March. It was still cold, but a spring-like warmth could be felt in the sun’s rays as Vandalieu served cooked Sauron rice onto a plate.
The moment he inhaled the aroma contained in the steam rising from the white, glossy rice, emotion swept over his entire body.
“Oh…” Vandalieu let out a noise of wonder.
His body trembled spontaneously at this smell, which stimulated his hunger more than any other spice possibly could right now.
Vandalieu had never trembled other than in anger, even during battles to the death against Pure-breed Vampires. Seeing him react like this now, those watching him were shaken.
“… Privel, wasn’t it? That substance, it’s just food, isn’t it?” asked Eleanora, who had remained in Talosheim while Vandalieu went to the former Sauron Duchy.
“That should be the case, but… I’ve started to lose the confidence to say that,” Privel muttered.
“Incidentally, is this some kind of ritual, perhaps?” Nuaza the Lich, clergyman of the Church of Vida in Talosheim, was watching Vandalieu in confusion. “The Holy Son has created and reproduced countless food items in the past. But I do not believe he has ever shown such happiness.”
“Indeed,” said Zadiris in agreement. “He was happy when he made miso, soy sauce and curry, but never to this extent.”
But these words had a different impact on Privel and the other Scylla.
“… That’s Vandalieu-kun being happy? Orbia-san, were you able to tell?” Privel asked.
“No~ not at all,” said Orbia. “Just because I’ve become a Ghost doesn’t mean I can see auras or… spiritual things?”
“He’s a surprisingly easy-going child, but it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking when he’s quiet, isn’t it?” said Periveil.
As Periveil said, one would become able to read Vandalieu’s emotions quickly after getting to know him to a certain extent. His expressionlessness never changed, but he wasn’t a quiet person and often expressed his emotions through gestures.
However, it became impossible to read his inner thoughts once he stopped doing that.
“You still have a long way to go, don’t you?” Tarea remarked.
“You don’t understand Van’s habits,” said Basdia.
“You won’t be able to serve as Vandalieu-sama’s servants at this rate,” said Eleanora.
The three of them, who could still read Vandalieu’s inner thoughts in this situation, were wearing proud expressions.
Privel let out a noise of frustration.
“No, I’m not a servant,” said Periveil, and then she turned to her daughter. “Privel, don’t just stay quiet and feel bitter about it!”
“But I can’t forgive them for having bigger chests than me!” Privel complained.
“Eh? That’s what we were talking about?!” Orbia exclaimed in surprise.
“No, we didn’t mean that it’s a matter of having a bigger chest,” said Basdia.
“I won’t lose when it comes to the number of legs!” Privel shouted, not listening.
“There’s no way we can win against Scylla who have eight legs, is there?!” Eleanora exclaimed.
“Could you please not wrap these around me?!” said Tarea, who had become entangled in the tentacles that Privel had been flailing around unconsciously.
“Serves you right. But the only ones who could compete with them are Arachne,” Zadiris muttered as she gave a sidelong glance at her rival, her daughter and Eleanora, who were engaged in a pointless argument – or rather, were being one-sidedly covered by Privel’s tentacles.
And then Zadiris sniffed the white rice as Vandalieu was doing.
“It is indeed a pleasant smell, but…” she murmured.
Southern rice, which was similar to Indica rice, had a slight smell to it when it was cooked with the rice alone. But the Sauron rice, which was similar to Japonica rice, certainly had a pleasant aroma to it.
But is it really enough to make him so happy… no, make him tremble with emotion? Zadiris wondered, but then she got the feeling that she knew the reason behind this.
“This is it, this is real rice!” exclaimed Kasim.
“Mmm, it’s so nostalgic!” said Fester.
The two of them, having once cultivated this rice in their farming villages in the Sauron Duchy, were moved to tears. Zeno was silent, but that was because tears of emotion were wordlessly flowing down his cheeks.
“I see, so it is emotional attachment,” Zadiris murmured in understanding as she took a mouthful of white rice with the chopsticks that she had recently become completely accustomed to using. “… Mmm, well, it is delicious.”
But not delicious enough for her to continue eating it on its own like Vandalieu, Kasim, Fester and Zeno.
As Vandalieu munched on the Sauron rice, a flavor different from that of southern rice spread through his mouth. Compared to the white rice of Earth, it was a little inferior… perhaps.
