Having officially been crowned as emperor, Vandalieu decided to return to Talosheim for now. The Trial of Zakkart still hadn’t appeared yet, and there were various things that needed to be done.
One of them was the revelation of Privel, Zadiris and the others whose Ranks had increased while Vandalieu and his companions were away.
Vandalieu himself wasn’t aware of it, but he had apparently appeared in their dreams and guided them. He found it interesting that during those dreams, he had various strange appearances to each person such as being enormous, having split into enough clones to completely cover the earth and being small enough to fit in the palm of a hand.
“It could be that the shape of my soul or mind is different from regular people,” Vandalieu muttered as he poured death-attribute mana into a Mythril bar.
“Because it’s a soul created from the soul fragments of the champions? Since you appeared different for everyone, I don’t think that’s the case,” said Eleanora.
As she said, since his form hadn’t been a fixed one, perhaps it wasn’t anything to be concerned about.
“I haven’t really been concerned about it up until now, but… now that I think about it, I can guess how it is,” Vandalieu said.
When he recalled how he had behaved and moved about in Vida’s Divine Realm, he got the feeling that his movements had clearly not been those of a human.
Having become curious, he remembered when he had been summoned to Mububujenge’s Divine Realm with Budarion, Godwin and the others.
Back then, he had the feeling that Budarion and Godwin’s appearances hadn’t been different from normal even when they were in soul-only states.
But he had been looking down on them from above… in other words, he had been clearly more enormous than his physical form. He hadn’t paid any attention to it at the time, but he wondered about it now that he knew of his own history.
“Your spirit form is normal, but your soul’s form is different, huh. That’s weird,” said Borkus.
“It is true that the boy changes form frequently, but he appears ordinary when he does not do so,” said Zadiris.
Vandalieu used Out-of-body Experience to create a spirit clone and explain. “Maybe it’s easier to understand if I compare myself to a Slime? My soul is the core, and the spirit form is the jelly-like part surrounding it. My soul is constantly covered by my spirit form, so there’s no way that it would show itself on the surface.”
“The only thing about me that’s different from others is my soul; the spirit form isn’t any different from anyone else’s. That’s why nobody noticed just by looking at my spirit-form clones,” said Vandalieu’s spirit clone.
The Deep Blood Slime Kühl helped explain as well, and Borkus and Zadiris seemed satisfied by this explanation.
“Thanks for your help, Kühl,” said Vandalieu.
On Earth and in Origin, he would have compared the soul to the nucleus of a cell, but in Lambda, it was easier to compare it to a Slime.
“Even if your form is different, you’re you, Vandalieu. It’s nothing to worry about,” said Darcia, moving her hand as if patting her son’s head.
“Thanks, Mom. But more than me being worried about it myself, I was more concerned that everyone might be scared when they see my soul,” said Vandalieu.
“Ah, I suppose that’s true,” Darcia said, and then she turned to speak to the people gathered around. “Everyone, be careful!”
“I don’t think we’ll normally get to see the form of his soul, though. Fidirg and Zozogante reveal themselves here when we go to see them, anyway,” said Eleanora.
“Yeah, it’s not like we’ll be summoned into Divine Realms along with the kid that often,” said Borkus.
“And even if we were, it would not be a problem if we kept our eyes down,” said Zadiris.
“… I do feel like I kind of want to see it, however,” said Luciliano.
“By the way, have you managed to transform Mythril with death attribute Mana?” asked Isla, looking at Vandalieu’s hands with her dead eyes sparkling with desire.
“I’ve been trying for a while, but it seems impossible. Adamantite and Obsidian didn’t work either, so maybe I can’t transform magical metals,” said Vandalieu.
He was currently in his workshop, testing whether he could transform Mana-imbued metals such as Mythril and Adamantite.
Vandalieu had previously created Death Iron, Dark Copper, Spirit Silver and Life Gold, but he hadn’t tested metals like Mythril and Adamantite before.
