Bone Man had walked the path of combat for about ten years… a considerable length of time, when he thought about it. It was about five times the lifespan of a rat.
He reflected upon his past as his mount, a Skeleton Horse made from horse bones turned into an Undead, walked towards his enemy.
“An Undead came out, just like we heard. A Skeleton Knight wearing black armor!”
“There are Zombies and Living Armors behind it; it might be a General! Don’t let your guards down!”
Bone Man had been instructed by his master Vandalieu to protect this location, and there were a hundred or so men who appeared to be mercenaries, wearing matching equipment, who had ignored the warnings outside and stepped foot here.
According to the Undead that were once part of Duke Marme’s army, this was a mercenary band called the ‘Iron Rust Brigade,’ known within the Mercenaries’ Guild to be a fearsome group of brave fighters that would step onto any battlefield for the right price. There were quite a lot of them, but between a third to half were probably mercenaries that had joined the group temporarily.
The mercenary band apparently got its name from the fact that when they were encountered on the battlefield, they always smelled like rusted iron due to the blood of their many slain foes.
It was an exaggerated name; it could only be said that they were failing to live up to it. Bone Man’s teeth rattled as he laughed at the mercenaries; he could see the spirits of those that they had killed, who looked to be nothing more than civilians.
Kakakah, guguh, kukekeh. The laughter spread among the Undead under Bone Man’s command, too.
“Are these guys laughing?” said one of the mercenaries.
“Don’t respond to them; they’re Rank 4 or 5 at most! With our skills and numbers, they’re no match for us!” shouted another.
The Iron Rust Brigade mercenaries didn’t live up to their name, but they did possess enough skill to be fairly well-known.
If their abilities were classified by the Adventurers’ Guild, all of them would be at least D-class, and the higher-ranking members were equivalent to C-class adventurers.
They were more adept at group battles than anything else, and they were even capable of exterminating Earth Dragons if they made full use of their strengths.
And they were a group that disguised themselves and earned their keep as bandits in times of peace in order to maintain their skills, morale and equipment.
That was why they had accepted a large amount of money for the request to rescue Duke Marme, who had been abducted by the resistance. Even though they knew that they were being used as decoys so that the spies and scouts could infiltrate the area.
They had no intention of doing as they were told and continue fighting as decoys until they were all exterminated. The success condition of their mission was vague; it was the acquisition of the duke himself or significant information regarding his whereabouts. If they just went wild and captured a few resistance members alive, that would be enough.
They were just decoys after all, so their employers were likely not expecting much from them. The mercenaries figured that if they achieved enough to save face, there wouldn’t be any trouble.
And they thought that they were capable enough to achieve this.
They knew that a thousand members of Duke Marme’s army, including many elite individuals, had already been lost. They had also heard that several other mercenary bands had been wiped out.
But so what?
Even if a thousand cowardly ‘elite’ soldiers who had never experienced real battlefields and only gone on expeditions within their realm under the command of a nobleman were wiped out, even if other lowly mercenary bands were wiped out, there was no way that true fighters like themselves would suffer the same fate.
The mercenary band had members who had earned their keep by fighting monsters just like adventurers, and they had come prepared with anti-Undead equipment.
There was no way they would lose.
“Raise your shields and hold your positions,” said Bone Man, ordering the crudely-made Undead under his command to solidify their defenses.
But he himself was riding towards the overconfident mercenaries.
“Fire! Don’t use your martial skills yet!” one of the mercenaries shouted.
Thinking that Bone Man was mad to do such a reckless thing, the mercenaries let their silver arrows loose. They expected Bone Man to be struck down by these arrows.
Indeed, Bone Man collapsed. His skull, both arms and even his ribs, every single bone above his hips, fell apart along with his armor.
The mercenary band’s leader scoffed. “Hah, it was just a small… fry?!”
The separated pieces of Bone Man stopped mid-air, not touching the ground.
The floating bones suddenly flew forward rapidly and attacked the mercenaries.
The mercenaries immediately raised their shields and tried to strike down the flying bones with their weapons. But Bone Man’s parts slipped between them skillfully, piercing the mercenaries’ necks and eyes with their pointed ends and crushing their heads and chests with the armor that they were wearing.
