One of the Pure-breed Vampires who worshipped Hihiryushukaka, Ternecia, had been defeated by an adventurer.
This was big news that was enough to shake the world.
However, the greatest effect of this news was not on the surface of society, but on a society of individuals who squirmed in the darkness, a society that was difficult to even call an underworld.
The Vampires who worshipped Barurushapeh, the Evil God of Foreign Writings, stirred.
After the Pure-breed Vampire who was their leader was defeated by the Pure-breed Vampires who worshipped Hihiryushukaka, they left the Bahn Gaia continent and had survived up until now by remaining hidden.
However, they had spent a long time gathering strength. Now, they had decided that Ternecia’s death, the disappearance of one of their bitter enemies, was a good opportunity to restore their status.
It would be particularly convenient to establish a position in the Hartner Duchy of the Orbaume Kingdom and a part of the Amid Empire, where an empty space had opened with Ternecia’s death.
But the Five-colored Blades were working in the Orbaume Kingdom, led by the new S-class adventurer Heinz.
With that being the case, the Vampires made moves into Kalahad, a maritime vassal nation of the Amid Empire to its south.
But the Storm of Tyranny, the party led by Schneider, the only S-class adventurer in the western region of the continent, was working there. However, they hadn’t performed any major deeds recently. And the party was led by someone who, despite being an S-class adventurer, was a depraved man who had a weakness for money, alcohol and, most of all, women. The Vampires thought that if they crushed each member individually, they could be victorious.
After finding out that one of the Storm of Tyranny’s members was Zod… the Pure-breed Vampire Zorcodrio, they felt certain that they could win.
Guon, the leader of the Vampires, had heard from his previous master that Zorcodrio had once been defeated in ancient times.
According to that story, Zorcodrio was the man with the least talent in magic and combat among the Pure-breed Vampires.
According to that story, even during the battle between Alda and Vida, Zorcodrio had been the first one to fall at the frontlines.
It was said that there were around a hundred Pure-breed Vampires. With a hundred of them, naturally, some of them would turn out to be failures. Zorcodrio was one of those failures, the weakest Pure-breed Vampire.
Guon decided that this was the case after remembering his former master’s words.
He decided that the first step of ruling the darkness of the Bahn Gaia continent would be to make a casualty of this Pure-breed Vampire, even if he was a failure, in order to show his power and the power of his followers.
The Storm of Tyranny cooperated with Guon’s plans almost too quickly, separating themselves from one another. Guon himself, along with his elite subordinates, surrounded Zorcodrio and attacked.
Several Vampire corpses littered the plain, which lay in waste as if a storm or hurricane had swept through.
“I-impossible. The elite Vampires that I raised myself, i-in a single instant… They were all at least of count status, Rank 10 and above!” Guon shouted. He was standing stock-still in the middle of the plain, simply shuddering at the monster of muscle before him.
Barely a minute ago, there had been a slim, gentleman-like person between the prime of his life and middle-age standing there.
But now there was a monster covered in steel-like muscles.
“Hmm, you are still young, but have your eyes aged too much?” asked Zod, who now looked like a completely different organism, never mind a different person. “I broke the ones you raised in a matter of seconds. Now then, it is your turn next.”
It seemed that Guon still hadn’t accepted reality. “Do not fool yourself! There is no chance that I, Guon-sama, who serves the Evil God of Foreign Writings, would be defeated by one such as you!”
Guon, who had reached the status of Vampire Emperor, used the Chant Revocation skill to cast fire, wind and earth-attribute attacks in rapid succession.
Zod brushed all of these aside with his overwhelming physical strength. He swung his arm swiftly to extinguish the flames, and the blade of air and spear made of minerals simply bounced off his pectoral muscles and abdominal muscles.
“The one who is fooling himself is you, you rotten youngster!”
Zod closed the distance between himself and Guon in a single instant, the ground beneath his feet crushed and broken.
During the moment where the defensive spell that Guon had cast in reflex was broken, he realized the true meaning of his former Pure-breed Vampire master’s words.
Zod had the least talent in magic and combat among the Pure-breed Vampires, but he made up for that with overwhelming physical strength.
During the battle between Alda and Vida, he fought further at the front and more fiercely than anyone else with this physical strength, and after enduring more attacks than anyone else, he was the first to fall.
“Take this! Violent Burst Lightning!”
As Zod began vibrating at such high speeds that his body began to blur, bolts of lightning erupted furiously from him.
Guon’s Mythril armor, which was supposed to withstand even the magic of master mages, was pierced by that lightning and his heart was incinerated. He crumbled and fell, along with his ambitions.
Zod, who was releasing an acrid, ionic-smelling stench, made sure that Guon had stopped moving and then exhaled.
