“Finding them took a lot of time, but once we found them, it was pretty easy work, wasn’t it?”
“Indeed. But I wonder what these guys were doing in a place like this that isn’t even their base?”
“Probably hiding from the enemy army. Even if they call themselves the resistance, they’re just rats.”
The vice-captain of the Reborn Sauron Duchy Army, Rick Paris, had been tied up on the ground. His handsome face twisted in frustration as he listened to the Vampires conversing somewhere over his head.
What a blunder! To think that Vampires would come attacking…!
Rick and his men had been committing murders within the Scylla territory to blame them on Alda extremists and cause negotiations between the Scylla and the Empire to break down. They had been hiding in a temporary hideout while waiting for their next murder.
Rick’s older brother Raymond, the commander, would travel around to each Scylla village and persuade the chiefs. Meanwhile, Rick and his men would murder another Scylla and blame it on enemy extremists, and Raymond would fan the flames of the Scylla race’s anger towards the Empire’s army.
That had been the plan, but their hidden base in the Scylla territory had been attacked by Vampires. Half of them were Subordinate Vampires, but the other half were Noble-born Vampires who could fly through the air and use high-level magic. Taken by surprise, Rick had been unable to put up any resistance. All but two of his men had been killed, and Rick himself had been captured.
A male Vampire with a thick jaw and a rough-looking beauty to his face, who seemed to be the leader of these Vampires, laughed. “After this, all we need to do is capture this guy’s older brother. Heal the injuries of the ones who survived a little.”
The Vampire’s rouge-colored lips spoke with a female tone*. Rick and his surviving companions looked at him with wide eyes, but the other Vampires seemed to be accustomed to this; they didn’t show any particular reactions and began carrying out his orders.
With their injuries healed, Rick’s two men became able to move. Despite having pale faces, they put up a brave front against the Vampires.
“What are you planning to do to us, you beasts who betrayed the goddess?!”
“Th-things won’t go as you plan! The commander will definitely avenge us!”
But these words that the two of them had mustered up their courage to say were nothing more than cliché jokes for the Vampires. Rather than being displeased, the Vampire leader’s smile grew wider.
“I want to request something of you,” he said. “You’re very lucky; your lives can be spared if you just do this one task. I want you to go to your precious leader and tell him, ‘If you value your precious younger brother’s life, come by yourself to the designated location.’”
They’re after Ani-ue after all!
For Rick, his older brother Raymond, born to a different father, was more than just an older brother.
Despite possessing the blood of the Sauron family, Raymond was treated indifferently because he was the duke’s illegitimate child. And yet, he was more resourceful and charismatic than anyone else; he was the great man who should be ruling the Sauron Duchy.
Even now, with the Sauron Duchy under the Amid Empire’s occupation, Rick believed that bringing his older brother to the position of duke was his divine task.
That was why he had done all the dirty work and whatever else was needed for his older brother’s sake. He held the Scylla in contempt for making no effort to fight for the Sauron Duchy despite Duke Sauron having acknowledged their right to rule themselves. But the real reason he had courted Scylla to make them yearn for him, tricked them, killed them and put their gruesome bodies on display was to use the Scylla race and help Raymond acquire the position of duke.
These were not only Rick’s desires, but the desires of his surviving subordinates as well.
“D-don’t fuck with me!” one of them shouted in rage. “You homosexual bastard! Nobody’s going to sell out the commander – GAH?!”
The Vampire grabbed hold of the man’s head with his large hand. “I quite like lively children, you know. I like them so much that… it just makes me want to give them a love bite!” He pulled the man to one side and thrust his thick, powerful fangs into him.
The man gave a scream that gradually grew quieter. After he stopped moving, the Vampire showed his corpse to the last of Rick’s remaining men.
“So, which are you? A lively child who wants my love bite? Or are you an obedient child who does his best with the work that’s given to him?” the Vampire asked, licking his lips that were now stained red with the man’s blood.
The last man nodded so violently that his neck looked as if it would be torn. “I-I’ll do it! I’ll carry out your task!”
“I see~♪ I’m happy to hear that… Now, get going.”
Bound and gagged, Rick could only gaze at his companion’s back as he ran as fast as his legs would carry him.
