Kasim, who had swung his mace sideways, met less resistance than he had expected and watched dumbfoundedly as Vandalieu was sent flying.
Eleanora, Basdia and Kachia also watched as he rolled across the ground.
“Ah, that was surprising,” Vandalieu said, quickly getting off the ground.
“W-what do you mean that was surprising, are you alright?!” Kasim asked.
“Vandalieu-sama, have you hurt your back?!”
Kasim, Eleanora and Kachia hastily ran towards him. But Vandalieu wasn’t coughing; he quickly stood up.
“There’s no problem,” he said. “I was just a little surprised.”
He hadn’t received a single scratch, and though his armor and shield were covered in some dust, they were undamaged as well. His arms didn’t feel numb, nor did he find it hard to breathe.
“I didn’t think that I would be sent rolling across the ground. Your skill has improved, hasn’t it, Kasim?” he remarked.
“EH?! I-I have the strength to send Vandalieu flying…?!” Kasim exclaimed, staring at his own arm that was holding the mace.
“It doesn’t look that way at all to me,” said Eleanora. “Have you acquired some kind of unique skill?”
“It would be amazing if that was true, but it didn’t look like your skill has improved,” said Kachia.
Eleanora and Kachia seemed suspicious. And then Basdia, who had remained silent, spoke.
“It’s not that Kasim has some special strength. Of course, I think that his growth is remarkable, but the reason that he was able to send Van flying in one hit is simply because Van is light,” she said.
“Light?” the other three repeated in unison.
“Yes, light,” said Basdia, and then she began her explanation.
First of all, Vandalieu was strong. He could bore holes into an iron plate with a single swing of his claws, and if he used a martial skill, he could shred it to pieces. However, he was a boy, less than nine years of age. And he was clearly smaller and thinner than other boys of his age.
Normally, the stronger someone was, the more muscle and body mass they would have, but in Vandalieu’s case, all of that strength was centered around his Superhuman Strength skill.
And the liquid Dark Copper armor that Vandalieu was wearing and the shield made of the Demon King’s horns that he was holding were both made to be lighter than they appeared so that he could move more easily.
“And to hit Van’s shield, you swung your mace sideways instead of from above, and you started your swing from slightly below you as well, Kasim. That’s probably why Van got sent flying so easily,” Basdia concluded, folding her arms.
“Wait a second,” said Kasim, seemingly not convinced. “We received training from Vandalieu a few times in the cultivation village, and back then, we never thought that he was light.”
“Kasim, I wasn’t holding a shield back then,” said Vandalieu. “I wasn’t hit by any of your attacks, either.”
“Ah, you’re right! But didn’t you deflect Fester’s sword with the back of your claws?”
“Now that you mention it…”
Vandalieu had trained Kasim, who was from a cultivation village in the Hartner Duchy, as well as the frontline fighter Fester, who wasn’t here. Back then, not only did he not use a shield, he hadn’t been wearing armor, either, so he had been avoiding most of the attacks from Kasim and his friends.
However, he had deflected Fester’s sword with his claws numerous times.
“That’s because Van redirected the force of the attacks,” said Basdia. “And back then, Van was moving continuously without stopping, wasn’t he?”
“I see. If Vandalieu-sama is moving, his own strength resists the attack,” said Eleanora.
“And this time, because Vandalieu was standing still and took a sideways swing from a mace, a weapon that transfers its force particularly well, he was sent flying, huh?” said Kachia.
Kasim and Vandalieu nodded, satisfied with Basdia’s explanation.
Up until now, Vandalieu had been reliant on death-attribute magic barriers, Golem walls and allies with powerful defenses for his own defense against enemy attacks.
There had been several occasions where he had engaged in hand-to-hand combat against monsters like Goblins for training, but he had kept moving around actively, and many of the attacks he had received were from spears and swords that would pierce or cut his flesh, not send his entire body flying.
The only time he had been mowed down was the time he had deliberately received the attack from the Noble Orc Bugogan’s sword.
