The bathhouse was currently the only functional facility in the royal castle of Talosheim. As there was no functioning national government, this was the only facility of any use.
「That was a good bath~」(Ghoul woman)
「The massage-Golems that the King made for us were good too, weren’t they?」(Ghoul woman)
「Really? I found the『Jacuzzi』thing that made bubbles come out to be better.」(Ghoul woman)
The Ghouls who had only ever bathed in cold water before coming to Talosheim were totally engrossed in submerging themselves in hot water. There were some Golem products that Vandalieu had come up with, but the hot baths seemed to be the most pleasurable thing after all.
「Oh yes, have you heard? The rumors that Chief Tarea has been summoned into the King’s bedroom every day recently.」(Ghoul woman)
「I’ve heard about it, but doesn’t he just want her company? The King is only four years old, after all. I’ve heard that he gets lonely easily, too. And she’s not the chief anymore, she’s the foreman, right?」(Ghoul woman)
「That’s right, but I’m more used to calling her Chief –」(Ghoul woman)
As the two Ghoul women walked along during their conversation, Tarea, the subject of their discussion, ran across in front of them.
「Huh? Foreman –」(Ghoul woman)
Immediately afterwards, Vandalieu passed across them as well. For some reason, he was crawling across the ceiling silently using all four limbs.
As the two of the were rendered speechless at the sight of the Ghoul King, Tarea came back. She had been captured by Vandalieu.
「Nooooooooo! Please let me go for toniiiiiight!」(Tarea)
「No, no, we have to test the catapults’ firing tomorrow, so let’s do ten more today.」(Vandalieu)
Vandalieu walked away, holding the teary-eyed Tarea in the air with【Telekinesis.】Watching him leave, the two Ghoul women swallowed before speaking again.
「It’s not because he’s lonely?」(Ghoul woman)
Vandalieu was next to Tarea, who was lying in an unladylike, spread-eagle position while breathing wildly.
「The【Youth Transformation】will be complete in a few more days. Let’s do our best.」(Vandalieu)
Seemingly exhausted and unable to get up, Tarea let out a strange sound.
Tarea had experienced many things in the past, but the【Youth Transformation】caused sensations she had never felt before to run through her entire body. The unpleasant feeling of something foreign crawling around inside her body, and the pleasure of having her entire body massaged, causing her muscle tension to vanish.
She was in an incomprehensible state where her body was full of energy, but at the same time, it felt as if she had just run a marathon.
The fact that she had learned a secret that was only between Vandalieu and Zadiris up until now made her feel younger as well. These were only good things for Tarea, but…
「Uu, it’s true that I don’t get tired easily, run out of breath or get blurry eyes anymore, and my back no longer hurts, but…」(Tarea)
Tarea’s aging had progressed further than Vandalieu had initially thought. As to be expected of someone over two hundred and sixty years old.
「Should we reverse another ten years of age?」(Vandalieu)
「Hyih?! Let me go for tonight!」(Tarea)
The Pure-breed Vampires who only gathered together once every few millennia had assembled in one of the numerous meeting places for the Vampires who worshipped Hihiryushukaka, the【Evil God of Joyful Life.】Something that hadn’t happened for tens of thousands of years was taking place.
A crooked seven-pointed star had been drawn on the floor using special, freshly-drained blood. The three Pure-breed Vampires raised their arms towards the center of this star, curling their hands into fists.
「I, Ternecia, pour my sacred blood.」(Ternecia)
A drop of blood fell from in between Ternecia’s fingers. Her eyes were shining like those of a child about to open a box containing a present.
「I, Gubamon, pour my sacred blood.」(Gubamon)
Gubamon, an old man who looked like a withered tree, rolled his large eyes. A drop of blood fell from in between his fingers as well.
His unknown desires were showing unpleasantly in his eyes.
「I, Birkyne, pour my sacred blood.」(Birkyne)
And then red blood also fell from Birkyne’s white hand. His eyes were ominously empty. His lips that normally gave a gentlemanly smile were pressed together tightly, as if he were enduring something unpleasant.