Ani-ue, don’t you dare come to save me! Just abandon me here!
He prayed that this wish would reach his older brother.
But what Raymond chose to do was of no importance to the Vampires. One of the Vampires was already tailing the man who had run out of the hideout.
Once Raymond’s location was confirmed, familiars would be used to report the information to other Vampires.
“But aren’t you being too hasty, Lord Miles Rouge?” another Noble-born Vampire asked. “There is still time before the deadline that Gubamon-sama gave us. Is there a need to rush things to the point of risking exposure to sunlight?”
“There is,” replied Miles, the high-Rank, Onee-type Vampire with the position of baron. He wiped his mouth with a handkerchief and reapplied the lipstick that he had taken a liking to recently. “You heard the news from your allies inside the fort, didn’t you? The day before yesterday, the roar of a Hurricane Dragon was heard.”
The skies above the Boundary Mountain Range were the territory of Hurricane Dragons. Their roars reached the Scylla territory near the mountain range and even the Sauron Duchy’s fort that had been built adjacent to it.
Such a loud roar wouldn’t be heard unless it was mating season or the Hurricane Dragons were fighting an incredibly powerful enemy, but…
“What about it?” the other Vampire asked. “Nobody knows much about the Hurricane Dragons’ estrous cycles. I’m sure it’s a coincidence.”
“A coincidence, huh… Rather than being a coincidence, I think that the Hurricane Dragons roared because they fought a powerful enemy that tried to cross the Boundary Mountain Range,” said Miles.
Rick listened skeptically to the conversation being exchanged above his head. Would there really be anyone trying to cross the Boundary Mountain Range?
Normally, Miles’s concern would be the kind that would be laughed away. But instead of laughing, the Vampires’ voices were suddenly full of fear.
“A-are you saying that the ‘Monstrosity’ of the southern region has come here?!”
“You’re joking, right?! If we were to encounter the Pure-breed-slaying Monstrosity, we could consider our lives forfeit! Tell me you’re joking, Miles!”
“Don’t make such a fuss!” said Miles. “I’m just saying that’s what I think, only based on my intuition! My unique skill is only ‘Warning!’ Also, call me ‘Mai-chan’ while we’re working!”
“Is there some significant meaning to this…?”
“It’s a jinx to make lucky things happen!”
Impossible, something that even the Vampires are afraid of, and Pure-breed-slaying? Just what is this ‘Monstrosity’…?
Rick couldn’t believe his ears, but what he was about to hear was even more unbelievable.
“Honestly speaking, my ‘Warning’ has been going off continuously ever since we received these orders from Gubamon-sama,” Miles said. “So, if we do come across the Monstrosity, obey my orders. I’ve never met any of you before we received this task; this isn’t something that I’m suggesting out of sympathy for you. But if we slip up, we’ll all be killed, either by the Monstrosity or Gubamon-sama. Please believe me. Listen, first of all –”
“Tell me, did that person… did Rick kill me?”
Unlike when she was revealed by the Visualization spell, Orbia appeared to be drenched, with water dripping from her. She glared at Raymond with glowing eyes as she asked him this question.
Seeing that the air about her had changed completely, Raymond tried to cover his own mouth with his hands to prevent himself from answering her question. But his body refused to move, as if it had been turned to stone from the neck down.
“Oi! Make him stop! If you don’t, we’ll shoot arrows at the Scylla at the back!” shouted one of Raymond’s subordinates, drowning out Raymond’s words.
Raymond’s men didn’t understand exactly how the Mental Encroachment that Vandalieu was using on Raymond worked, but it seemed they had decided that the situation would become much worse at this rate and had taken independent action.
In response to these shouted words, the other resistance members pointed their weapons at Vandalieu and his companions. This was no act of intimidation; they were completely serious. The faint sounds of bowstrings being drawn came from the trees in the forest.
“You’re planning to use us as hostages? Don’t kid yourselves!” shouted Privel.
“Indeed,” said one of the Scylla guards. “If you mistake us for feeble maidens, you’ll regret it.”
