In his Divine Realm, Rodcorte was looking at the information from within the Boundary Mountain Range with a suspicious look on his face.
Rodcorte had prepared to abandon the ‘Perseus’ Samejima Yuuri… Sarua Legston, but he was continuing to gather information from him and the other members of the Legston family, who had not yet been guided to Vida’s circle of transmigration system.
But even though they hadn’t come into direct contact with Vandalieu repeatedly, the members of the family were all being guided by Talosheim’s influence day by day. It seemed that the buildings’ outer walls and the statues of Vandalieu that had been erected all over the city had the effect of guiding those who looked at them.
It was likely that they had been built with a Skill or spell that had some effect on the mind.
Most of those who had defected to Talosheim had already been guided, and the information that Rodcorte and his familiar spirits could gain was greatly limited.
And in these circumstances, what caught Rodcorte’s interest was the Trial of Zakkart.
“… If I recall, it was a peculiar Dungeon that appeared about a hundred years ago.”
It wasn’t that he didn’t know about the Trial of Zakkart. He had heard of it, but he hadn’t had any interest in it at the time.
Up until now, Rodcorte had possessed no interest in the Dungeon named after a being that was one of the four champions whose souls had been broken by the Demon King Guduranis, the one who had been raised as an Undead by Vida, who had tried to encroach on his authority.
This was because he believed that his work was to smoothly carry out the reincarnation of humans, and it was the work of the humans and the gods who guided them to deal with the problems that arose in their world.
Regardless of what the truth behind the Trial of Zakkart was, even if the one who cleared it really could become Bellwood’s successor, it had nothing to do with Rodcorte.
Of course, he had faced troubles with many challengers of the trial dying and their souls not being released, causing them to not return to his system. But to Rodcorte, this was only one of the many problems occurring in Lambda.
But upon learning that Vandalieu was challenging the trial, he had become interested in it for the first time.
“… This is… Has a barrier been placed around the inside of the Dungeon? The memories of the adventurers who have returned from it alive are blurred.”
Rodcorte searched the memories of the only adventurer party alive that had challenged the Dungeon before, the Five-colored Blades. But there was something like static in the memories related to the Dungeon, and he couldn’t view them.
There was no effect on the adventurers’ memories themselves, but gods could not view them. It was clear that a barrier had been placed on the Dungeon… a powerful one at that, one created by a god within his own realm, built with other gods in mind.
This was likely to minimize interference from Rodcorte and other gods such as Alda.
“With that being the case, this Dungeon was created by the evil gods that appeared with the Demon King.”
Rodcorte recalled the names of the evil gods that were currently feared by human societies, but none of them seemed to match. He couldn’t think of any that possessed the power and authority to create such a special Dungeon and place this barrier around it.
No matter how exceptional a god’s power was, they faced great limitations when they tried to perform tasks that were outside their authority. Rodcorte, who was the god of reincarnation, could exert great power over souls that returned to his circles of transmigration before their rebirths, but he could do almost nothing for humans that had already been reborn.
He could give some blessings to the reincarnated individuals, who were like semi-believers to him, but they were an exception to the rule.
“If I recall, the evil god of labyrinths was in Vida’s faction. Is it him? But even if it is, why in the world has he done this? There is no reason for him to search for Bellwood’s successor… Could it be that he has gone mad and is searching for Zakkart’s successor?”
If this was the case, it was an exceedingly foolish act.
The power bestowed upon the champions by Vida and the other gods were blessings that were limited to one generation. They could not be genetically inherited or passed down in any other way. Of course, they did not have any effect after reincarnation, either.
If the descendants of Zakkart and the others… unlike for Ark and Solder who were women, it was possible that Zakkart and Hillwillow had left those with their blood flowing through them behind in the world without Rodcorte knowing about it. Even if their blood still miraculously existed in the present era, a hundred thousand years had passed already.
That was a length of time across which blood relations could no longer be discerned. It would likely be impossible even for Gufadgarn to recognize them.
Thus, it should have been impossible to find the champions’ successors by their powers or bloodlines.
