Thanks to this chapter’s sponsor: Kitsune Atticus ($150)
The previous emperor of the Amid Empire, Marshukzarl von Bellwood Amid, had been an exceptional ruler. But even he was surprised when he received that report back then.
“Hmm… Earl Drefas has been killed by an adventurer – the A-class adventurer Schneider, no less,” he murmured.
To be more precise, he wasn’t yet surprised when he first received the report. Earl Drefas, the one who had been killed by Schneider, was known for his atrocious deeds; he had been a potential lizard’s tail for Marshukzarl whose name had been quite high up on his mental list of foolish nobles that he wouldn’t be sorry to cut off.
Thus, Marshukzarl didn’t find it surprising that Earl Drefas had incurred Schneider’s wrath and been killed. It was likely because of some foolish thing he had done for some stupid reason that Marshukzarl couldn’t understand.
Well, Earl Drefas’s death wasn’t something that Marshukzarl would mourn, but it was important to consider how to make use of it. But before he could properly begin thinking about that, he realized that the military officer who had given him the report was still there, looking at him with a pale face.
“What is the matter? Do you still have more to report?” Marshukzarl’s secretary asked.
“Yes, sir! After bludgeoning Earl Drefas to death, Schneider and his companions continued their rampage against the earl’s knights and the guards and adventurers who rushed to the scene! The number of casualties is still increasing!” the military officer reported.
“… What?” said Marshukzarl, questioning whether his ears were working correctly.
The earl had been bludgeoned to death. That wasn’t surprising.
But Marshukzarl had assumed that this was an assassination. He had assumed that Schneider had carried out this crime in some unseen place or through methods that didn’t arouse suspicion, and that this report was reaching his ears because the empire’s exceptional guards and knights had carried out an investigation to identify Schneider as the culprit.
“I cannot believe I am about to ask this. But surely, you are not telling me that Schneider bludgeoned Earl Drefas to death in a busy street in broad daylight, in full view of the public?” Marshukzarl questioned the military officer.
“Yes, Your Majesty! That is exactly what he did!”
Marshukzarl pressed a palm to his forehead and looked up at the ceiling.
Adventurers of A-class and above were superhumans among superhumans. Although they looked no different from ordinary people, they were monsters with such strength in combat that they could slaughter a thousand soldiers as easily as twisting a baby’s wrist.
Thus, those who became adventurers of A-class and above were capable of doing almost anything they set their minds to. Bludgeoning a nobleman to death in broad daylight, in full view of the public, would be child’s play.
But examples of such incidents in the past were surprisingly few in number, because society had systems in place to stop violence carried out by such powerful adventurers.
First, there was the law. Breaking the law would cause them to lose their lifestyles, relationships, and social position. Even such monsters would not be able to bear such consequences, given that they were people living in society.
Next, there was the Adventurers’ Guild. If a member committed excessive violence and broke the Guild’s code, it would put up commissions for its other members to subdue the offending member. Even monsters would wish to avoid having to fight against other monsters.
Finally, though this was only true for large nations, there were elite forces that possessed strength equal to or greater than A-class adventurers.
Other important factors included the adventurers’ own consciences and the trouble they would cause for their family and friends if they were to commit crimes.
Thus, A-class adventurers rarely committed crimes recklessly. When they did, they would use their well-trained skills to make sure that their crimes were never discovered.
But Schneider and his companions were trampling all over the systems that were in place to keep them in check, in the present continuous tense.
“… Can we not put out a commission for other A-class adventurers to suppress them?” Marshukzarl asked.
“The Guild is already working on it, but it seems that this will take some time. The A-class adventurers that are currently available are all apparently inferior in skill to Schneider,” the military officer said.
There were differences in strength between adventurers, even if they were of the same class. Such differences were the most striking between A-class adventurers – after all, A-class represented the top of the Guild, other than S-class adventurers.
Within the A-class, there were both former B-class adventurers who had barely advanced to A-class, and those who possessed the strength of S-class adventurers but hadn’t yet made the accomplishment needed to be promoted to S-class. Could an adventurer in the former category be considered to be the same as an adventurer in the latter, just because they were both A-class adventurers?
At the very least, their abilities would certainly not be the same.
“This is a problem. At this rate, the empire’s knights and guards will all be beaten to death. But I would also like to avoid having this nation’s outstanding adventurers kill one another,” said Marshukzarl.