“I see. But Vandalieu is still small; unless his opponent is a Goblin or a child like him, attacks that aren’t front kicks will mostly come from above and swing downwards, so I don’t think this would happen very often,” said Kasim.
If it were an attack from above, even if Vandalieu stopped it with his shield, he would be able to withstand it by bracing his legs against the ground.
But an attack that scooped him up from below would easily make him lose his balance if he were to stop it with his shield.
Well, outside of training, it was unlikely that Vandalieu would ever find himself in a situation where he was engaged in hand-to-hand combat against an enemy without using magic while separated from his allies.
“Still, the fact that I’m light… I’ve never realized it up until now,” said Vandalieu.
“Yeah… but now that I think back, don’t a lot of different people hold you up in the air? Just the other day, old man Borkus picked you up like a cat,” Kasim said.
As he said, Vandalieu was picked up freely by various people. Borkus, the half-Noble Orc Pauvina who was like his younger sister, Basdia and Eleanora all picked him up or held him in their arms.
“That’s true, but everyone has the Superhuman Strength skill, and they’re all bigger than me,” said Vandalieu.
Thus, he had unconsciously believed that it wasn’t because he was light, but because everyone picking him up was strong or because they were adults.
“For now, we’ll avoid sideways attacks until he gets used to it and switch to attacks from above,” said Basdia. “Van, be careful not to lose your balance. Instead of stopping the attack with your shield, try to use the rounded parts to redirect its force. I don’t think there’d ever be a situation where you’d be fighting one-on-one against an enemy without being able to use magic, but get used to it just in case.”
“Okay,” said Vandalieu.
And so, Vandalieu spent every day leading up to his ninth birthday receiving the attacks of Kasim, Eleanora and Basdia.
While being sent into the air on several occasions.
And for some reason, Kachia picked him up and carried him back home on their way back.
“But I can walk on my own,” Vandalieu said.
“It’s fine, I just realized that I’ve never picked you up, so I’m just taking the opportunity to do it while I can!” Kachia said.
『You have acquired the Shield Technique and Armor Technique skills!』
However, Vandalieu was the king of a nation. He could not spend his entire day training.
He was also busy with paperwork that he did by multiplying himself, conducting Zandia and Jeena’s adjustments and rehabilitation, joining the Black Goblin Ninjas in their training and patrolling the marshlands with the former Scaled King Leo, who was now a Dragon Zombie, and his rider, Bone Man.
“Kings have more free time than you’d expect, don’t they?” Vandalieu remarked.
“That only applies for you, Your Majesty,” said Chezare. “I am working incessantly every day… Training the newly formed Dark Night Knights’ Order, Black Fang Knights’ Order and the Scaled Dragon cavalry unit… kufufufu.”
“Your Majesty, won’t you let me say something to this tireless Undead? I would like to point out that your younger brother is a human made of flesh and blood,” said Kurt.
Vandalieu, who could simply multiply with spirit form clones if he wanted more hands or heads, was equivalent to a group of over a dozen people by himself. He was the ruler of a nation, even if that nation was still small, but he had an abundance of free time this way.
Chezare had been demonstrating his qualities as an exceptional military official while he was alive, but after becoming Undead, he no longer felt physical fatigue. And when he was doing the work of a general, he demonstrated marvelous concentration for those tasks.
As for Kurt, who was being made to accompany him… he had been praised as a commander with a steady work method, but he was a human who needed sleep and food.
He was a military man, so he could push himself further than most, but he couldn’t push himself every day and every night.
The knights and soldiers being trained were Undead or monsters, so they were more resistant to long activities than Kurt was.
“Kurt, Chezare will easily forget to let you rest while working, so you have to decide on your own when to rest,” said Vandalieu.
“You might say that, Your Majesty, but it’s difficult for a subordinate to say that he is going to rest while a superior is still working,” said Kurt.
“… That might be true.”