The only possibility was that the Dungeon would designate someone who shared the same ideologies and sense of values as Zakkart and his companions as Zakkart’s successor, but then, it was difficult to imagine that a Dungeon would be a suitable way to select such an individual.
“No, it is possible that he could distinguish the distorted soul that I created from the broken fragments of the souls of Zakkart and his companions.”
In order to ensure that Vida and Ricklent wouldn’t try to resurrect the dead, a troublesome act that would jeopardize Rodcorte’s own authority, he had gathered all of the fragments and forcibly joined them into a single soul that he then placed into his circle of transmigration system.
It was possible to distinguish this soul if one could see its shape.
But that wasn’t possible, either.
“Just in case, I placed that soul not in Lambda, but on Earth, a world where magic and monsters do not exist, a world where gods do not take action. In my system, the circles of reincarnation of different worlds do not exchange souls with each other, so there is no chance that it would have reincarnated in Lambda… Could it be?!”
Rodcorte was astonished by his own words. And even as he told himself that it was impossible, he searched for the soul that was made from the fragments of Zakkart and the others, which was supposed to be in the circle of reincarnation system of Earth.
The soul was merely a single blip in a vast sea of information, but it was a greatly distorted soul. It wasn’t impossible for Rodcorte to find it in his system.
But his system merely gave him the answer of: “Search results, none.”
Impossible, Rodcorte thought as he repeated the search two more times, three times – but the results didn’t change.
“It is not on Earth… which means that it was among the reincarnated individuals? Back then, at the only time in which its circle of reincarnation exchanged souls with another world!”
Indeed, it was something that Rodcorte had carried out himself. He had exchanged souls between Earth and the circle of transmigration of another world.
Uneasiness running through his mind, Rodcorte searched the records of the reincarnated individuals and checked their souls.
None of the ninety-seven souls that appeared had any irregularities.
Among those who had died in the incident on the ferry, Rodcorte had chosen a hundred and two people. In the beginning, one person had declined to be reincarnated, and a hundred and one had been reincarnated in Origin.
The souls of two of them, the ‘Gungnir’ Kaidou Kanata and the ‘Death Scythe’ Konoe Miyaji, had been broken by Vandalieu, and the ‘Gazer’ Minuma Hitomi had been stolen away by Ricklent and Zuruwarn along with the souls of the Eighth Guidance.
As for Vandalieu, he had been turned into a member of one of Vida’s races and Rodcorte was unable to interfere with him directly.
Machida Aran and Endou Kouya, who had ascended to become Rodcorte’s familiar spirits, had noticed that there was something strange about Rodcorte and were observing him from afar.
“What’s wrong with him?” Aran whispered.
“He’s acting strange. I suppose something’s happened,” said Kouya.
Of course, Rodcorte had already inspected his three familiar spirits’ souls. In fact, he had made thorough contact with them when he made them his familiar spirits. He would have noticed back then if their souls had been distorted or out of the ordinary.
“No, if that were the case, would I not have noticed when I first reincarnated them from Earth to Origin?” Rodcorte murmured, still talking to himself.
He had granted qualities suited for magic, cheat-like abilities, fortunes and destinies to the reincarnated individuals. He had made contact with the souls as he did so.
So then, perhaps it wasn’t that the soul made of the fragments of Zakkart and the others had gotten mixed up with the reincarnated individuals. Perhaps it was some other mistake that had caused it to move from Earth to another world?
It was possible. Recently, Vandalieu had been causing damage to the circle of transmigration system repeatedly. Perhaps a mistake had arisen on one of these occasions –
“Wait! That’s right, it’s Vandalieu! I did not make contact with Vandalieu’s soul!”
Rodcorte was aghast as he finally arrived at this truth.
When Rodcorte reincarnated the people from Earth in Origin, he had nothing to give Vandalieu, as all of his qualities for magic and cheat-like abilities and such had been bestowed upon Amemiya Hiroto. Thus, Vandalieu’s soul had been sent on its way without Rodcorte ever touching it.