One of the reasons for this was that he had been busy creating the Death Iron and Dark Copper used in the Luna currency circulating in Talosheim, but the largest reason was that metals like Mythril and Adamantite didn’t appear so frequently in Dungeons.
In most cases, these metals appeared inside treasure chests or as equipment equipped by monsters. Thus, it was rare to find them in reasonable quantities.
It was possible for Vandalieu to create them by spending his Mana using the Golem Creation Skill, but that took a considerable amount of time. And since Death Iron and Dark Copper were exceptional as materials, there hadn’t been much need to transform magical metals.
That was why this experiment had been left until later.
But now that he had finally started the experiment, the results were not favorable.
“It doesn’t look like they’ll disappear or start moving around like Spirit Silver or Life Gold if we leave them alone, and there’s no change to their appearance, strength or properties,” said Vandalieu.
“I see. Magical metals are originally metals that have transformed by being imbued with Mana, so this means that it is impossible for your death-attribute Mana to further transform something that has already been transformed,” said Luciliano.
As Vandalieu’s apprentice but also as his research assistant, Luciliano wrote a summary for the documents detailing the results of the experiment.
“By the way, are you not going to test Orichalcum?” Luciliano asked.
“There’s no need, is there?” said Vandalieu.
Orichalcum, the metal said to be impossible to create or manipulate by anyone other than the gods. Though Vandalieu was only able to make rough changes to the shape of lumps of Orichalcum, he had used the Golem Creation Skill to turn it into things like maces, shields and clubs.
The Orichalcum was immersed in a large amount of death-attribute Mana in this process; if it could transform, it would have already done so.
“Platinum didn’t transform when I tested it before, so maybe this is the limit,” said Vandalieu.
“That was an experiment conducted before you acquired the divine protection of Earth’s dark gods, so how about trying again?” Luciliano suggested. “There are many cases where the acquisition of divine protections causes various changes. Perhaps you could create a metal that only exists in the afterworld of Earth’s legends.”
“That’s right. You’ve become able to grow pomegranates easily with your Group Binding Technique thanks to the effect of your divine protection, so there might be other effects as well,” said Darcia.
Vandalieu could cultivate plants inside his body with the effects of Plant Binding Technique that was a part of Group Binding Technique, but the cultivation of pomegranates had become simpler than before after he received the divine protection of Earth’s dark gods.
“Hmm… You’re right, let’s try that on another day,” said Vandalieu.
“Boy, other metals and materials exist in the worlds of Earth and Origin, do they not? Could you not create them with Golem Creation now?” said Zadiris.
“There are, but I don’t know how to make them,” said Vandalieu.
On Earth and in Origin, there were metals such as tungsten whose existence remained unknown in Lambda… it wasn’t clear if they even existed at all. However, Vandalieu was not very knowledgeable about such metals and materials.
As a high school student on Earth, he hadn’t possessed a particular interest in metals and minerals, so he didn’t remember the properties and the process behind creating metals like tungsten and titanium alloys… if he was still a student, he would have been able to at least remember their chemical symbols, but as thirty years had passed now, he didn’t remember them at all.
He had heard information about metals from the spirits of the researchers in Origin, but they had only spoken of their own research that they had conducted regarding those metals; they hadn’t explained the metals themselves in great detail.
Even the Golem Creation Skill couldn’t create minerals that Vandalieu knew nothing but the names of.
“Even when I asked Legion, it seemed that they weren’t very knowledgeable about them, either,” said Vandalieu. “Well, they aren’t researchers or specialists… It seems that there are various things in the deepest part of the Trial of Zakkart, but I’m really torn as to whether it’s alright to test them.”
The legacy of the champion Zakkart lay inside the Dungeon that was named after him. According to the documents left in Vida’s Resting Grounds, one of the items left behind was the military weapon of the foreign world Earth that Zakkart had been partway through making to defeat the Demon King Guduranis.
It was something that even Vandalieu was hesitant to put his hands on.