“Fushururu*… Just like the electric eels that inhabit Earth that have lightning coursing through their bodies without using Mana, this was my Muscle Technique’s move that produces lightning with nothing but the vibration of my muscles. This is the power of science that was passed down by Solder, the champion chosen by Peria, the goddess of water and knowledge.”
“No, that’s not completely science,” said Lissana, who was standing there before Zod knew it. “Solder would cry if she heard that; she didn’t deal with macho men well, either.”
“Fuoh?! Lissana-dono, how rude of me,” said Zod, hastily restoring his appearance.
He wore clothes that were Magic Items that could be restored by channeling Mana through them, no matter how badly they were torn, allowing him to return to his true muscular appearance at any time without hesitation.
“What about Schneider-dono and the others?” he asked.
“They’ve already finished and are heading back,” said Lissana. “Unlike your situation, we couldn’t resolve it by just hitting them a few times, so it was a little troublesome, though.”
The Vampires had tried to persuade Schneider with a female slave’s tears. Dolton, the spiritual mage with a mohawk who was concealing the fact that he was a Dark Elf, had been challenged to a drinking contest while the Dwarf dancer Merdin had been challenged to a dancing contest. Lissana had been busy making preparations for their next job with the Guild Master of the Adventurers’ Guild.
It seemed that Guon and his followers had used methods other than battle against everyone but Zod. They had been unexpectedly wise.
“I see. However, it seems that I have caused trouble for everyone,” said Zod.
“It’s not really your fault, is it, Zod?” said Lissana.
“But this incident was caused by my brethren, even if they have strayed from the path,” Zod continued as he gathered and buried the corpses of Guon and his subordinates.
In modern society, Guon and his subordinates were monsters who worshipped an evil god, but Zod remembered the times when the Pure-breed Vampire who was Guon’s parent was a believer of Vida. They had been comrades in arms in the battle against the Demon King, Zod’s brethren who had felt the goddess’s kindness and become Vampires alongside him.
As they showed no signs of reforming, Zod hadn’t been able to allow them to escape, but he wanted to at least bury them as a final act of compassion.
“If you’re going to talk like that, then they’re children of my old companion, too.” Lissana, who was the incarnation of Jurizanapipe, had fought for Vida against Alda alongside Zod before he was sealed, as well as Guon’s master.
Zod had been defeated a hundred thousand years ago and sealed until recently, while Lissana had used the Demon King’s circle of transmigration system to be reborn.
Ternecia and Guon’s master had been defeated but managed to survive. However, in the end, they had fallen as low as to become hounds for wicked gods.
“Well, I’m sure those people had struggles of their own,” said Lissana.
“There is no telling what would have become of us if we had taken one wrong step as well,” Zod agreed.
The two of them, who were now in a somewhat dreary mood, completed the graves with blank gravestones and turned around to go back to the city.
“Ouch!” Lissana suddenly raised a hand to her head.
“W-what is the matter, Lissana-dono!”
Was it an enemy attack?! Zod began pumping up the muscles in his body once more.
“No, it’s not an enemy,” Lissana said, frowning. “This is a Divine Message. That Ricklent, why did he push himself so hard? And feeling like I have a hangover when I haven’t had anything to drink is the worst, too.”
Gubamon, who had finished moving his prized collection to a base that Ternecia hadn’t known about, let out a heavy, weary sigh.
“Good grief, that half-Vampire youngster… he torments us to no end.”
After those events – after Vandalieu vanished into the Dungeon from Ternecia’s hideout, Gubamon and Birkyne had entered the Dungeon to kill him together.
However, the Dungeon had been nothing more than a single floor with few rooms, and Vandalieu was nowhere to be found in any of them.
There were rare cases where the stairway leading to the next floor was cleverly hidden, so he and Birkyne searched for a while in case this was one of those Dungeons, but such a trick wasn’t present in this Dungeon, either.
It was likely that Vandalieu had used time-attribute magic or a Magic Item to teleport away from the Dungeon. After coming to this conclusion, Gubamon and Birkyne had been left with no choice but to leave the Dungeon behind.
And then they moved their bases with great haste. Ternecia had died, but Gubamon and Birkyne knew that Vandalieu seemed to be a Spiritualist. There was no guarantee that Ternecia’s spirit wouldn’t sell them out to Vandalieu.
… They had accompanied Ternecia for over a hundred thousand years, but they had been the ones to try to betray that person who had been their companion since the age of the gods, so it was difficult to imagine that she would try and keep them safe now.
“Curses, what are we to do now! Even if I cooperate with Birkyne… Hah! Wait. Can… can I trust him?”
Birkyne was a sworn friend of a hundred thousand years, who worshipped the same evil god. However, was it not he who had suggested to Gubamon the plan of turning Ternecia, another such sworn friend, into his puppet?
And now that he had failed, who was to say that he would not try to do the same thing to Gubamon?