Though it wasn’t on the level of Adamantite or Mythril, the equipment that the mercenaries were equipped with was quite high-quality. But with Bone Man’s Unique Skill, ‘Bone Blades,’ his bones had transformed into blades and pointed weapons that were sharper than steel.
“When I was driven insane by Ravovifard, my murderous intent and destructive impulses were heightened beyond their ordinary levels and I attacked by separating all of my bones to attack. I knew then that this was my true state of combat!”
When he was driven mad by the evil god of release, Bone Man had separated all of the bones in his body and used the effects of the Spirit Form and Long-distance Control Skills to their maximum potential, fighting using his separate bones, a method of attack that a Skeleton should not possess.
He had managed to hinder Ravovifard, but in the end, all of his bones except for his skull had been broken before they could deal any significant damage.
But after the battle, Bone Man had awakened to the truth that this was the greatest method of combat available to him and trained diligently.
“Don’t falter, smash him to pieces!”
“You idiot! He’s already in pieces!”
Because Bone Man had split into pieces, attacks that were normally effective against Skeletons, such as smashing their joints, were now useless, and he was causing chaos in the enemy’s ranks.
But the most effective thing about it was that it allowed Bone Man to increase the variety and number of his attacks.
“Quadruple Thrust, May Rain Cutter, Gale Force Thrust.”
The mercenaries fell one after another to the consecutive thrusts of Bone Man’s pointed ribs, the slashing attack of his arms and the gale-force-wind-like thrusts of the sword being held by his right hand.
Even with their shields raised, even with their anti-Undead equipment and talismans, these were negligible defenses before Bone Man.
“JYUOOOOH! I shall offer your souls and flesh to my lord! Hollow Bone Swordsmanship martial skill, Scattered Bones!”
Bone Man had become a Rank 10 Skeleton Blade Duke with an awakened superior version of the Swordsmanship Skill, Hollow Bone Swordsmanship. His martial skill unleashed a chaotic barrage of stabs from his bone blades, smashing the head and chest of the leader of the Iron Rust Brigade and scattering blood and bone fragments backwards.
The mercenaries of the Iron Rust Brigade weren’t even small fry to Bone Man. They were simply being hunted, unable to put up any meaningful resistance.
“R-retreat! Retreat!” one of the mercenaries shouted.
The mercenaries threw holy water over Bone Man, causing white smoke to emerge from his bones, but upon seeing that Bone Man’s attacks were not relenting in the slightest, they finally realized the difference in strength between themselves and their foe.
The moment their leader was defeated, the mercenaries’ confidence in themselves fell to the ground and they began trying to scramble away to save their own lives. These were mercenaries that were skilled enough to maintain order while retreating during a lost battle, but it seemed that this ability had been erased by their fear of Bone Man, the one who was slaughtering them.
And Bone Man lost interest in them as well. Even small fry would at least offer combat practice if they faced him, but the same was not true for those who showed him their backs and tried to flee.
But that didn’t mean he would spare them.
“Clean them up,” Bone Man said.
Obeying this command, the crudely-made soldiers that had been holding their shields and standing by let out a battle cry as they pursued the mercenaries.
The crudely-made Undead led by Bone Man were Rank 3 at most. And they had high morale as well. This was because they would be openly accepted as citizens of Talosheim if they gained achievements here in the former Scylla territory.
Even those who had been cowardly soldiers of Duke Marme’s army were now a pack of bloodthirsty hounds. They would turn the fleeing mercenaries into Experience Points for themselves, and their flesh and equipment would become new crudely-made Undead.
“Jyuuh… If the Sauron region’s people could accept us Undead, my lord would have taken this land long ago,” Bone Man sighed.
“No, I think it would be cruel to expect that of them,” said Sam, who had come to transport the corpses.
“Sam-dono, our lord’s time is limited, as he intends to clear the Trial of Zakkart next year. Will things not become troublesome if we do not have the Orbaume Kingdom retake the Sauron region quickly and acknowledge our rights?”
“To be more accurate, it is the rights of the Sauron Liberation Front that are to be acknowledged.”
Even in the Orbaume Kingdom, Vampires and Undead weren’t likely to be acknowledged as people. Knowing this, Vandalieu, Chezare and the resistance members had discussed this and decided that after the Sauron region was retaken, the resistance would have the Orbaume Kingdom and the new Duke Sauron acknowledge their achievements and give them land.
