Sponsored by: Fraser B. ($50), Michael M. ($100)
The following is an account of the events that took place several days after Vandalieu attacked the base of the ‘Hyena’ Gozoroff.
Emma tried to swallow her own saliva in an attempt to moisten her parched throat even a little, but it was a meaningless effort, as the inside of her mouth was completely dry as well.
She was standing in line, and there was a handsome young boy in front of her with pale skin and crimson eyes.
“So you are the new residents… Very well. I, Erpel, the Pure-breed Vampire who is in charge of this place, shall teach you the rules,” the boy said in a self-important tone.
But nobody present, including Emma, found the boy’s arrogance unpleasant. Though the boy was so thin that he looked as if he had never done any work on a farm in his life, he was indeed a Pure-breed Vampire.
Emma had seen Goblins and Horned Rabbits before. But Pure-breed Vampires were like beings from another dimension in comparison to the monsters she knew.
They were almost entirely immortal, possessed unlimited Mana, and were capable of crushing steel armor as if it were made of paper. They were monsters who had been living since the age of the gods, and none could hope to cross swords with them except legendary heroes.
That was what Emma and the others around her had heard from priests’ teachings and the songs of minstrels.
“Listen. I will teach you as many times as needed, but listen carefully… First of all, you wake up at 6 o’clock, and lights are out at 10. You need to gather in the dining hall for breakfast at 7, so make sure to get dressed and tidy your rooms before then. Dinner is from 6 until 8, and the large baths may be used from 8 until 9. Eat lunch at your schools and workplace experience destinations… You will be punished for sneaking food, using baths outside the designated times and staying up late,” said Erpel, explaining the rules of the lodging house that Emma and the others would be staying at from now on.
“U-umm, where can we check the time?” someone asked meekly.
“Look at the clock. And the bell here rings every three hours from 6 in the morning until 9 at night. Pay attention to the bell… Just to be sure, you can read numbers, can’t you?” Erpel asked the group.
“Y-yes. There might be some small children who can’t, though,” someone replied.
Seemingly satisfied with this response, Erpel pointed to the building behind him… the building that Emma and the others would be living in for a while.
“You lot will refrain from shouting at night, breaking the furniture in your rooms, sleeping in rooms other than your own, and drinking in your rooms. You will live orderly lives… so long as my eyes are black!” Erpel declared.
TLN: “While my eyes are black” is a phrase in Japanese that is equivalent to the English phrase “while I still live.” Makes sense, since Japanese people have black eyes.
“Eh, your eyes are red, aren’t they?” a child pointed out.
“That’s not what ‘while my eyes are black’ means! You’ll start school tomorrow, so maybe you’ll learn things like that while you’re there!” Erpel shouted angrily at the child.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” a parent of the child apologized hastily. “Please, have mercy!”
Erpel exhaled. “It matters not. Ever since the age of the gods, it has been known that children are lively and brazen creatures. And that child’s words are a sign that he is paying attention to me and my words,” he sighed. “Woods, I shall give you this,” he said, calling out the child’s name and taking out an object wrapped in a large leaf from inside his overcoat.
As the child and his parents trembled, Erpel pinched the leaf-wrapped object.
“It is a dried potato that I made myself. It’s very sweet, you know? It’s not just for Woods. You should give a slice to everyone. I’ll also hand out the keys to your rooms. Each household is responsible for their own key. Be careful not to lose them,” said Erpel.
“Yay, dried potato!” the child cried.
“Wait, line up with your families! And don’t just take your keys! Take the dried potato as well!” Erpel shouted.
“Eh? I’m an adult. Do I get some as well?” Emma asked.
“What did you say?! Are you saying that you won’t eat my dried potato…? M-maybe dried apricots would have been better?” Erpel asked dejectedly.
“N-no! I’m very grateful!” Emma said hastily.
And so, Emma received the key to her room and some dried potato.
After Vandalieu rescued the slaves and the people who had been captured to be sold as slaves, he decided that he would allow them to immigrate to Talosheim if they wished to.
However, every single one of the people he had rescued had desired to move to Talosheim. This was because when the subordinates of the ‘Hyena’ Gozoroff attacked their villages, kidnapped the inhabitants and looted their valuables, they had also set fire to their houses and fields.
