“Mother, wait. I still want to follow Holy-Son-dono,” said Gizania, raising an objection despite the fact that the problem had been resolved. “It is true that I mistook Holy-Son-dono’s gender, but I truly felt that I wish to follow him. That has not changed, even now. And I owe him the debt of having saved my life. If Holy-Son-dono is going to face the trial to succeed the champion Zakkart, I must take part.”
“I understand how you feel,” Queen Donaneris said to her daughter. “The trial to determine the succession or second coming of the champion Zakkart, which has continued for about a hundred thousand years. An obstacle that has repelled all of the heroes of matchless valor who have faced it. The majority of them return alive, but there are also casualties. If the one who saved your life is going to challenge it, then it is only reasonable to want to take part.”
“… Reasonable, is it?” Basdia said, confused. “Well, I do understand that you can’t just do nothing if there’s the possibility that your savior might die.”
But it seemed that not only Queen Donaneris, but Chief Mage Bakota and the other Arachne and Empusa were convinced as well.
“Basdia-dono, this is what is known as the bushido*,” Myuze told Basdia.
It seemed that the bushido spoken of in Zanalpadna was different to that on Earth. It was likely that concepts related to ambition and duty were emphasized.
“… Is it something like chivalry?” asked Basdia.
Of course, there was no way for her to know that the bushido was different. She seemed to be interpreting the bushido to be something like chivalry.
“I am curious about the difference in information regarding the Trial of Zakkart between the inside of the Boundary Mountain Range and the outside… but it does not seem appropriate to ask this now,” said Zadiris.
On the outside of the Boundary Mountain Range, the Trial of Zakkart was known as an extremely dangerous Dungeon that almost none other than the Five-colored Blades have ever returned from alive. And it was rumored that the one who cleared the Dungeon would be considered to have as much power as the champion Bellwood, the one who had defeated the fallen champion Zakkart.
However, inside the Boundary Mountain Range, it was still known as a highly difficult Dungeon, but most who challenged it returned alive. And the one who cleared it would be considered the successor or the second coming of not Bellwood, but Zakkart.
They were completely opposite descriptions.
The fact that the one who cleared the Dungeon would become Bellwood or Zakkart’s successor was merely a rumor, so it wasn’t strange that these rumors differed between the inside and outside of the Boundary Mountain Range. However, the difference in the rumored survival rate of those who challenged it couldn’t be explained.
It was difficult to imagine that it was simply that those outside the Boundary Mountain Range were weak while those inside it were strong.
The Trial of Zakkart was a famous Dungeon outside the Boundary Mountain Range. Thus, there were reckless people who challenged it in an attempt to test themselves, but other than them, most who challenged it possessed the strength of at least B-class adventurers; most of them were as strong as A-class adventurers.
Considering that they had that much strength, they weren’t at all inferior to the heroes who lived inside the Boundary Mountain Range.
Perhaps it is because the races of those who challenge the Dungeon are different? Zadiris wondered. Using Zanalpadna as a reference, it is difficult to imagine that those who are not members of Vida’s races, the humans, Elves and Dwarves, would become powerful enough. Now that the boy has said that he will challenge it, I want to ask about this matter in more detail, but… it seems that this will take some time.
The reason Queen Donaneris and Bakota hadn’t talked about the Trial of Zakkart up until now was not because they had wanted to keep quiet about it, but because they had simply assumed that Zadiris and the others had known this information without it being needed to be said.
They were sheltered from the outside by the Boundary Mountain Range, so they hadn’t known that there were differences in the information regarding the Trial of Zakkart on the inside and outside.
She didn’t know this, but simply asking why the information was different wouldn’t give any answers that anyone would want.
“That will come after this has all calmed down,” Zadiris decided as she continued watching.
“I understand your feelings,” said Queen Donaneris. “I understand, but you being with Holy-Son-dono would be complicated… No, if Holy-Son-dono has taken a liking to you, then perhaps there is no problem? How are things in that regard?”
“Indeed, if Holy-Son-dono takes a liking to Gizania-dono, then there will be no problems, even though there was a misunderstanding with the necklace of deep affection,” said Bakota.
Was this their one chance? Bakota nodded in agreement with Queen Donaneris.
“No, would that not be imprudent? And from what I have heard, Holy-Son-dono already has numerous candidates to become his brides. Basdia is one of them,” said Gizania.
She wanted to follow Vandalieu, but she had deceived him, even if it wasn’t intentional, and she was against making use of that. And she felt bad for Basdia and the others.