Though they were lacking in combat experience against humans, each of the Scylla guards were capable of fighting multiple knights or D-class adventurers at once, and though Privel was inexperienced, she was capable of using magic. If they combined their strength, they would be able to fight against over a dozen resistance members on even terms.
“Our arrows are coated in a special poison that kills Scylla in an instant! Even a graze will kill you immediately!” Raymond’s subordinate shouted.
“Y-you’re lying! I’ve never heard of that poison!” said Privel.
“We stole it back from a laboratory occupied by the Empire, where it was being developed in absolute secrecy! It’s only natural that you don’t know of it. If you have any doubts, ask that Ghost!”
Privel and the Scylla guards stiffened as they listened to the resistance member’s threat. They had only ever fought against wild animals and weak monsters; arrows that could cause instant death through even light grazes posed a great threat to them.
“Well then, Disinfect,” Vandalieu whispered.
The Disinfect spell was cast on the whole area around Vandalieu. The resistance members could do nothing as they were enveloped in the mysterious circle that expanded outwards from him.
“J-just now, what did you…”
“Just in case, I erased all poison in the area,” said Vandalieu. “The poison on the arrows in your quivers, the poison in your pockets, all of it.”
“W-what, that’s impossible!”
“More importantly, why would we know about that poison’s effects if we were to ask Orbia-san?”
From the resistance’s point of view, the Scylla were the main fighting force of Vandalieu’s group, so this resistance member had shouted this threat to make them hesitant to move. But in doing so, he had let something slip.
“Answer me one more time,” said Orbia. “Did Rick kill me using that poison?!”
Raymond’s lips twitched as he tried to resist answering Orbia’s terrifying question, but in the end, he answered.
“Th-that’s right. This plan involved Rick seducing Scylla, inviting them to places where nobody else was around, killing them by giving them a ring with a poison-covered needle and putting their corpses on display.”
Silence filled the air for a moment, as if time had stopped.
Orbia’s spirit form became largely distorted as she let out a scream of grief and rage.
“K-kill them! Kill them all! Save the commander!” one of the resistance members shouted.
“I’m completely on Orbia-san’s side here, so please kill everyone except for Raymond,” said Vandalieu.
The resistance member and Vandalieu’s orders were simultaneous, and both sides began moving at the same time.
The resulting battle was one-sided.
Grunts and dying screams filled the air.
“AHAHAHA!” Kimberley, the former scout of the extermination force who had been electrocuted to death, had turned into a Thunder Ghost, and now he was turning the resistance members into charred remains.
Pete hissed as he appeared from within Vandalieu, skewering a resistance member on his horns and continuing his charge to sandwich his victim against a tree and turn him into a pile of broken pieces of flesh.
“M-monsters?! Where did they come from?!”
“Get the commander and run!”
The members of the Reborn Sauron Duchy Army, especially those under Raymond’s direct command, were very capable individuals. They were elite fighters; each of them were at least equivalent to D-class adventurers and over half of them were as strong as C-class adventurers.
As former knights of the Knights’ Order that Raymond had belonged to, they were more suited to fighting on the frontlines, but they had plenty of experience when it came to battling other people.
However, they did not have enough strength to cope with the unexpected situation of powerful monsters of all kinds of races appearing and attacking them.
And their commander, Raymond, had become incapable of doing anything right at the beginning of the battle. Because all of these men were those who followed Raymond because of his leadership skills, there wasn’t anyone who could immediately step forward and take command in his place, though things might have been different if Vice-captain Rick had been there.
Some were trying to protect Raymond, some were battling the monsters and others were trying to attack Vandalieu. They were all acting separately.
“Here, Boulder Smash!”
A resistance member who had tried to attack Vandalieu was crushed by Pauvina’s steel mace and martial skill, then swallowed by the Blood Slime Kühl.
On the left side of the road, Pete and the Thunder Ghost were rampaging around with lightning flying everywhere, and on the right, the flaming Ghosts led by Princess Levia were turning the enemies to ash along with the trees that they were hiding in.
Incidentally, the resistance members that had spread out behind Vandalieu’s group had been annihilated by Cemetery Bees, and they were currently being turned into meatballs by the bees’ powerful jaws that had been capable of cutting straight through their metal armor. They were being greedy about producing food for the queen bee’s reincarnation, who would soon be hatching from her egg.
