Having learned that Bufudin had been killed by an attack carried out by an unknown enemy, Gargya ordered that his army move out and took command himself.
But as a usurper, Gargya didn’t have complete control over the High Kobold nation. Now that General Bufudin had been defeated, if he were to gather all of those loyal to him, it was possible that the rest of the nation would take the opportunity to stage a rebellion.
That was why Gargya had deliberately gathered those rebellious towards him and placed them on the frontlines. Behind them, he had placed units of archers and mages to act as slave-drivers.
He would use the rebellious High Kobolds as disposable war slaves, making them charge at the enemy as suicide squads, while having the other troops observe from behind to make them fight and prevent them from running.
“With this, they can’t even run away, let alone disobey me!”
It wasn’t unusual for nations outside the Boundary Mountain Range to use units of slaves as fodder, but in the area within the Boundary Mountain Range, where there hadn’t been any wars of national scale for a long period of time, this was a revolutionary idea.
However, the attackers had already passed through the gate. Thus, the slaves were tightly-packed as they marched through the nation’s main street at the front, with the slave-drivers and those protecting them behind the slaves, and the elite battalion commanded by Gargya’s army behind them.
“It seems that the enemy is very confident. They’re getting ahead of themselves,” Gargya growled in the Kobold language in a displeased tone as he looked through a magnified image produced by a High Kobold Mage’s light-attribute magic.
Behind the gate that had taken a humanoid shape for some reason, there was a Noble Orc standing at the front, with Ghouls and a small number of High Kobolds raising their weapons.
“Gargya-sama, the Arachne and Empusa that were mentioned in the howls are nowhere to be seen,” one of Gargya’s subordinates told him.
But Gargya merely snorted. “They’re no doubt in hiding. Send the slaves out and smoke them out!”
At Gargya’s command, the slaves charged forward. Unlike Bufudin’s army, they hadn’t lost their ability to reason. In their hearts, they wanted to become allies with the enemies that were apparently an allied force from the Ghoul nation and Zanalpadna, but the slave-drivers behind them were like beasts.
Even if they were to avoid the slave-drivers’ arrows and spells to escape or muster their courage to rebel, the lives of their families and the citizens were in danger.
They didn’t have morale, but they couldn’t disobey.
But something emerged from within the ground, behind the slaves.
Gargya’s eyes grew wide as he saw a small silhouette… Vandalieu, emerge from the ground between the slaves and the slave-drivers.
The slaves carried on, not noticing Vandalieu who had appeared silently behind them, but the slave-drivers stopped for a moment in surprise.
“Become a wall,” Vandalieu said.
And then, with a thunderous noise, a tall wall formed from the ground.
The slave-drivers and Gargya’s main force behind them could no longer see the enemy army and the slaves due to the wall that was rising high into the sky.
Still, their movements only stopped for a moment.
“GAAAAH!” Gargya screamed, giving the extremely simple order to attack and tear apart Vandalieu, who seemed to be the cause of the wall’s appearance.
Feeling an unbearable desire to see blood, the slave-drivers gleefully drew back their bowstrings and recited incantations. With the simultaneous attacks of these Rank 5 High Kobolds, Vandalieu, who appeared to be nothing more than a child, would break apart along with the earthen wall, and even the slaves on the other side of the wall wouldn’t escape unharmed.
The slave-drivers released Archery martial skills like Consecutive Fire, Chaotic Fire and Powershot, as well as all kinds of spells such as Stone Bullet and Flame Bullet.
But immediately after they released their attacks, Vandalieu cast his Dead Spirit Magic.
“Bone Flame Jailing Destruction Bullet, Dark Thunderbolt, Death Ice Prison.”
Enormous skulls made of black flames, lightning and coiling tentacles of ice that completely sapped their surroundings of all heat scattered the feeble arrows and spells, and then engulfed the slave-drivers.
The High Kobolds that were engulfed by the ice and froze to death within seconds were the fortunate ones. Those engulfed by the black flames or struck by lightning didn’t die instantaneously; they received wounds that were clearly fatal at a glance and struggled as they let out dying screams.
Seeing the miserable deaths of their comrades, the morale of the remaining slave-drivers crumbled, and they fled.
Though there had been around three hundred slave-drivers, this number had fallen sharply less than a minute after the battle began.
“… It’s difficult to kill them with magic in a way that kills a lot of them at once, but still leaves the materials intact,” Vandalieu whispered as his lungs were filled with the hunger-stimulating scent of creatures burning alive.