Even when Rodcorte reincarnated him from Origin to Lambda, he had deemed it likely that Vandalieu would cause harm to the reincarnated individuals. Thus, he had not given him any new abilities or qualities for magic; he had simply thrown some curses onto him.
Rodcorte had never touched Vandalieu’s soul.
“Impossible… That cannot… My great failure that I placed among seven billion people, among the countless organisms that live on Earth, was among the one hundred people I selected?!” Rodcorte shouted.
His face still wearing an astonished expression, his body began trembling. He searched desperately for something, anything, that could deny the truth that he had come to realize.
But there was only evidence that supported it.
Even with an empty frame, Vandalieu possessed an amount of Mana that could not be considered normal. Wasn’t that because his soul was made of four peoples’ worth of soul fragments?
Perhaps the Mana of the Demon King Guduranis or something else had stained these broken fragments, and this was the cause of the manifestation of the death attribute. Could Rodcorte really deny this possibility?
And most of all, the strange movements of Lambda’s gods… Ricklent, Zuruwarn and Vida herself were aiding him; was the reason for that not the fact that Vandalieu’s soul was made of the fragments of Zakkart and the others?
“Oi, what’s the matter –” Aran began.
“What an unpleasant turn of events!” Rodcorte bellowed.
He released a shockwave in his anger that sent Aran flying, but he was in no state to take any notice of that.
The gods of Lambda had ignored Rodcorte’s warnings and summoned champions from the foreign world of Earth. The chain of events starting from that one event had now jeopardized Rodcorte’s circle of transmigration system.
Rodcorte felt dizzy as he reflected on his own mistakes and carelessness. It was likely that the evil god of labyrinths had created that Dungeon to find Vandalieu.
At this rate, Vandalieu would gain even greater power and lead not only those squirming about within the Boundary Mountain Range, but all of Vida’s races, as the second coming of Zakkart.
And then he might persecute the humans that he could not lead… no, it was possible that he would slaughter them and drive them to extinction.
If that happened, an era would come where reincarnation in Lambda would be handled not by Rodcorte’s circle of transmigration system, but by Vida’s. In order to prevent that, Rodcorte – had no options.
“Then there is no time to lose. Before any more burden is placed on the entire system, I will detach Lambda from it,” Rodcorte decided.
This was so that the wound wouldn’t open any further, even if it meant sustaining some temporary damage now.
… Naturally, he didn’t spare a single thought for Sarua, Asagi, Murakami and the others who had already been reincarnated in Lambda. He didn’t even spare a thought for the people of Lambda or Alda and the other gods.
An army, lined up in ranks, stood in the dazzling light of a false sun.
Rank 8 Greater Demon soldiers, a race superior to Lesser Demons, with sand-like bodies that were resistant to physical attacks.
Huge Sandworms that could swim freely in the sea of sand, feared by caravans. Iron Scorpions that possessed exoskeletons as hard as iron. Desert Chameleons that blended into the sand, capturing humans with their rapidly-extending tongues. Mirage Shades, evil spirits that wandered deserts and tormented the minds of their victims with illusions.
They were only Rank 4 or 5, but they were fearsome predators that were well-adapted to desert environments.
They were led by a Nightmare Demon Wizard. A Rank 10 mage that manipulated nightmares, a foe that even an A-class adventurer would not defeat easily.
As monsters that had been spawned by the Dungeon created by Gufadgarn, they were all artificially-created life, regardless of their races. Their bodies, which had been created for a single purpose, housed hollow minds that were so strongly controlled by the Dungeon’s will that they didn’t even have self-preservation instincts.
But now, their eyes contained the light of a will that they all shared.
It was a nobility, like that of ambitious knights gathered under a single flag.
The Nightmare Demon Wizard gave an inspiring roar, telling his army that they would defeat that mighty enemy at any cost.
“OOOOOOOOHN!” bellowed the mighty foe that awaited them… the bone fortress that was moving across the desert, Knochen.
The fortress, which was as large as a small mountain, was steadily approaching at the walking pace of a human, unimpeded by the sand of the desert.