“Well, it’s fine, isn’t it? Death Iron and Dark Copper are first-rate materials, and you have the Demon King’s fragments as well, right, kid?” said Borkus.
“Mmm, yes. Now that this experiment has concluded… boy, there is something I wish to say to you,” said Zadiris, grasping Vandalieu’s shoulders.
“What is it? Is it to do with your Rank increase?” Vandalieu asked.
Zadiris’s Rank had increased after she received Vandalieu’s guidance in her dreams, just like Privel and the others. Vandalieu hadn’t heard the details yet, but as far as he could see, her appearance didn’t seem to have changed. He was confused as to what the problem could be.
But Zadiris felt that there was a very large problem.
“Zadiris, it’s selfish to be dissatisfied with your Rank increase after receiving his guidance,” said Eleanora.
“I’m reluctant to agree with the little girl, but she’s right,” said Isla.
But Zadiris maintained her grip on Vandalieu’s shoulders. “Boy, I do feel grateful for my Rank increase. But… why is my race title ‘Ghoul Wizard Princess?!’”
Zadiris’s tear-filled question seemed to stop time itself.
In many cases, this was a word referring to girls born to families of high nobility, such as royals. There were some cases where it had nothing to do with the title holder’s birth status, like Iris’s Title of ‘Liberating Princess Knight,’ but in most cases, the word was used to refer to young women born to noble parents or placed in that social position.
Eleanora and Isla gave Zadiris sympathetic looks.
“… I take back my words, Zadiris,” said Eleanora.
“… That deserves some sympathy,” said Isla.
“I think it’s cute, though…” said Darcia.
Luciliano seemed to be prioritizing his scholarly curiosity. “Hmm? I don’t see any differences to her third eye or the patterns on her skin, but… no, I think that perhaps her appearance has become younger, but it might be my imagin –”
Eleanora and Isla struck him lightly in the solar plexus, causing him to faint.
“You never learn, do you,” Borkus said to him, knowing that both of them were capable of piercing through a knight in plate armor with their bare hands.
After that, Vandalieu finally managed to squeeze out his own words. “… I-it’s cute, you know?” he said.
“Boy!” Zadiris cried. “I am almost in my three-hundreds! I have grandchildren! Why am I a princess?! Even if you tell me I am cute, I cannot honestly express my happiness!”
“But you do feel happy about it,” Borkus muttered.
Zadiris ignored him. “I do not believe that you deliberately turned me into a Ghoul Wizard Princess with my Rank increase. It is a race title that even I have never heard of before. But I want to say this. Why is it not Geronimo or Queen or Grandmother; why is it Princess!”
“… There’s probably no way to know without asking the gods that manage Statuses,” said Vandalieu, remembering what he had been told by Ricklent in Vida’s Divine Realm.
Ricklent had never created a god that controlled Ranks, which only monsters possessed at the time, so it was possible that one of the evil gods of the Demon King’s army was in charge of Ranks, however.
“But if I had to guess why… I guess it’s your image?” said Vandalieu.
“Zadiris, it’s hard to be called a queen considering your appearance,” said Eleanora.
“Calm down. Your appearance will change and you’ll become a Queen when your Rank increases again… the chance of that shouldn’t be zero,” said Isla.
“I do not need kindness from you as well, Isla! You two should become a Vampire Princess and Zombie Princess as well!” Zadiris exclaimed.
“Stop! Don’t put strange curses on us; what will you do if we really do become princesses?” said Eleanora.
It was certainly feasible for her, because her physical appearance was that of a twenty-year-old.
“It’s impossible for me, in terms of how old I appear,” said Isla, giving a quiet shrug.
… Her face seemed to stiffen a little as she imagined the unlikely possibility, however.
“Well, I wouldn’t be able to stand being something like a Zombie Prince Hero at my age, either, but… you can’t do anything about a Rank increase,” said Borkus.
Monsters and members of Vida’s races could increase their Ranks, but their Ranks wouldn’t decrease unless they became Undead.
Also, a change in race title without a Rank increase had never been seen before.