What they wanted was this former Scylla territory, in which Vandalieu had set up camp. And on paper, the lords of the land would be the later-born and adopted nobles of the Sauron Liberation Front. They were people who had been abandoned by their own families when the Amid Empire invaded the Sauron Duchy. But that didn’t change the fact that they were still officially nobles.
And although the former Scylla territory encompassed a wide area of land, much of it was wetlands that were not suited for anyone but Scylla to live in, as well as mountainous land that even Scylla did not make use of.
As for Dungeons, there was only a single D-class Dungeon and its floors had wetland and aquatic layouts, so it was difficult for anyone other than Scylla to clear as well.
And now that the Scylla race had left this land, there were no people living in it.
It was difficult to think of it as being profitable.
For the new Duke Sauron, it was land that he would not mind giving away. The families of the Sauron Liberation Front’s members wouldn’t bother opposing the land being given away, either.
And this would allow Vandalieu and his allies to have a position between the Amid Empire’s sphere of influence and the Orbaume Kingdom’s sphere of influence while gaining land that was difficult for the Orbaume Kingdom to interfere with. And since his allies were officially noblemen of the kingdom, it was possible to get involved with things on the kingdom’s side.
It would be ideal if in the future, Vandalieu could gain even more allies, build up his status so that society couldn’t simply exclude him, have the countries within the Boundary Mountain Range acknowledged as nations and conduct business with other nations.
“Jyuooh… But if the kingdom could accept us Undead, such roundabout measures would not need to be taken,” said Bone Man.
Indeed, if Undead were accepted, things would become very simple. Vandalieu and his allies would simply need to fight the Amid Empire, performing a reverse invasion on just one nation.
“Indeed,” said Sam, but he shook his head. “However, that is how humans are. You must not forget that the people within the Boundary Mountain Range are an exception.”
The people of the nations within the Boundary Mountain Range had easily accepted Bone Man, Borkus and the rest of the Undead. That was because unlike wild Undead, the Undead serving Vandalieu could be communicated with.
And within the Boundary Mountain Range, there was already a basis of recognizing monsters such as Noble Orcs and High Goblins as people to begin with. However, the biggest factor was Vandalieu, who was the ‘Holy Son of Vida’ and the ‘Champion’ recognized by the gods.
Thus, Borkus, Bone Man and the rest of Talosheim’s Undead had been accepted as people by Zanalpadna, the Noble Orc kingdom and the rest of the nations within the Boundary Mountain Range.
But it was unreasonable to expect the same from the people of the Sauron region. Historically, the region had always had more followers of Vida than Alda, but at the same time, they had kept their distance from Vida’s races like the Scylla, whom they had forced into their own territory separate from the rest of the region.
Unlike Beast-people and Titans, they were not accustomed to races that had very different appearances from humans. Accepting Undead would be impossible.
Whether Guidance: Dark Demon Path worked on a living person or not depended largely on the person, so it couldn’t be relied upon.
In fact, Vandalieu saw Duke Marme and the vassals that had been kidnapped with him every few days, but they would not be guided while they were alive.
“I think there is some chance if the people from the resistance could mediate, but…” said Bone Man.
“Only a few have sufficiently deep connections to the resistance,” said Sam.
Even the Liberating Princess Knight’s title and the activities of the Sauron Liberation Front would not be enough for the people of the Sauron realm to overcome their one-hundred-thousand-year-old fear of Undead.
Bone Man’s face fell as he accepted that things had to be taken steadily, while Sam tried to cheer him up. The crudely-made Undead returned, and they began recovering and transporting the corpses and goods with the help of Knochen’s separated entity.
Suddenly, a former crude Undead whose Rank had increased came running. “Emergency, emergency! Please return to His Majesty’s side at once!” he shouted.
“What in the world has happened? Have the Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords come again?” Bone Man asked, knowing that this could not be any ordinary news.
The Undead messenger announced an unexpected development. “The Sauron region has apparently been retaken by the Orbaume Kingdom!”
The upcoming battle to take the Sauron region back had ended sooner than expected.