“Don’t worry about it, Your Majesty! There are still plenty of them left!” said Princess Levia, trying to cheer him up.
“That’s right, let’s try again! It’ll go well this time!” said Orbia.
Incidentally, Kimberley seemed to be busy chasing the fleeing High Kobolds about, electrocuting them to death.
The elite individuals led by Gargya were standing stock-still now, lost for words.
Vandalieu had released three Dead Spirit Magic spells. They knew that if any of them were to be hit directly, they would be fatally wounded.
If a Rank 7 High Kobold General were to activate Armor Technique and Shield Technique martial skills and then a High Kobold Mage cast an enchantment on him that increased defense against magic, then perhaps he would get away with heavy wounds.
Their instincts as monsters were supposed to have weakened over the past hundred thousand years. But they knew this because they had regained these instincts, even stronger than they were before.
“D… don’t back down! There’s no way he can use such advanced magic multiple times! Considering the earth-attribute spell that created the wall as well, that should be all he has!” Gargya growled in the Kobold language.
Upon hearing Gargya’s commands, the High Kobolds remembered that this was likely the case and reconsidered the situation.
The instinctual fear that they had felt vanished, and even feelings of scorn and contempt for Vandalieu began to surface.
The one standing before them was indeed a user of advanced magic despite his small appearance, but he was a fool who had spent all of his Mana.
There were three monsters that seemed to be his familiars floating around him, but something could be done about just three monsters. They were an elite battalion of a thousand under Gargya’s direct command.
“Come, kill him along with those useless fools, break through the wall and devour the enemies on the other side of it!” Gargya ordered, and the elite battalion made up of High Kobolds that were at least Rank 6 began their attack.
But even so, the fact that they could still activate martial skills and cast spells was likely because of the “what if” sense of danger that they still felt inside them.
Trampling down and knocking aside the surviving slave-drivers that had fled, they closed in on Vandalieu and the wall at his back.
But meanwhile, Vandalieu had used Spirit Form Transformation on his body.
“Well then, begin the counterattack,” he said.
His transparent form took the shape of an enormous, gate-like rectangle.
And from within Vandalieu, who had transformed into a gate, Pete and the rest of the monsters, the Arachne and the Empusa emerged like a surging wave.
“Samurai unit, intercept the enemy!”
“Kunoichi unit, move out!”
“Puh, going through that twice in a row is rough!”
The High Kobold’s formation fell into chaos at the unexpected appearance of this large number of enemies.
“Dark Lightning, Ice Blood Death Water, Black Flame Spear.”
Dead Spirit Magic spells flew from Vandalieu once more; these spells inflicted less damage but caused the High Kobolds’ formation to fall even further into chaos, and then Pete and the rest of Vandalieu’s forces charged in.
High Kobolds were a race that was proficient in group battles, and this was a battalion of elite individuals who had increased their Ranks at least once. They were under Gargya’s command, and they had never been routed before. However, the situation heavily favored Vandalieu’s side.
“Boulder Smash!” Kasim shouted. “Wait, UOH?!”
His mace smashed the head of a High Kobold Soldier who had lost his balance, but another High Kobold Soldier used the opening to thrust the pommel of his axe towards him. Kasim narrowly managed to stop it with his shield, but now he was the one who had lost his balance a little.
“Kasim!” shouted Fester, who had locked swords with another High Kobold to the side.
He tried to save his comrade, but he wouldn’t make it in time.
“Don’t get carried away!”
Before the axe could bury itself in Kasim’s armor, a green sickle pierced the High Kobold Soldier’s chest.
A large Empusa had used her sickle-arms to save Kasim.
“Y-you saved me,” Kasim breathed, thanking the large Empusa.
“Hmph… You men shouldn’t push yourselves and devote yourself to defense like men should,” said the large Empusa… Gaol, the Empusa Berserker who had been one of Princess Kurnelia’s guards.
After saying these curt words over her shoulder, she engaged in battle with more High Kobolds.
She swung her two sickle-arms and protected herself against the enemies that slipped past them with the sword and shield held by her two hands, but the High Kobolds were pushing her back.
In terms of Rank, both Gaol and the soldiers of the High Kobold battalion were both Rank 6, but as an Empusa, a member of a race created by Vida, Gaol could acquire a Job. That was why she had an advantage in physical ability and skills over the High Kobolds.
But internally, she had lost her temper.