Naturally, he was concerned about losing knights and guards, but he was also concerned about the loss of adventurers. Adventurers weren’t even directly employed by the empire, so they might not even fight for the empire during times of war. But they were valuable fighting forces against monsters.
Having high-ranking adventurers kill each other in order to maintain public order would be pointless if this caused monsters to grow in number and cause a disaster in the nation.
“Your Majesty, how about deploying the Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords?” suggested Marshukzarl’s secretary.
The Fifteen Evil-Breaking Swords were the most elite force in the Amid Empire. A certain number of them were available at all times to suppress any potential coup d’état, even those attempted by multiple individuals with the strength of A-class adventurers.
It was likely that they would be able to defeat Schneider and his companions.
“That certainly is an option, but… how many of them do you think we will lose?” Marshukzarl, directing this question at nobody in particular.
A voice came from somewhere to answer. “Even with all fifteen deployed together, at least five would be lost. With the number that is currently available… it is possible that the shockwaves produced by the battle will destroy this castle before it reaches its conclusion.”
The secretary gasped in surprise, looking around for the owner of this voice… the commander of the Fifteen Swords, the Zero Sword, who remained invisible.
Marshukzarl made his decision. “Earl Drefas may have been a noble, but it would be utterly foolish to make such a sacrifice for the sake of a man that I considered less than a lizard’s tail – a man that I was looking for an opportunity to get rid of as quickly as possible. Tell Schneider and his companions this: ‘Surrender peacefully, and carry out a task for me as a punishment. If you do this, you will eat more extravagantly than I do for the duration of your stay in prison.’”
“U-understood!” the military official said with a bow, hurrying back to the scene to carry out this command.
Schneider and his companions’ response to Marshukzarl’s message, delivered by the military official, was, “Well, if you insist.” And so, they surrendered peacefully.
At this point in time, Schneider didn’t yet have any ambitions to stage a coup d’état or subvert the nation. He had simply gone on a rampage after witnessing Earl Drefas kill a slave that was a member of a race created by Vida for a stupid reason.
Schneider wasn’t obsessed with his health at this point in time, either. He, Dalton, and Merdin ended up enjoying extravagant meals and then left the castle to carry out Marshukzarl’s absurdly difficult request in exchange for having his crime of murdering the earl pardoned.
Marshukzarl expected Schneider to succeed in carrying out this absurdly difficult request. However, he was under the assumption that he would lose one or both of his companions in the process, or suffer some significant injury that would weaken him.
Once Schneider was taught a painful lesson, he would become more prudent and not do any more foolish things in the future. Or so Marshukzarl thought, but Schneider and his two companions returned almost completely unharmed. They had carried out his task of slaying an Elder Dragon that had turned into a monster with spectacular success.
Marshukzarl was shocked.
“Are you satisfied now? If you like, I could carry out more tasks for you in advance so I can kill ten more idiotic nobles later,” Schneider boasted.
Marshukzarl’s relationship with the Storm of Tyranny, led by Schneider, would continue after that – but it was certainly not a friendly relationship.
On the surface, he and Schneider may have looked like two people who were in different positions but acknowledged each other deep down. Indeed, that was how they were depicted in operas that were performed in the imperial capital. This couldn’t be helped, as a feud between the emperor and an S-class adventurer wasn’t something that could be made public.
Marshukzarl and Schneider’s true relationship was that they were enemies. Not the simple kind of enemy that could simply be killed on sight – each was a complicated, troublesome enemy to the other.
At this point in time, Schneider was concealing the fact that he was a worshiper of Vida, and he had been working in secret to protect members of Vida’s races that lived within the empire. Marshukzarl was an enemy because the persecution of Vida’s races was a part of his administrative policies. But Marshukzarl was the emperor, and Schneider knew that killing him wouldn’t be enough to bring an end to that persecution.
Even if he were to kill Marshukzarl, the nobles and the empire’s people wouldn’t change their way of thinking, and the persecution of Vida’s races wouldn’t stop. The only difference was that Marshukzarl would be replaced by another emperor. And if the Orbaume Kingdom were to take advantage of the chaos caused by a change in emperor to invade, the members of Vida’s races living in the empire would be in an even bigger predicament.
In the Orbaume Kingdom, the worship of Vida had been allowed since the nation’s foundation, and human rights were given to those of Vida’s races, with the exception of races such as Vampires and Majin. But the kingdom was not a nation that had been founded for the sake of Vida’s races. They simply recognized Vida’s races as people… in the same way that the poor who died of starvation in the slums were people.