In Vandalieu’s case, though he worked busily, he was enjoying himself as well, so nobody felt the need to be reserved around him. However, Chezare was completely engrossed in work, so perhaps Kurt, Chezare’s direct subordinate, couldn’t be blamed for being reserved.
“I must implement a paid leave system, mustn’t I?” said Vandalieu.
He’d been careful to prevent working environments from being too harsh, but perhaps he hadn’t gone far enough. More living people would take up administrative positions in the future as well. Vandalieu decided that the working environments of such positions would need to be improved.
“As you wish,” said Chezare. “Well then, please explain this paid leave system that you are thinking of. It must then be put into written document form, reviewed, the administrative positions decided –”
“Your Majesty, it seems that I have more work to do now,” Kurt remarked.
It seemed like it was defeating the purpose, but if a properly-managed paid leave system was put into place, Kurt’s working environment would improve as well, so he just needed to endure a little longer.
In between the usual work and training, Vandalieu was also trying to create and refine new magical metals using the silver and gold nuggets obtained from the B-class Dungeon, the Scaled King’s Nest.
“It’s not going very well,” he said.
“It’s disappearing, isn’t it?” said Pauvina.
“I wonder why that is?” said Zadiris.
“I don’t know,” said Tarea.
They had been obtaining silver and gold since last year, but unlike the Death Iron and Dark Copper created by immersing iron and copper in death-attribute Mana, the creation of magical metals using gold and silver hadn’t succeeded yet.
For some reason, once a certain amount of Mana was poured in, the gold and silver disappeared.
“It’s completely gone. I wonder where it went?” Pauvina patted her large hand around the area where a silver nugget had been, but there was nothing there except the floor.
Basdia’s mother, the Ghoul Wizard Zadiris, and the leader of the smithing team, the Ghoul High Artisan Tarea, watched with the eyes of a mage and a craftsman respectively, but they didn’t understand why the silver nugget had disappeared.
“If the Mana stops before the metal disappears, it stays as normal silver and gold. So, I believe that disappearing is the change that occurs for it to become a magical metal,” said Tarea.
“Is there such thing as a disappearing magical metal?” asked Pauvina.
“There are not that many different magical metals to begin with,” Tarea replied.
Orichalcum, that could only be created by the gods, the flexible and reparable Damascus Steel whose method of creation was passed on only to certain Dwarf individuals, Mythril and Adamantite which were the top two well-known magical metals, and Obsidian, which could be made by skilled blacksmiths.
These were the common magical metals. There were other magical metals created by being imbued strongly with Mana of a certain attribute, but they were rare and not well-known.
To begin with, magical metals were normally created when metals and minerals were placed for long periods of time in places filled with Mana. Other than Obsidian, which was created by using existing magical metals and materials, and Damascus Steel which was considered possible to create, magical metals were generally not something that could be newly created.
It was only possible for Vandalieu because he possessed an absurd amount of Mana and the ability to accelerate time for inanimate objects with the Inanimate Aging spell.
“But silver and gold disappear in different ways, do they not?” said Zadiris. “Silver just vanishes immediately, but gold just disappears the moment you take your eyes off it.”
“That’s right,” said Tarea. “At first, I thought someone had simply moved it, but…”
It wasn’t as if the gold nuggets had escaped on their own, so they had thought that someone had taken it away, but there were no signs of that having happened, so their whereabouts were simply unknown.
Suddenly, the white object that Vandalieu was leaning against gave a small cry. “Pigi-pigi.”
“Hmm? Quinn, do you know something about this?” Vandalieu asked.
This white object was the Cemetery queen bee’s larva, named Quinn, who had grown to become plump and shiny.
As one might expect of a queen bee larva, she did not move much. Normally, she stayed equipped inside Vandalieu, but she came out like this from time to time.
“Pigii, Kikiki, pipigigigih.”
“… How does the boy understand what Quinn is saying?” Zadiris wondered. “The other day, he was conversing with the large centipede Pete as well.”