“The truth is, I don’t really remember it,” said Vandalieu. “It’s already been about thirty years since I ate Japonica rice.”
His uncle on Earth hadn’t gone as far as to say that white rice was a luxury, so he had been eating white rice like an ordinary person.
However, in the military nation in Origin that had the research laboratory, where Vandalieu had spent his second life, the culture was similar to the European culture of Earth. It wasn’t that they didn’t have rice, but there had been no need to go out of their way to provide rice for Vandalieu, an experimental animal. Vandalieu got the feeling that when he had been given food that was properly food-like, it had been mostly bread, with a few occasions where he had been given pasta.
He had indirectly wished for rice, but this wish had never been granted, as the researchers had believed that negative feelings would have a good effect on the death-attribute magic. The food after that had been block-shaped nutritional supplements, and, in the end, either liquid food made to be deliberately unpleasant or intravenously-administered food.
And as a matter of fact, even when he had lived as Amamiya Hiroto on Earth, Vandalieu’s staple food in the mornings had been bread. Since there wasn’t an enjoyable dining table to be at for him, he had preferred bread that could be finished quickly.
Even so, Vandalieu thought that the rice of Earth had tasted better, but that was probably a matter of how it was cooked. The performance of Japanese rice cookers had been too outstanding.
“That’s why I can’t compare them, but I think it’s delicious,” Vandalieu said. His physical body craved rice, so he had used Out-of-body Experience to have his spirit form slip out and thank Privel.
“Hearing you say that makes me happy,” Privel said with a smile.
Now that he thought about it, obtaining this Sauron rice had been the reason for Vandalieu’s visit to the Scylla.
… The other objective of establishing allies on the outside hadn’t been entirely fulfilled, however, as the Scylla race had migrated here.
But Vandalieu decided to be satisfied with having made connections with the Sauron Liberation Front led by Iris.
“Privel-san, Periveil-san, all of you Scylla, really, thank you,” said Darcia. “Vandalieu has always been saying that he wanted to eat rice, ever since he was a baby…”
“How splendid this is for you, Bocchan,” said Sam. “This servant of yours remembers when you heard from Darcia-sama that there is rice in the Orbaume Kingdom, and you responded with, ‘Seriously?!’”
“We remember it too. We couldn’t talk like this back then, though!” said Rita.
“How wonderful,” said Saria. “I prefer bread, but you really did say, ‘Seriously?!’ How truly wonderful!”
“… Mom, everyone, it’s fine to be happy for me, but I think it would also be fine for you to forget a few more details,” said Vandalieu.
It seemed that Darcia, Sam and the two sisters remembered the events from before Vandalieu stayed in the Ghoul village very well.
“To think that my lord has desired this rice for so long…” Bone Man murmured.
Knochen let out a confused groan.
It seemed that Bone Man, who had only contained the spirits of mice, and Knochen who had been a series of Bone Beasts back then, did not remember these events.
“Wow, so he says things like that as well?” Orbia said in surprise. “He always speaks in a polite tone that isn’t childlike at all, so I’ve been wondering if he’s been like that since he was a baby.”
“His Majesty was a rascal once as well, wasn’t he?” said Princess Levia.
“More importantly, I’m starting to get sick of eating just rice,” said the Zombie hero, the Sword King Borkus, one of Talosheim’s heroes.
“Me too. Can we cook some meat?” asked Vigaro, the young leader of the Ghouls who was also Basdia’s father.
It seemed that the two of them wanted some side dishes.
“Then I suppose we’ll go with curry and rice,” said Vandalieu.
Thinking that it would be perfect since the rice was already on flat plates, the spirit form Vandalieu served up the rich-flavored curry that had been kept warm in a pot.
In the end, Kurt Legston, commandant of the small fort that served as a barrier adjacent to the Scylla territory, accepted Vandalieu’s recruitment.
At first, he had intended to accept it, simply because he had been told that he would be turned into an Undead and dragged away if he didn’t. But it seemed that learning that Thomas Palpapek had ties with the Vampires who worshipped Hihiryushukaka, the Evil God of Joyful Life, had changed his mind.
“I’m sure the marshal thinks that it’s for the sake of the nation, but even so, there are lines that must not be crossed… Well, what I will do from now on is likely something that crosses the line from the marshal’s perspective,” Kurt had said as he swore loyalty to Vandalieu in exchange for a guarantee that the lives of his subordinates would be spared.