These three Pure-breed Vampires gathering in one place and cooperating to carry out a task was something that had not happened in tens of thousands of years.
A single Pure-breed Vampire possessed enough power to defeat a party of adventurers made up of superhuman A-class adventurers alone.
As well as acting as the rulers of this Vampire community, they had received the divine protection of Hihiryushukaka, the【Evil God of Joyful Life】, and were equivalent to being his subordinate gods.
Just what kind of ritual were they carrying out?
「… Hmm, it seems that the ritual has failed. That damn Sercrent, has he betrayed us?」(Gubamon)
Gubamon looked at the seven-pointed star that showed no response whatsoever and raised the ends of his lips in a smile, exposing his pointed fangs.
「Well then, next is Eleanora. Get on with it.」(Ternecia)
As Ternecia pressed Birkyne to perform the next step, he took an unconscious child from a Noble-born Vampire who had been waiting nearby and cut off its head, using the side of his hand as a blade.
Blood gushed onto the floor, glowing mysteriously and crawling around as if alive to form another seven-pointed star.
The three of them each gave a drop of their blood as they had done earlier.
However, the result was the same. Nothing happened.
「It seems that Eleanora has betrayed us as well.」(Ternecia)
「Kukuku, if they were dead, they would have been revived here as Undead, after all.」(Gubamon)
This ritual was one that summoned the souls of dead Noble-born Vampires and resurrected them as Undead.
It required the decapitation of a child born to a woman who had only ever known one man, and all three of the Pure-breed Vampires needed to contribute a drop of their own blood to the seven-pointed triangle drawn with that child’s blood. Even though this ritual would revive a Noble-born Vampire as an Undead, the resulting Undead would be vastly weaker than the live Vampire, so it was hardly worth the trouble.
The reason this ritual was being carried out was because a major incident had occurred a month ago.
【Slay the Dhampir born between the Subordinate Vampire Valen and the Dark Elf Darcia.】
That was the divine message that had recently been given to the Pure-breed Vampires by Hihiryushukaka, the【Evil God of Joyful Life.】
They had given the task of slaying the Dhampir in question to Sercrent and Eleanora around a year ago. As Vampires’ sense of time was different from that of humans, they had thought that perhaps Sercrent and Eleanora were having some difficulty with the task, so it hadn’t really occurred to them that they should investigate the situation.
As the problematic Pure-breed Vampires who worshipped Vida had showed no signs of movement, there hadn’t been anything to get impatient about, either.
However, things changed when the evil god sent the divine message directly. Even though the evil god had given the Pure-breed Vampires his divine protection, it was unusual for him to send them a divine message.
The evil god had given them a direct order to slay the Dhampir. It was a significant enough event that even Gubamon, who normally refrained from attending these meetings, had stopped admiring his collection to come out here.
They had then tried to contact Eleanora and the others who had been sent to slay the Dhampir, but it was already too late.
That was why this ritual had been carried out. If they had killed the Dhampir but lost their lives in the process, they would be revived as Undead and be able to report the fact.
It they could not be revived, it would be clear that they had betrayed the Vampires.
「It seems that we’ve been underestimating this Dhampir. Perhaps he has captured his would-be assassins alive and is now tormenting them, but either way, they have failed.」(Ternecia)
「Sercrent was not a particularly excellent individual, but he was still a moderately useful man. If the Dhampir has made him betray us, he must possess a considerable amount of power.」(Gubamon)
Gubamon nodded in response to Ternecia’s words, excited about the fact that his subordinate might have betrayed him. Either the Dhampir had prepared something that forced Sercrent to obey him even if it made his own parent and every Noble-born and Subordinate Vampire his enemy, or he was powerful enough to convince Sercrent that doing so was the better choice.
「Fuhaha! The corpse of such a Dhampir is something that I would like to acquire! I cannot help but be excited by thoughts of what kind of Undead I will turn him into! Kyiihihihihihihi!」(Gubamon)
For Gubamon, who had made it his life’s hobby to collect the corpses of heroes and use them to create Undead, it appeared that the【Evil God of Joyful Life】had given him an indication as to which corpse should be added to his collection next.