“Are those even words to begin with?” asked Tarea. “To me, all of the ‘pigihs’ sound the same.”
“Is that not because of your old age?”
“What did you say?! Zadiris, you are around thirty years older than I am!”
In reality, both of their physical ages had been reversed with Youth Transformation so that they matched their physical appearances of being in their mid-to-late teenage years.
“Van said that Quinn and Pete are smart, so when they combine their noises with the movements of their faces to certain angles and move their feelers around, he can get a rough idea of what they want to say,” Pauvina said to the two who were having a useless argument.
It seemed that Vandalieu did indeed understand what Quinn was trying to tell him.
“Rapiéçage is collecting something?”
Everyone turned to see Rapiéçage, who was often seen together with Pauvina, rummaging around for something in the corner of Vandalieu’s workshop.
And then, as if she had found something, she gave a happy-sounding groan. And then she lifted the object that she had found –
“Rappie, wait a second, show me that before you eat it!” Pauvina said hastily, stopping Rapiéçage from eating the golden, shining object.
Rapiéçage looked at the small, golden object in her large hand and then exchanged a look with Pauvina. “… Half… sies.”
“Thanks!” Pauvina said.
“… No, I do not believe that is what you should be saying?” said Zadiris.
Rapiéçage tore the golden object in half with her fingers.
Pauvina took the half of the object that she had been given and showed it to everyone.
“In appearance, it seems to be gold,” said Tarea.
The object shone with a golden color that had attracted people since time immemorial. However, for some reason, the object was trembling as it crawled around on Pauvina’s palm.
It was like a golden amoeba, or in Lambda terms, like a golden Slime.
Zadiris tried touching it. “Contrary to its appearance, it has a hard texture. And it feels cold like metal, and is heavier than it looks. Is this really gold?”
The object had a metal-like coldness and weight.
“Perhaps this is gold that has been transformed by death-attribute magic?” Vandalieu guessed, watching the object squirming around between Zadiris’s fingers.
Impossible, he thought, but when he cast the Detect Life skill to investigate, he found that the object gave a life-like response.
It seemed that this object wasn’t simply crawling; it was alive.
Can a living metal exist? Vandalieu wondered.
“It is possible,” said Tarea. “It is said that there is a metal that is considered to be a magical metal that contains souls. It is called Soul Steel, and if arms are forged with it, they are arms with intelligence of their own.”
“It seems that there are various theories, however,” said Zadiris. “Whether it has a soul to begin with, or whether it has a soul after it is turned into arms. And remember, the Orichalcum spear whose soul the boy destroyed before, Ice Age? That could be considered a living metal as well, could it not?”
It seemed that it wasn’t a strange thing for a magical metal to be alive.
Chew, chew, chew, swallow.
Rapiéçage swallowed half of that living metal. Apparently, it was delicious.
“Those living magical metals, are they edible?” Vandalieu asked.
“Normally, they would not be,” said Zadiris. “Though there are tales of Dragons swallowing them…”
“Amazing, Van-sama! To think that you have made the world’s first edible metal! … I do not know how that is amazing, however,” said Tarea.
“It was a gold nugget to begin with, after all,” said Pauvina.
The invention of an edible, delicious metal. Indeed, it was likely the first in the world. But it begged the question, “So what?”
If it was dirt or rock to begin with, it would be a great invention. If it provided nutrition, it might eradicate the world’s hunger problems.
However, the ingredient was lumps of solid gold.
If it were just edible and nothing more, nobody would bother eating something as expensive as gold. Extremely rich people might consider eating it, however.
No matter how delicious it was, wouldn’t the demand be too limited?
“Well then, can we try eating it?” Pauvina asked.
“Yes, let us try eating it first,” said Vandalieu.
“Pigih~” Quinn squeaked.
“Even if it is edible and tastes pleasant, there is no guarantee that it will not be harmful,” said Zadiris.