The Orbaume Kingdom wouldn’t wage a war on the Amid Empire out of compassion for the impoverished members of Vida’s races that lived there.
It was said that the weak were the first to fall victim in war, and in the Amid Empire’s case, that would be the members of Vida’s races.
That was why Schneider could not kill Marshukzarl. He and Marshukzarl kept up this farce while thrusting knives towards each other’s backs, and during that time, he made preparations to protect Vida’s races and his allies.
Marshukzarl couldn’t kill Schneider, either. Schneider was simply too powerful. It was possible that he could kill Schneider by sending the Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords after him, but that would result in the certain loss of at least half of them. Even if they succeeded, it would be a pointless victory if it came at such a cost.
Thus, he had no choice but to wage his secret feud against Schneider and his companions while buying time – time to gather the fighting forces needed to kill Schneider, and to create a situation where the empire would not be at risk even if Schneider was killed.
But this was a battle that Marshukzarl lost.
If he hadn’t abdicated as emperor, if he had continued to rule, Schneider would likely have killed him or dragged him off his throne by force.
Schneider’s party had doubled in strength with the addition of two new companions. The fighting forces gathered by Marshukzarl amounted to far less than that.
Not only that, but Schneider had fought tenaciously in his secret feud with Marshukzarl, and he had succeeded in creating a way to protect many members of Vida’s races.
And with Vandalieu’s appearance, the direction the world was heading in was –
“Hmm?” murmured Marshukzarl, the pen in his hand coming to a halt as he looked up.
He could hear noises of destruction that shook the entire building, and – even more loudly – a familiar-sounding angry bellow.
“Hey! Still alive, former emperor?! Or have you kicked the bucket already?!” a voice shouted.
“If I were dead, I think calling out to me would be rather pointless,” Marshukzarl replied.
A moment later, the door flew off its hinges as it was kicked down from the outside. Broken fragments of the door scattered across the floor, along with Marshukzarl’s guards – or to be more precise, the knights that had been stationed here to monitor him.
“This facility was built using taxes collected by the empire. I find your decision to dirty it with blood, entrails, and pieces of flesh to be quite questionable,” said Marshukzarl.
“If you’re going to complain, how about complaining about the fact that I just killed your knights? They belong to your precious empire, don’t they?” said the person who had entered the room – the exact person that Marshukzarl had expected.
“The ‘Thunderclap’ Schneider,” Marshukzarl mused. “As you are well aware, I do not see much value in the lives of knights who have not sworn loyalty to me. And I am the former emperor. The empire is not very precious to me now.”
Schneider gave an exasperated sigh. “I suppose this is what happens when someone who derived nine-tenths of their personality from their position is removed from that position. They end up like you. You’re so lacking in ambition that I feel sorry for you. It’s like you’re a living corpse.”
“Indeed, it’s like I’m half-dead,” Marshukzarl agreed. “So, have you come to kill me today? Or have you come to capture me alive so that you can make use of me?”
“Good guess,” said Schneider, grabbing Marshukzarl by the collar and lifting him into the air.
As a member of the imperial family, Marshukzarl had been taught the basics of combat. But training of that level was entirely negligible to Schneider.
“My business is the latter,” Schneider said. “I’m going to carry you out of here alive because I want to make use of you for the cause of defeating the current Emperor What’s-his-name… Well, once we get to where I’m taking you, you might be turned into a Live-dead or have your brains replaced with those of someone else, but that ain’t any of my business.”
“… So, Vandalieu is behind all this after all.”
“Yeah, though I’ll be asking for approval of this plan after I’ve already carried it out.”
It seemed that Vandalieu had less control over Schneider than Marshukzarl had initially thought.
“I feel like it would be easier for me to simply have you kill me here, but it cannot be helped. I mean, I was so unoccupied that I was writing an autobiography. I suppose I have the time for you to take me to hell,” said Marshukzarl.
“Why are you acting so arrogant, in this situation? Well, not that I really care,” said Schneider.
Carrying the ambitionless but still-arrogant Marshukzarl, Schneider left the castle that had been chosen for Marshukzarl’s ‘recuperation.’
And with these events, the Amid Empire’s turmoil only deepened even further.
Meanwhile, in one of Vandalieu’s Inner Worlds, a group of people had gathered. At first glance, they looked like they had nothing in common.
“My name is Jadal.”
“It is very nice to meet you. I am known as Zarzanote.”