“That’s true, but you don’t need to worry. It’s not like you’re going to keep Van all to yourself, is it? I heard that you people share your husbands with each other as well, so there are no problems,” Basdia said, reassuring her.
“If there are multiple candidates, then I’m sure it’s fine for Gizania-chan to join them! Darling is planning to marry people other than me as well, and Gizania-chan is cute!” said Princess Kurnelia, seemingly not going in the sis-con direction of not wanting to hand her younger sister to anyone else.
“Is it normal for one to be unconcerned no matter how many wives their husband has?” Myuze asked.
This would normally be true, but the truth was that not only Basdia, but Zadiris and Eleanora as well expected that Gizania might be bothered by this. So if she did actually become bothered by it, everyone would simply think, “as expected.”
And Zadiris didn’t really know what Vandalieu thought regarding such matters.
The boy has welcomed everyone with open arms up until now, after all. Though it seems that it is not as if he feels nothing at all, Zadiris thought, but she had another thought as well.
“Well, I suppose he has fewer partners than Vigaro, so there are no problems,” she said.
Vigaro, Basdia’s father, had experience with partners whose numbers were not in the tens or twenties, even if Zadiris was excluded. They had grown fewer in number since Vandalieu solved the Ghouls’ birth rate problem, but even so, they were few only in comparison with his old self.
That was why Zadiris thought that it wouldn’t be a problem… though in Vigaro’s case, these relationships were like de-facto marriages rather than marriages like on Earth or Origin, so the circumstances should have been strangely different.
“Gizania, the problem is how you feel about the boy,” said Zadiris. “Either way, after you repay your favor to the boy, you intended to think about your future, including marriage, were you not? It simply means that your marriage partner might be the boy. Before confirming the boy’s feelings, you must first think about that.”
“How I feel…” Gizania closed her eyes and went into thought.
But she had felt positive feelings for Vandalieu from the beginning. Even excluding the strange charm, he was the first member of the opposite gender… indeed, the opposite gender, who had called her beautiful.
Among the large-build Arachne with robust bodies, Gizania had trained substantially in order to be of use to her older sister, Princess Kurnelia, and to one day become a true Bushi.
Thus, she’d had almost no interactions with the men of Zanalpadna, many of whom possessed production-related Jobs. The only exception was her own father.
She had only vaguely thought that she would one day choose a partner to create children with from among the men who had been acknowledged as husbands by her sisters other than Princess Kurnelia and the citizens who lived in the same tower as her.
It wasn’t that they didn’t have charm. They were good people, but…
Comparing them to Holy-Son-dono, I find Holy-Son-dono to be more desirable.
Vandalieu was far more powerful than Gizania, so she had to work hard to catch up to him, but they could be together even in training. Indeed, they could truly be together. Because Vandalieu, the Insect User, could equip Gizania inside his body with the Insect Binding Technique skill.
But would she be able to move forward and think of him as a member of the opposite gender when she had mistaken him for a member of the same gender all this time?
Gizania opened her eyes and looked up. “C-could I perhaps put this decision on hold?” she said, averting her gaze.
“M-muh, you would falter there, my daughter?” said Queen Donaneris.
“That’s just like Gizania-chan… come to think of it, what are you going to do, Myuze?” asked Princess Kurnelia.
“Me? It is unavoidable, so I am thinking that it would be fine if I could be at Holy-Son-dono’s side,” Myuze said, accepting things quickly compared to Gizania. “Holy-Son-dono can clone himself, conceal himself and might one day become able to transform into a giant toad; he is the closest being to a ninja there is! If I am at his side, my training will progress as well. And I am already seventy years old. I intended to have children before I reached one hundred, so this is perfect. At first, I thought Holy-Son-dono would be difficult to be with as he is expressionless, but he seems to be good-natured. Of course, this all only applies if Holy-Son-dono takes a liking to me.”
“Myuze-dono, i-is it really alright to make such a clear decision?” Gizania asked.
“Gizania-dono, I am a standard example for Zanalpadna. In fact, relationships such as the one between Princess Kurnelia and Prince Budarion are the exceptions.”
After all, it was a polygamic society where the women living in a tower shared the men living in the same tower. Of course, one couldn’t freely adopt any particular male that they liked into their family. Women often had to choose partners for creating children from among men who had been chosen by other women.
“Is that true?!” Gizania exclaimed.
“Gizania-chan, Darling and I are special. Our encounter was –” Princess Kurnelia began.