Even if limbs were lost, even with aging, monster Ranks and race titles remained the same.
“Indeed,” said Zadiris. “Now that I have come this far, increasing my Rank again will not be easy, but I have no other choice.”
“Should I make a wand and costume?” said Vandalieu.
“… I do not want a childish design. I will not ask for a queen’s design, but I would be happy with a lady or woman’s design.”
Vandalieu had asked this question while imagining a “Magic girl ☆ Zadiris” in his mind, but as Zadiris didn’t know about Japan’s anime, she seemed to have interpreted it as him offering a present.
Design… I’m not very confident, though, Vandalieu thought.
“Alright,” he said, thinking that it would be too cruel to tell her he was joking right after her mood improved.
He could make clothes by knitting the thread that he created himself. As for the wand, he decided that he would use the Demon King’s horns and exoskeleton as a base and follow her requests as much as possible.
Isla lightly pulled at Vandalieu’s clothes. “Vandalieu-sama, there is something I want… could I receive a chain? Even a rope would be fine!”
“Isla… that’s not for a proper hobby; it’s to attach to your collar, isn’t it. Are you alright with something made with Golem Creation?” Vandalieu asked.
“Yes, of course!” Isla said, nodding in response to both questions.
“Alright,” said Vandalieu.
Isla had been working hard recently, and it was only natural to give her more presents after her collar.
“Vandalieu-sama! Me too!” Eleanora exclaimed.
“Isla-san and Eleanora-san, you should… I guess it’s impossible for you to hold back,” said Darcia.
“I think so too, Mom,” Vandalieu agreed. “Eleanora, would you like a choker? Something more accessory-like.”
Meanwhile, the ‘Saint of Healing’ Jeena and ‘Tiny Genius’ Zandia, former heroes of Talosheim and Borkus’s former party members, entered the underground workshop.
“Can we talk to you for a moment?”
“You’re not gonna ask for collars as well, are you?” Borkus asked them fearfully, having a bad feeling because of the timing of their arrival.
The two of them gave puzzled frowns.
“Huh? What are you talking about? We came to give His-Majesty-kun a report on the bodybuilding tournament and talk to him about other stuff while we’re here,” said Jeena.
Having learned bodybuilding poses like the side chest from Vandalieu, Jeena had thought that bodybuilding could be interesting and come up with the idea of using the theater that had been built in Talosheim to hold a bodybuilding competition.
Even in Lambda, those who prided themselves in their physical beauty took poses that emphasized their muscles. It was only natural that some of them would like the same poses used by bodybuilders on Earth. There were all kinds of races in Lambda, but many of them shared the same body shape as humans of Earth.
But tournaments where contestants competed solely in physical beauty were rare. In Lambda, those with physical beauty were those with exceptional physical abilities, and they were expected to possess exceptional fighting strength.
In other words, tournaments were those where fighting slaves risked their lives, and even the less gory ones were combat tournaments where contestants sometimes died.
This was the first tournament in which contestants competed only in beauty that had no practical use, at least within the Boundary Mountain Range.
It was religiously appropriate as well, providing a good theme for worshipping Vida, the goddess of the life attribute, so the plans were to hold a grand bodybuilding tournament to celebrate Vida’s revival.
Of course, Vandalieu was looking forward to the tournament. He planned to participate as a special judge on the day.
“Are there any problems or anything I can help with?” he asked.
“Everything’s fine at the moment. You made the contestants’ costumes for us, too. But we’re leaving the extra prizes and stuff to you,” said Zandia.
Isla’s eyes shone with greed at this chance to appeal herself to Vandalieu, while Eleanora sighed, knowing that she couldn’t win against Basdia in the women’s division.
“Hmph, this is a conversation that has nothing to do with me. More importantly, Zandia, what is the other information that you wanted to report?” Zadiris asked.
She was a princess now for some strange reason, and she had completely given up in the field of muscles.