The Orbaume Kingdom’s army, headed by the orphaned son of the now-deceased Duke Sauron, had retaken the Sauron Duchy, which had been invaded by the Amid Empire and occupied for several years.
This was a long-awaited victory for the Sauron Liberation Front and those who had supported them and their activities.
However, the inside of the camouflaged Knochen fort had the atmosphere of a funeral.
“I’m truly, truly sorry!” shouted a man who was in the prime years of his life.
His name was Cubas. He wasn’t a member of the resistance, but he was the chief of a village who had supported Iris and her companions since before they formed the Sauron Liberation Front. He and his village had been helped numerous times by Iris’s father George, and he was a supporter that could very nearly be considered a member.
That was why he had continued to stay involved with the resistance’s activities like the other central members even after Iris and her companions received Vandalieu’s support and moved their base to the former Scylla territory.
Of course, he knew about Vandalieu, the fact that George was a Cursed Weapon and that Iris had transformed into a Majin.
Village Chief Cubas had described the unbelievable events that had happened in the Sauron region.
Several resistance members were standing next to him, silently crying tears of frustration. Borkus was kneeling on the ground, staring blankly into space, and Bone Man made no attempt to pick up his jaw that had fallen onto the ground.
Incidentally, the reason Bellmond was facing away from Cubas and the others with red cheeks was not because she was trembling in anger and frustration, but because she was being subjected to Vandalieu’s relentless brushing.
“Umm… For now, it’s a good thing that the Sauron region has returned to the Orbaume Kingdom, isn’t it? And Cubas-san, please stand up,” said Vandalieu.
“Yes, it should be a good thing. There’s nothing to blame this person for, is there?” Eleanora asked Debis and Haj.
“Well… I think you’re right,” said Debis.
“That’s right, isn’t it?” said Haj.
Vandalieu nodded with them, still in a daze.
“We’ve dreamed about this for years, but… it’s pathetic that things have come to this. But Cubas, His Majesty and Eleanora are right, so please raise your head,” said Iris, comforting Cubas, but her shoulders were low and her tail was hanging wistfully.
“Cubas… you are not responsible for this,” said George.
As a Majin, Iris would have been unable to directly participate in the battle to retake the Sauron region. That was why she had at least planned to help from behind the scenes, but… that was why she felt so pathetic.
“But George-sama, Ojou-sama, I’m so pathetic and frustrated…” Cubas cried.
“Well, let’s sort out the situation first,” said Saria.
“We’ve made tea, too,” said Rita.
Vandalieu and the others began discussing the situation in which they and the Sauron capital found themselves in.
Things had all begun when the Orbaume Kingdom, having sensed the chaos in Duke Marme’s army, swiftly executed an operation to take the Sauron region back. They had moved quickly, so it was likely that they had made preparations long in advance. They had simply not informed the Sauron Liberation Front of this.
Ignoring the suggestions of the Sauron Liberation Front, who had wanted to cooperate in retaking the Sauron region, they had invaded and taken the Amid Empire’s occupying army by storm.
And one of the late Duke Sauron’s orphans, the second son Rudel Sauron who had received support from many of the dukes in the Orbaume Kingdom, had taken the position of the Sauron region’s duke.
He was gathering the support of the people, having sworn to rule and protect the Sauron Duchy in place of his late father, his knights and the ‘Liberating Princess Knight’ who had stood up against the Amid Empire’s tyranny until the bitter end before finally being defeated in battle. His coronation ceremony would likely take place with no troubles in several days’ time.
Indeed, in the kingdom that supported Rudel Sauron, the ‘Liberating Princess Knight’ was known to be dead.
And the former Scylla territory had been designated as a dangerous Devil’s Nest in which the mysterious monster that had defeated the ‘Light-speed Sword’ Rickert lurked, along with a large number of dangerous Undead. Even adventurers had been forbidden from entering the territory until investigations were complete.
“Why in the world has the kingdom done something like this? I do not understand,” wondered Bellmond as she twisted her tail, her cheeks no longer flushed.
As she had spent ninety percent of her ten-thousand-year-long life as a guard for the hideout of her previous master, she was more ignorant to the ways of the world than she appeared. It was no wonder that she couldn’t understand why the kingdom had treated the resistance so poorly.
