Sandra P. ($20), Alex MS. ($30), Robert W. ($200), (Extra length)
Murakami’s group, who had agreed to Rodcorte’s request to kill Vandalieu, had a daily routine of scouting his location with their Target Radars, which detected masses of over 100,000,000 death-attribute Mana.
Rodcorte had created the Target Radar ability based on the assumption that nobody other than Vandalieu possessed death-attribute Mana. It was an excellent ability that allowed the user to concentrate and sense which direction the source of death-attribute Mana was and how far away it was.
However, with Legion’s appearance, Vandalieu’s creation of large death-attribute devices (such as the devices that automatically created Undead in the former Scylla territory) and the development of Demon King Familiars, there were now more sources of death-attribute Mana.
On top of that, Vandalieu used Legion’s Teleportation to travel between various places. Thus, Murakami’s group had become unable to tell which of the responses from their Target Radars was created by Vandalieu.
Thus Murakami had requested that Rodcorte make them able to see the quantity of death-attribute Mana. Though Rodcorte hadn’t been able to allow them to see exact numbers, he had improved the ability to allow them to tell which source of Mana was the greatest. With this, they had become able to tell where Vandalieu was.
“… So, he’s staying in the Alcrem Duchy now,” Murakami murmured, checking his handmade map and comparing it to the death-attribute Mana source that he could sense.
The map contained the twelve duchies of the Orbaume Kingdom as well as the central region that contained the royal capital. However, the only things marked on it were the boundaries between the duchies, the cities and the main highways; it was a very rough map compared to the maps available on Earth or in Origin.
However, it was a map created by the ‘Sylphid’ Misa Anderson, who had used her ability to turn her body into gas to infiltrate noblemen’s mansions and large companies to copy their maps.
“That’s unexpected. I was sure that he would choose either the Birgitt Duchy because it’s the southernmost among the Duchies along the mountain range, or the Jahan Duchy because it’s the farthest,” said Misa.
Duke Birgitt was a Beast-person, and Duke Jahan was a Titan.
The Alcrem Duchy was one of the northernmost duchies in the Orbaume Kingdom; it was located just east of the Sauron Duchy. It didn’t have a particularly large population of Vida’s races, nor was it particularly influential within the nation.
Regardless of what Vandalieu was doing, Misa couldn’t understand why he had chosen the Alcrem Duchy.
“The Birgitt Duchy is just east of the Farzon Duchy, right? Where the guy who killed his mom, Heinz, apparently is. It looks like he’s avoiding him, doesn’t it? Jeez, first ‘Metamorph’ and now Vandalieu, are parents really that important? To us, the parents in worlds that we’re reincarnated in are just victims of our brood parasitism,” the ‘Odin’ Akira Hazamada said, shaking his head as if he couldn’t understand this way of thinking.
Misa frowned at his comparison of their reincarnation to cuckoos laying their eggs in other birds’ nests. “We don’t really need to sympathize with them, you know,” she said. “Getting back on-topic, even if that’s the reason he didn’t choose the Birgitt Duchy, why did he choose the Alcrem Duchy?”
“Who knows. Maybe there’s some reason that we don’t know about? Maybe there’s a Devil’s Nest or Dungeon in the Alcrem Duchy that spawns Undead-type monsters frequently, or maybe the Alcrem Duchy is part of the territory of one of his Vampire subordinates,” said Akira, shrugging.
“Stop messing around –” Misa began.
“He’s messing around, but it’s true that there’s no point in trying to figure it out here,” said Murakami, interrupting her. “Rodcorte’s information is perfect when it comes to human society, but it’s useless for everything else. On top of that, it’s not like we’ve even been given that information… There’s a limit to how much we can hear each time we use Familiar Spirit Descent. And we can’t use it over and over without drawing a lot of attention to ourselves,” he pointed out. “We’re heading to the Alcrem Duchy tomorrow. He’s been in the Alcrem Duchy for ten days. He’s returned to the inside of the Boundary Mountain Range once, but went back after just a few hours. He’s probably still intending to do something there. Rodcorte’s apparently still talking to this world’s gods or something, so there’s no information for us, but… it’s a waste of time for us to sit still and wait until it’s all over.”
“You’re right,” Misa agreed. “It’ll take us a month to reach the Alcrem Duchy from here, even if we take the side road… Wait,” she said suddenly. “The signal’s suddenly moved south.”
“Yeah, I can sense it too. It’s … Umm, considering our current location, the Farzon Duchy,” said Akira, pointing to the signal’s location on the map. “But why is it that we can’t tell his height, whether he’s above or below us?”
“It’s obvious, right?” Murakami said, grimacing. “He’s in a special space where there is no up or down, the inside of a Dungeon. But… why did he Teleport to the inside of a Dungeon all of a sudden? In the Farzon Duchy at that, even though he hasn’t ever been there as far as we know. I don’t think it’s very likely that he’s gone to avenge his mother.”
Murakami did not know the exact location of the Dungeon that the Five-colored Blades were facing; he was oblivious to the fact that his last words were actually a little close to the truth.