“Hmm, first of all, the fact that our Ranks have increased and lost our Broken labels. I’m Rank 9, and Jeena-nee is Rank 10,” Zandia said. “The only other thing is that Nuaza was talking about building a statue of His-Majesty-kun next to the statue of Vida-sama to celebrate her release from Alda’s stakes and the revelation that His-Majesty-kun is the reincarnation of the four champions.”
“I’ll go and stop him,” said Vandalieu upon hearing of this outrageous situation, shrugging off Zadiris’s hands and walking off in a determined fashion.
“Eh? You’re going to stop him? Didn’t that great spirit Veld tell you that you could become a subordinate god when you die?”
“He did, but I’m still going to stop him. I don’t plan to become a god now; I need to have him settle for building a life-sized statue like all the others he’s built up until now.”
Vandalieu might become a god after he died, but he had no intention of becoming one while he was still alive.
Earl Thomas Palpapek, the current marshal of the Mirg shield-nation, put his signature on a document and let out a large sigh.
When he stiffened up his manner, he had a powerful presence like a military officer should, and when he smiled, he had a gentleness to him that made those around him feel at ease; either way, he was perceived as a reliable individual. But he had aged considerably in the past few years.
Before, he had often looked younger than his actual age, but now, he looked ten years older.
But the Mirg shield-nation’s king and the high officials of the royal palace couldn’t blame him for that.
Approximately four years ago, an elite force of six thousand men had been lost on an expedition, and the nation had lost much of its military power. The marshal had been engaged in exhausting work to recover as much of that power as possible.
On top of that, he was in charge of the defense of the nation’s border, which was now adjacent to enemy land once more now that the Sauron region had been recaptured by the Orbaume Kingdom.
He had been working so hard that his efforts were recognized even by his political enemies, the nobles on the side of the Amid Empire.
Some even said that with his work, the Mirg shield-nation’s military strength would return to what it had been before the expedition within ten years.
If this nation is still standing by then, Thomas thought to himself every time he heard these words of praise.
“… Why have things come to this?” Thomas muttered to himself in a disgusted tone, having dealt with all of the documents that he needed to look at.
The same questions always filled his head every time when he was on his own, not doing any work.
Where had he gone wrong; why had things come to this? And what was he supposed to do now?
Four years ago, the expedition that began as a result of the Pure-breed Vampires’ schemes had ended in a greater failure than Thomas could have imagined. Ever since then, he had been working feverishly in order to prevent his homeland from suffering any further damage.
He had pacified the public outcry for vengeance and engaged in the difficult struggle to rebuild the nation’s military strength so that it would be ready whenever Vandalieu decided to come and attack.
Back then, he had thought that this was the best option available. That there was no better plan against Vandalieu, the Dhampir that was likely the baby whose mother that had been killed as a result of the Vampires’ and his own schemes.
The tunnel through the Boundary Mountain Range had collapsed, completely sealing the way through. It should be impossible for Vandalieu to attack the Mirg shield-nation now.
Of course, the Mirg shield-nation could not cross the Boundary Mountain Range, so Thomas had never even thought about taking revenge against Vandalieu himself.
He had expected the Pure-breed Vampires to do it for him with no need for him to do anything himself, or that the Amid Empire would see the situation as critical and make a move.
But Thomas’s expectations had been completely betrayed.
The death of the Pure-breed Vampire Gubamon, the head of one of the factions of the Vampires that Thomas had connections to. The fall of the fort that was under the command of Kurt Legston, someone whom Thomas had been expecting to take an important position in the future.
And last year, the defeat of the ‘Light-speed Sword’ Rickert Amid, one of the Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords.
Thomas was certain that Vandalieu was involved in every single one of these incidents.
As Thomas was nothing more than a marshal of a vassal nation, he didn’t have an intelligence network as powerful as that of Marshukzarl, the emperor of the Amid Empire. But he could make conclusions based on what he saw of the Vampires with whom he had connections.
