s the same me as always.”
Surprised by this, the doctor asked the patient how he had been cured, but… the truth was that he hadn’t been cured at all.
“It’s simple,” the patient said. “We met God. I cried as I clung onto him, but then he guided me. He said, ‘First, you should talk to one another.’ We obeyed, and we talked to each other. I spoke about myself with me, and we debated about which of us was right. I had a discussion with me, talking about where I had gone wrong, and we thought about and pondered and talked about what we should do. As a result, we arrived at the truth that we are me.”
“… I-I see,” the doctor said, concluding that the patient had not recovered – in fact, his illness had worsened.
But as he began writing instructions for the patient’s medication to be increased –
“You disagree, Doctor?” asked a voice that came from beside the doctor, despite the patient being right in front of him.
The doctor froze.
His vision was filled with a countless number of patients.
“Doctor, is it time for our medicine?” one asked politely.
“I hate that medicine, you know. It’s so bitter!” another complained.
“You shouldn’t say such childish things, me,” a third chided.
“I’ll take the medicine, then,” said a fourth. “I’m just playing around, after all.”
“I’m always like that. I always push the things I don’t like onto me,” a fifth whined.
All of them had the same face and the same voice. But each was wearing a different expression and had a different manner of speaking; it was as if they were a group of strangers who happened to resemble each other. But all of them were the same person.
“W-what the hell is this…?!” the doctor uttered.
“You can see, can’t you, Doctor? You can see me,” said the patient.
Realizing that he was seeing the ‘we’ referred to by the patient – all of his different personalities – the doctor screamed and fled the room.
“Doctor, come visit again and listen to what we have to say, alright? ‘We’ will be waiting,” the patient said.
But the doctor failed to hear him over his own screaming.
There was another patient who had previously been under the belief that he was a devil. For some reason, he had recently begun training his muscles in his room.
“I was wrong. He told me that I’m a human. And he said that if I train my muscles, I can become a being that transcends humanity! Once that happens, I’ll crush you under my feet like insects!” he muttered.
This patient had been a pitiful man who believed that he was a devil, but he was now a dangerous individual who trained his body while muttering dangerous things under his breath.
There were other patients as well – a girl who had been like a living corpse, a man who had undergone infantile regression, and a woman who had been tormented by auditory hallucinations of someone that was going to kill her – but all of them looked like they were recovering.
The girl had started eating meals on her own. The man had expressed a desire to study. The woman had stopped hearing auditory hallucinations.
But the girl had also claimed, “That person promised me that I would be reborn. But I need to build up my strength so that I can withstand the rebirth.” The man had said, “Onii-chan told me that I should become an adult, step by step, and that I should start by studying.” The woman had said, “I’m not scared of anything anymore. Even if I were to be killed right this instant, I wouldn’t mind. I’ll become an evil spirit and take my revenge. That person had given his blessings for my hatred.”
None of these patients were related or connected to Vandalieu in any way. There was no way for them to have ever met him, even after he was hospitalized here. There were guards stationed outside his door at all times, and he was never let outside. When he was examined, the examinations took place inside his room. Not a single person had witnessed him escaping from his room or meeting the other patients.
But the hospital’s staff believed there was no mistake that Vandalieu had something to do with it. After all, the changes in the patients had been observed after he was admitted here.
Not only that, but the patients referred to the one responsible for the changes in their conditions with words like ‘he’ and ‘onii-chan.’ There was no explanation other than Vandalieu being involved.
The doctors of the hospital and several clerics were discussing the matter with the hospital’s director.
“But making direct contact is dangerous. One of our doctors in charge has already been… taken in.”
“Ah, Dr. Hoover Tone. The one who took one look at the patient in question and declared that he was beyond treatment…”
“After that, he told us that we should discharge the patient immediately, but… doing that after we have already received a letter of introduction and a large donation from Duke Alcrem would be…”
“So, where is he now?”
“In his room… in the corner of the first floor.”