Curatos, the god of records, was bewildered.
Heinz was now on the 65th floor, on the second battle against Vandalieu. Curatos had inputted the most recent information regarding Vandalieu in order to create the fake Vandalieu for this trial.
And Heinz’s party had begun trying to clear the 65th floor, but… there was something strange about the fake Vandalieu’s movements.
“… What is the meaning of this? The copies I have created so far may have had some flaws, but they never failed to fulfil their function,” he muttered to himself.
Utterly perplexed, he checked the program that he had executed, but no matter how many times he looked through it, he could not find any problems.
But the reality was that the copy of Vandalieu was continuing to move in a way that had not been planned.
“This… cannot be helped. I must take the copy down and restart it,” Curatos decided, executing a command that would terminate the copy.
But the copy of Vandalieu did not disappear.
Curatos executed the command twice, three times, but it had no effect.
“Impossible! No matter how elaborate the copies are, they are reproductions based on my records; there is no way that they can disobey my will… Could it be that it is not my program that is causing the copy’s movements?!” he shouted in astonishment.
He wasn’t the only one; the Five-colored Blades were as bewildered as he was.
Vandalieu was making no effort to fight them at all.
What is he thinking? Edgar wondered as he continued fighting off against the ‘King Slayer’ Sleygar, who was moving about the battlefield freely, trying to take the Five-colored Blades’ heads.
On the 50th floor, Vandalieu had stood behind Gubamon and Ternecia, unleashing spells and attacks with the Demon King’s fragments.
Edgar and his party had never seen such peculiar spells before; they had caused the party much suffering even without their mental unrest at the situation.
That was why the party had been on their guard this time, but Vandalieu showed no signs of casting spells or activating the Demon King’s fragments.
He picked up the head of a female knight that Edgar and his companions did not recognize and held it to his chest for a few seconds until it turned to dust and vanished.
But in the next moment, he stepped forward and began throwing his fists at some invisible enemy.
“DRAGON SLAYEEEEER!” roared the ‘Sword King’ Borkus.
“This Titan Zombie is too problematic!” Delizah grunted as she was forced to stop in place and stop his deadly martial skill.
The greatsword, made of a fragment of the Demon King, unleashed a shower of sparks as it collided with her Artifact shield.
“Del, this lump of meat is way more problematic!” said Jennifer, busy trying to fend off Legion on her own.
“Jennifer, you think this is a competition?!”
Vandalieu was having a boxing match against empty air as he watched this scene unfold. The reason for this was that he was aware that he was being watched by someone other than Heinz and Edgar.
“This gaze must be the god who controls this Dungeon,” he murmured. “Fins, tumors, membrane… They won’t come out. Antennae… They don’t work either. My body’s reactions are dull. I can’t check my Status… possibly because this is a fake body, after all. And even if I close my eyes and focus, I can’t return to my real body.”
Once he finished checking the status of his current body, he stopped boxing the air and started casting a spell… Telekinesis, just moving a small pebble at his feet up and down.
“The sensation of using magic… the same as a little earlier. I can’t see my Skills with my Status, but I can use them just as I could yesterday. In other words, my real soul has entered this fake body? Yes, my soul is real, my soul is…”
As Vandalieu was busy thinking and not participating in the battle, there were openings in the copied Borkus and Legion’s attacks. Curatos had programmed the copies to coordinate their attacks with high efficiency, so they were greatly affected by the fact that Vandalieu was not participating despite being the core part of their formation.
And Heinz and his companions had fought against and defeated Borkus and Legion numerous times between the 51st floor and this one.
“DIIIIIIE!” the copied Borkus roared.
Delizah gritted her teeth as she resisted Borkus’s fierce attack.
Of course, even though this was a copy, Borkus was a master of the sword. He was not merely attempting to forcibly crush Delizah underneath her shield through sheer force; his blade moved in skillful arcs in an attempt to slip past the shield to get to Diana, the one being protected by Delizah’s shield.
On top of feeling no fatigue due to being an Undead, he had activated the Transcend Limits and Transcend Limits: Magic Sword Skills to improve his own Attribute Values and the power of his sword.
Even an above-average A-class adventurer would be slaughtered in an instant by this foe.
“Mill, grant this warrior your power! Physical Ability Fortification! Awakening!” cried Diana.
“True Rapid Reaction! Diana, don’t you leave my shadow! And sorry for being so small!” shouted Delizah.
“I know!” Diana shouted back.
Delizah was an A-class adventurer, but she possessed the strength of someone closing in on earning the status of S-class, and she was supported by Diana’s advanced enchantments. With their help, she succeeded in stopping Borkus in his tracks.
Meanwhile, the copied Legion opened their multiple mouths and let out a terrifying scream. They tore off pieces of their own body to throw at Jennifer, then began spinning rapidly to try and ram their body into her.
This was an attack pattern that was unique to Legion; even a skilled adventurer who had fought against all kinds of monsters previously would be confused.
But Jennifer reacted instantly.