“Leaving that aside, we should find out what Van thinks early on,” said Basdia. “Though I have a feeling I know what his answer will be.”
“Indeed. I can imagine what his response will be,” Zadiris agreed.
“… Though it may be a little late, I have started to feel a little anxious,” said Queen Donaneris.
“My queen, let us presume that they are engaged for now,” said Bakota.
After that, Vandalieu, who had already realized that his gender had been mistaken due to Prince Budarion’s reaction, listened to the accurate descriptions of the necklaces of deep affection with the same dead eyes as usual. As Basdia and Zadiris had expected, his response was, “If the two of you are alright with it, then please take care of me from now on.”
“Don’t falter! There are only three enemies!”
“Push them back with our numbers! Mages, don’t stop your spells!”
“GUAAAAH! It’s impossible; no matter how much we surround them, we can’t face them!”
Around the time Bugitas was struggling to decide whether he should withdraw his troops from the other battlefields to focus on conquering Zanalpadna and killing Budarion, the Ghoul nation was in a crisis that threatened its existence.
The entire Ghoul nation was inside a D-class Dungeon called Zozogante’s Great Forest.
It was a twenty-floor Dungeon, entirely made up of forests, created for these Ghouls who had low birth rates by Zozogante, the evil god of the dark forest, who had become their guardian.
By living inside a Dungeon, their bodies and reproductive functions were stimulated more than if they were living in a Devil’s Nest, and even after a hundred thousand years, they were able to maintain something that was large enough to be called a nation.
Even so, unlike Zanalpadna’s E-class Dungeon, the Shell-less Open Field, this Dungeon was dangerous and there was no room to adopt citizens.
That was why almost all of the nation’s citizens were Ghouls, and the population was about five thousand.
It had the smallest population among the nations near Zanalpadna.
However, the people could earn their keep in the Dungeon, and the warriors could go and hunt outside once they had trained themselves enough to survive on the outside, so it was a small but prosperous nation.
It was an army led by the ‘Fang-Spear Boar’ Budirud, the most exceptional spear-user among Bugitas’s subordinates, who had broken the peace of this nation.
Budirud, a Rank 9 Noble Orc General, was a soldier who wielded a magic spear created from the tusk of a Prominence Mammoth, a monster that he had hunted on his own. But he was not merely powerful as an individual. He was known as an exceptional commander who made skillful use of his subordinates.
The Ghouls put up a good fight against the elite force of Noble Orcs, High Goblins and High Kobolds led by Budirud, but they were repeatedly retreating into the deeper floors of the Dungeon.
“NOOOOO! Stop them at all costs! Don’t let them do as they please anymore!”
“Protect the chief! Warriors, show them your pride!”
“You think we’ll hand you our women?!”
Unlike the Ghouls outside the Boundary Mountain Range, who possessed meager levels and variety in their skills and found it difficult to increase their Ranks, the Ghouls of Zozogante’s Great Forest could change Jobs and safely become Rank 5 once they became proficient warriors.
And although they did not possess exceptional blacksmithing techniques, they would collect the items found in the Dungeon’s treasure chest and use them for equipment.
Thus, the nation was being protected by the warriors who were few in number, but elite in quality. Though their enemies were Rank 6 Noble Orcs, Ghouls possessed both Jobs and Ranks, so they could win about half of the one-on-one battles. There were five thousand such Ghouls, while Budirud commanded only a few hundred. This was not a battle that the Ghouls should have been disadvantaged in.
However, Budirud and his army had been strengthened by some kind of power. It was something that was far clearer than the effects of the Commanding and Coordination skills.
And because the Ghouls lived in a Dungeon, they had been unable to build sturdy walls like the ones in Zanalpadna. It seemed that there were no problems in building things like houses, but only Vandalieu, who possessed the Labyrinth Construction skill, could build walls that were not easily broken, preventing the coming and going of monsters.
In addition, combat in this forest-shaped Dungeon, where space was limited, was advantageous to the small army of elites led by Budirud.
To top it all off, Budirud had once led an army to stop a monster rampage from a certain Dungeon in the past; he was one of the few men who had experience in winning a battle by commanding a large army against a large number of enemies.
Faced with this enemy and having retreated numerous times until being cornered down to the tenth floor, the Ghouls prepared themselves for the decisive battle.
“Budirud… Why would a soldier as great as yourself… no, I will not ask anymore. You are a rebel, but you are a warrior who has supported the empire up until now. You have served well. You should rest now.”
“Th-this is hopeless! We can’t hold!”