“First of all, it is probably to make sure that they don’t need to give medals to the resistance for their past achievements or the achievements that they would have had,” said Eleanora. For a Vampire, she was just a little girl who had lived for less than a hundred years, but she had worked as a spy before.
“I’m sure the new duke didn’t want to decrease the rewards that his own vassals would get as he set up his rule over the Sauron Duchy,” said Kimberley, who had been a scout for the Amid Empire when he was alive.
Most of the people present here had already guessed this much.
But Bellmond, Princess Levia, Orbia and Vandalieu still didn’t seem satisfied with this explanation.
“Would they go to such lengths for those reasons?” asked Princess Levia.
“Yeah, it would have been way better for them to ask for our help,” said Orbia.
“We’re ignorant in this matter, so please explain in a little more detail,” said Vandalieu.
“Umm… Let’s see. I think the Orbaume Kingdom valued the actions that the Sauron Liberation Front had already taken more than we thought. I think they were thinking that at the very least, they would have been forced to give the leader and the upper members of the resistance court ranks and land,” said Eleanora.
The resistance had continued fighting for years, wearing down the occupying army and causing chaos among their ranks, and they even had the support of the people. If the resistance’s actions were not acknowledged, the new Duke Sauron would have actually lost support from the people.
“Well, it’s true that we initially intended to have this former Scylla territory given to us as land and have several people made nobles, but…” said Vandalieu.
“Boss, the kingdom and the new duke don’t know of our goals. And some of our members are nobles – nobles unable to possess court ranks and land because they are too low in the line of succession or married for political reasons at that. That was likely our downfall here,” said Kimberley.
Humans were creatures that measured others using their own standards. The new Duke Sauron and the Orbaume Kingdom had measured the resistance members using their own standards and then assumed that they would want court ranks and land as rewards.
After all, it was these lower-born and adopted children of noble families, who would normally be unable to succeed their families or possess land, that had made such achievements. It was natural to think that they would want to become proper nobles.
And it was certain that the kingdom and the duke had assumed that the nobles who had participated in the resistance would want richer, easier-to-rule land rather than low-value land like the former Scylla region.
“In fact, several noble bloodlines of the Sauron Duchy were ended in the previous war. And once the noble families who truly changed sides and joined the occupying army’s side are crushed in punishment, it would be simple to set up ten or twenty new noble families. Not all of them would have land, though. But that’s probably what they thought we were after,” Miles spat.
Princess Levia blinked in surprise. “But even if that was the case, would they ignore us and then pretend that we were dead? After all, there is room for ten or twenty new noble families to form, isn’t there?” she said.
“I’m sure the kingdom has already decided how the new court ranks and land will be distributed. I was on the kingdom’s side before, so I have overheard some things, and it’s apparently quite fierce. The power struggle between Duke Sauron’s orphans, the second son Rudel and the fifth son Veedal,” said Miles.
“In other words, the brothers each gathered supporters by offering them rewards in exchange for their support,” said Sam, who had once been a nobleman’s servant.
For the noble families of the kingdom’s other duchies, the land of the Sauron Duchy was distant, and there would be no direct benefit for them to obtain this land. However, it was good for the second or third sons of their families to rule the lands as nobles of the Sauron Duchy. It would lead to the prosperity of their own families.
That was why the distribution of court ranks and land had already been decided, with none left to be given to the resistance members.
With that being the case, it would have been fine to just give them the former Scylla territory, but… there was the possibility that Duke Sauron would receive a flood of criticism from the people for giving these heroes such remote lands.
Thus, it had been more convenient to say that they were dead.
Now that the initial explanation was complete, one of the resistance members crying in frustration… an adopted daughter of a noble family, the one who was supposed to become the Liberating Princess Knight in Iris’s place, spoke up.
“That’s not all. They’re just displeased with it; they’re scared to admit that we’ve achieved more than them!” she shouted.
“It can’t be helped that the guys from our families want to interfere with our rights to succeed our families,” said the fifth son of a family of baronets, speaking his mind. “They feel indebted to us from abandoning us when they fled to other duchies…”
“They thought that we would resent them and try to do something when they returned to the Sauron Duchy. How could they distrust us when we didn’t say anything like that in our letters!” spat the youngest son of a family of earls.