“This meaty bastard! How many times do you think you’ve done me in already! I know all of your moves now! I won’t let you get in everyone’s way!” Jennifer muttered with determination as she kept Legion contained to one side of the battlefield.
Indeed, despite Legion’s enormous size, their role was to disrupt the party’s movement and keep them distracted.
They threw masses of flesh that included fat, transformed those masses of flesh into Yomotsushikome and Yomotsuikusa when they had an opening, and buried their enemies with their ability to ignite organic matter if their target stood still for a moment.
They allowed their enemies to become accustomed to their simple attack patterns of trying to crush them with their body, then suddenly Teleport beside the copied Borkus or Sleygar and crush Delizah or Edgar to death.
They had far too much mass to coordinate with their allies like an ordinary fighter, and yet they could fly through the air with great force to execute this battle strategy.
On top of that, even if their plan was read and a deadly blow was thrown at them, they could directly return the same amount of damage back upon their attacker.
This ability ignored distance and there was no dodging or defending from it. When Legion received damage, they returned the same amount of damage back with absolute certainty.
Jennifer and the rest of the party had been defeated by Legion numerous times. They had only been able to clear the trials with Legion in them by first focusing on finding a way to defeat them rather than actually trying to defeat them, knowing that Legion would defeat them on these attempts.
“Steel-piercing Overarm Fist!” Jennifer shouted, her fist destroying one of the upper-body-halves protruding from Legion and gouging a large chunk of flesh from their body mass.
She simultaneously threw a light kick, which landed lightly against another one of the upper-body-halves immediately after her fist.
Legion immediately activated their Counter ability, but the attack reflected upon Jennifer was not the heavy blow inflicted by her fist, but the light kick that was not even strong enough to leave a bruise.
Heinz and his party had realized that Legion’s Counter only reflected the last instance of damage that they had received. Thus, they had come up with the method of following up powerful attacks with a light one immediately afterwards.
They had also come up with the idea of placing enchantments on their weapons that prevented fat tissue from sticking to them as a countermeasure to Legion’s ability to ignite organic matter.
But even after all of this, Jennifer was only able to stop Legion from disrupting her companions.
“Damn, it’s no good!” she cursed.
The damage that she had inflicted was immediately healed by Legion’s Super-speed Regeneration.
The anti-Legion strategy was normally employed with at least two people; Jennifer alone was not capable of outputting enough damage to overcome Legion’s regenerative abilities.
The other members of the Five-colored Blades knew this, which is why they wanted to back Jennifer up as soon as possible, but… Delizah and Diana had their hands full fending off Borkus’s fierce attacks, and weren’t really able to mount any kind of offense. Edgar was busy chasing after Sleygar.
As for Heinz, he was crossing swords with Eleanora, Isla and Miles at once while also enduring Bellmond’s attacks at the same time.
“Sorry, hold out a little longer!” he shouted at his companions
He blocked Eleanora’s blade with his own blue, flaming one and avoided Bellmond’s deadly threads, unleashing slashing attacks of his own in the few openings that he was given.
He had already defeated the Vampire Zombies, but these four troublesome foes remained standing. If he were to fight them one by one, he would be able to defeat them as long as he did not let his guard down in a big way, and even in a four-on-one situation, he was still managing to hold on.
“Die, for the sake of the Demon King Vandalieu-sama!” Eleanora cried.
“How dare you do that to my subordinates! I’ll rip that pretty face right off your skull!” Isla snarled.
“Before that, I’ll leave a little kiss mark on your neck!” Miles laughed. “Steel Bite!”
Heinz evaded Eleanora’s black sword, Isla’s claws and Miles’s fangs that could rip his head right off rather than merely leaving a kiss mark. He then began his own counter-attack.
“Oh dear, your feet are wide open,” said Bellmond as the threads extending from her fingers suddenly changed directions.
Heinz moved to avoid being caught in the threads, but in doing so, lost his opportunity to strike back.
If he hadn’t moved, his head would have been turned into a series of thin, round slices.
“Pardon me, I meant your head, not your feet, didn’t I?” Bellmond said with a sneer.
Heinz gritted his teeth, and a frustrated expression appeared on his face.
The evil-god-worshipping Vampires that he had faced up until now had been less cooperative and more crudely-coordinated with their allies the more powerful they were.
But these four demonstrated perfectly-coordinated teamwork, allowing them to bring out each other’s strengths. On top of that, they all somehow possessed incredible physical abilities and unleashed martial skills and spells one after another.
Ordinarily, such coordination would be the strength of adventurers like Heinz and his companions, but… they had all been separated, forced to fight individually with the exception of Delizah and Diana.
Of course, if they had remained grouped up, there would have been the problem with being unable to withstand Borkus’s fierce attacks, Legion’s movement disruption and Sleygar looking to assassinate them from behind, but…
They are preventing us from using our strength. That is the kind of trial this is… But if that’s the case, why is he not moving? Heinz wondered, feeling discomfort at the fact that Vandalieu had still shown no signs of joining the battle.