“D-did you really need us here?” Privel asked.
“… W-we were supposed to be your escorts,” said one of the Scylla guards.
The Sheep Worm, Pain, who had fluffy wool growing from his body, was protecting the Scylla as they watched these events unfolding with dumbfounded expressions on their faces.
Vandalieu had already explained his Insect Binding Technique skill to them while he was explaining the plan… the plan to lure Raymond out and extract the truth from him.
However, they hadn’t imagined that this skill would provide such overwhelming fighting strength.
“By the way, won’t this cause a forest fire?” Privel asked.
“No need to worry. Everything flammable within our range has already been burnt up, so the fire won’t spread!” Princess Levia said, full of confidence.
“I-I see, then it’s fine, isn’t it?”
Behind Levia was a hill that had been turned into nothing more than an inclined surface of ash and charred remains. There certainly had been numerous resistance members there, but Privel couldn’t even see if there were any bones left.
And then Pauvina called out to the dumbfounded Scylla.
“Onee-chans, you can’t let your guards down,” she told them. “While there are still enemies left alive, you have to stay focused. The moment you think you’ve won is the one that you’re in the most danger. It’s called Zanshin*.”
“Y-yeah,” said Privel. “You’re right. We have to stay focused.”
“Yes, it is not good for us to let our guards down.”
“Zanshin, huh? I understand.”
The aftermath of Levia and her Ghosts’ battle was surreal, with even the burnt smell fading away. But Pauvina was holding a mace covered in blood and pieces of flesh. It seemed that the Scylla regained their sense of reality after seeing her and hearing her vivid words.
“Wait, more importantly, what about Orbia-san?!” Having returned to her senses, Privel looked back towards Orbia.
Orbia had already stopped screaming.
“I’ll... kill you!”
Her appearance was considerably different to how she appeared when she was alive or when she was still a powerless spirit.
Other than being wet, the upper half of her body and her face hadn’t changed, but her long hair and the lower half of her body had become liquid.
Having been engulfed in this liquid, Raymond was coughing and foaming at the nostrils and mouth.
Vandalieu exhaled. “I get the feeling that I’ve used more Mana than with Princess Levia and the others, who were already Ghosts to begin with. Ah, please stop doing that once you’re satisfied,” he said to Orbia. “I’m still planning to use him.”
“Why?!” Orbia demanded. “Because of this guy…!”
“We can’t just leave that Rick person alone, can we?” said Vandalieu.
“That’s… true. Alright.”
Orbia waved her liquid tentacles and Raymond collapsed onto the ground like a heap of trash. With the whites of his eyes showing, he coughed out water from his lungs.
It seemed that he was mostly unconscious, but Vandalieu tied his hands and feet with threads just in case.
“Looking into my eyes and trying to persuade me was a mistake, wasn’t it?” Vandalieu murmured.
Raymond had stronger willpower than the average person. He could even be described as tenacious. But the reason Vandalieu had been able to brainwash him with the Mental Encroachment skill in such a short amount of time was because he had been staring intently into Vandalieu’s eyes to try and win him over.
If he had talked without making eye contact, there would have been almost no effect.
But it seemed that he had very much desired to have Vandalieu join him; he had been so focused on paying attention to Vandalieu’s behavior that he had received the full effects of the Mental Encroachment skill.
Pete had captured a resistance member alive and was carrying him over here, holding the man’s clothes with his mouth. His legs were twisted in directions that they were not supposed to twist in, but perhaps his rage had numbed his pain; he managed to glare at Vandalieu without letting out a single scream.
“You bastard! How dare you do this to the commander, to everyone!” the man shouted. “Commander Raymond is pivotal to the resistance movement! Can’t you understand that killing the commander would only make the Empire’s army happy?!”
“That’s why I’ve stopped him from being killed for now, isn’t it?” said Vandalieu.
“For now?! Release him, right now! Because you are too focused on supporting the Scylla, you are losing sight of the bigger picture! Rather than regret the sacrifices of the few, you must consider the many –”
“W-what are you… kah.”