And then a fierce battle began.
Bones separated from Knochen and took the form of Skeletons and Rotten Beasts that spewed forth poisonous breath as they assaulted the Sand Demons and Sandworms.
And at the same time, Knochen fired bones from all over its body as a long-range attack. They were fired with about as much power as small cannons; direct hits would punch large holes even in the enormous bodies of Huge Sandworms.
But Knochen was not in a one-sided, advantageous situation. Knochen could perform multiple attacks at once, but in the end, it was still just one monster. The variety in its attacks was limited.
Many of the monsters under the Nightmare Demon Wizard’s command, such as the Lesser Demons and Mirage Shades, were immune to poison attacks.
The Sand Demons, which were far more intelligent than their appearances would suggest, attacked Knochen and its minions with their light-attribute spells, cast with roar-like incantations.
Ironically, even Demons could cast anti-Undead light-attribute spells.
The parts of Knochen’s body and its minions vanished as if melting and evaporating.
However, these were no serious wounds to Knochen. Losing a few of the bones making up its body was equivalent to nothing more than a scratch.
The Sand Demons, thinking that they could be victorious if they repeated this process over and over, began their incantations again.
A strange roar came from above, along with a rain of bones that turned the Sand Demons into Swiss cheese.
This attack, which ignored the Sand Demons’ high resistance to physical attacks, was Bone Man that had been fired from Knochen.
Bone Man was now a Skeleton Blade Duke with the Unique Skill ‘Bone Blades’ that allowed him to turn all of the bones of his body into blades.
“Jyuoh, they do not leave bones, flesh or blood behind. What useless monsters,” he said, lamenting the lack of reward for defeating the Sand Demons.
“If only they left some bones, they could be added to Knochen,” said Eleanora.
Resistant to illusions due to the effects of the Mental Corruption Skill, she was cutting down the Mirage Shades with her magic sword one after another.
“Ah, but Sandworm meat is apparently really nutritious! Though it seems that it gets dried out quickly if you cook it too much!” said Rita.
“Unfortunately, they don’t have bones,” said Saria. “But their carapaces look like they would make good materials. They would not compare to the fragments of the Demon King, however.”
The sisters, having emerged from within a part of Knochen and joined the Skeletons, were swinging their glaive and halberd, their Spirit Form bodies exposed, making round slices of the supposedly nutritious Sandworm meat.
The greatest obstacle on this desert floor was not the monster army that they were fighting. It was the constantly-shining artificial sun.
The fifty-degree, dry air sapped challengers’ stamina, willpower and ability to think. The powerful sunlight burned any exposed skin.
Wearing metal armor in this environment would be like getting baked alive.
Thus, careful preparation or clever, non-combat spells would be needed to clear this floor. Magic Items designed with deserts in mind that blocked heat, water-attribute magic, light-attribute magic that blocked the sunlight.
Despite that, Vandalieu and his companions were clearing it with the simplest method. They were leaving the fighting to those who didn’t flinch one bit to the sunlight and heat.
Knochen and Bone Man, who had no skin and were made only of bones, and the Living Killer Maid Armors Rita and Saria, whose armors were their main bodies and their only flesh was pale-skinned spirit form.
And finally, there was the Abyssal Vampire Eleanora, who had acquired the Sunlight Resistance Skill while she was still a Noble-born Vampire. Her pale skin did not burn under the light of the desert sun.
“… It’s not like I acquired the Sunlight Resistance Skill to deal with deserts, though,” she said.
“It’s fine, isn’t it? You can fly and illusions don’t affect you much, so you’re very helpful on this floor,” said Saria.
“Nee-san, Eleanora-san putting herself to use away from Bocchan where he isn’t watching isn’t very helpful,” Rita pointed out.
“That’s not really true, but I also think that I’m not needed for enemies like this,” said Eleanora.
“No, our lord is watching. Look,” said Bone Man, pointing ahead.
Eleanora looked to where he was pointing to see the right shoulder of the commanding Nightmare Demon Wizard burst.