“Birkyne said that if he and I join forces, we can kill that youngster. Join forces… Could it be that that rascal intends to turn me into his puppet next?”
It was possibly Gubamon’s turn to be the target of what they had attempted to do to Ternecia.
And so, the cooperative system between the Pure-breed Vampires who worshipped Hihiryushukaka, the Evil God of Joyful Life, began to crumble.
Marshukzarl von Bellwood Amid, the Emperor of the Amid Empire who had just finished his various daily duties, was surprised to hear this report, although the expression on his beautiful half-Elf face didn’t change.
The surprise he felt might have been greater than that he had felt when he heard the news of the expedition army of six thousand returning as Undead.
“That is not a metaphorical expression, is it?” he asked.
“No,” said the head of the Amid Empire’s secret intelligence. “According to the spies, the Hartner Duchy’s castle has physically tilted over.”
Now that the Amid Empire had occupied the Sauron Duchy, new lands had become adjacent to the Empire, and the Hartner Duchy was one of them. The movements of the Hartner Duchy were important affairs for the Empire.
Thus, he had been increasing the number of hidden agents in the duchy for a while, but the report that the castle had physically tilted over was difficult to believe.
If it were a fort adjacent to a Devil’s Nest, it could have been explained, but it was unheard of for a castle in the safest place, the capital city of a nation, to tilt over.
At the very least, it was a historically unusual event.
The report continued. “Also, it seems that the Guild Master of Nineland’s Mages’ Guild, Kinarp, turned out to be working with Pure-breed Vampires.”
“That is interesting information, but how did you find this out?” asked Marshukzarl. “I do not believe this is something that can be discovered by secret agents alone.”
“That is… For some unknown reason, he and his subordinates took the proof to consulates from other duchies and confessed everything,” said the head of intelligence.
“… This is getting more and more difficult to believe,” said Marshukzarl, pressing a hand to his forehead. But he had heard this information confirmed by numerous sources, so it didn’t seem to be false information or an untrue rumor. “Get your hands on the information that the Guild Master confessed, immediately. Continuing on from last time, this is our chance to squeeze out the pus. As for the incident of the castle tilting over… Leave it be for now. We will make the successful beggars take measures before they make too much noise.”
The Amid Empire had defeated and occupied the Sauron Duchy, but it wasn’t as if they hadn’t expended anything to do so. Of course, the Empire couldn’t simply kill all of the Sauron Duchy’s inhabitants, so magistrates needed to be sent to cities and village chiefs needed to be replaced in order to rule the people while keeping them suppressed.
But the inhabitants of the duchy that had long fought on the front lines against the Empire wouldn’t wag their tails so easily. More time was needed to discipline them. There were already reports that the surviving knights and soldiers were forming a resistance; if the Empire let its guard down, the carpet would be swept from under its feet.
If the Empire were to try and invade the Hartner Duchy in such a state, the extended supply lines and understaffed military bases within the Sauron Duchy would be exposed to the resistance.
And even if it were possible to assault the Hartner Duchy and occupy it, the surface area adjacent to the rest of the Orbaume Kingdom’s duchies would only increase.
The men of the Mirg shield-nation excelled in defensive battles, but even if they were positioned there, it wasn’t as if forts and sturdy walls would simply grow out of nowhere, so they would not be able to defend everywhere at once.
In other words, the moment the Amid Empire took this opportunity to invade the Hartner Duchy, it would be defeated no matter how things played out.
A few with a keen strategic eye would be able to realize this, but there were some noblemen who had failed to achieve anything in the previous war, whose eyes were clouded by their envy for the ones who gained new lands and higher court ranks… though some of them had poor eyes to begin with.
“I will take your concerns into account,” said the head of intelligence.
“Don’t pay any attention to them,” said Marshukzarl. “People are always a mixture of the good and the bad. For every great person, there are ten more fools mixed in with them.”
And it was the duty of the ones in higher positions to use those people well. Marshukzarl had the head of intelligence leave and quickly summoned the marshal, general affairs minister and the finance minister one after another to hear their reports and give them orders.
After that, there were reports of the numerous incidents that had occurred in the Hartner Duchy, but although Marshukzarl was interested in them, he was not surprised.
Even when he heard that a Dungeon had appeared near a city and caused a large monster rampage, or when he heard that Vida’s religion was unexpectedly spreading in the farming villages.
The sudden appearance of a Dungeon was something like a natural disaster, and now that the Hartner Duchy had become the frontline in the battle against the Amid Empire, he didn’t consider it unusual that Vida’s religion was spreading in an act of resistance.
While it was valuable information, it was also amusement for the busy Marshukzarl. It was similar to reading a weekly magazine on Earth.