“… Prince Budarion, Budirud’s spirit is behind you.”
But before the decisive battle could unfold, Vandalieu and his companions had assaulted Budirud’s army from behind.
Vandalieu had heard from Buburin’s spirit that the Ghoul nation was under siege. He and his companions had pushed forward up to this point, instantly killing the lookout units that had been positioned along the way, passed through the entrance of Zozogante’s Great Forest and then pushed on, with the few elite members of his party overwhelming and scattering the enemies standing in the way.
Vandalieu, who possessed the Labyrinth Construction skill that allowed him to understand the floors and structure of the Dungeon the moment he entered it and even change the structure of the Dungeon as he liked, had split up Budirud’s army and cornered them into a state where they couldn’t exert their proper strength.
And then the army had been scattered by Borkus, Vigaro, Zadiris, Basdia, Bone Man as well as Prince Budarion, who had recovered his lost arm and eye.
Budirud and his army had all been strengthened by the effects of a skill that was unknown to them, But Borkus and the others were strengthened by Guidance: Demon Path. And the strengthening effect was greater on Vandalieu’s side.
If this was a battle on the surface rather than in a Dungeon, and Budirud commanded an army of over a thousand rather than just a few hundred elite individuals, some of them may have been able to escape.
But because the battlefield was inside a Dungeon, Vandalieu and his companions had been able to exterminate every enemy without letting a single one escape.
It was fortunate that news of this battle would be delayed in reaching Bugitas, who was likely troubling himself over it in the Noble Orc empire.
“Hmm, I see,” said Prince Budarion.
“Should I use Visualization?” Vandalieu suggested. “That would make him able to speak, though.”
“No, let us not. It is unlikely that he would be able to converse with me in that state,” Prince Budarion said.
“That does not seem to be the case. I seem to be unnaturally calm right now,” said Budirud’s spirit.
Budirud had continued fighting while letting out beast-like roars until the moment Prince Budarion defeated him. According to Prince Budarion, he had been a composed general who had served for a long time, but to Vandalieu, he had appeared to be nothing other than a bloodthirsty berserker.
But he seemed to have regained his reasoning the moment Prince Budarion finished him off with his magic sword, turning him into a spirit.
“I apologize for my disgraceful behavior. I became a prisoner of the power of His Majesty the Emperor Bugitas… No, Bugitas. In exchange for my original power as a monster, I lost my ability to reason,” Budirud said.
These were the words of a man who, up until his death, had howled orders at his subordinates in the Orc language, cursed Prince Budarion with unbearably harsh words and looked at Basdia and Eleanora with a vulgar smile.
… Wouldn’t it normally be the opposite? The spirits of the dead were supposed to be more emotional than while they were alive.
Vandalieu was so perplexed that he canceled his plan of breaking Budirud’s soul.
Of course, it wasn’t only Budirud who had regained their sanity the moment they died. All of his subordinates had been like beasts before dying, but they had regained their ability to reason upon death.
“Perhaps Budirud and his subordinates were under Bugitas or Ravovifard’s influence, and now that they have been released through death, they are under my lord’s influence and regained their original personalities?” said Bone Man.
“I didn’t know Bugitas had that kind of skill. He might have been given it by Ravovifard,” said Prince Budarion. “Would it not be a guidance skill like yours, Holy-Son-dono? If that is the case, then I would be able to understand how a man like Budirud was misled.”
Prince Budarion hadn’t been under the effects of Vandalieu’s Guidance: Demon Path until immediately after receiving the transplant surgery for his arm and eye. However, he was now under its effects.
It seemed that with the conversation following the surgery, Prince Budarion had acknowledged Vandalieu.
And his loyal vassals had followed, falling under the effects of Guidance: Demon Path as well.
“If it is a guidance skill, what would it be? The heretic path or the animal path?” Vandalieu said, thinking a little.
“Cooked, let’s eat,” groaned Eisen.
“The mammoth skewers are done, Van,” said Basdia.
Unable to win against the roast meat, Vandalieu decided to prioritize his appetite first.
It was generous amounts of skewered meat that Eisen and Basdia had made from the meat of the tamed Mammoth that Budirud had used as a mount.
It seemed that in the area around Zanalpadna and the Ghoul Nation, there weren’t any dinosaurs, but there were mammoths and saber-toothed tigers – or to be more precise, monsters that resembled them exactly.
The mammoths were not the enormous, fur-covered elephants that Vandalieu had imagined, but more like large versions of African elephants.