They had done this to break any desire that the captured villagers had to escape, but as a result, the villagers had lost their homes and the fields that had provided them sustenance to live. Of course, Vandalieu had given the villagers back some of the things that Gozoroff had taken from them, but… these people had been inhabitants of a small village; they had never been wealthy in the first place.
Thus, they would have been as good as dead by spring if they hadn’t immigrated to Talosheim. Even if they were fortunate enough to have survived, they had been in such a dire situation that they would have been working desperately to pay off this year’s taxes. If they failed to do this, they would have become slaves again in the end anyway.
But that didn’t mean that Emma and the others would be taken to Talosheim and then let free. Vandalieu had expected that this would happen; he had built an accommodation facility for them to live in for a while as they became accustomed to Talosheim so that the children could attend schools, the workers to undergo workplace experiences and the rest, depending on their age, would undergo training.
The teacher at the first school that Emma had ever attended was… someone who seemed more suited to working new soldiers in an army than teaching academic knowledge.
“My name is Gopher. I’m a slave who was rescued by His Majesty Vandalieu a few years before you people. I’ve already graduated from this school before, so I suppose that makes me your senpai in two different ways,” said an older-sisterly person with a lively, bright tone of voice.
But she was over two meters tall, and her muscular bicep was thicker than Emma’s thigh.
“A-are you supposed to be teaching us?” one of the students asked, overwhelmed by Gopher’s presence.
This classroom was filled with adults; the children had been gathered into a different classroom. The curriculum for both was the same, but it seemed that they had been separated so that the adults would not have to make efforts to put on airs in front of the children or have their pride wounded because children learned more quickly.
“Oh, does it make you uncomfortable that I’m your teacher?” said Gopher with a wide grin.
She turned around to write a numerical formula on the blackboard behind her, which Emma had failed to notice before.
“Now then, can anyone answer this question?” she asked.
The question on the blackboard was a three-digit division problem. It wasn’t a particularly difficult one, but… none of the students, including Emma, were able to immediately answer.
“Well then, can anyone read this?” asked Gopher, writing “Surpass Limits” on the blackboard in four kanji characters.
But nobody could answer this question, either.
The Status System in Lambda meant that everyone could read numbers; the literacy rate for numbers was higher even than Earth.
However, it was not uncommon for the inhabitants of small farming villages to only be able to read hiragana and katakana, having never learned to read numbers at all.
Emma and the other students had been raised in such a small farming village; none of them had done any kind of studying except for the village chief and his family, who had needed to be able to calculate taxes and write documents.
“It seems that none of you know the answer. But it’s alright. I wasn’t particularly smart either, but I learned. If you guys study seriously, you’ll be able to solve these in a year or two. You can earn more money if you can do paperwork, you know,” said Gopher, grinning widely again.
The adults murmured amongst themselves, thinking that if Gopher could do it, so could they.
… In half a year’s time, they would learn that Gopher-Sensei had been the only daughter of the ‘Sword King’ Borkus and received an ordinary education as a child, and had merely re-learnt that knowledge at school.
However, by then, everyone had learned to read and perform calculations to some extent, so they never suffered any loss of motivation to learn.
On the way back from her first day at school, Emma stopped at the sight of Gopher, who was surrounded by people that were between the age of ten and Emma’s own age.
“Gopher-Sensei is popular, I suppose,” Emma murmured to herself as she observed for a while.
“Sensei, I’m already big enough!” one of the children cried.
“Me too! Beast-people become about as big as adults once they’re ten, after all!” said another.
“Hey, I’m small, but I’m a Dwarf, so I’m actually an adult already…” said a third.
From the words that Emma could hear, for a moment, she thought that Gopher was being approached by a group of girls that were far younger than her.
“That’s why we want to become Undead!” one of the girls cried.
“You girls, why do you want to become Undead when you’re still alive?! Even His Majesty told you to stop!” Gopher said, scolding them.
… They weren’t approaching her in a sexual way, but in a way that involved their lives.
TLN: “sexual way” and “a way that involved their lives” is 性的 and 生的, which are both pronounced “seiteki” in Japanese.
“We want to be a great Undead like Borkus-sama!” one of the girls said.