These two were members who had tried to coordinate their activities with the kingdom through their family members who had escaped the Sauron region.
They had used a mixture of the truth and some lies, telling their family members that the Liberating Princess Knight and Sauron Liberation Front were still going strong and that although a part of the former Scylla Territory had become a Devil’s Nest haunted by Undead, they were using this to keep themselves protected from the occupying army.
But they were feeling frustrated because, as a result of their communications with their families, they had given the Orbaume Kingdom the information that the occupying army was in chaos and that there were still no reinforcements from the Amid Empire or its vassal states.
They likely felt a strong sense of betrayal at this fact alone.
These explanations were very easy for Vandalieu to understand.
“I see,” he said.
He knew very well that people, including himself, were creatures that could become very cruel based on their emotions.
The nobles that were the family members of the resistance members would have had significant involvement with the operation to retake the Sauron Duchy. And they had ignored the existence of the resistance members. It was likely that they did not want the children and adopted children they had abandoned to gain achievements, and that if they gained the power to succeed their families, they would become political enemies.
If that wasn’t the case, the least they would have done was tell the nobles in the resistance, “We’ll tell everyone that the Princess Knight is dead but you managed to miraculously survive, so get out of the resistance and meet up with us”… although whether they would accept this suggestion upon receiving it was another matter.
“Umm, these are different nobles of the kingdom than the ones that Rick was in contact with, right? But considering what’s happened, maybe the duke’s second son is no different.” said Orbia, who had fallen victim to a conspiracy to utilize the Scylla race as a fighting force against the occupying army.
“The kingdom’s nobles are scary,” Princess Levia said in agreement. “That isn’t true for anyone here, though.”
“It’s true that there aren’t any decent ones…”
Now that Vandalieu thought about it, he got the feeling that other than those who were members in the Sauron Liberation Front, all of the kingdom’s nobles were horrible people. The Hartner family of dukes, the Paris family of knights from which Raymond and Rick had come…
It was a large difference from the Amid Empire’s nobles, like Kurt Legston and Cuoco Ragdew.
Vandalieu could feel his opinion of the Orbaume Kingdom dropping further and further.
“Though I get the feeling that I don’t need to make excuses for them… I will say that there is a possibility that they really think that the resistance has been destroyed,” said Eleanora. “The fact that members of the Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords died and the fact that the members of the duke’s army and the mercenaries that were sent in afterwards haven’t made it back alive have been blamed on a powerful monster that has crossed the Boundary Mountain Range, after all.”
“Now that you mention it… it might be natural for them to think it more likely that only a small portion of the resistance are alive,” said Vandalieu.
It was impossible for the resistance to be going strong given their usual fighting capabilities.
“I’m sorry… It’s because I got carried away…” Borkus muttered with a dumbfounded expression, lowering his head as if collapsing.
Having gained even more power under the effects of Vandalieu’s Dark Demon Guider Job, he had become carried away and gone on a rampage against Duke Marme’s army. His roars and the thunderous sounds produced by his slashing attacks had echoed all the way outside the former Scylla territory. And it seemed that he had left several survivors, so Borkus’s appearance had been known to the occupying army and to the Orbaume Kingdom’s army as well.
With knowledge that an abnormal Undead was rampaging around the former Scylla territory that the resistance was using as their base, it wouldn’t be strange for them to think that the resistance had been wiped out.
“But there should have been warning signs outside that had clearly been made by people,” said Bellmond.
“Wouldn’t it be assumed that the resistance was wiped out after the signs were built? And Bellmond, we are just talking about a theoretical assumption that there was nothing malicious in the kingdom’s actions,” said Kimberley.
It was likely that between Duke Sauron and the rest of the Orbaume Kingdom, there were both those who had announced that the resistance members were dead because they were an obstacle to them, and those who believed that they had been wiped out by monsters.
“Leaving that aside, what shall we do from here on?” Vandalieu asked.
It was still quite an unsatisfactory outcome for Vandalieu and his companions, but the Sauron region had been retaken by the Orbaume Kingdom, and an orphan of the late Duke Sauron had taken the position of duke. For the majority of the people of the Sauron Duchy, this was a joyful turn of events.