While Thomas had been hard at work trying to rebuild the Mirg shield-nation’s military strength, Vandalieu had gained enough power to bury Pure-breed Vampires, power that even the Fifteen Evil-breaking Swords, the most powerful warriors of the Amid Empire, couldn’t match.
Whether the Mirg shield-nation regained the military strength it possessed before the expedition or not, nothing would change. If Vandalieu wanted to, he would crush Thomas along with his entire nation.
“Facing the greatest threat that this nation has ever seen, I’ve spent the last four years hard at work, achieving nothing but providing more materials for his Undead army.” Thomas gave a hollow chuckle. “I can’t help but laugh at myself.”
No matter how much he trained the soldiers, even if he took a sword in his own hand and commanded the armies himself, no matter how many adventurers of B-class and above he hired, all of these would serve no purpose but to improve the quality of materials for Vandalieu’s Undead.
It was possible that Vandalieu already thought of this nation as no more than a farm for Undead materials rather than as an enemy. This absurd notion had been surfacing in Thomas’s mind frequently these days.
Thomas gave a self-deprecating smile as he felt the fruitlessness of his efforts. “So, my life is in the palm of a child whose face I have never seen before.”
Thomas Palpapek had never directly seen Vandalieu before. He had never exchanged words with him, nor did he know exactly what kind of person he was.
He had only seen a sketch drawn based on the testimony given by an adventurer who had seen Vandalieu through a Live-Dead.
He knew that Vandalieu was a Dhampir who led Ghouls and commanded Undead, surpassing the limits of common knowledge. But although he knew of these abilities, he didn’t know what kind of personality Vandalieu had or what philosophies he adhered to.
Just how much did Vandalieu know about Thomas… Did he know that Thomas was the one pulling the strings behind his mother’s death? If he did, Thomas had no idea how much he hated him.
Considering the worst possible scenario, Thomas had already evacuated his three wives and his children to his secondary residence, but… he didn’t know how things would turn out.
“Back then… I suppose it was a failure right from when I made the slow move of creating an extermination force after the adventurer’s testimony confirmed the Dhampir’s existence. I should have sent assassins to exterminate him sooner. No, back when his mother was discovered in Evbejia, I should have sent protégé knights to ensure that both mother and child were killed,” Thomas murmured to himself. “But I can’t return to the past. So then, what I should do now is…”
Rely on the Vampires? A foolish plan. Thomas himself wasn’t that valuable to them. And two of the three Pure-breed Vampires had already been defeated; what was there to expect from them?
Should he run crying to the Amid Empire? No; the emperor could be planning to fight Vandalieu, but it was also possible that he would try to find a point of compromise and come to a secret agreement. Thomas didn’t know the emperor’s intentions, so doing that would be dangerous.
If the emperor was thinking of making a secret agreement with Vandalieu, the heads of Thomas and his family would likely be treated as convenient bargaining chips.
“I’m starting to feel like hanging myself… hmm?” Thomas interrupted this thought and stood up from his seat, suddenly noticing that the wooden door was open and the night air had made its way into the room.
And then he saw that a letter had fallen near the window.
“A message from the Vampires? … This is…!”
Thomas read the letter’s shocking contents.
“Is this real? They are going to make a move for my sake? The reward will be paid only upon completion of the request… the amount is enormous, but I suppose that’s to be expected.”
Thomas reread the letter over and over to confirm what had been written, and the hope in his eyes grew brighter each time he did.
“With their power, I… this nation can survive!”
【Ghoul Wizard Princess】
A monster race title achieved by Zadiris following her Rank increase after she received the divine protection of Garess, the guardian deity of the Kijin nation, from Vandalieu in her dreams.
There has been no change to her appearance, but her magic-related properties have improved from when she was a Ghoul Elder Wizard.
In addition, with the effects of the Strengthened Magical Power while equipped with a staff Skill, the power of her spells has increased. (It is a Skill that increases not only her offensive power, but also the healing power of her healing spells and the duration and such of her enchantments.)
Also, this Rank increase had nothing to do with Garess’s intentions.