“If we have Van-sama cast Disinfect, all of the bad components will disappear, so it will be alright,” said Tarea.
After that, everyone tried eating a share of it to find that it was delicious. The flavor couldn’t be described as sweet or bitter, nor was it spicy or sour, but it was somehow delicious. Perhaps it contained some undiscovered amino acid.
“Ah, I can feel myself gaining Experience Points from eating it,” said Zadiris.
“Amazing! I just leveled up!” Pauvina exclaimed.
“This is… truly amazing!” said Tarea.
It seemed that it provided Experience Points, though in small amounts. Was it because the metal was alive?
“So, boy, can you see this gold’s spirit?” Zadiris asked.
“No, it doesn’t seem like there is one,” said Vandalieu.
Despite having been alive, no spirit emerged from the gold.
This living gold was named Life Gold.
Incidentally, even Rapiéçage didn’t know where the silver went, and its whereabouts remained unknown.
A fearsome group moved through the outskirts of the marshlands at night.
At its head was the former Scaled King Leo, who had become a Zombie Dragon with a head that resembled a crocodile’s, and the armored Skeleton riding it, Bone Man. Leo let out a low groan.
Growling rose from the Zombies that formed the newly-reborn Black Bull Knights’ Order, who were originally a part of the Mirg shield-nation’s army, and the newly-established Scaled Dragon Knights’ Order.
They were mounted on Demon Horses, horses that had transformed into monsters, which could travel without problems even in the marshlands due to the Rough Road Travel skill.
However, the Demon Horses’ Ranks had increased and they had become something else.
The members of the Black Bull Knights’ Order were riding Rank 4 Bicorns, ferocious, omnivorous horse-like monsters who possessed horns coated in deadly venom. They were monsters that were larger than horses and possessed even more strength and stamina than they appeared to; even brown bears would be prey for them.
The members of the Scaled Dragon Knights’ Order were mounted on black horses with shining, crimson eyes. They were Rank 4 as well, but they were Nightmare Horses with the Air-running skill. They had the same constitution and physical strength as Demon Horses, but because they could run through the air, their mobility was greatly increased.
Both were rare, and though they were originally horses, they didn’t form groups. Thus, there weren’t any countries that used them as mounts for their knights.
“No abnormalities. There aren’t even any traces that monsters have come in from outside…” Bone Man murmured in disappointment.
“Bone Man-dono, monsters generally do not venture into places that they are unsuited to live in unless they are greatly starving or have been chased away by an outside enemy,” said a Zombie Knight of the Black Bull Knights’ Order.
“But even if it is for our training, simply moving around and observing is tedious,” said Bone Man. “We have not even cut anything down today.”
Bone Man had accompanied Vandalieu on his expedition to the former Sauron Duchy, but after coming back, he had returned to his job of keeping watch around the swamp on Leo’s back.
However, the marshlands were an embodiment of peace itself, to the point that it was questionable as to whether it was even necessary to keep watch over them. They had been ruled by the Lizardmen to begin with, so there were almost no dangerous monsters other than them. And just like the Zombie Knight had explained a moment ago, monsters rarely ventured into the marshlands from the outside.
Talosheim was far more dangerous, as one step outside the city’s walls would leave one exposed to lands where monsters of Rank 3 or above roamed.
That was why Bone Man was spending his days riding a corpse Dragon. At this rate, his skills would grow blunt.
But the reason for that was beneath his own bottom.
“Bone Man-dono, how about dismounting Leo?” the Zombie Knight suggested.
“Indeed. There is no way that any monsters would willingly approach a place that is periodically visited by a high-Rank Undead such as Leo,” said Bone Man.
“If Goblins were to see his enormous body, they would flee,” the Zombie Knight agreed.
Other monsters would run upon seeing Leo or smelling his scent.
Leo had been a Rank 10 Great Mud Dragon when he was alive. He had become significantly weaker since becoming a Zombie, but he had ventured through the Scaled King’s Nest, a B-class Dungeon, and regained enough power to be Rank 8.