The doctor who had conducted the initial examination on Vandalieu, Dr. Hoover Tone, had been appointed as the doctor in charge of Vandalieu, so he had been forced to conduct the further examinations on Vandalieu as well. He’d already known that Vandalieu was beyond treatment, but after being appointed as Vandalieu’s doctor, he’d been left with no other choice.
He could have disobeyed the hospital’s director and abandoned his duties, but in the worst-case scenario, that would lead to him being terminated… and given that he worked for this hospital, it was possible that his head would physically be sent flying from his neck.
TLN: The Japanese expression for firing someone literally means cutting their head off. It originates from Japanese puppet theater, where the puppets’ heads are removed after the play is finished.
Many of the patients at this hospital were related to noble families. Even if they were suffering from mental illnesses – and some were not actually mentally ill; their families simply pretended they were – it wasn’t as if they had lost their memories. It was possible that the patients would speak of things that could be inconvenient for their families if they were to become known, and it was possible that these things would be heard by the doctors or staff members.
This hospital paid their staff extraordinarily well in order to keep these things a secret. However, the most prominent of the many rumors surrounding the hospital was the rumor that any staff member whose employment was terminated less than amicably was silenced through methods other than money.
Dr. Hoover had wished to avoid this from happening to him. Thus, he’d been left with no choice but to carry out examinations on Vandalieu.
Upon doing so, the ordinarily dark, gloomy Dr. Hoover Tone had suddenly started smiling pleasantly and speaking candidly with his colleagues and the other staff members.
The hospital’s director had hastily called him to his office and asked him what happened.
“We just talked,” Dr. Hoover Tone had replied with a beaming smile. “I said that he was insane, but I was wrong. He is not insane… He is simply different from us. Humans and Elves have different lifespans, so there is no helping that they have different senses of time, is there? It is no different to that. It is a simple matter of the difference between us and him being incomparably vast compared to the difference between humans and Elves. Once I understood that, I apologized to him. He accepted my apology, and not only that, he listened to what I had to say. I told him everything –”
After listening up to this point, the hospital’s director had ordered the staff to restrain Dr. Hoover Tone. He had then given instructions to treat him as a patient rather than as a doctor, and confined him to a hospital room.
“We are keeping an eye on him, but if he shows no signs of returning to normal, we will need to have him ‘commit suicide.’ It is unfortunate, but given his state, there is no other way to silence him,” the hospital’s director said heavily.
The doctors and clerics turned pale. They knew that their former colleague would soon be disposed of while making his death look like a suicide.
“More importantly, what are we going to do about Vandalieu Zakkart? I do not want to be put in charge of his care!” a doctor said.
“M-me neither!” said a cleric.
One after another, the doctors and priests expressed their unwillingness to become Hoover’s replacement… a candidate to share his fate. They had also previously examined patients during their employment at the Hospital of Psychotherapy, and they had been told that doctors were sometimes affected by their patients and became mentally unwell themselves. But they could sense that there was something greater than that, something unknown, about Vandalieu.
“Enough with Vandalieu!” the hospital’s director said impatiently. “I’ve decided to continue to monitor him but otherwise leave him alone. However, I will double the number of staff to keep watch over him. And more importantly, the other patients… Amelia Sauron in particular. We must administer her medicine.”
“Amelia Sauron? It’s true that she’s showing signs of recovery, but more importantly, I would like something to be done about my patient!” said one of the doctors.
“My patient is also showing signs of abnormality!” said another. “He has started doing push-ups and sit-ups –”
“Damn it!” the hospital’s director cursed. “Your patients are not recovering; they are simply becoming ill in different ways! Amelia Sauron is recovering! This goes against the earl’s request that we maintain her illness! At this rate, we are going to lose the confidence of our clients!”
The hospital saw the recovery of its patients as a problem. This was a questionable stance for a medical facility that brought the reason for its existence into question. But the Hospital of Psychotherapy was used less as a medical facility and more as a place for nobles and merchants to abandon their mentally ill relatives who could worsen their reputations if they remained free, and as a prison to imprison inconvenient individuals until they died.