The resistance couldn’t do anything more. After all, the invaders were no longer here.
Of course, it was possible to announce that the Liberating Princess Knight and the Sauron Liberation Front were still alive, denying the new duke’s announcement and telling people the truth.
But it seemed that Iris had no intention to do this.
“Your Majesty… it seems that there is no need to create a new Liberating Princess Knight to take my place,” she said. “Further actions would… only endanger my companions as well as Cubas and his village who have supported me. It is frustrating, but doing any more would not be acting as a resistance, but a mere rebellion.”
“Ojou-sama! We do not care about that!” Cubas exclaimed.
“Calm yourself, Cubas… We are happy that you feel that way, but the people are not likely to support us,” said George.
As Iris and George said, even if they told the truth to the people, the vast majority of them would not support them.
The Liberating Princess Knight was someone who kept her true identity hidden and acted as a symbol of the resistance, so even if they insisted that she was still alive, the people had no way of knowing whether it was the real one or a fake.
And, of course, the new Duke Sauron and his administration would denounce her as a criminal pretending to be the Princess Knight.
“Cubas, have you not already been forbidden to speak about us?” Iris asked.
The expression on Cubas’s face made it clear that he had apparently been forbidden from speaking on this matter by the Orbaume Kingdom’s army. It was probably correct to assume that the other supporters had been forbidden from speaking as well.
Borkus, who had been sitting in a daze, suddenly stood up. “Damn it! Now that things have come to this, I’ll just beat that new Duke Sauron to death!” he shouted.
As if his voice had sparked a fire, a portion of the resistance members, Rita, Saria, the representative of the Ghouls who lived in the Devil’s Nests of the Sauron region, Bone Man, Knochen and the crudely-made Undead began clamoring.
“That’s right! We can’t just sit here quietly and accept this!”
“We’ll go as well!”
“Let’s go, everyone!”
“UOOOOH! We’ll offer their heads to King!”
“We shall cleanse this humiliation with the blood, entrails and spinal fluid of Rudel Sauron!”
Vandalieu used his Scream Skill for the first time in a long time. “SORRY, BUT IGNORE THAT!” he shouted.
If he hadn’t stopped everyone, the Sauron Duchy would likely have turned into a ghastly, hellish landscape.
“Why, kid?!” Borkus demanded.
“If we did that, it would mean we’d have to rule the Sauron region by oppressing it with military force, wouldn’t it? And our relationship with the Orbaume Kingdom would definitely become worse,” said Vandalieu. “Now that we’ve declared war against the Amid Empire, we can’t afford to be on hostile terms with the Orbaume Kingdom as well.”
If one took the fighting forces present here and added the fighting forces in the nations within the Boundary Mountain Range, including Talosheim, it would not be impossible to face both great nations at once.
But that would cause Vandalieu’s army to suffer great casualties. Vandalieu didn’t want the Sauron region that badly.
Iris and her companions had opposed the Amid Empire that had invaded the Sauron region out of their love for their homeland; it wasn’t that they wanted to rule the Sauron region for themselves.
And even Vandalieu would hesitate to face the remaining Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords, the equivalent organization in the Orbaume Kingdom, the S-class adventurer Randolf ‘the True,’ and the Five-colored Blades led by Heinz all at once.
The reincarnated individuals were certain to get involved as well.
“That’s how it is,” said Vandalieu. “In the end, we succeeded in achieving the objective of preparing an environment that allows us to focus on the Trial of Zakkart, and I understand your frustration, but let’s turn that around on the next opportunity we get. Two out of twelve were no good, but there are still ten left, so let’s recover with those.”
There were twelve duchies in the Orbaume Kingdom. The Hartner Duchy and the Sauron Duchy were the two that Vandalieu had decided to give up on.
He would just need to choose a good ally out of the other ten, increase Talosheim’s international presence through exchanges with that duchy and make the others regret having treated him poorly.
That was what Vandalieu thought, but Cubas seemed to have taken this in a different meaning. Turning ghastly pale, he pressed his forehead against the ground once more.
“P-please, please have mercy on us common people!” he shouted.
“… Even though I said the regions are no good, it doesn’t mean I’ll directly do anything to them,” Vandalieu said.