That’s right, I can’t be beaten by weak human men, especially such child-like men who haven’t even lived twenty years!
In the southern region of the continent, Dwarf, Elf and human men possessed inferior fighting strength, so they were in the position of being protected.
That was why Gaol was displeased with the fact that Kasim and his companions were fighting as well as she was.
Logically, she understood that Kasim and his companions possessed great combat techniques and well-trained physical prowess, unlike the humans of Zanalpadna. High Kobolds were not such easy opponents that could be managed with mediocre skills.
There was no problem with them fighting as capably as Gaol.
But emotionally, it wasn’t something that she could accept so easily. That was why she was irritated. Perhaps this was reflected in her movements.
“Iron Rend!” Gaol shouted, cutting down a heavily-armored High Kobold Knight with her sickle arms, but she had failed to notice the small High Kobold Assassin hiding in the Knight’s shadow.
The High Kobold Assassin closed in swiftly, slipping past Gaol’s sickle-arms as well as her sword and shield. His dagger, held in an underhand grip, swept towards Gaol’s side.
At that moment, a deep cut appeared in the High Kobold Assassin’s neck.
“We’ve stepped too far forward; let’s fall back for now.”
Gaol, who had somehow been saved by Zeno, was speechless with surprise at the fact that she hadn’t noticed his presence at all.
Though he thought that Gaol’s behavior was strange, Zeno took hold of her arm and took her with him as he fell back, throwing knives at the High Kobolds to keep them back.
“Thanks for saving Kasim,” he said, and then he returned to where his companions were fighting.
As Gaol watched him leave, she realized that Zeno would have saved her even if she hadn’t saved Kasim earlier.
But that wasn’t important to her.
“I was… saved by a human man who hasn’t even lived twenty years… protected.”
That fact shook Gaol’s heart tremendously, but it wasn’t this shock that was making her heart beat wildly.
Immediately after Gaol watched Zeno leave, the wall that Vandalieu had created made a thundering noise once more as it returned into the ground.
“Follow me, honorable, true High Kobolds! Take your nation and families back from the hands of the beasts!” shouted Prince Budarion as he charged in, leading the Ghouls who had been joined by the High Kobolds that had been treated like slaves.
“Follow Prince Budarion! Defeat the usurper Gargya!”
While Vandalieu and his companions were fighting, on the other side of the wall, Prince Budarion had convinced the slaves to fight for him.
Bufudin had already been defeated, and the assailants were Prince Budarion who had regained his power and high-Rank Ghoul warriors. In the region enclosed by the Boundary Mountain Range, Eleanora’s existence had been interpreted as the Pure-breed Vampires protecting Vida’s Resting Grounds sending reinforcements, so this had worked out favorably as well.
And the noises on the other side of the wall were the dying screams of Gargya’s subordinates and a large number of voices shouting in a language that wasn’t the Kobold language.
Under these overwhelming circumstances, it hadn’t taken more than a minute for the High Kobolds that had been slaves to be freed from their fear of Gargya.
Gargya understood that he was outmatched in both numbers and strength, but he couldn’t surrender or run.
“GUWOOOOOHN! Now that things have come to this, I will kill you myself!” he shouted.
Considering the things that he had done, his surrender would never be accepted. And his pride didn’t allow him to run away.
Even if I run away here, there is no future for me! Even if I’m lucky enough to escape, I would lose my power once Ravovifard abandons me!
With this in mind, Gargya would believe in the possibility of a turnaround and fight with everything he had.
I’m already Rank 10! Even if Budarion has regained his strength, he should only be on equal grounds with me! But what I need to defeat first is that unidentified thing!
With his plentiful fur standing on end, the High Kobold Beast King Gargya charged at Vandalieu.
“Don’t get in our king’s way!”
Regaining their morale from seeing their king move out, the High Kobolds of Gargya’s army didn’t hesitate to attack Vandalieu’s forces to clear the path for Gargya.
… Before he could notice that Vandalieu’s forces hadn’t made any particular effort to stop him, Gargya was caught by Vandalieu’s sight.
The leader of this army isn’t Budarion! It’s you! If I kill you, I have a chance for victory!
Gargya activated his Transcend Limits skill and even used Familiar Spirit Descent to call Ravovifard’s familiar spirit upon himself.
And then he used an Unarmed Fighting Technique martial skill to swing his claws, which were sharper than swords, down at a seemingly helpless, motionless Vandalieu.
“Demon King’s carapace, activate.”