In the distant past, it had likely been a medical facility that strived to cure its patients, but it had been the way it was now since at least before the appointment of its current director.
Thus, while it was not so problematic for ordinary patients to recover, it was certainly problematic for a patient to recover when they were someone that the hospital had been requested to keep imprisoned.
The loss of donations from just Earl Reamsand was within acceptable bounds. But it would be very problematic if the earl were to smear the hospital’s name among the other nobles, causing the hospital to lose their trust. If the hospital were to lose the confidence of its clients as an imprisonment facility, then what value would it have? It had no record of successfully treating its patients… in fact, the vast majority of patients died within its walls.
And the people who worked at this facility and had learned of the secrets of various noble families from the patients had no ‘other path’ that they could take.
That was why the hospital’s director couldn’t afford to allow Amelia to recover from her illness.
“Please explain to us once more the extent to which Amelia Sauron has recovered,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” said the doctor who was in charge of Amelia’s treatment. “Previously, she frequently mistook any man she saw as her own husband. It would happen almost every single time when her daughter and her daughter’s attendant isn’t with her. But now, she recognizes me and the other staff members, and she seems to be clearly aware that none of us are her husband. However, according to a staff member that was assigned to watch over her, she seems to still see hallucinations of a ‘husband’ that isn’t there, and she still seems to believe that she is able to talk to him and converse with him.”
“She does seem to be recovering, even if her recovery is still incomplete for now,” another doctor said. “Perhaps it’s because we haven’t administered her medicine for the past few days?”
“Previously, Amelia Sauron once caught a cold, so we refrained from administering her medicine for a week, but that didn’t have any effect on her back then,” a third doctor said. “It must be Vandalieu’s influence after all –”
“We’ll deal with Vandalieu later, and we can deal with investigating the reason for Amelia Sauron’s recovery later as well,” the hospital’s director interrupted. “We must return her to her usual state, or to a state that is even worse than that!”
As the director and his employees were having this discussion, there was a young black man standing behind them. He sighed, shaking his head in disbelief – as if to say, ‘There’s no saving these guys.’
He casually walked towards an air vent, then silently transformed into a mass of collapsing flesh. Within seconds, he changed shape to become like a long sheet of paper, and then he disappeared into the air vent.
Even after he was gone, the director and his employees had no idea that the young man – Ghost, one of the personalities that made up Legion – was ever there.
Meanwhile, Vandalieu was inside the room of his doctor – or rather, his former doctor – Hoover Tone.
“As we speak, I’m sure the director and the others are discussing how to kill me,” Dr. Hoover said. “I know that the lives of people like us are of no value … I know that we are like nothing more than pebbles on the road to you.”
“No, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that…” said Vandalieu.
He had come here because he had become worried after hearing that Dr. Hoover had been put in a room after the two of them talked.
When Dr. Hoover Tone examined Vandalieu, he had intended to carry out a typical counseling session and then conclude his examination – whether Vandalieu responded to his questions or not.
Vandalieu hadn’t intended to respond seriously to his examination, either.
But Dr. Hoover had become guided by Vandalieu during the examination, and Vandalieu had counseled him instead… leading to the present situation.
“But I want you to know that even if things come to that, I won’t regret having met you,” Dr. Hoover said. “I aspired to become a doctor because I wanted to save people. First, I tried to become a user of healing magic, then I tried to become an alchemist to make medicine… but I never had the talent. I faced setback after setback, and eventually, I was earning a living by examining people’s minds. But even though my path ended up changing, my goal wasn’t supposed to change. And yet, before I knew it, I was spending my days waiting for the patients in this hospital to die.”
“… Doctor, you’re not listening to me, are you?” said Vandalieu.
“‘Doctor,’ huh. The patients and their families call me that, but I don’t deserve to be called that. Not when I can’t cure my patients. Not when I’ve accepted that I can’t cure them,” Dr. Hoover said. “But you reached out to me. You listened to everything I had to say, and you accepted me despite my ignorance and powerlessness. The problems of ordinary people might be insignificant to you, but I truly feel like I’ve been saved. I truly mean that.”