“Please, introduce him to us!” said another.
“Please, stop this! There’s no point in me introducing my father to you!” said Gopher.
“Umm, Gopher-Sensei, what’s going on?” Emma asked tentatively.
Gopher pressed a hand to her forehead in exasperation. “You lot have been making so much noise around here that these kids who immigrated a while ago have come to see. What am I supposed to do when they’ve made such a big misunderstanding?” she sighed. “Ah, but you don’t need to worry about it. In a way, these children are my classmates.”
The girls surrounding Gopher were the former slaves that Vandalieu had rescued from the slave mine in the Hartner Duchy along with Gopher.
There was a demand for small children in mines to be used to dig in narrow tunnels. There was not much demand for slaves that were small children in other places. That was why many boys, and girls who were of an age where they could not be used in prostitution, were sent to slave mines.
They were companions who had been exposed to harsh physical labor that killed at least one of them daily. Each day could be the last for any of them. Living in such an environment, their eyes had lost the light of hope… and then they had been fortunate enough to be rescued by Vandalieu.
As a result, they had become adherents of Vandalieu, fanatical to the point of being somewhat troublesome.
“So, you want to become Undead?” said Emma.
“Yes, we want to become Undead, increase our Rank and become useful to that person,” one of the girls said.
“We wish to become great Undead like Rita-san and Saria-san,” said another.
The girls’ eyes… They looked somewhat dull, but at the same time, they were shining.
“… I think you can become a maid without becoming an Undead. At the very least, there is the option of becoming a Ghoul, Vampire or a member of another of Vida’s races. Even though you are a Beast-person,” said Gopher.
“Zadiris-sama rejected us. She said that we should wait a little, at least until we’re about twenty years old…” said one of the girls.
“She said that we’re going to feel pain in our small chests… I know that she’s saying that out of concern for us, but we can’t wait for years!” said another.
It seemed that they had consulted Zadiris already.
“Zadiris’s advice is correct. The Vampires would probably tell you the same,” said Gopher. “It’s true that His Majesty the Emperor rescued us, but that doesn’t mean he expects us to offer our lives to him. That’s especially true for you children. The Emperor himself said that he’d be happy if you just grew up healthy and sound in this country, didn’t he?”
“That’s true, but… we want to do something!” one of the girls exclaimed.
“I can’t tell if this is merely youth speaking or if it’s a disease that infects young teenagers… Ah, if you don’t get home soon, the manager of this place will get worried and come to get you. You’ll get a spanking if you stay past curfew, so hurry along,” Gopher told the girls.
Erpel apparently handed out spanking punishments. Perhaps because he had lived for over a hundred thousand years, all mortals seemed like small children to him.
“W-we’re going home right now! Thank you!” said Emma, hastily returning to the lodging house, as she would find such a punishment embarrassing at her age. “… An Undead, huh,” she murmured to herself quietly.
Around three days after her immigration to Talosheim, Emma was spending some time alone in her room before it was time to sleep.
“… What should I do?” she whispered to herself.
Things had changed drastically in the past few days.
Emma’s room was large enough for her to live in by herself, and her furniture was extravagant enough for her to wonder if she had suddenly become a noble.
A bed so soft that it couldn’t be compared to straw, lighting powered by a Magic Item that was activated when the word “light” was spoken, a closet filled with five sets of winter clothes dyed in colors that Emma had never seen before in her village.
On top of that, she had a heating unit. She didn’t know how it worked, but apparently it had hot water running through its metal pipes, keeping her room warm for the winter.
This place was a considerable distance south of where Emma had lived before, but it was still cold, so she was very thankful for this… though if she’d had one of these heating units in her village, she wouldn’t have had to go through the trouble of gathering firewood.
She was also provided with three meals a day, and they were all delicious. Even the soup had something called ‘dashi’ in it, which made it very tasty.
She had no complaints about how she was being treated. In fact, she was even starting to feel apologetic. After all, she hadn’t done anything. She had simply been attacked, watched her parents die, been loaded into a carriage and then been rescued from there. That was all.
“… I was sure I would be made to do servant work or some kind of harsh labor,” she murmured.