Vandalieu licked the wide-open eyes of the man, and the man collapsed onto the ground.
“D-did you kill him?” Privel asked.
“No, that’s too troublesome, so I just administered a poison that stops him from moving through his eyeballs. He can’t move, but he’s fully conscious,” said Vandalieu, having thought that conversing with the man would be a waste of time.
Putting his tongue back in his mouth, he approached the motionless man and whispered into his ear.
“I will have you do something for me. Please return to your base and tell them that if they value Raymond’s life, Vice-captain Rick and all of the men involved in the Scylla serial-killing case must come to the designated location. That location is –”
Using the Mental Encroachment skill to make the man believe that Raymond would be killed if he didn’t fulfil this task, Vandalieu removed the poison in his body and healed the bones in his legs. The moment this was complete, he ran off as fast as he could.
He was oblivious to the parasitic insect and parasitic plant that had been put in his body to track his location, as well as the numerous Lemures that were floating in the air above him.
“I could have the spirits of the resistance members or Raymond himself tell me where their base is, but there’s no guarantee that Rick will be there,” said Vandalieu. “It’s best to have one of his allies draw him out.”
“I see! Live bait has no use if it’s not alive! Van-kun, you’re so cool!” Orbia exclaimed.
“Rather than being cool, I get the feeling that it’s a bit cowardly… but similar methods are often used to capture bandits, so it’s probably fine,” said Privel, agreeing to Vandalieu’s method after some thought. “But I wonder if this Rick person is going to come?” she said doubtfully.
“I’m sure he will,” one of the Scylla guards reassured her. “I don’t know anything about him other than his appearance, but this Raymond should be an important person for their resistance organization. He isn’t just their leader; since he has the blood of the duke’s family, nobody can replace him. They won’t abandon him so easily.”
“Is that how it is?” said Privel.
As the Scylla race wasn’t very familiar with the principles of lineage, this was something that Privel couldn’t understand straight away. But it was true that Raymond possessing the blood of the Sauron family had great effects.
It made Raymond a symbol to the people and gave him persuasive power over the noblemen of the Kingdom. It was also the reason that these men had named themselves the ‘Reborn Sauron Duchy Army.’
The moment they lost Raymond, no matter how much organizational power the Reborn Sauron Duchy Army had, it would become nothing more than a rebellious group of mediocre power.
“And I think that person… that guy… Rick. I think he really adores his older brother. No matter what we were talking about, he would always go back to his Ani-ue.”
“Orbia-oneesan, I think that goes beyond being a bro-con,” Pauvina said with honesty.
“Back then, I just thought he was a good person who thought highly of his onii-san~!” Orbia shouted, spraying water droplets everywhere. It seemed that she was still emotionally unstable. “And one more thing! Rick is this guy’s half-brother; Raymond is the only illegitimate child of the duke’s family! Rick can’t replace him!”
“Then it seems likely that there will definitely be some kind of reaction,” said Vandalieu. “Let’s go back to Periveil-san’s place for now, and then head for the designated meeting location… back to the camp.”
Monsters that are said to form from spirits that die close to water with deep lingering attachment and hatred in their hearts. This is one of the reasons why spirits have long said to gather near water; they are more commonly seen outside of Dungeons and Devil’s Nests than other superior Ghost races.
Their main method of attack is to drag their victims into water or drown them using their own body parts that have become liquid. Also, powerful Water Ghosts can fire their liquified spirit forms as projectile weapons and display masterful use of water-attribute magic.
Due to these qualities, many of them possess memories from when they were alive, but these memories are only those related to their lingering attachments and hatred. In many cases, all other memories are forgotten.
Their personalities are significantly distorted, and many Water Ghosts attack others indiscriminately in order to create more Water Ghosts. Even those who were friends before the Water Ghosts died are unable to talk sense into them.
It is said that those who are killed by someone they love and discarded near water without being properly buried become particularly ferocious and powerful Water Ghosts.
Orbia’s memory of when she was alive has been mostly preserved. And although she is an Undead, she possesses the divine protection of a goddess and is under the effects of Vandalieu’s Guidance: Demon Path skill, so she has become far more powerful than an ordinary Water Ghost.