“Doctor, I’ve never doubted the sincerity of your gratitude. But why are you treating me as if I’m something other than a person? I’ve said it over and over. I’m human,” Vandalieu said.
Former doctor Hoover Tone had been guided by Vandalieu. But perhaps because of that guidance, he stubbornly refused to accept that Vandalieu was a person. He had accepted that Vandalieu wasn’t insane, but he was treating him as if he were a creature that was different in its core nature from people.
When Vandalieu told Darcia about this, she had told him: “It’s alright, Vandalieu. No matter what anyone says, you’ll always be my beloved son.” These words had made him so happy that it felt like the whole world was shining brightly, but he felt like she had been avoiding the problem.
Dr. Hoover laughed. “What nonsense are you saying? You’re saying that you’re human, you know.”
“I think it’s you who’s talking nonsense, Doctor… Isn’t that right?” said Vandalieu.
“It is as the great Vandalieu says,” agreed Gufadgarn, who remained hidden in the intermediary space behind him.
Dr. Hoover made an alarmed noise. “No! You must not delude yourself!”
“Calm down, Doctor. Nobody is deluding themselves of anything,” said Vandalieu.
“No, you’re wrong!” Dr. Hoover shouted. “That’s not it, you’re –”
“Lively in here, isn’t it?” said a voice as a thin, flesh-colored snake emerged from a small air vent… Ghost. “The hospital workers are going to hear this and come running, aren’t they?”
“It’s alright. I’m using magic to prevent our voices being heard from outside,” said Vandalieu, holding down the agitated, restless Dr. Hoover. “More importantly, how was the staff meeting?”
“Rotten to the core,” Ghost said. “They were talking about the other patients as well… Your new friends. But it seems that they’re really troubled by Amelia making a recovery.”
“Oh dear,” said Vandalieu.
He had spoken with the patients he had met on the way to Amelia’s hospital room, and as a result, he had guided some of them.
There was a young man with multiple personalities. Vandalieu had massaged his spirit form and treated him with his ‘Spirit Therapy’ Skill, used his ‘Spirit Form’ Skill to allow his other personalities to all appear at the same time, then guided them to reach a reconciliation with one another.
There was a man who was carrying out magical rituals with no actual magical purpose. Vandalieu had taught him how to train his body.
There was a girl who had been rendered completely disabled by the mental scars caused by the sexual assault she had suffered at the hands of her family members. She had said that her body was violated and filthy, so Vandalieu had promised to help her become reborn through pseudo-reincarnation.
There was a man who had undergone infantile regression. Vandalieu had soothed and comforted him and told him that he (or rather, the Demon King Familiar he had left behind) would play with him, help him study, and nurture his emotions so that he could become an adult again.
There was a woman suffering from auditory hallucinations. Vandalieu had calmed her down and left a Demon King Familiar to attend to her and whisper, ‘You’re alright. I’m following you,’ in her ear.
TLN: The verb for ‘haunt/possess’ is a homophone with the verb for ‘follow.’ The Demon King Familiar is telling her that he is following her, but he is also ‘haunting’ her in the sense that he is attached to her.
It was possible that they were not ‘recovering’ if one’s definition of ‘recovery’ was ‘returning to the state they were in before their minds became ill.’ But that was of little significance to Vandalieu. They were getting better, and that was a good thing.
The same applied to Amelia Sauron. These past few days, she had clearly shown signs of improvement. She had stopped seeing hallucinations of her husband and conversing with someone that wasn’t there. And she had stopped mistaking the hospital workers and doctors for her husband.
Currently, the only one she saw as her husband was Vandalieu… Vandalieu himself questioned why this was the case, but now that things had turned out this way, there was no helping it. He had no choice but to believe that she would continue her recovery.
The reason why the hospital’s director and his employees believed that Amelia was still talking to her non-existent husband was because she was talking to Vandalieu, who was hiding inside her room.