He was completely aware that the only reason he and his companions were still able to endure this situation despite being separated was because Vandalieu was not doing anything.
This was a trial, so why? It wasn’t as if the trials’ difficulties were adjusted in the middle of battle.
Perhaps sensing Heinz’s misgivings, or perhaps not, Vandalieu was watching the battle unfold. Meanwhile, he cut his own finger lightly and saw a drop of blood form on his finger’s surface.
“So, I can hurt myself. If that’s the case, it seems likely that I’d be able to kill myself… Hmm, it seems that the soul, my soul, is the key. Out-of-body Experience… Materialization… No, that’s not right,” he muttered to himself.
He tried creating a clone and then erasing it, then began doing this over and over.
Meanwhile, the tides of battle changed.
An arrow had pinned Sleygar’s leg to the ground.
“Infinity Slash! How many times do you think I’ve faced you! I’m starting to get used to this, you know!” Edgar shouted as he unleashed countless slashes upon Sleygar with his dagger. “Next… Rapid Fire!”
Before the cut-up pieces of Sleygar’s body even touched the ground again, Edgar fired a crucial arrow at Eleanora as she lunged at Heinz.
Eleanora instinctively avoided the arrow. “An arrow like this would never hit – GAH!”
Her evasive movement had produced a fatal gap in her coordination with her allies. Heinz cut her torso in two with a diagonal slash from the shoulder, and began his offense on Isla and Miles – and Bellmond, who was struggling to regain control over the battle.
Things ended quickly from there. Not letting the chance to turn things around slip away, Heinz defeated Miles, Bellmond and Isla one after another. Delizah and Diana joined up with Edgar, while Heinz regrouped with Jennifer.
Legion’s abnormal regenerative abilities proved tough to overcome, but at long last, the five of them succeeded in defeating Legion with their combined strength.
From this victory, it was clear that the Five-colored Blades had become stronger than the ‘Five-headed Snake’ Ervine and ‘Light-speed Sword’ Rickert of the Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords.
“The combination of attacks that we just used, we don’t really want to use it outside of a Dungeon if possible… the terrain around us has changed too much,” Edgar muttered.
“This side of the mountain has become completely barren. If we were in the outside world, some of the mountains would have split and collapsed… a monster on the other side of the Boundary Mountain Range might have even come out… though maybe that monster is him,” said Diana, trying to catch her breath.
The party was staring at Vandalieu, the only one left standing, not letting their guard down.
It seemed to them that he hadn’t done anything other than protect himself from the shockwaves produced by their attacks.
“Long… live… the great Demon King… Vanda…” groaned Eleanora, who was missing the bottom half of her body, before she turned into dust and disappeared.
Vandalieu finally spoke. “You’ve already finished. Shall we talk, then, if it’s alright with you? We both need some time before we can fight, don’t we?”
An expression of astonishment appeared on the faces of all of the Five-colored Blades.
“… Am I really saying something that strange? You’re probably quite exhausted after defeating the fake copies of everyone, and I still need to test some things and do some practice,” said Vandalieu, repeatedly using Out-of-body Experience to leave his body and return to it again.
Heinz realized that this Vandalieu was different to all the copies that they had faced so far. “Are you the real Vandalieu?” he asked.
“Yes. This body is the same as the other fakes, but it’s the real me inside. Ah, as for why this has happened, it’s a secret, so don’t ask,” Vandalieu replied. “Hmm, I’m not a spirit,” he said to himself, still showing no signs of stopping his testing.
Heinz went deep into thought for a moment, then began to ask another question. “Then tell me. Are you –”
“I am the son of Darcia. You captured and handed my mother over to a fanatic. I am the true culprit behind the incident of the castle tipping over in the Hartner Duchy. I’m also the one who controls the former Scylla territory, and the one who destroyed Ternecia and Gubamon.”
Heinz made a surprised noise.
“Ah, I really can’t concentrate because talking to you makes me so angry… Hmm, it’s been a while since I channeled my anger into focus, so it’s not going very well,” said Vandalieu.
“… What about the Demon King’s fragments and the Undead?” Heinz asked quietly.
“I acquired my first fragment of the Demon King by coincidence when I headed underground, beneath the castle in the Hartner Duchy, in order to free the spirits of Talosheim’s Titans who were accused of false crimes. After that, I’ve been acquiring them by defeating enemies like Ternecia,” Vandalieu explained. “As for the Undead… At the very least, all of the ones that you fought just now are my companions. Excluding Ternecia and Gubamon from last time, though.”
He was answering Heinz’s questions, but he didn’t mention some of the other ways that he had acquired fragments of the Demon King. He had said, “Shall we talk?” but he was not being completely honest.
“Why have you done such things… Is it because we killed your mother? In your hatred, you desired the evil fragments of the Demon King, created these repulsive Undead and conspired with Vampires who worship evil gods?” Heinz asked.
“Heinz, we only accepted a request –” Edgar began, trying to stop Heinz’s questions.