Gargya’s claws were blocked by the black carapace that grew from Vandalieu’s skin and covered his whole body.
With a harsh noise, Gargya’s claws made deep marks on the carapace, but the impact made his arm go numb. His previous self might have had his claws and the bones of his fingers broken.
It’s unbelievably hard! But if it’s simply hard…!
Gargya made a fist with his other hand and activated Penetrating Strike, a martial skill that could only be used with an Unarmed Fighting Technique skill at level 7 or greater. It was a martial skill that didn’t increase the actual power of an attack much but allowed the impact of the attack to penetrate through defenses, dealing direct physical damage.
There was a loud, dull noise, and Gargya felt the sensation of his attack’s impact reaching the target. Vandalieu stuck his head out of the carapace; blood could be seen near his mouth. Thinking that he had found the way to defeat this enemy, Gargya activated Penetrating Strike once more.
But though there was a dull noise again, the sensation was absent this time.
“I was a little surprised that you were able to inflict damage through the Demon King’s carapace and my Dark Copper armor, but it’s so small that it can be completely blocked if I activate Stone Form with my level 1 Armor Technique. So, do you have any way of powering up further than this?” Vandalieu asked, looking at Gargya with the eyes of a researcher conducting an experiment.
After the first attack, he had activated an Armor Technique martial skill with the liquid metal armor inside the carapace and a Shield Technique martial skill with the carapace itself as a shield.
Seeing something strange in Vandalieu’s eyes, Gargya enveloped his fist in the flames of an enchantment spell and swung down at Vandalieu with Penetrating Strike, over and over.
His claws might have had enough power to even make mincemeat out of a Dragon.
However, Gargya’s repeated attacks resembled a frightened child flailing his arms wildly towards the thing that he was scared of.
Because even though Gargya looked scared, it was clear to everyone that his attacks were meaningless.
“… Ah, if you don’t have any ways of powering up, then you don’t have to force yourself, you know? It doesn’t seem that you have any hidden techniques or trump cards, either,” said Vandalieu with a cool expression despite the loud noises produced every time Gargya’s fist collided with the carapace.
Gargya had attacked with an advanced martial skill, but only managed to inflict enough damage to cause a little blood to come from Vandalieu’s mouth.
Vandalieu had strengthened his defense after that, and repeatedly using the same attack with a simple enchantment spell wouldn’t cause any dramatic changes.
I knew that there was no reaction from Danger Sense: Death, but I suppose this is all he has.
Perhaps the effects of his Transcend Limits skill had stopped; Gargya’s movements were becoming visibly more sluggish. Deciding that he would no longer be of any use, Vandalieu activated the Demon King’s blood and horns.
A cylindrical gun barrel formed by the Demon King’s frozen blood protruded from a gap in the carapace, and the projectile made of the Demon King’s horns fired from it entered Gargya’s body through his stomach and exited through his shoulder.
Vandalieu had attacked this way out of consideration for the buildings behind Gargya and the people that might have been inside them.
Gargya’s scream and the scream of something else as well echoed out. The familiar spirit’s presence, which had been emitted from Gargya’s entire body, vanished. Gargya staggered as dark blood sprayed from his mouth and wounds, and then he fell onto the ground, face-up.
“It seems that I can kill the familiar spirit that an enemy is using with Familiar Spirit Descent if I use the Soul Break skill,” Vandalieu noted. “Mhmm, this was valuable.”
Satisfied with the results of his experiment, Vandalieu skewered the limbs of the still-gasping Gargya with the Demon King’s horns.
Gargya screamed as blood sprayed into the air, but Vandalieu ignored him and turned his back to him.
“Kasim, Fester, Zeno. Go ahead,” he said.
The lips of Kasim and his companions stiffened as they looked at the creature that would become a source of Experience Points for them, on the verge of death and fully prepared.
“Is this really fine? For us to have it, I mean. Wouldn’t it be more of an achievement if you defeated him, Vandalieu?” Kasim asked.
“Well, it’s true that we said we’ve hit a hard wall recently, making it hard for us to level up, but… I do feel that this is a bit terrible, you know?” said Fester.
Kasim and his companions had increased their abilities to be equivalent to C-class adventurers, but they were now facing a trial that everyone faced, the so-called wall that made it extremely difficult to increase their levels and skills.
The ordinary way to overcome this wall was to steadily continue gaining experience without giving up.