“I’m Matthew. Nice to meet you!”
“… I am Erpel.”
Hiroshi found himself overwhelmed by the people who had just introduced themselves to him.
“N-nice to meet you,” he stammered. “I’m Amemiya Hiroshi.”
He knew that this was another world, and that there were races of people other than humans. He’d already met people like Legion and Kanako.
Jadal was a Ghoul girl, which he could understand. But he felt overwhelmed by the sight of a black-skinned Goblin wearing ninja clothes and a muscular person with the head of a crocodile.
“What’s the matter, Hiroshi? Could it be that you’re nervous because you’re meeting everyone for the first time?” said the Vandalieu of this Inner World, confused by Hiroshi’s behavior.
As the one responsible for setting up this meeting, he felt like he needed to do something.
But the problem that had occurred was one that was destined to happen from the moment this meeting was planned, and there was nothing that could be done about it.
“What’s the matter, you ask… ‘You should learn how to get along with other people your age,’ you said, but these people are clearly adults!” Hiroshi protested.
“I turned four years old this year!” said Bulgo.
He was one of Braga’s children, and as a Black Goblin, he had matured to adulthood in less than a year after birth.
“I am turning five years old this year! And I am still a child!” said Zarzanote, opening his mouth to show rows of sharp teeth.
He was of the first generation of Ammit – a race of people with the heads of crocodiles. He was already as tall as an adult human male.
“And I never said I’d be introducing you to children of your age,” said Vandalieu.
“You didn’t?! Then why’d you deliberately word it that way to trick me?!” Hiroshi exclaimed.
“So that you could learn that people of different races have different physiques, even if they’re the same age. And although it is important to get along with children of your age, it’s also important to get along with adults,” said Vandalieu. “This is necessary to make sure you don’t end up being a loner in the future like I used to be, Hiroshi.”
Vandalieu’s meddling to ensure that Hiroshi didn’t become a loner in the future was burning like the flames of hell.
TLN: The Japanese phrase for ‘meddling’ used here is 余計な世話を焼く which literally translates to something like ‘burning unnecessary trouble.’ Because the verb is ‘burn,’ ‘like the flames of hell’ is used as a simile here to emphasize Vandalieu’s needless meddling
“Is it really that necessary?” Hiroshi wondered.
“W-what game do you want to play, Hiroshi-kun?” asked Bulgo.
“O-oh, yes! How about we play house?” suggested Zarzanote.
“Hey! Both of you are acting all suspicious now just to go along with what Vandalieu says! And kids my age don’t play house!” said Hiroshi.
“Yeah, I guess we’re a bit old to play house. I only play house when my younger brothers and sisters want to,” said Matthew, agreeing with Hiroshi.
“I stopped playing house last year, too,” said Jadal.
“You saved us, Hiroshi or whatever your name was!” exclaimed Erpel. “I thought I was really going to be forced to play house…”
“Phew… Umm, you three are normal kids, right?” said Hiroshi.
“Yeah, I’m a pal of Vandalieu’s! And this is Nightwing, my familiar!” said Matthew.
“I’m Grandma Zadiris’s granddaughter. I’m going to be one of Van-kun’s many brides when I grow up,” said Jadal.
“… No, I am a Pure-breed Vampire, and despite my appearance, I am an adult,” said Erpel.
Matthew was an orphan from the orphanage in the city of Morksi, and he had come here along with the orphanage’s director. Jadal was Basdia’s daughter and Zadiris’s granddaughter. Both of them were children. Matthew was somewhat older than Hiroshi, but he wasn’t an adult yet.
But Erpel was an adult Pure-breed Vampire – or at the very least, he considered himself to be an adult.
“Huh?! You’re lying!” Hiroshi and Matthew shouted simultaneously, not believing him.
Erpel began crying loudly. “Vandalieu, tell them! Tell them that I’m an adult!” he wailed, clinging onto Vandalieu.
“There, there. Let’s calm down and wipe those tears, okay?” said Vandalieu.
Jadal and Bulgo were aware that Erpel was an adult, but his behavior made it awkward for them to testify to that fact.
“Anyway, let’s play. It’s my first time coming to an Inner World!” said Matthew.
“Then let’s go to the amusement park! Gabriel and the others should be finished with their studies by now, so let’s invite everyone else, too!” said Hiroshi.
“A-muze-mint park? What’s that? Is it food?” asked Bulgo.
“I’ve heard of it before!” said Jadal.