With nowhere to go, Emma had received Vandalieu’s offer of migrating to Talosheim, a nation that she had never heard of before. She had assumed that he wanted workers for his country.
She had been prepared to be forced to work the very next day and be handed over to some unmarried man… It wasn’t because she thought that Vandalieu and his companions were bad people. She had simply assumed that such treatment would be normal.
The concept of ‘human rights’ was a weak one in this world. It wasn’t that they didn’t exist entirely, but they had never been documented properly, and they might as well have been non-existent compared to human rights on Earth.
That was why even when illegal slaves were rescued from bandits or slave trading organizations, they could not hope to receive further help in addition to being freed.
Perhaps if they had been kidnapped from a nearby city or village, and that city or village was still intact, they would be taken back home. Perhaps they would receive medical care for any wounds that they had, and receive a few days’ protection.
But in most cases, that was about it. There were almost no cases in which the rescuer would offer long-term protection for someone unrelated to themselves like Emma, and help them become employed.
There were plenty of cases in which illegal slaves were rescued from that fate, but ended up as legal slaves anyway as a result of having no relatives or belongings and being unable to find work.
That was still a more pleasant fate than some; in a country that had been destroyed long ago, the law had allowed the feudal lord to seize the slaves as they had been ‘assets’ belonging to criminals.
That was why Emma was bewildered and felt discomfort at her current situation. This nation was certainly strange. Monsters and Undead walked around every day as if it were perfectly ordinary, behaving like humans. There were many with human appearances like Erpel, the manager of the lodging house, but there were also many Undead that were clearly not living, like Skeletons and Liches. Emma had occasionally spotted black insects the size of adult people and floating eyeballs.
Many of the former slaves were still unaccustomed to seeing such creatures, but Emma had stopped being surprised at the sight of Skeletons. That was why she thought that this nation would be like paradise once she became used to the other strange inhabitants.
“It’s not like I can keep eating without working, but I think it’s a far more blessed life than I would have lived in the village if nothing had happened… Is this really okay for someone like me? It’s not like I’ve done anything to deserve this,” Emma murmured to herself.
Two days later, these doubts of hers became certain thoughts when she was reunited with her parents.
“Oooh… Emmaaaa…” whispered Emma’s father.
“You’re safe. I’m so glad,” said her mother.
“Dad? M-Mom?” Emma gasped.
To Emma’s parents, Emma was their only daughter, the child that had finally been born after many efforts to have children… In other words, they had already been fairly old when their village was attacked. The slave traders had deemed them as being of no commercial value, so they had been killed.
Vandalieu had gone to the site of the attacked village and gathered the remaining spirits there including those of Emma’s parents.
“Please discuss with your families about whether you should return to the cycle of death and rebirth as normal, or become an Undead, or become pseudo-reincarnated as monsters. Becoming an Undead is the best way to preserve your personality. Pseudo-reincarnation may result in the loss of all memories in some cases,” explained the nearby pseudo-main-body-type Demon King Familiar.
Emma, who had never expected to see her parents again, was overjoyed to be reunited with them.
And it was at this moment that she made her decision.
On the first floor of the royal castle, Luciliano addressed a group of girls whom he had barely ever seen before.
“It has been a while, but I am glad that you look well. As someone who was your comrade in slavery, it makes me very happy,” he said.
“Yes, it has been a while, Luciliano-san,” one of the girls replied.
It was likely that most of the girls didn’t remember Luciliano either. Despite the words spoken, the girls did not seem particularly nostalgic to see him.
Luciliano had become caught up in a conflict within a noble family, charged with false crimes and sent to the slave mine. These girls were the former slaves that had been there with him.
However, as he had been in different cells from them, he wasn’t very familiar with them.
Even after Vandalieu rescued them, Luciliano had become his apprentice and had spent much of his time in the royal castle… almost living in the underground workshop. Thus, he had never interacted with these girls.
Luciliano was self-aware enough to know that he was a very eccentric person even in Talosheim, so he had been somewhat avoiding such interaction.
“I’ve heard the story from Gopher. You have finally managed to make her complain enough to drag me out of the workshop so spectacularly… but I do have to question your idea of becoming Undead. I highly recommend choosing a different path,” Luciliano said to the girls.