“No, even if you didn’t capture my mother… Even if my mother was never captured by anyone and never killed, I think I would have still created Undead and sought out the fragments of the Demon King,” Vandalieu replied, ignoring Edgar. “I’m not sure if I would have met Eleanora and everyone else, however.”
Vandalieu was a death-attribute mage; even if Darcia had never died, it was likely that he would have gone on to create Undead. And it was almost certain that he would have eventually absorbed the Demon King’s fragments as well.
From the moment of his birth, he had been destined to be depended upon by Vida and the other gods, for Rodcorte to desire his death, to become the enemy of Alda’s forces.
Events may have been delayed if Darcia had never died, but it was unlikely that he would have lived a peaceful life… Even if none of this was true, it was likely that there would have been no paths for him that did not lead to a turbulent life due to his personality and vast Mana pool.
“Also, Edgar, was it?” said Vandalieu. “As you say, you simply accepted a request. You captured my mother, who broke the law. It wasn’t a crime or anything of the sort. You only did what was obvious. If that’s what you want to say, you’re completely right.”
Vandalieu was answering questions at length because he wanted to buy as much time as possible. However, the astonishment and bewilderment on Heinz and Edgar’s faces did not disappear in the slightest.
This wouldn’t have bothered Vandalieu, but to him, their lack of response appeared as if they weren’t listening to him at all, causing him to become even more irritated.
“… You don’t hate Heinz and the others?” Diana asked.
Though Vandalieu was angry, he remained expressionless and the only sign of his anger was that his tone of speech was a little rougher than usual; on the surface, he looked perfectly calm. Diana seemed to have mistakenly thought that he was actually calm.
“Of course I do,” Vandalieu replied. “I’m definitely going to kill you. Not because you people are evil, but to prevent you from taking away anyone who is precious to me ever again.”
Heinz felt a chill run down his spine as he looked into the depths of Vandalieu’s dull, lightless eyes and sensed something terrifying hidden within them.
Jennifer took a step forward to speak in Heinz’s place. “Wait, putting the past aside, Heinz is now a part of Alda’s peaceful faction… He believes that we should work together with Vida’s races and Vida’s believers! We should work together with Vida’s Church… You saw Selen in the city of Niarki, didn’t you?! That Dhampir girl! Heinz will never take away someone precious to you again!”
“Wait, he just said –” Diana began, suddenly realizing something.
“I just said that all of the people you just fought are my companions, didn’t I?” said Vandalieu, cutting Diana off to respond to Jennifer. “Are you telling me that Heinz will never kill my precious companions that I consider to be my family? The Undead, Vampires, Ghouls… Even the Majin, Kijin and monsters?”
Jennifer’s face stiffened. “The Undead are your precious companions? That’s…”
“If you think that’s abnormal, that just shows you how different your way of thinking is from mine,” Vandalieu said. “Well, I’m in the minority in this case,” he added.
As a death-attribute mage who could charm the dead, Vandalieu felt closer to and more familiar with the dead than the living. That was why he felt no discomfort at the fact that he considered Undead to be as precious to him as living people.
Seeing no response to his question from Heinz and his companions, Vandalieu stepped forward and gave a small nod. “So, you can’t tolerate Undead after all.”
“… Yeah, sorry. You shouldn’t associate yourself with the dead. That’s the way we… the way that people should be. That’s the one thing we won’t budge on,” said Heinz. “I don’t know how you’re able to create powerful Undead, but you should stop. You shouldn’t desecrate the dead. You should allow them to return and be reincarnated as they should be.”
Heinz spoke what was common knowledge in Lambda, which applied to ordinary Undead. However, it was unlikely that he would change his way of thinking even if Vandalieu explained that he could tame Undead, and that they were not like the ordinary Undead that this knowledge applied to.
The strong determination in his voice told Vandalieu that.
“I see,” Vandalieu said. “Is there anything else you would like to ask?”
Heinz’s response was exactly as he had expected, so he did not feel any particular interest or feelings of opposition towards it.
“I have a question,” said Diana. “Do you know who the ‘Holy Mother’ might be?”
“That’s probably my mother,” Vandalieu replied. “Why do you ask?”
“You call your own mother the ‘Holy Mother’… What in the world are you even doing now? And on what basis did your mother become the ‘Holy Mother?’”
Diana was responding with more questions rather than answering Vandalieu’s; he considered whether he should continue answering.
Though this was an important conversation, he was hesitant to reveal everything about Darcia. The fact that she had been resurrected was particularly likely to conflict with Heinz’s idea that the dead should be reincarnated and so forth. Vandalieu had no intention of humoring Heinz, but it would also be problematic if Heinz were to simply end the conversation out of anger.
And once they learned that Darcia had been resurrected, it was possible that Heinz and his companions would respond with, “If she has come back to life, you have no reason to hate us anymore.” That would also be problematic.
Because if that happened, Vandalieu would likely be overcome with rage and end the conversation himself.