The amusement park that Vandalieu had built in this Inner World, Exciting-Wriggle-Vanland (named by Hiroshi and Mei), was currently open to visitors. Most of the attractions were made of Demon King Familiars – which were split entities of Vandalieu – so it was a state-owned amusement park that was literally run by the emperor himself.
“Matthew, do you not need to watch the nuns’ practice first?” asked Vandalieu.
“Nah, I’ll watch with everyone else from the orphanage later!” said Matthew.
“W-wait! I am the leader, not Zarzanote or Bulgo!” said Erpel.
And so, Hiroshi spent a fun day at the amusement park with his new friends.
Meanwhile, Mei was being dazzled by the sight of everyone dancing on stage.
“Everyone’s amazing,” she murmured.
Vestra and Seris, the orphanage’s nuns who had become Abyssal Subordinate Vampires, and Holly, the orphanage’s director, were wearing frilly, sparkling clothes as they danced.
“Vestra-san, you have to smile more! And Seris-san, your movements are a little stiff. Holly-san, you’re doing great!” said Kanako, who was instructing them.
“W-what are we doing here?!” Vestra demanded.
“Umm, is there really a need for us to dance?!” shouted Seris.
“You two, we’re doing this so that we can see the children’s happy faces. It’s no different from forming a circle with the children and dancing with them. Am I wrong?” said Holly.
“You’re wrong about everything, Director!” the two nuns shouted.
“Save your complaints for after you’ve learned to dance!” Director Holly said, scolding them.
She had stopped damaging the skin on her face with drugs to look older, so she had gone back to looking like someone in her twenties.
The story being told to the public in Morksi was that Holly, the former director of the orphanage, had fallen ill and had embarked on a journey to a monastery in the countryside to recuperate. Her relative, whose name also happened to be Holly, had taken her place as the orphanage’s director.
Holly had never gained much attention from the people as the orphanage’s director in the first place, and the former director was quickly being forgotten. The people were even gossiping about the new young director, and there had been almost no problems with this backstory.
“It looks like there are no problems with the new model of all-purpose transformation equipment,” said Tarea, one of the people responsible for creating the clothes that Holly and the others were wearing, as she nodded with satisfaction while watching them dance.
Up until this point, all-purpose transformation equipment had been nothing more than metallic-looking body suits, and their function as defensive equipment and as magical media had been poor (by transformation equipment standards). The new model of all-purpose transformation had improved on those points and were able to be worn by wearers of a range of sizes. They were mass-producible transformation equipment that functioned at a reasonably high level.
“No matter how well Van-sama performs, there’s a limit to how much transformation equipment we can make that is tailored specifically to the wearer. But with this new model of all-purpose transformation equipment, each unit has exactly the same structure, reducing the amount of work that only Van-sama is able to perform! Mass producing them won’t be just a dream!” Tarea said happily with a triumphant laugh.
“And you can even change their color and add frills. It’s very helpful that they are also very versatile as costumes,” said Kanako with a nod. “Now then, let’s bring this lesson and practical test to an end, take a break, then begin combat testing.”
“Eh? Combat?” Director Holly repeated.
“Of course. This equipment serves as costumes on stage, but on the battlefield, it is combat equipment!” said Kanako. “We can’t call it a test without having you fight while wearing it!”
“You’ve gotten it backwards. You seem to have forgotten that you are wearing combat equipment as stage costumes,” said Tarea.
“Now then, Tarea-san, I’ll leave the next performance to you,” said Kanako. “Mei-chan will be delighted, too.”
“Wait – Wait just a moment!” Tarea protested. “I did not come here to dance –”
Kanako was leaving, taking Directory Holly and the nuns with her. Tarea was desperately trying to stop them, but one of the Demon King Familiars that were playing music spoke up.
“Well, I think testing the equipment yourself will be a good experience for you,” it said.
“Yes, Van-sama! Mei-chan, do you have any requests, perhaps?” Tarea asked.
“Can you do wriggle-wriggles?”
Having gotten ahead of herself, Tarea had poked the bush and inadvertently increased the difficulty of the dance she would have to perform. But by performing a wavy dance, she succeeded in fulfilling Mei’s request.
TLN: This is the same ‘poking the push to draw out the snake’ expression from chapter 329.
Meanwhile, Vandalieu’s main body was thinking hard about how to reply to the second letter he had received from Selen, silently cursing the Five-colored Blades for encouraging her to send it as he wrote.