Bone Man’s Rank had increased, so the two were now of the same Rank, but the impressiveness of their appearances were vastly different. Bone Man simply appeared to be a Skeleton in a suit of armor, while Leo looked terrifying with his enormous body and crocodile-like appearance.
And though Vandalieu had used magic to stop Leo’s decomposition, monsters with a sharp sense of smell would be able to detect the Zombie Dragon’s presence through his scent.
As a result, monsters would flee from any place that Leo passed through… Rank 1 monsters such as Giant Catfish or Giant Frogs would happily loiter around in Leo’s presence, but that was because they sensed that Leo would take no notice of such low-Rank monsters.
It was the same reason why Goblins would run from an Ogre, but ants wouldn’t.
“Jyuuh, but dismounting Leo when he has been gifted to me by my lord…”
At the thought of dismounting Leo, Bone Man made a glum face… or rather, his face didn’t change, but his sullenness was audible in his voice.
For Bone Man, Leo was the Dragon Zombie that he had always wanted, given to him by Vandalieu. He was Bone Man’s beloved mount, and Bone Man always made time to polish his scales and fangs.
Leo gave another groan.
Of course, he always had a somewhat vacant look in his eyes, so it wasn’t clear whether Bone Man’s affection was getting through to him.
“And I cannot do something like exposing my lord’s territory to danger just to stave off the boredom…” Bone Man murmured.
“Then you must endure,” said the Zombie Knight. “Once we have finished our patrol, you are on leave, are you not? You may exercise your skill to your heart’s content in the Dungeon.”
Bone Man reluctantly fell silent and concentrated on his surroundings. As this loose conversation came to an end, only the breathing and hoofbeats of the Bicorn and Nightmare Horses’ could be heard.
But the Bicorns suddenly began gnashing their teeth in agitation.
“This is the smell of blood!” Bone Man exclaimed.
“Did monsters fight nearby?” the Zombie Knight murmured.
Conflict between monsters was not a rare event. However, the smell of blood being left behind for a long time was unusual. The insects and weaker monsters in Devil’s Nests would suck up and consume every single drop of scattered blood and every piece of flesh.
And the Undead, who could see spirits, could see the spirits of Orcs. They soon dissolved and vanished, perhaps returning to the circle of transmigration.
“Orcs, this close to the marshlands? This is a first,” said the Zombie Knight.
“Jyuuh, the spirits have disappeared, but something may be left behind. Search the surroundings,” Bone Man ordered.
The Undead searched the surroundings, but the Orcs’ corpses had been absorbed by something; all they could find were fragments of broken swords and small pieces of what appeared to be Orc flesh. And the tracks of an enormous insect, leading south.
“Is something happening in the south? Jyuuh… I must report this to my lord.”
There was a vessel shaped like a round pool, placed in one corner of Vandalieu’s workshop, which was now empty.
It was filled with a flesh-colored liquid, and organs like arms, legs and heads were chaotically extending from its surface and then collapsing back inside, over and over.
It was the mysterious, writhing mass of flesh that had been produced when Vandalieu used the incomplete resurrection device in an attempt to resurrect Darcia.
For some reason, it did possess life, but it was a mysterious object that contained no spirit or soul.
At first, Luciliano had observed it enthusiastically, saying that this could be the birth of a new life-form, but he had seen no changes other than its squirming around. Now, Vandalieu, Pauvina and the other children were simply feeding it dead flesh.
However, at this moment, a hand was extending from the mass of flesh.
The lump of flesh extended its hand outside the pool, showing a movement with intention for the first time. And then it grabbed hold of something on the floor.
A shining, silver object appeared in its hand. The lump of flesh, which had gripped this silver object… the silver nugget of an unknown magical metal that Vandalieu had created with death-attribute Mana, withdrew its arm and buried the silver nugget within itself.
It began writhing more fiercely than before, liking boiling water… and then it stopped moving.