A Dhampir so dangerous that the evil god personally wished for his demise. Wouldn’t that be an even more valuable addition than some A-class adventurer? It was unclear as to what made him so dangerous, or perhaps he had simply incurred the evil god’s wrath, but he had caught Hihiryushukaka’s attention.
「Do your best then. I’m not really interested – no, I am a little. That Dhampir was leading hundreds of Ghouls, wasn’t he? Making Undead from Ghouls sounds interesting.」(Ternecia)
Ternecia was also interested in creating Undead, but she did so to create works of art. Unlike Gubamon, she wasn’t particularly concerned with the strength and fame of the materials used to create the Undead.
The theme of her creations in the past few centuries had been「Families」, so she had no interest in a Dhampir whose father had already been disposed of and whose mother had been burned at the stake. But it was possible that the gray-brown skin of the Ghouls would look attractive once they were turned into Undead.
That was what her twisted inspiration was whispering to her.
And as for Birkyne…
He quietly whispered a single word.
Hearing a word that Birkyne wouldn’t utter with his usual demeanor, the Noble-born Vampires who had been standing by with empty cages in their hands opened their eyes wide in surprise.
Birkyne unconsciously seized the head of the Noble-born Vampire who had spoken his name and raised this「thing」into the air.
「Birkyne-sama, whatever are you doing?! Gugeh?!」(Vampire)
Birkyne swung the panicking「thing」around wildly.
「DAMN IIIIIIIT! MY ELEANORA! MY TOY THAT I CHOSE FROM AMONG DOZENS OF HUMANS! HE STOLE HER FROM MEEEEEEE! THAT ACCURSED DHAMPIIIIR!」(Birkyne)
Being shaken in every direction, the「thing」in his hand struck the floor and walls numerous times, causing various pieces to break off and scatter everywhere.
「I WAS GOING TO TOY WITH HER FOR CENTURIES TO COOOOME! I WAS GOING TO CONVINCE HER THAT SHE WAS SPECIAL, MAKE HER CONCEITED AND THEN BREAK HER BY SCRAPING OFF HER FLESH PIECE BY PIIIIEEECE! HOW UNFAIR OF HIM TO TAKE HER FROM ME BEFORE I COULD GET TO THE GOOD PART! THAT DAMNED, ACCURSED, UNFORGIVABLE DHAMPIIIIIIR!」(Birkyne)
「W-what?! Hyih! Birkyne-sama?!」(Vampire)
「Please stop, Birkyne-sama! What is the – Gehoh!」(Vampire)
「HYIIIIIH! Birkyne-sama has gone mad! Run away, run awaaaay!」(Vampire)
Birkyne went into a frenzy with disheveled hair, bloodshot eyes and a foaming mouth.
His appearance was no longer that of a young nobleman or even that of an angry beast, but that of a broken madman.
He swung his fist wildly, destroying a pillar that had barely avoided destruction up until now, and then stopped, breathing heavily with his shoulders heaving.
「Haah… haah… fuuh.」(Birkyne)
He looked up into the sky to see the beautiful, blue-white glow of the moon and the sparkling stars that accompanied it.
As Birkyne threw away the「thing」… the head of the Noble-born Vampire, which was already in a poor enough state to make it impossible to tell whether it was even a man or a woman, he calmly spoke to Ternecia and Gubamon as if nothing had happened.
「So that brings up the question of what we will do next, Ternecia. Do you have any ideas?」(Birkyne)
He took a silk handkerchief from his breast pocket, cleaned his mouth and hands with it and quickly adjusted his hair with his fingers.
「Ah, you’re back. It didn’t last very long this time, did it?」(Ternecia)
「The last time, you were in that state for days. I was considering whether Ternecia and I needed to stop you.」(Gubamon)
「Fufu, my apologies.」(Birkyne)
Birkyne had completely reverted to his usual self, but his surroundings were in a pitiful state.
The meeting chamber that previously looked as if it were from inside the large mansion of a nobleman had now turned into a mountain of rubble, other than two circular areas roughly a meter wide around Gubamon and Ternecia.