However, when the intelligence agency reported yet another piece of information that should have ended in mere amusement, Marshukzarl raised his eyebrows.
“Is that true?” he asked.
The report he had heard was that the Ghouls of the Devil’s Nests in the Hartner Duchy could no longer be hunted. The high-ranking intelligence worker was surprised at being asked this question in return, but he quickly nodded.
I’ve been had, Marshukzarl thought as he scowled.
“To think that he would move so quickly, and on that side of the mountain range… Tell all of our hidden agents to investigate everything they can about the Dhampir by the name of Vandalieu, no matter how trivial,” he ordered.
Around a month afterwards, Marshukzarl’s hidden agents reported that the slave-run mine in the Hartner Duchy had collapsed, that a Dhampir named Vandalieu had been treated as a saint in the cultivation villages that had been visited during the investigation, and that Vandalieu had appeared in the Adventurers’ Guild in the city of Niarki.
Marshukzarl couldn’t completely read Vandalieu’s intents and motives, but he was certain that Vandalieu had been involved in all of the incidents that had occurred in the Hartner Duchy.
He informed all of his hidden agents stationed at places adjacent to the Boundary Mountain Range of Vandalieu’s name and appearance, and ordered them to keep an eye out for him… By the time that order reached them, the cultivation villages had already mysteriously disappeared and it was announced that Lord Lucas’s Red Wolf Knights’ Order had sacrificed themselves to defeat dangerous monsters.
Incidentally, later on, Marshukzarl let out a grand sigh upon hearing that Heinz had exterminated the Pure-breed Vampire Ternecia, been promoted to S-class and reached the status honorary nobleman.
“Without knowing where the rest of her body went, he crushed her head without hesitation. And there are still two heads left. And though honorary, he is an earl. Both he and Vandalieu are troublesome.”
Schneider, who had been sleeping on his stomach with mountains of dried herbs stacked in mounds on his back and set on fire, raised an eyebrow as Lissana returned and spoke to him.
“A Divine Message from Ricklent? Were you a goddess of the time attribute?” Schneider asked her.
Normally, Divine Messages were things that gods sent to their believers or followers. Lissana herself had once explained to Schneider that this pattern didn’t originate from simple hierarchical relationships, but because Divine Messages needed to utilize a mental connection between the target and the god.
“No,” said Lissana. “Things are strangely different from when I was on the Demon King’s side, but I’m now a goddess of the life attribute. So Ricklent has no connection to me, but… despite being reincarnated, I am still a goddess, so it’s possible for him to communicate with me through a Divine Message.”
Ricklent had really pushed himself; he felt pain as great as if his bones were being gouged out; even Lissana had experienced a violent headache that would have caused a normal person to lose consciousness out of shock.
“Sho, what’sh it ‘bout?” Dolton’s speech had become inarticulate as a result of his drinking contest.
“He’s asking, ‘so, what’s it about?’” said Merdin, translating for him.
“He said he wants me to pass a message onto Zantark,” said Lissana.
“Z-Zantark? Not Zanta-san or Uncle Zazatak, but Zantark-sama? Isn’t that a god?!” Merdin exclaimed.
“Merdin, why are you so surprised? The Lissana-chan in front of your eyes is a goddess, too, you know?” Dolton pointed out.
“I don’t want to be told that by a drunken Elf,” said Merdin. “In fact, Zantark-sama, whom us Dwarves worship as our god-ancestor, is on a different level, isn’t he?”
“Well, you’re right, but you know. But it was that god of war who fought head-on against Bellwood and the other champions,” said Lissana.
“It was a defensive battle for me,” Zod added.
Zantark, who had fused with evil gods, had participated in the battle between Vida and Alda, standing on the side of Vida against Farmaun Gold, the champion that he had chosen himself.
But this knowledge hadn’t remained in the legends and myths of human society. It was a piece of historical truth that Schneider and his party had learned from Lissana and Zod.
“But we don’t know where he went after that, do we? How are we supposed to pass on this message?” Schneider asked.
“That is… ‘In a place where my eyes cannot see,’” said Lissana.
“What’sh dat shupposed ter mean?” asked Dolton.
“He said, ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’” said Merdin, translating.
While everyone fell into deep thought, Schneider instinctively came to an understanding of what those words meant.
“In other words, it’s somewhere there’s no Mages’ Guilds that worship Ricklent, a city… country… continent. Alright, shall we go to the Dark Continent?”
And so began the Storm of Tyranny’s next adventure.
“By the way, what are you doing?”
“Oh, this is called moxibustion. It’s a therapy that was written in old books –”
“No, I know that. I know that, but I’m asking why you’re doing something like that.”
“Well, I was getting the feeling that I get tired easily these days. I wanted to test it out.”
“You… you have the All Attributes Resistance skill, so what effect are you expecting moxibustion to have on you, exactly?”