“Have you at least figured out that I escaped from the Mirg shield-nation into the Boundary Mountain Range? I rebuilt the ruined nation of Talosheim there. I am now its emperor. That’s why my mother is the ‘Holy Mother,’” Vandalieu said finally. “Leaving that aside, can I ask you something?” he said, very obviously trying to change the subject.
“Before that, I want to ask you one more thing, too! That ‘Demon King’ thing… Are you really the ‘second coming of the Demon King’ in Alda’s Divine Message?” asked Edgar.
Vandalieu had appeared before the Five-colored Blades in this Dungeon, a trial set by the gods, and the other copies had referred to him as the Demon King. There was almost no question at this point, but it seemed that Edgar wanted to hear it from Vandalieu himself.
“… It seems that Alda and his followers call me that. I do use the Demon King’s fragments without any side-effects, after all,” said Vandalieu, giving a rough answer to Edgar’s question. “But I have a question for you as well. You call yourselves a part of the peaceful faction, but is that really true? You seemed quite merciless when you were fighting just a while ago, even if your enemies were fakes.”
Perhaps failing to understand the motive behind asking this question, Heinz contemplated for a few moments before answering. “In this Dungeon, a god’s power creates perfect copies of enemies. We’ve gone through sixty-five floors of this Dungeon, so we’ve become accustomed to defeating these copies. Talking to the copies isn’t of any use. Whether the enemies are human or Vampires, we have no choice but to defeat them,” he said.
“I see. Then does that mean you haven’t killed any Ghouls or Majin outside this Dungeon?” asked Vandalieu, continuing his questioning.
Diana and Jennifer were puzzled by this question. Though the Majin were a race created by Vida, they were considered to be evil, no different from monsters. But Ghouls? Was Vandalieu trying to say that they were also one of Vida’s races?
But Heinz wasn’t surprised; he gave an understanding nod. “… Judging from that question, I assume that Ghouls are one of the races created by Vida after all,” he said.
“Heinz, what are you talking about? The Adventurers’ Guild, the Mages’ Guild and the Church all tell us that Ghouls are mutated Undead!” Jennifer exclaimed.
“Calm down, Jennifer. Think about it. There’s no way that Undead could have children, is there?” said Delizah.
Indeed, ordinary Undead could not reproduce and have children. That was obvious, as they were mere corpses and spirits.
But society considered Ghouls to be monsters – mutated Undead that were capable of bearing children.
They could also be tamed, and tamed Ghouls could acquire Jobs.
Acquiring Jobs was only capable for beings that were not monsters, and if they were not humans, Dwarves or Elves, that meant that they had to be a race created by Vida.
If anyone were to think about it rationally, they would realize that Ghouls were created by Vida. But Jennifer and Diana had never doubted the commonly-believed knowledge that they had been taught, that Ghouls were special Undead that were capable of reproducing and acquiring Jobs. They had never even thought about questioning it.
“No way! Then that means we have been… We have been calling ourselves members of the peaceful faction while slaying members of a race created by Vida?!” Diana cried out in shock.
“That’s right, Diana. But even so, we are a part of Alda’s peaceful faction,” said Heinz, maintaining a composure that contrasted with the shaken Jennifer and Delizah. “We belong to Alda’s peaceful faction,” he said, directing these words to Vandalieu with strong determination in his eyes. “We will continue to cooperate with Vida’s believers and Vida’s races. But that does not mean that we will be friendly towards Vida’s races without condition. We are adventurers; we are humans; we worship the gods. We will not forgive anyone who commits crimes and attacks people, whether they are human or of a race created by Vida,” he declared.
“… Kid, we’ve wiped out plenty of Ghoul settlements, defeated Majin, and gave their remains to the Guild as proof of getting rid of them for money. We did that because they were attacking humans, so there were requests to dispose of them,” said Edgar. “Is that so wrong of us?”
Heinz and his companions were adventurers who had chosen to live in human society. Thus, it was only natural for them to protect the law and order of that society.
If Vida’s races attacked humans, they would be exterminated, just like human bandits.
“No, it probably isn’t,” said Vandalieu.
He did not object to that at all. It wasn’t as if he wished to discriminate against and oppress all races other than the ones created by Vida. He had no intention of protesting on the behalf of Ghouls that were killed because they attacked adventurer parties or travelling merchants.
“But you did gather evidence that every single Ghoul in those settlements that you wiped out was guilty of harming humans, didn’t you? I’m sure you wouldn’t do anything like raiding them without warning and slaughtering them all,” said Vandalieu. “Even if they were all criminals, you at least protected the babies and children who lived in the settlements? And when adventurers tried to attack Ghouls to harvest materials or sell them as slaves but were killed instead, you never put the blame on the Ghouls, did you?”
Jennifer, who had been on the verge of regaining her composure, froze. It seemed that she was remembering something.
The Guild recommended that when adventurers were exterminating groups of monsters, they should have no mercy and slay every single one including not only the young, but the pregnant as well. It was likely that Heinz and his companions had come this far doing exactly that.