After that, he had explained things to the hundred or so subordinates and handed control over the fort to Vandalieu. Most of these subordinates were those who had been demoted in the previous war.
That was why when Vandalieu asked them whether they would prefer to be released after having their memories erased or to join Kurt in following him, over ninety percent of them had chosen the latter option.
Of course, there had been no small number who had only agreed because they were terrified of having their minds being altered after seeing Mardock and his men, who were now in vegetative states, rather than being drawn to Kurt’s steady character and the conditions promised to them by Vandalieu.
After that, Vandalieu had brainwashed the few soldiers who had still refused and then began the task of helping the Scylla move.
“So, everyone, that’s how it is, so let’s move to Van-kun’s country!” Orbia had told the Scylla, and the Scylla were welcomed into the marshlands to the south of Talosheim, where the Lizardmen lived.
Thanks to the Divine Messages sent by Merrebeveil, who was worshipped by all Scylla, and the fact that Vandalieu had resolved the Scylla serial-killing case, Vandalieu had already gained the trust of the entire Scylla race.
And the ‘Tentacle King’ Title that he had gained made the Scylla view him more favorably, so the discussions had proceeded in a smooth fashion.
And Vandalieu had tested the Insect Binding Technique skill to find that he was indeed able to equip Scylla, so he had used that ability to bring the chief of each Scylla village to the marshlands that they were moving to in order to present it to them. The Scylla had already been searching for a place to migrate to in order to escape from the Amid Empire’s occupation of the Sauron Duchy, so they had approved of settling in these great marshlands.
All that was left to do after that was Vandalieu shuttling all of the Scylla across.
Of course, it would have troubled the Scylla race to have them move with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and there were also their husbands and sons whom Vandalieu couldn’t equip, so he had Knochen, Sam and the newest addition to his subordinates, Miles and the Vampires who worked under him, to make numerous trips back and forth to carry the luggage across.
As for the route they took, the territory of the Hurricane Dragon that Vandalieu and his companions had defeated on the way to the Sauron Duchy was open. Since Knochen contained the bones of that Hurricane Dragon, monsters inferior to it wouldn’t dare approach.
“Now that we’ve crossed the Boundary Mountain Range so many times, there isn’t much to it, is there!” said Miles.
“Hahaha, indeed!” Sam laughed. “I have already surpassed Bocchan in the number of times I have crossed the Boundary Mountain Range!”
Knochen let out a satisfied groan.
Vandalieu had been wondering whether he should suppress his unpleasant feelings and turn Gubamon into an Undead in order to have him use space-attribute magic to move all the luggage across, but seeing how much Sam and Miles were enjoying the physical labor, he decided not to worry about it.
Also, Talosheim would now secretly support the Sauron Liberation Front led by Iris.
This was so that the Empire’s army wouldn’t gather strength now that the Reborn Sauron Duchy Army led by Raymond and Rick had collapsed.
The one who had mainly been in charge of the negotiations with Iris was Bellmond, whose poor ability to interact with others was now clear, but it seemed that Iris had been a very accepting person.
“It seems that she’d stopped being a follower of Alda after she became a criminal, so she happily agreed to a religious conversion. But it seemed that she won’t yield on the release of her father,” said Vandalieu.
The corpse of Iris’s father, Lord Bearheart, had been retrieved by Gubamon’s subordinates after he fell in battle during the war with the Amid Empire. And since he had been turned into an Undead, Vandalieu had recovered him.
“Well, I don’t mind that,” said Vandalieu. “But I don’t know about sending him back to Rodcorte, so I suppose I’ll destroy him, take out his spirit and leave it in her custody in a state where she can see him.”
Vandalieu had no emotional attachment to Iris’s father, so he didn’t really feel any loss in releasing him.
It was up to Iris as to whether she would use the item containing her father’s spirit or destroy it and pour holy water over it to purify it.
And so, Talosheim began assisting the Sauron Liberation Front with food and goods. Iris and her men would fight the Amid Empire as believers of Vida and the gods on her side, and as members of the resistance.
… Even if it was questionable as to whether they could win against the Empire, now that they had received Blood Potions and arms made of the Demon King’s fragments, and were able to use the old Scylla territory as a base, they would not be annihilated unless something extraordinary happened.