“No way…” one of the girls whispered, clearly shocked and dejected. “Don’t try to trick us by talking as if you’re a normal person!”
“I may be an eccentric individual, but it would be a terrible misunderstanding to assume that all of my words and actions are that of an airhead,” Luciliano said.
His basic personality was that of a mad-scientist-type person. He could behave like a serious human being when necessary, but the truth was that he felt no hesitation in performing human experiments on subjects like bandits. Furthermore, he was more interested in Undead than living humans.
Never once in his life had he ever tried to peek at a woman’s naked body, but he was a staunch oddball who had attempted to peek at Vandalieu performing surgery on the Titan heroes Zandia and Jeena in order to see their skin and, most importantly, their innards.
However, he did possess enough sense to stop these living girls from becoming Undead.
“As an expert in the matter, I will tell you this. If you wish to become strong Undead, you must have strong feelings of hatred and lingering regrets. There are minimal records of people becoming Undead because they wanted to, as you are trying to do… However, other than some cases of mages becoming High Liches and Elder Liches as a result of their research, every other attempt has ended in failure, the result being a mere moving corpse, a Rank 1 Living Dead,” Luciliano said sternly. “None of you wish for that, do you?”
“That’s… but…” the girl muttered, faltering.
The girls were shaken by Luciliano’s explanation.
“In any case, if you were planning to become Undead and then attain higher Ranks, I believe that training diligently while you are still alive would have the same effect,” Luciliano continued. “It may seem that Undead develop more quickly, but I do not think you should underestimate the power of the living.”
“You may be right,” said the girl who was representing the group, seeing some sense in Luciliano’s words.
But she raised her face to continue speaking.
“You may be right, but I think that we can become closer to that person by becoming other races, rather than staying as humans and Dwarves,” she said.
“I’m a Beast-person, but I agree with her,” piped up another girl.
Luciliano let out a small groan and frowned, knowing that the girls were right. “They are surprisingly aware of the true nature of Master’s guidance… What clever, troublesome children.”
Nobody had explained Vandalieu’s guidance to the girls, but they had instinctively understood its true nature.
Vandalieu’s guidance was the Dark Demon Creation Path… It did guide humans, but it had a greater effect on monsters than humans, and had more of an effect on Undead and monsters that were close to death. There was no doubt about this; after all, it was enough to make even basic Undead discard their hatred towards the living and their desire for their flesh.
Still, they are the only ones who wish to go as far as to change race just to be guided to a greater extent. Perhaps it is because they were charmed while they were essentially living corpses, and now they are healthy, living people, the guidance has grown weaker than before? Luciliano wondered, giving up on the hope of talking the girls out of their idea.
If his conjecture was correct, it would be impossible to convince the girls using logic.
In fact, if he were to refuse them too much, it was possible that they would commit suicide in the near future, or try to attack Noble-born Vampires and steal their blood in an attempt to become Vampires.
But what he found strange was –
“I understand you girls… or rather, I have given up on trying to talk you out of this,” Luciliano told the girls. “But why are you here?” he asked, looking in a different direction.
What Luciliano found strange was that Emma was among these girls.
“If I recall, you are a new face around here,” he said.
“Because I want to become stronger,” Emma replied.
“… I have already asked these girls, but what is wrong with ordinary methods of becoming stronger? I think you will become able to go through the mandatory citizen soldier training in about a month,” said Luciliano.
Talosheim had mandatory citizen soldier training… a system to ensure that every citizen possessed the combat strength to defeat an average soldier from other nations.
The citizens trained with crossbows and spears while wearing Living Armors in order to acquire Level 2 in Skills such as Archery and Spear Technique.
“I’ve heard about that. But that isn’t enough. After all… I really haven’t done anything! Even when I was riding in that carriage and a girl was about to be killed in front of me, I just watched… I was so scared that I couldn’t move!” said Emma.
Emma had been one of the passengers in the carriage that Vandalieu had snuck into. She had been present when Vandalieu had saved a young girl in that carriage.
A boy who looked weaker than Emma had saved that little girl… by extending his tongue to pierce the ears of the scoundrel who had been about to kill her, destroying part of his brain and taking over his body… but he had indeed saved her.