“In the incidents with the Majin, you did investigate the situation and considered the possibility that it was the humans who were at fault, didn’t you?” Vandalieu continued. “You did try reasoning with the Majin? I’m sure you didn’t decide to exterminate them all the moment you discovered their settlements and slaughter them before they could do anything, right?”
Diana opened her mouth to speak, couldn’t find a response to give, and closed it again. After repeating this a few times, she finally looked away in defeat.
Even in the Orbaume Kingdom, the Majin were considered to be dangerous monsters. The Adventurers’ Guild often received requests for them to be exterminated immediately after their presence was discovered, even if they had not caused any harm.
It seemed that Heinz and his companions had accepted such requests in the past.
Well, Vandalieu did not intend to condemn them so harshly for this. He hadn’t been able to save all of the Ghouls and Majin in the Orbaume Kingdom either, after all.
“Heinz, you must have passed through the Sauron Duchy when you and your two companions at the time snuck into the Orbaume Kingdom illegally. Did you know that the Scylla there were being imprisoned inside their own territory and being treated unjustly? When you were in the Hartner Duchy, did you know that there were Titans who had evacuated to the duchy from Talosheim two hundred years ago, forced into slave labor for crimes they did not commit?” Vandalieu asked. “And as part of Alda’s peaceful faction… What specifically have you actually accomplished after using my mother’s death as a tale to move the masses?”
This was something that Vandalieu did intend to condemn them for. Unlike the Ghouls and Majin that Heinz and his companions had killed, these were examples of Vida’s races who had been treated with injustice and discrimination despite having committed no crimes. Heinz’s party praised Alda’s peaceful faction, were already prominent adventurers at the time, and had utilized Darcia to increase their own fame. Shouldn’t they have done something about these?
Vandalieu would not accept the excuse that they were only “just adventurers.”
Ah, this is bad. I’ve started talking quickly. This is a precious opportunity for conversation, so I need to speak as slowly as possible without sounding unnatural. They’ve gone silent, too, Vandalieu thought rapidly. But it seems that things will go well in just a little longer. I need to put a more primitive version of myself outside my body –
“… Is that why you created a vortex of chaos in the Hartner Duchy and occupied the Scylla territory of the Sauron Duchy with Undead forces? For the spirits of the Titan slaves and the Scylla race?” Heinz asked quietly, finally speaking after his long silence.
But this was not an answer to Vandalieu’s questions.
“I question your responding to questions with your own questions, but that’s right,” said Vandalieu.
“Do you understand what you’ve done?!” Heinz demanded.
“… I think I do.”
“No, you don’t!”
“… Is that so.”
Heinz raised a clenched fist in Vandalieu’s direction. “What you’ve done certainly was for the sake of Vida’s races! You freed the slaves and the Scylla. The Hartner and Sauron families paid dearly for what they did. I’m sure you’re feeling great about yourself! But do you know just how many people were caught up in all of this?!” he shouted fervently.
Heinz continued on to describe what had happened in the two duchies since then.
The tilted castle in the Hartner Duchy had required large-scale repair work. The duchy’s income had decreased due to the slave mine being destroyed. On top of that, a new fort had been constructed to the south of the city of Niarki. A large tax increase had been imposed upon the duchy’s citizens in order to compensate for these expenses.
In the Sauron Duchy, frequent attempts to reclaim the former Scylla territory had produced many casualties and great military expenditures, and there had been an incident in which the inhabitants of the nearby villages went missing, perhaps having fallen victim to these events as well.
But all of these were things that Vandalieu already knew of.
The super-small Dungeons that I created in the Hartner Duchy have unexpectedly become a source of income for the villages, and I supported them quite a bit with the earth statues of Vida. As for the incident of people disappearing from the Sauron Duchy, all that happened was that they moved to our country, Vandalieu thought.
But he couldn’t tell Heinz about the fact that he could create Dungeons or discuss internal matters of his own nation, so he remained silent.
“What you’ve done has only deepened the conflict between humans and Vida’s races! At this rate, there will be a catastrophe… war will eventually break out between humans and Vida’s races! Don’t you understand that?!” Heinz shouted.
“I do understand that,” said Vandalieu. “I’ve already declared war upon the Amid Empire, after all. As for the Orbaume Kingdom… I don’t really want to fight a war with them. I would avoid that if I could, but if that’s what it comes to, it can’t be helped.”
Heinz froze, bewildered by the fact that Vandalieu had confirmed the possibility of war so casually.
“Wait,” said Diana. “It will be a war not between nations, but between races. Are you unable to imagine just how great a tragedy this will be?”
“I can, but… are you saying that this is why I should do my best to avoid harming the side that has been exploiting and oppressing others unjustly, that I should have mercy on them? Are you saying that I should forget what the Hartner and Sauron families have done and let all be forgiven?” asked Vandalieu.
“You might be right, but there’s such a thing as going too far!” Edgar exclaimed. “Do you intend to make the entire continent your enemy in addition to the Amid Empire?!”