Blood and severed limbs sprawled over the rubble. Heads and fragments of heads littered the ground.
Half of the Noble-born Vampires and the majority of the Subordinate Vampires had been turned into silent corpses.
「Well, it’s fine. I thought that this would happen, so I didn’t bring my servants to today’s meeting other than some Subordinate Vampires to fill the numbers.」(Ternecia)
「Kakaka, well done! But all of my Noble-born Vampires were present today!」(Gubamon)
「I have done a terrible thing. How many of them did I crush?」(Birkyne)
「Don’t worry, don’t worry! I was thinking of cutting down those that were below average so that I do not end up with another individual like Sercrent. You have merely made the selection for me by cutting down those who could not survive your temper!」(Gubamon)
「I see. How terrible of you to use me like that.」(Birkyne)
「By the way, why are you asking me? I did say that I’m interested, but I’d be happy as long as I can skin the Ghouls when the Dhampir is dead.」(Ternecia)
「It’s simple. First was Gubamon’s subordinate Sercrent, then my Eleanora, so you’re next aren’t you?」(Birkyne)
「You’re right. I suppose I won’t look very good if I don’t make any moves.」(Ternecia)
Ternecia took a moment to think.
「Well then, I suppose we can mobilize the army. There’s a guy in the Amid Empire’s army that wants eternal life. A convenient guy who will do anything we tell him as long as we turn him into a Vampire.」(Ternecia)
We’ll exert our influence on him, and a few other noble families and high officials… If we do that, we should be able to set the army after the Dhampir in about two years.
An average Noble-born Vampire, another Noble-born who was quite exceptional for her age and a few dozen Subordinate Vampires, was it? The Dhampir disposed of that many of our forces.
I don’t know what methods he used to fight them, but it was enough for the evil god himself to send a divine message. I’m sure he used a very abnormal method.
So let’s try attacking with numbers. Things will surely go well if we use thousands of soldiers, knights, adventurers and the High Priest that burned his mother at the stake.
If we hide our subordinates among such an army, there will be no chance for him at all. A hundred Noble-born Vampires would be too many, but a few dozen should be enough.
「Can you give me that information? I’m sure those who worship Vida can’t make use of it if I break it with my own hands once I’m finished with it.」(Ternecia)
「I do not mind」, said Birkyne in response to Ternecia’s request.「It was information that the guys worshipping Vida are fairly likely to know anyway.」(Birkyne)
「Yes, if Ternecia destroys it, we can be certain. But it is a serious matter to mobilize the army; you were quite poor at utilizing humans, were you not?」(Gubamon)
「What, you don’t consider yourself good at it either, do you?」(Ternecia)
「Hihihi! That is right, I am also poor at using them!」(Gubamon)
「In any case, it seems that you have an idea. I want you to let me know when your plan begins to progress. Now that our god has given us a divine message, there is a need for us to cooperate.」(Birkyne)
「That is right; Hihiryushukaka-sama’s punishment would take a toll on our bodies, after all.」(Gubamon)
The three of them laughed in agreement as the other Vampires who had somehow managed to survive staggered to their feet. And then they began the journey to the next meeting location.
They were all thinking the same thing about Hihiryushukaka’s divine message.
Why would the evil god, the only existence who certainly possessed greater power than them, make the effort to send a divine message instructing them to kill the Dhampir?
For him to have done that meant that Hihiryushukaka’s attention had been drawn to the Dhampir. A Dhampir that was not one of his followers.
In other words, couldn’t this be a sign that the Dhampir possessed something that would be a threat to Hihiryushukaka…? Some kind of power or information?
In that case, if we could somehow get our hands on it, wouldn’t it be possible to rule and conquer the evil god himself?
Hihiryushukaka knew that the Pure-breed Vampires would think this. It was only natural; they were only applying the teachings that he himself had given them.
That was why Hihiryushukaka had given them no information regarding Vandalieu in his divine message.
A human-sized boulder flew from the catapult with a whoosh.
The boulder fell accurately on top of a wooden target set up in the firing area, destroying it.