But there was also the trick of defeating a monster far above one’s own ability, gaining a large amount of Experience Points and breaking through the wall by force. This trick was normally impossible to carry out in practice.
But Vandalieu intended to utilize Gargya to allow Kasim and his companions to use this trick.
“Please don’t worry about it,” said Vandalieu. “Either way, I wouldn’t get any Experience Points if I defeated him myself.”
“Because of your curse, huh. Well then, we’ll take you up on that,” said Zeno. “Kasim, Fester.”
“Well then, we won’t hold back,” said Kasim.
“Yeah, we’re in your debt,” said Fester.
Meanwhile, Gargya, whose limbs had been rendered useless and was unable to speak, was tormented by a maddening sense of humiliation as he listened to this conversation.
Someone as great as me! I, who has received Ravovifard’s divine protection and was supposed to become a true king! I’m becoming food for some human brats?!
Gargya had been trembling in fear of being killed by Vandalieu, but now that he realized that an even crueler end was coming for him, he felt like his blood was going to boil.
He would at least have been satisfied if he were to be killed by someone stronger than him. That would have been within the rule that he believed in, the rule of survival of the fittest. But he couldn’t stand becoming Experience Points for those that were clearly weaker than him.
DON’T FUCK WITH ME, YOU BRAAATS!
In his anger, Gargya thrashed his skewered arms and let out an unintelligible groan through the frozen Demon King’s blood that was covering his mouth.
“Ah, he’s spasming! This is bad, we have to finish him off quick!” Fester shouted.
He had mistaken Gargya’s movements for spasming.
“Alright, we have to go at the same time!”
Vandalieu didn’t correct Fester’s misunderstanding, so a longsword, a mace and a knife were swung down into Gargya.
“This is survival of the fittest. Nobody cares about bad manners shown by the strong when they devour the weak,” Vandalieu murmured. “Now then, everyone, shall we begin hunting down the remainders?”
The High Kobolds cheered at the death of the evil usurper, and then raised their weapons and ran with the Ghouls to hunt down the surviving slave-drivers and troops of the elite battalion.
For the High Kobolds, these were once comrades living in the same nation, but at the same time, they were traitors that had killed their relatives. And despite the usurper’s defeat, the nation wouldn’t be restored to the way it was before.
With the nation’s power having decreased, they couldn’t afford to leave any dangerous individuals alive.
And on top of that, there was no guarantee that none of the survivors would gain Ravovifard’s divine protection and become a second or third Gargya.
“Here, Vandalieu-sama, wipe your mouth. Even for testing the strength of an enemy who has received Ravovifard’s divine protection before fighting Bugitas, you were too reckless,” said Eleanora.
“More importantly, you should have had your carapace out to begin with,” said Basdia. “By the way, where are Gizania and Myuze?”
“It seems that the two of them went with Prince Budarion and some of the High Kobolds to the castle,” said Zadiris.
As Vandalieu popped out of the carapace and had his mouth wiped by Eleanora, he was startled by Basdia and Zadiris’s words. “Kasim, please head to the castle. It’s very urgent,” he said.
“Eh?!” Kasim had been drunk on the pleasant feeling from his sharp increase in level, but he was now surprised at being personally given an order. “W-why me?” he asked, bewildered. “I can’t tell the High Kobolds apart by their faces, you know?! I’m not acquainted with anyone, so is there any point in me going?”
“Don’t worry, just please go. Dash there,” said Vandalieu.
“Kasim, Vandalieu’s said enough,” said Zeno. “I’m sure there’s a point to it!”
“Alright, let’s go, everyone! We’re dashing there!” said Fester.
Kasim was bewildered, but he was almost dragged off by Zeno and Fester as they ran to the castle.
“… Isn’t it better for Fester to not go?” asked Eleanora.
“Well, it should be all right. Things could turn into a repeat of what Vigaro showed at the Ghoul nation, so now is the chance while he is busy dismantling the Noble Orcs’ bodies,” said Zadiris.
As Vandalieu watched Kasim, Fester and Zeno leave, he prayed that Kasim would have a fateful encounter.
“Van. Wouldn’t it be better to make it a formal marriage interview setting?” said Basdia.
“Now that you mention it, you might be right,” Vandalieu said.
『The levels of the Strengthen Subordinates, Golem Creation, Multi-Cast, Coordination, Commanding, Plant-Binding Technique, Dead Spirit Magic, Insect Binding Technique, Artillery Technique, Armor Technique, Shield Technique and God Slayer skills have increased!』