Cubas was indeed acquainted with Vandalieu, but it seemed that he had become anxious after seeing his large masses of Undead.”
And the crudely-made Undead had been supposed to become citizens if they gained achievements and defeated enough enemies to increase their Ranks. With that opportunity now gone, they looked at Vandalieu with the gazes of abandoned puppies (though they simply looked like the eyes of corpses to everyone other than Vandalieu).
“… What’s going to happen to us?”
Saria and the other Undead were depressed as well. Bone Man looked particularly down. Having just awakened his superior Skill and gained a Unique Skill, he had been very enthusiastic, but his opportunity to be of use had been delayed.
“… Our chance to shine,” Saria sighed.
“We’ll be put on hold at a time like this?” said Rita.
“Jyuooh…” Bone Man murmured. Finally, it was not only his jaw, but his shoulders that fell to the ground as well.
“Well, there is still the Trial of Zakkart,” said Princess Levia.
“It’s dangerous for the resistance to stay here in the Sauron region, so perhaps it’s better to have them migrate to Talosheim? If Cubas and his village are going to have trouble living here, why not have them come as well?” Miles suggested.
“It would be perfect to have the crudely-made Undead maintain the former Scylla region,” said Eleanora. “They were made as defensive forces to begin with, and it would be a waste to just abandon the rice paddies.”
“Now then, Danna-sama, I will leave the comforting of Rita and the others to you,” said Bellmond.
“Okay,” said Vandalieu. “Here, don’t physically drop your jaw and shoulders*; make yourself look proper,” he told Bone Man.
And so, Vandalieu gave up on the Sauron Duchy.
There were ten remaining duchies in the Orbaume Kingdom.
A Title given by gods. It has the effects of the ‘Second Coming of the Demon King’ and ‘Monstrosity’ Titles, and it gives bonuses to the growth and development of monsters obeying the Title holder as well as bonuses to the creation of new monsters. When this name is given by the gods of Alda’s faction, Vida’s races are included among the monsters that gain these bonuses.
Also, the damage taken by the Title’s holder from attacks using Artifacts, including Orichalcum weapons, is increased. When a champion possesses this Title, the increase in damage taken is even greater.
And those with the divine protections of the gods who gave the Title holder this Title have bonuses when fighting the Title holder.
In addition, as an effect that Alda and his followers did not expect, fragments of the Demon King that have never interacted with Vandalieu before acknowledge him as their main body.
But as the Title holder already draws sufficient attention from those who have given him the Title, the effects of ‘Monstrosity’ are lessened; those in the underworld who are drawn to the title of ‘Demon King’ are likely very few in number (Either because it is so difficult to believe, or because he has been recognized as a monster with a person’s appearance).
And because the Skill System categorizes Vandalieu as a ‘person,’ the effect of gaining subordinates more easily is not applied.
【Skeleton Blade Duke】
The Rank 9 Skeleton Duke Bone Man fought Ravovifard, the evil god of release, and awakened a superior Swordsmanship Skill. He also received the divine protection of Xerx, the god of battle flags. Through these processes, his Rank increased and he has become a Skeleton Blade Duke.
An ordinary progression would have caused him to become a Skeleton King, but he has become distinctly more powerful than a King of the same Rank.
Normally, it is extremely rare for even demi-human monsters to awaken combat or magic-related superior Skills other than those boosting physical abilities such as Monstrous Strength; almost no monsters have achieved this. An exception is the small portion of races such as the Noble Orcs and High Goblins that possess near-human levels of intelligence.
Also, there are a few exceptions accounted for by those who possessed superior Skills while alive and then became Undead.
Bone Man does not fall into either of these categories; he began as a Rank 1 Living Bones with rat spirits possessing the bones of a human, and now he has reached Rank 10 with an awakened superior Skill. He is such a rare case that it would be fitting for his name to be left in history.
A Skill that allows the simultaneous use of every bone of the user’s body as bladed weapons. It does not simply unleash stabbing and slashing attacks; they receive bonuses from combat-related Skills and it is possible to activate martial skills.
Also, Bone Man is able to use the Long-distance Control Skill, separating all of his bones and manipulating them individually to attack his enemies.
Like Form Manipulation, it is a Skill that allows the user to change the form of their own body, and it is specialized for using blades.