“That is Vandalieu-sama’s Artillery Technique! He is watching from Knochen!” Eleanora exclaimed.
The Nightmare Demon Wizard, whose flesh scattered in pieces behind him, was sent somersaulting onto the ground. Disorder spread among the enemy army as their leader suffered a heavy wound.
As if taking advantage of this, a part of Knochen opened up like a door. At the same time, several voices shouting, “Transform!” echoed out.
“Honki karu!” shouted a three-meter tall metallic mass as it leapt forward and struck down an Iron Scorpion with a mace.
Two more strangely-shaped, metallic silhouettes followed behind the large one and began defeating the monsters in the surrounding area.
The second metallic mass clearly had the form of a woman, but her limbs were unnaturally large from the elbows and knees down; there were wings sprouting from her back and a tail protruding from her waist.
The third was an enormous Hydra, whose snake-like heads had been replaced by the upper bodies of women.
The thing that all three of them had in common was that they were metallic.
At first glance, they appeared to be Golems made of liquid metal.
“… Huh? That’s Pauvina, Rapiéçage and Yamata, isn’t it?” said Eleanora.
“… That is likely the case,” said Bone Man.
The mysterious metallic trio was Pauvina and Rapiéçage, who were pulverizing enemies with their mace and fists as if they were made of biscuits, and Yamata, who was defeating enemies with the shockwaves from her Shout Skill and a swing of her tail.
“I wonder why they’re metallic?” said Rita.
“Aren’t they the prototype staves that were given to Zadiris-san? Apparently many of the prototypes were made,” said Saria.
“I see, so the three of them are able to level while blocking the sunlight. As expected of my lord,” said Bone Man.
“Knowing that, we should give the enemy commander to them in a near-dead state. Fufuh, I must have Vandalieu-sama see me serving him~♪”
Meanwhile, Vandalieu was very busy inside Knochen.
“Enemy commander is silent. No new threats,” he reported.
“Baked Sandworm with tomato sauce and Sandworm hamburgers complete,” said one of his spirit clones.
“Get more vegetables from Group Binding Technique,” ordered another.
“… Boy, I can help a little, so why not make a few less clones?” said Zadiris.
Because Knochen’s bones were hollow where the marrow was supposed to be, they had an insulating property. With a roof made of these bones on the top and double-layered walls with a layer of air in between, the inside remained a reasonable temperature.
Vandalieu was watching the battle unfold with a cannon made of the Demon King’s blood at the ready while his clones, made with Out-of-body Experience, used a portable magic stove to cook the Sandworm meat.
“Zadiris, you have the task of defeating the Sandworms that attack from the ground, don’t you?” said Vandalieu.
“That is true, but…” Zadiris mumbled.
“Van-kun, I know that you’ve gotten worked up, but I think you should rest a little,” said Privel, poking her head from around Sam’s carriage.
“I believe Privel-san is correct, Bocchan,” said Sam.
They were all walking.
Indeed, the floor of the moving Knochen’s interior was the bare ground… the sand surface.
As it was difficult for Knochen to move while in the form of a building, the parts where its towers’ walls were contacting the ground were acting as legs, and it was using those to walk.
Of course, those inside had to either keep walking at the same pace as Knochen or be attached to one of the walls or the ceiling.
Due to this structure, Sandworms sometimes attacked from beneath their feet, but Zadiris and the others were in charge of cleaning them up.
“But Bocchan, would it not have been better to ride in my carriage and pass through? I do not believe we need to defeat all of the monsters on this floor,” said Sam.
If Sam were to fly through the air at high speeds, the floor would be easily cleared, as none of the monsters they were currently facing possessed an exceptional ability to fly. Despite having known this beforehand, Vandalieu had chosen to face the monsters head-on and exterminate them.
“Sam, this Dungeon’s Demons and Undead have their minds more powerfully controlled, so my Dark Demon Path Enticement doesn’t affect them easily. That’s why it’s perfect for everyone to level here,” Vandalieu explained.