Vandalieu had been surprised when Legion’s Enma had informed him that mammoths of warm regions didn’t possess fur.
Leaving that aside, this was another luxurious food ingredient like dinosaur meat.
Vandalieu took the skewer, bit into it, tore some meat off and tasted it as he chewed.
“The tare made from Eisen’s iron apples is effective; the meat’s smell is reduced and it has become softer. The way it’s been cooked is perfect; the more I chew, the more my mouth is filled with flavor. It’s very delicious,” said Vandalieu’s spirit, giving his impression on the meat with the Out-of-body Experience skill as the physical Vandalieu was busy chewing.
Eisen and Basdia gave each other a happy high-five.
“It seems like it would be delicious in hamburgers or teriyaki as well. However, the meat is tough overall, so it may not be well-suited for steaks,” said Zadiris. “How is it eaten in Zanalpadna?” she asked Gizania and Myuze, wondering how mammoth meat was used.
“Mammoth meat is tough, so we often use it for boiled dishes. I prefer it raw, however,” said Gizania.
“I also end up eating the meat raw when I hunt mammoths,” said Myuze.
“… I wonder if you even make sashimi out of it,” said Zadiris.
It seemed that their answer was even wilder than she had expected.
“By the way, Vandalieu-sama, do you not need to stop that? Vigaro has been rampaging on his own for a while,” said Eleanora, pointing at Vigaro, who was having contests of strength with the warriors and mages of the Ghoul nation.
After Budirud’s defeat, the Ghouls of Zozogante’s Great Forest had thanked Vandalieu and his companions for saving them, become wildly enthusiastic under the effects of various things such as Vandalieu’s ‘Ghoul King’ and ‘Holy Son of Vida’ Titles, and then began a feast to celebrate the victory, using the meat of Budirud’s army.
“What’s wrong?! Face me some more! Pick up your weapon and stand up! You won’t be able to protect your women and children like this!” Vigaro roared.
“Bumo~oh. I have a wife, so I don’t really need to be popular…” groaned Gorba.
“Captain, you’re dependable, so I think you could do with another one or two,” said another Orcus.
Vigaro, Gorba and the other Orcuses had suddenly become very popular among the local women, causing them to be challenged by the local men. Vigaro had willingly accepted, and before anyone realized, he was mowing down large numbers of the men from Zozogante’s Great Forest.
To be more accurate, Vandalieu had almost become popular as well, but Basdia and Zadiris had been at his side, and the women had heard that “Van isn’t at the age where he can make children yet,” so that was why Vigaro and Gorba had become popular instead.
Incidentally, Borkus wasn’t present, as he had said, “I’m going to go clear this place to kill some time,” and departed on a solo-clear of Zozogante’s Great Forest. He would probably clear it without any difficulty and return before long.
“Well, it’s probably fine,” said Vandalieu. “But I suppose I should warn him not to hurt their hips… more importantly, I have to say something to Kasim and Zeno the next time we return to Talosheim.”
“It might be natural for you to say this as you are also the Ghoul King, but is it really alright to say that at your age, Holy-Son-dono?” asked Prince Budarion.
“Age… come to think of it, how old are you, Prince Budarion?”
“Me? I will turn fifteen this year,” replied the three-meter-tall Prince Budarion.
Noble Orcs became adults within ten years, so even though he was fifteen years old, he wasn’t a youngster.
A Job that can be acquired by those who have experienced the Assassin Job. It provides general bonuses to Assassin Technique, Unarmed Fighting Technique, Short Sword Technique, Surpass Limits and skills needed by scouts.
A skill that mainly provides bonuses to the deadliness of surprise attacks. Also, when weapons are concealed in the user’s clothes or equipment, they can be used more effectively.
Like High Goblins, High Kobolds are a superior race of Kobolds that were created by evil gods.
They are about as tall as an average human, and at a glance, they look like bipedal wolves.
Their base Rank is 5, and even if they are not holding weapons, caution is needed, as they can use their claws and fangs to fight with the Unarmed Fighting Technique skill.
Like Kobolds, they are proficient at coordinating with their allies, and are as intelligent as humans. However, they possess strong bonds with their allies, and unlike High Goblins and Noble Orcs, they view members of their respective inferior race as members of the same group, rather than treating them like slaves.
Their reproductive ability is vastly weaker than regular Kobolds; they give birth to one or two children at a time, and the children become adults after five or six years.
However, a single High Kobold accompanied by Kobolds forms a solid fighting force. For this reason, they are designated as a disaster-class race of monsters.
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