However, it seemed that the recovery of their patients was something that was unacceptable to them.
“This place is called the Hospital of Psychotherapy, isn’t it? Maybe they should change its name?” said Vandalieu.
“There’s nothing I can say to that,” said Dr. Hoover, hanging his head.
“This doctor only listens to us when we’re talking about stuff like this, huh?” Ghost remarked.
“Well, leaving that aside, if they intend to administer Amelia’s medicine today, I can finally get my hands on a sample,” said Vandalieu.
Ghost had already discovered the room in this hospital that was used to prepare the medicine for the patients, but because the medicine was still in its unrefined, unmixed form, there was no way to tell what kind of medicine was being made.
With the components known, some degree of speculation about the medicine was possible, but the differing ratios of the same components would need different methods to reverse the effects of. Thus, Vandalieu had been waiting to attain a sample of the medicine itself.
“I know the effects of the medicine that is being given to the patients. But only the director knows about their components. But other than the stuff that’s given to the handful of patients that we are expecting to fully recover, it should be no different from poison,” said Dr. Hoover. “Where is this patient named Amelia Sauron now?”
Vandalieu put a hand on his chest. “She is watching her daughter and her daughter’s attendant run through a field of flowers.”
Surrounded by flowers of all colors that completely ignored the seasons, Elizabeth Sauron and her attendant Mahelia were screaming.
The reason for that was because all of the flowers were plant-type monsters that used their roots like legs to move around.
“The flowers here are all Monster Plants, aren’t theeeeey?!” Elizabeth shrieked.
“My lady, you are surrounded! Please calm down!” said Mahelia.
The Monster Plants were running around while keeping Elizabeth surrounded.
Amelia and Vandalieu were watching them together.
Amelia giggled. “They look like they’re having so much fun. I wonder how long it’s been since I’ve seen her being so innocent.”
“If I recall, the last time we went on a picnic was ‘five years ago,’ wasn’t it?” said Vandalieu.
“I don’t recall ever taking Mother to a crazy place like thiiiiis!” Elizabeth shouted.
“Where is this place, anyway?!” demanded Mahelia.
They were inside one of Vandalieu’s Inner Worlds. Vandalieu had put a little too much effort into trying to create a place suitable for a picnic, inadvertently putting his Mana into it as well, which had caused the flowers and plants to become monsters.
“Elizabeth seems to love you a lot, Amelia,” Vandalieu said.
Amelia giggled again. “Are you getting jealous?”
“Not at all. At her age, it’s only natural to want some distance from your father. It’s just a phase.”
“Is that so? When you forgot the anniversary of the day you first met us, she was even angrier than I was, wasn’t she?”
“That was ‘three years ago,’ wasn’t it?”
Vandalieu wasn’t refuting Amelia’s delusions; he had memorized them completely. The fake past that her mind had created, what had happened when at what place – he could have made a diary of it, if he wanted.
If there was an official certification on the knowledge of Amelia’s delusions, he’d be able to pass the examination with flying colors.
Stop calling people’s mothers by their first names! Does he really want to treat Mother, or does he just want to flirt with her?! Elizabeth thought furiously.
“Elizabeth, you shouldn’t suspect people without good reason,” said Vandalieu.
“Can you stop reading my mind, please?!” Elizabeth shouted.
“My lady! You are inadvertently whispering your thoughts out loud! Though I am quite curious as to how Vandalieu-san can hear your whispering from all the way over there!” said Mahelia.
“My ladies, I have brought your tea,” said Sam. “How about having a little rest from your exercise?”
“Sam-san! Tell that to these Monster Plants! Tell them to stop chasing us around!” Elizabeth exclaimed.
Vandalieu had decided that going outside was necessary for Amelia’s treatment. But simply taking her outside using teleportation could end in some troublesome situations in the unlikely event that she was seen.
That was why he had decided to bring her into one of his Inner Worlds. Nobody would see her here.