“If I cannot avoid it no matter what, then I believe it can’t be helped,” Vandalieu said in a matter-of-fact tone. “In any case, Alda is fully intent on causing conflict between the races. According to Farmaun, Alda’s ideal is to return the world to the state it was in before the Demon King Guduranis appeared, where monsters or the Devil’s Nests and Dungeons that spawn them didn’t exist.”
“Everyone knows that. The Church teaches you that while you’re still learning to read and write. The extremists even tell you that the Beast-people, Titans and Dark Elves should all be slaughtered,” said Jennifer. “But that’s what our peaceful faction is trying to… wait,” she said, suddenly stopping mid-sentence. “Did you say Farmaun? Are you telling me you received a Divine Message from the god Farmaun?!”
“No, I met him directly. Farmaun is currently with Zantark,” said Vandalieu.
“Y-you had an encounter with a god?! And he’s with the fallen great god Zantark? What do you mean – ?!” Jennifer began, but she froze before she could get her next words out.
Right before her very eyes, Vandalieu’s arms were covered by a strange mass of flesh.
The flesh had hard tumors, eyeballs, mouths and some kind of tubes growing on its surface haphazardly, and it was pulsating ominously.
“W-what the hell is that?!” Jennifer shouted.
“To tell you the truth, I’m just as surprised as you are by this appearance… Well, I don’t need to buy any more time, so shall we start killing each other?” said Vandalieu.
“… So, this conversation was just to buy time after all. You have no intention of discussing this with us…!” Heinz muttered, his brow furrowed in a deep frown.
The grotesque flesh wrapping around Vandalieu’s arms spread over his entire body.
“I have gained something out of this. You people and your peaceful faction stand on the humans’ side, and I stand on the side of Vida’s races and the Undead. Thanks to our conversation, it’s become easier to understand,” said Vandalieu.
In conclusion, Alda’s peaceful faction would be of no use in helping Vida’s races acquire the same rights that humans enjoyed, especially the races that possessed Ranks.
If things were left to them, Vida’s races would merely exist around a human-centric social order, receiving only enough assistance so that they would not become a hindrance.
Even so, it was probably for the better that the peaceful faction existed at all, but… it was not of enough value for Vandalieu to give up on destroying Heinz, its leader.
“… You intended for us to fight to the death from the very beginning, and while we were fighting the other fake copies, you were testing your body’s condition. But what in the world is that body?!” Heinz demanded.
“This is my own soul, materialized into physical form. It is not a spirit; it is the most primitive form of my existence,” said Vandalieu, who was now the size of a grown man, completely covered in the grotesque flesh including even his face. “Last time, you faced a fake body and a fake mind… but this time, I will destroy you three with my real soul!”
And with that, Vandalieu took a nimble step forward and threw himself towards Heinz.
《Unarmed Fighting Technique has awakened into Soul Destruction Fighting Technique!》
- Name: Heinz
- Race: Human
- Age: 28 years old
- Title: Blue-flamed Sword, New Vampire Hunter, Sword Saint, One who tears through the darkness, Holy Mother Killer (NEW!)
- Job: Undead Slayer
- Level: 20
- Job history: Apprentice Warrior, Warrior, Swordsman, Magic Swordsman, Magic Warrior, Holy Warrior, Avenger, Sword Saint, Holy Guider, Sealing Magic Swordsman, Holy Sword User, Immortality Slayer, Light-Life Mage
- Vitality: 86,800 (Increased by 8,000!)
- Mana: 56,223 + 11,244 (Increased by 15,220!)
- Strength: 10,800 (Increased by 1,350!)
- Agility: 14,509 (Increased by 1,980!)
- Stamina: 14,960 (Increased by 1,285!)
- Intelligence: 9,962 (Increased by 2,165!)
- Passive skills:
- Augmented All Attribute Values: Large (LEVEL UP!)
- Status Effect Resistance: Level 9
- All Attributes Resistance: Level 10 (LEVEL UP!)
- Strengthened Attack Power while equipped with a sword: Very large
- Mana Cost Reduction: Level 10
- Detect Presence: Level 8 (LEVEL UP!)
- Strengthened Attribute Values while equipped with metal armor: Very large
- Guidance: Holy Path: Level 5
- Mana Enlargement: Level 2 (LEVEL UP!)
- Active skills:
- Radiant God Swordsmanship: Level 8 (LEVEL UP!)
- Holy Light Armor Technique: Level 5
- Transcend Limits: Level 10
- Transcend Limits – Holy Sword: Level 2 (LEVEL UP!)
- Coordination: Level 10
- Light-Attribute Magic: Level 10 (LEVEL UP!)
- Life-Attribute Magic: Level 10 (LEVEL UP!)
- No-Attribute Magic: Level 2
- Mana Control: Level 9
- Clergyman: Level 6
- Heroic Spirit Descent: Level 3 (LEVEL UP!)
- Etiquette: Level 4
- Transcend Limits – Holy Armor: Level 5 (LEVEL UP!)
- Chant Revocation: Level 1 (NEW!)
- Unique skills:
- Non-living Killer: Level 1
- Alda’s Divine Protection: Great Hero’s Destiny
- Evil Suppression: Level 6