Meanwhile, Emma had made no effort to stop the scoundrel like the girl’s brother had; she had cowered and tried to make herself as small as possible so that she would not become the scoundrel’s next target.
Powerless and cowering, she had been rescued, and her parents had been brought back as Undead, though they were unable to speak as clearly as before. Emma could not accept that she was being treated with such hospitality despite that.
“… I think you would be doing fine just being grateful. I think respectable believers of Alda would be enraged or become overcome with grief if their parents were turned into Undead,” Luciliano pointed out.
“Really?” said Emma. “My village only had a small shrine to Botin-sama, so…”
“I think even Botin’s teachings preach that the dead should return to the earth… and the living normally have an instinct to fear the presence of Undead,” said Luciliano. “In any case, I think you are overthinking things. Master rescues people for his own reasons.”
As far as Luciliano could tell, Vandalieu rescued people for two reasons. One was for the sake of his allies. There were cases in which relatives or acquaintances of those he considered allies needed to be rescued, but there were others who were completely unrelated but Vandalieu saved anyway because he knew that his allies would be happy about it.
This was a very broad category. After all, there were even gods that Vandalieu considered to be his allies.
He rescued the weak that he came across as long as they would not cause him great burden, as doing this would bring joy to Vida, the goddess of life and love. In that regard, Vandalieu was essentially a philanthropist.
The other reason that Vandalieu rescued people was for his own sake. It wasn’t that he was doing this in order to gain something that would be of practical benefit from those he rescued. It was something that he did in order to maintain his own humanity and his mind’s balance… in order to remain a person.
This sentimental aspect of Vandalieu could not be taken lightly. If Vandalieu had been a pitiless person who did not give others a second glance, who actively sought to kill the believers of the gods belonging to Alda’s forces and the citizens of the Amid Empire, it was possible that he would not be as strong as he was now – or that he would not even be alive right now.
After being born as Darcia’s son, if he had never saved the Ghouls after encountering Zadiris and the rest of her village, if he had used Bone Man and his other creations as disposable pawns, if he had merely commanded the Undead Titans without restoring the nation of Talosheim… if he had never reached a hand out to the other members of Vida’s races.
If none of these things had happened, it was unlikely that Alda’s forces would have viewed him as the next Demon King, but perhaps he would never have ventured beneath the Hartner Duchy’s castle to rescue Princess Levia and the other Titan Ghosts where he absorbed a fragment of the Demon King, and perhaps he would not have worked so hard to become stronger and protect his companions, so he may have been killed by one of the reincarnated individuals or the Vampires who worshiped evil gods.
Vandalieu was not strong because he was cruel. He had become strong because even though he was insane, he took pity on others – just as this empire had.
“Master is tolerant of weakness. He may praise bravery shown by those who have no power, but he does not criticize cowardice, does he?” said Luciliano.
“That’s true… but I can’t accept this!” Emma insisted.
“Is that so? I see. This is becoming troublesome, so let’s move on… Fortunately, there is no Demon King Familiar here so Master will not stop you, and I see no problem with there being one more added to the group,” said Luciliano, growing tired of trying to persuade Emma.
From his belongings, he took out a bottle that he had received Vandalieu’s permission to use in the event that he could not talk the girls out of this.
“Is that… alcohol?” Emma asked.
“No, it’s Master’s blood. In its pure form,” said Luciliano.
Emma and the rest of the girls gasped upon hearing what was in the bottle.
“The truth is, my experimental animals all turned into monsters after drinking the Blood Potion made from Master’s blood. I thought that it would have the same effect on humans, so I and one other drank Master’s blood, but… there were no changes in particular other than seeing Master more often in our dreams,” Luciliano explained. “And so, I thought that perhaps there may be different results depending on gender, age, race and physique. If you girls really insist, then please join me in this experiment. But I shall limit this to those who are fifteen and over.”
Luciliano took out cups from his belongings and began pouring the blood into them. The crimson liquid should have had a metallic smell to it, but Emma found it to have a sweet aroma.
“Now then, what will you do?” Luciliano asked the girls. “There is no guarantee that there will be any change even if you drink it, but…”
Several days later, Emma was still a human, but she apparently had a dream in which she was doing work involving polishing fist-sized eyeballs and burying them in lumps of flesh beside her.