Basdia, who was sitting in a chair with a monster-leather parasol protecting her from the sun much like a human lady, let out a sigh of amazement as she rubbed her expanding abdomen.
「These catapults are amazing. They look very promising.」(Basdia)
「This is still just the test-firing phase.」(Vandalieu)
This was the response of Vandalieu, who was being thrown into the air by Pauvina next to her, but he seemed not entirely unsatisfied.
He was generally expressionless, had the eyes of a dead fish and a flat-toned voice, but once one got accustomed to it, it was possible to tell his emotions from his manner of speech. The slightly more carefree tone of speech he was using now was proof that he was in a good mood.
「The results of firing with normal projectiles are excellent. Next, I’ll begin test-firing with Golem projectiles.」(Vandalieu)
As Pauvina gave this vague order, the catapult moved on its own and prepared to fire. This catapult was essentially a catapult-shaped Golem that Vandalieu had created through【Golem Transmutation.】
It was no ordinary catapult; it possessed arms and wheels made of stone.
It was possible to make it load projectiles, take aim and fire all on its own.
And as Ent wood had been used in the construction of its body, it had the sturdiness of metal and excellent resistance to fire.
The loyal catapult Golem fired the next boulder.
It flew through the sky in a trajectory similar to the previous one, but towards a different target, which had wooden dummies lined up around it for some reason… and landed on top of it.
And then the projectile let out a groan and stood up!
「Did the catapult launch a Golem?」(Basdia)
The sight of the projectile-turned-Golem destroying the wooden dummies around it took Basdia by surprise.
The Golem seemed to have taken some damage from the impact of landing, but it caused no problems in combat as Golems didn’t feel pain or anything.
This would likely be incredibly effective in a real battle. The main weakness of Golems was their slow movement. This method would provide the Golems with a way to attack the enemy while removing that weakness.
A Golem fired at the enemy this way would easily break down the front lines and then run rampant among their ranks; this would not be an easy attack to deal with.
「Yes. And since we might be fighting Subordinate Vampires, I’ve put silver plating on its fists and toes.」(Vandalieu)
「You’ve got attention for detail. It’s exciting to see.」(Basdia)
「Thank you, but it seems that the Golem projectiles still have room for improvement.」(Vandalieu)
「Do they really?」(Basdia)
It’s destroyed all of the wooden dummies set up as enemies, so as far as I can see, it’s perfect. As Basdia thought this, Vandalieu, who was sharing the vision of the Undead insects he had set up nearby, shook his head.
「There’s one wooden dummy that has only had its legs crushed, its torso is completely unharmed. Even though I ordered the Golem to kill… to inflict damage in ways that would be fatal to humans.」(Vandalieu)
It would be impossible for a human to enter a battle with two broken legs unless they were treated first. However, it would be possible for Vampires to continue fighting even with both legs broken.
Vandalieu wanted the Golem to crush their heads just in case.
「You’ve got a high amount of bloodthirst, don’t you, Van?」(Basdia)
Pauvina threw Vandalieu directly overhead. It seemed that she had reacted to the word「high」in Basdia’s sentence.
She had once done this inside a room, causing a stain of Vandalieu’s nose-blood to appear on the ceiling, so she had been forbidden to throw Vandalieu into the air indoors. She seemed to be intent on enjoying herself as much as she could today.
Pauvina caught Vandalieu as he fell onto her with a smacking sound.
「… There’s a big impact when I land, so do it more gently.」(Vandalieu)
「I’m begging you, I really am. Leaving that aside, I’ll be starting the test-firing of the special projectiles now.」(Vandalieu)
Vandalieu spoke somewhat lifelessly, and then the catapult loaded a large barrel this time.
And then it was launched. It drew an arc in the air… and then split into two.
「What?! Did it fail?」(Basdia)
A transparent fluid spilled from within and splashed onto the ground in front of the target.
「No, it was quite successful. That was a barrel-shaped Golem I made for spreading poison and pathogens among the enemy. After it’s launched, it splits at a certain timing and spreads its contents in front of the enemy.」(Vandalieu)
「Yes, poison. It only had water in it just now, though.」(Vandalieu)
Poison and pathogens could be created as long as Vandalieu had the Mana for it. He could carry out biological terrorism anywhere, anytime.