He’d then had Elizabeth and Mahelia get in Sam’s carriage, then teleported to the Inner World while he was showing them the carriage’s interior, which was far more spacious than it looked from the outside.
Incidentally, this was their second time here.
“Come to think of it, how is school going?” Amelia asked. “I’m glad that I can spend some time with Elizabeth and Mahelia like this, but isn’t studying really difficult for them?”
“It’s alright, Amelia. Elizabeth and Mahelia have excellent grades, and it seems that they’re getting enough credit in the tasks they have to do as a team, too,” said Vandalieu.
Amelia believed that the school Elizabeth and Mahelia were attending was a school for noble children. To go along with this, Vandalieu was answering vaguely, but Elizabeth and Mahelia’s individual grades and the grades of Elizabeth’s party were indeed good. Zona, Macht, were continuing their training as well in Vandalieu’s absence.
Vandalieu had convinced Gufadgarn to help out, so the live-battle training with monsters was being continued as well… He was keeping an eye on them through a Demon King Familiar, too.
Because Vandalieu had been hospitalized, the party still hadn’t attained the credits that needed to be earned in practical training with the whole party, but once he returned, they’d be able to earn them very quickly.
“I’m there for them, too,” Vandalieu added.
Amelia gave a happy laugh. “I feel at ease knowing that you’re watching over their studies.”
Vandalieu was conducting their training, so it could be said that he was watching over their studies. However, he was Elizabeth’s party member, not her parental guardian.
“Shall we spend a little more time here?” Vandalieu said.
“Oh my. But I think it’s almost time for my medicine… Come to think of it, I haven’t been taking my medicine lately, have I?” said Amelia.
“No, you haven’t. I’m sure there won’t be any medicine for you today, either. Nor tomorrow, or the day after, or the days after that,” said the Vandalieu inside the Inner World as he offered her more tea.
The hospital worker felt so annoyed that he wanted to click his tongue. Previously, all he would need to do was say, “It’s time for your medicine,” and hand the medicine over.
But now, he needed to confirm that Vandalieu Zakkart was inside his own room before heading to Amelia’s, take her to the treatment room that was usually never used, and lock the door before finally administering her medicine. That was what he had been ordered to do, but it was a pain in the neck, and he was a mere hospital worker who couldn’t understand what the point of all of this was.
Seriously, what are the director and the others so afraid of? he wondered.
The hospital workers hadn’t noticed the change in the atmosphere inside the hospital. After all, they didn’t treat the patients particularly kindly, nor did they have particularly deep medical knowledge.
And thus, even if a patient showed some change, they would simply think, ‘Well, the patient is strange, just as they were yesterday.’
“Here. Please come into this room,” said the hospital worker, guiding the smiling, obedient Amelia into the treatment room.
Inside the room was a chair with belts for restraining patients that refused to obey the instructions of the hospital’s doctors or staff, but he didn’t see any need to use it.
“Now then, please take this medicine,” the hospital worker said. “You used to think that I was your husband and treat me well, but you don’t even talk to me anymore. It’s enough to make a man feel lonely,” he muttered under his breath so that Amelia couldn’t hear him.
He handed her a pill that had been made by the hospital’s director, who was also an alchemist, along with a cup of water.
“Hurry up and take that, and go back to being the cute, crazy woman you used to –”
The man’s muttering turned into a muffled scream as his throat was suddenly grabbed by a hand that was so cold it made him shudder. He stared in disbelief at Amelia, who was still smiling as she lifted him into the air with one hand.
But in the next moment, she transformed from a gentle lady into a female Vampire with dull, red eyes.
“Vandalieu-sama, I have secured a sample of the medicine. What shall I do with this man?” asked the Vampire Zombie Isla, who had shapeshifted to disguise herself as Amelia.
Space distorted, and Vandalieu appeared.
“Let’s leave him alive for now,” he said. “If he has crossed lines that shouldn’t be crossed, I’ll have him meet the same fate as the others.”
The hospital worker now knew that this day would be the end of everything for him.