Incidentally, Haj and the other fake resistance members had been taken to Talosheim and would be sent to support the Sauron Liberation Front after they were trained.
Once the Scylla race’s immigration and other things had progressed to some extent, Kurt and his men left the small fort as well. Vandalieu had the Undead members of the extermination force and Knochen’s Skeletons cause some damage to the fort, left Mardock and a few other corpses around and then had the Undead continue moving around as a pack. Anyone would assume that the fort had fallen to stray Undead.
The soldiers who’d had their memories erased would be the few survivors.
“But I am sure some of the higher-ups would notice,” said Kurt, who constantly spoke in the tone of a retainer. “The marshal would certainly suspect that you are involved, Your Majesty.”
“That will not be a problem,” said Chezare. “Even if they notice and suspect this, we will have already returned to the southern region of the continent. Let us make the marshal, who is working tirelessly to reorganize the army, groan in frustration.”
It seemed that the brothers had agreed to treat each other in the same way as they had done before.
The most troublesome thing for Vandalieu came after this.
The moving of the Scylla race didn’t end at simply releasing them into the marshlands. They needed places to live, fields to grow their rice and facilities to raise the ducks and Huge Capybaras that were their livestock.
But there were some carpenters among the Scylla and their husbands, so Vandalieu simply needed to turn wood and other materials into Golems and move them as they instructed, assembling them into the shapes of houses.
“Your Majesty-san, is there anyone else who can do this? If there are, we’d have no choice but to close down our businesses,” said one of the workers.
“No, I’m the only one who can do this,” said Vandalieu. “And I can’t always be busy building things, so please work hard and don’t close down your businesses.”
All of the workers felt a deep sense of relief at Vandalieu’s words.
And then Vandalieu used Golem Transmutation again to turn the marshlands into water-filled fields. The climate and daylight hours were slightly different to the original Scylla territory, but the land was good, so it was possible to harvest crops here, even if they would taste a little different.
And learning from the poor example set by the relationship between the Sauron Duchy and the Scylla territory, it was decided that no race would be limited to certain areas. It was only natural that there were many Lizardmen and Scylla in the marshlands, but Vandalieu had decided to add Ghouls and Undead to these lands as well.
The reverse was also arranged; Lizardmen and Scylla chose representatives who would take turns to spend time living in Talosheim.
This was to have them remain involved in political, military and commercial matters through personal interaction. And, most importantly, to give everyone a sense that they belonged to this nation.
Vandalieu very much disliked the idea of the races separating in the future, starting independence movements that would divide the nation. This was especially true because Vandalieu would still be alive in that future, since he was a Dark Elf Dhampir with a long lifespan.
The Scylla race’s family register still needed to be created and they needed to be taught things like how to pay income taxes, but these things were all settled around three months after the Scylla moved in, allowing for things like the rice-tasting meeting.
Things had settled down with the Scylla race’s migration to Talosheim, but nothing had settled down anywhere else in Bahn Gaia continent.
First of all, the Sauron Duchy remained very stable even as spring approached.
Raymond and Rick Paris had been leading the Reborn Sauron Liberation Army, one of the two beacons of hope for the people who were unhappy with the Amid Empire’s rule, but they were now dead.
There were still small-scale groups of their members scattered around the duchy, but there was nobody who was in any position to unify them and take command. They couldn’t function as an organization anymore.
But these groups had been saved by the Sauron Liberation Front that still remained. Its leader, the Liberating Princess Knight, was gathering the members of the Reborn Sauron Duchy Army who had been isolated all over the duchy.
In addition to their great numbers, they also had the support of a mysterious benefactor who was providing them with materials.
But the loss of Raymond, who was the illegitimate son of Duke Sauron, had a large effect on the entire resistance movement; many worried about how things would be coordinated with the Orbaume Kingdom.
And things were going smoothly for the Empire’s army after two important figures of the resistance had been killed – or at least, they made the duchy’s people and the Orbaume Kingdom believe that this was the case.
An extermination force of elite individuals and a small fort adjacent to the Scylla territory had been annihilated, and now an Undead clean-up operation needed to be conducted. This was quite painful for the Empire’s army.