He did have to be careful not to be affected by his own poison and pathogens, however. If he was afflicted by the deadly poison and disease that was powerful enough to overcome his【Status Effect Resistance】skill, he would collapse immediately without even being able to cast any spells.
「Poison and disease… Is that alright?」(Basdia)
「It’s more of a problem of what I spread than how I spread it. The Undead and Golems will be fine, but poison and diseases will affect you and the other Ghouls, after all.」(Vandalieu)
It was a truly difficult problem to solve.
If he was planning to spread disease, it would be best to use pathogens with high infectious capacity, but it would be pointless if Basdia and the others, especially the children with weak immune systems, were to be affected by them. It would be fine if he could use【Sterilization】and【Disinfect】right away, but it was impossible to know what could happen during battle.
So then would poison be better after all? But if Vigaro and the other warriors were in the battle, it couldn’t be used.
「Maybe it will be fine if I use the same components that are in the Ghouls’ paralyzing venom? Hmm, I wonder if there are any deadly airborne diseases that are difficult to treat, highly infectious and only affect humans.」(Vandalieu)
「Wait a minute, that’s not what I was trying to ask. I’m trying to ask if it’s really alright to do that. Our enemies might be humans, right?」(Basdia)
「Yes, and…?」Vandalieu replied as Pauvina threw him up and down slightly more gently than earlier. It seemed that he was still unsure as to why Basdia seemed concerned.
「No, I’m not going to say that I have a problem with killing people, either. But won’t it cause problems to kill too many?」(Basdia)
「Ah, it would be problematic to kill more than necessary, wouldn’t it?」(Vandalieu)
Vandalieu nodded a few times in agreement… probably. It was difficult to tell due to him being thrown up and down.
「It’s fine. I’ll be careful not to kill more than necessary, and it’s not like these weapons have to be used. Mom wouldn’t be happy about it, either.」(Vandalieu)
Darcia wasn’t a peace advocate in particular. However, she wouldn’t approve of a massacre, either. She would definitely hate unnecessary murder and try to stop Vandalieu from performing such murder. If he actually did it, she would likely be heartbroken about it afterwards.
Basdia was a Ghoul who had been raised in a village where she had been taught not to fight with adventurers. It was possible that she felt very reluctant to kill humans because of this.
And Vandalieu had no recollection of becoming a murderous fiend; he considered himself to be a normal person.
People are creatures with societies, and as long as that is the case, the happiness of humans lies in those societies.
Vandalieu’s objective was to become happy and stay happy. Unnecessary murder would simply be an action that would lead him further from this goal.
「That’s why I’ll try not to kill any more than necessary.」(Vandalieu)
「Yeah, we won’t kill, you know?」(Pauvina)
Vandalieu and Pauvina made this declaration together. But Vandalieu continued speaking.
「But if I need to slaughter every single enemy to protect everyone, I’m going to do it. So don’t get angry at me if it comes to that, alright?」(Vandalieu)
「You got it?」(Pauvina)
He wouldn’t kill people he didn’t have to. However, there was a god and a religion that taught that killing every member of their races was justice, and this religion was the official religion of an entire Empire. In order to survive in this world, there would be times where he would be forced to kill all of his enemies in order to survive.
As Vandalieu told Basdia this, she seemed to get a little haughty.
「That’s a given. If it were necessary to slaughter all of the enemies in order to protect this child and you and all the others, Van, I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d gladly swing my axe at them.」(Basdia)
「What a reliable mother you are.」(Vandalieu)
「I am, aren’t I? If you ever want to give me my child, let me know anytime.」(Basdia)
「That will be at least another ten years from now~」(Vandalieu)
As Vandalieu gave Basdia this response, Pauvina gave Vandalieu a particularly large throw towards the sky.
Falling from this height would cause quite the impact, so he used【Flight】to float gently in the air.
And then he reflected upon the events of the past few months.