But the most painful thing of all was that the Scylla race had vanished from their territory. There had been plans to slowly strangle them, incite them to rebel and then exterminate them one day, but according to the plans of Marshukzarl, Emperor of the Amid Empire, that would have been conducted over a hundred years from now.
The taxes that the Scylla would have paid during that time, as well as the benefits of the things they produced, had disappeared.
The plans of pretending to be friendly towards the Scylla race in order to acquire their technology and agricultural knowledge had vanished as well.
And the now-empty Scylla territory was a heavy burden on the Empire’s army. Most of it consisted of empty mountains and marshlands, but there was also a Devil’s Nest filled with monsters as well as a Dungeon. If they left it alone, the monsters would multiply and it was possible that the Devil’s Nest would expand rapidly.
Since the large number of mysterious Undead had appeared and destroyed the fort, a budget needed to be set aside to manage this.
The higher-ups of the Amid Empire and Mirg shield-nation that had dispatched their armies to occupy the Sauron Duchy were groaning in frustration.
Emperor Marshukzarl had gathered all kinds of information, and the Mirg shield-nation’s marshal, Thomas Malpapek, had received information through yet another different Vampire who acted as a mediator between him and the Vampires. Both of them were certain that Vandalieu was behind this series of events.
And in different places and at different times, both of them uttered the same words.
“Just how long is he planning to keep crawling around…!”
And a small commotion had been caused in the Orbaume Kingdom in the eastern region of the continent. The other dukes and military men who had connections to Raymond had lost their ally.
Those collaborating with Raymond were those who had been unable to make connections with the legitimate sons of Duke Sauron that had fled the Sauron Duchy, so even if things went well and the Sauron Duchy was taken back, they wouldn’t be given any significant benefits.
This was why they had intended to make Raymond the new duke, even though he had given up his right to succeed the family despite possessing the duke’s blood. To thank them, Raymond would have used his connections to give them many benefits.
That possibility had vanished, but it was far too late to make connections with Duke Sauron’s true sons now, which was why they were flustered.
It was possible that the civilians of the continent who knew nothing had benefited from this series of events as well as the Scylla race.
Gubamon had been defeated and the number of his subordinates had dropped sharply, so there were far fewer fearsome monsters to be afraid of now.
“Come to think of it, when are we going to the Noble Orc empire?” Darcia asked.
“I suppose after this year’s crop-planting is finished and the growth of the rice settles down,” said Vandalieu, having been reminded of the Noble Orc empire’s existence by this question. “I want to make adjustments to Zandia and Jeena in the meantime, too.”
Vandalieu had stationed Lemures and surveillance Golems at the southern tip of the marshlands, but there hadn’t been any visible movements.
Postponing the plan to visit the empire probably wouldn’t cause any problems.
“Yes, yes, you want a meatball?” said Vandalieu.
He fed a specially-made meatball to the squealing larva resting on his head, the queen of the Cemetery Bees that had hatched not long ago. It looked difficult to digest at first glance, but the worker bees had mixed their saliva in and even the bones had been crushed into it, so it was actually very easy to digest.
As Vandalieu fed this meatball preserved with the Preservation spell to the white larva with a round abdomen, he suddenly remembered something. “Come to think of it, Mom, regarding Homunculi, Merrebeveil said that she could help if it was with making tentacles.”
“Umm, what about the non-tentacle parts?” Darcia asked. “I don’t mind having tentacles like the Scylla, but being made only of tentacles would be…”
“That’s what I thought,” said Vandalieu.
There would be a big difference between “a mother with tentacles” and “a mother made of tentacles.”
Darcia’s values had changed due to various external influences, but it seemed that she didn’t want to become a creature consisting only of tentacles. That was true even if the scales of Fidirg, the Dragon God of Five Sins, was added to it.
“Ah, also, I’m planning to change Jobs to Zombie Maker after this,” Vandalieu added.
With this, he would be able to make progress with making adjustments to the Undead heroes he had taken from Gubamon.
A Job that can be acquired by a death-attribute mage who has been cursed by a god or has been recognized as an enemy by multiple powerful beings and organizations while he has also recognized them as enemies.
This Job grants the Hostility skill that increases damage dealt against all enemies. It provides great increases to the Vitality and Strength Attribute Values, while making it difficult to increase the Mana and Intelligence Attribute Values.