Vandalieu had chosen to increase his companions fighting abilities over a quick clear of the floor, even if it meant taking more time. Though Pauvina and the others would not be considered weak by the world as a whole, they were among the weakest members present here.
“No matter how fast we clear the Dungeon, it would be meaningless if we were to lose anyone. We’re still on floors that have been previously cleared by other people, but soon, we will have to proceed into unexplored floors,” said Vandalieu. “I don’t want Pauvina and the others to suffer unrepairable wounds, and Mother would be sad as well. There’s no guarantee that Zakkart’s legacy will be able to resurrect multiple people, either.”
“Now that you mention it, they’ve got a lot of motivation with the prototype items that you’ve given them, and their leveling looks like it will progress,” said Legion, who was staying put inside because they would turn into fragrant yakiniku if they were to go out into the sunlight.
“You are right,” Zadiris agreed. “But Pauvina and Rapiéçage are using ‘honki karu’ and ‘uraura karu’ as their transformation words. What do they mean? I can understand Magical, but I do not understand Lyrical at all.”
“… It is a phrase that girls say after they transform, I suppose. I don’t know how they know it, though,” said Vandalieu.
“I taught it to them!” Valkyrie declared.
“… Valkyrie, really,” Shade muttered.
“Isn’t it fine, Shade? The three of them look like they’re having fun.”
It seemed that Legion were the culprit.
“Hmm… then should I say it as well? Perhaps it would make it easier for me to acquire a race title with ‘queen’ when my Rank increases?” said Zadiris.
It was a commonly-accepted theory that monsters’ everyday behavior had an influence on their Rank increases. Ogres living in Dungeons becoming Minotaurs was one example of this.
It wasn’t unreasonable for Zadiris to think that her words might influence her Rank increase.
“I think it would make you less like a queen,” said Vandalieu.
“Very well, I shall never say it,” said Zadiris.
『The Levels of the Artillery Technique and Cooking Skills have increased!』
Monster explanation (Written by Luciliano):
【Grand Bone Fort】
An enormous fortress of bone. When a Bone Fort acquires a countless number of bones, becomes even larger and increases its Rank, it becomes this monster.
Its Rank is 10, and it could be assumed that those with the abilities of an A-class adventurer would be able to dispose of it, but that would be a great misconception. As the main body has no parts that act as a vital spot, one must continuously fight this monster and crush every bone to pieces in order to defeat it… as bones continue to function as ‘bones’ even after being severed to some extent, it is a terrible foe for those who wield swords or spears as their weapons.
Knochen even possesses the ability to draw close to its enemies easily and produce a poisonous breath that does not affect itself, so it is even more dangerous than ordinary Grand Bone Forts.
In addition, ordinary Grand Bone Forts have not been observed to take any form other than that of a fort, but Knochen can take a variety of forms at Master’s command, such as a wheeled vehicle for construction work known as a ‘bulldozer.’
This is not because of a lack of the required Skills; it can be assumed that this is because Knochen is more intelligent than ordinary Grand Bone Forts.
It is not a monster that can be fought by a single individual. It would take either an army or a superhuman who has transcended superhumans such as an S-class adventurer to defeat it.
Monster explanation (Written by Luciliano):
【Deep Nightmare Carriage】
A race title achieved by Sam after performing a great deal of transport, running through the changing harsh environments of Dungeon floors, running over and crushing… or rather, overcoming, all kinds of unfavorable conditions and monsters.
Due to the Space Expansion Skill, the inside of his carriage contains the space of sixty-four three-horse carriages, and it maintains comfortable temperatures even in scorching-hot deserts and extremely cold ice fields.
Because of this, he is a dream-like vehicle, but he is like a nightmare for those who seek to obstruct him from performing his transporting duties. He runs through the sky at high speeds like before, but with the effects of the Strengthened Attribute Values: Transportation Skill, his Attribute Values are strengthened when he is transporting people and objects, and the Level of his Aura of Fear Skill, which affects the minds of those who look at him, has increased.
… He has seemingly instinctively become able to use elementary space-attribute and time-attribute magic, so he likely still has room to develop even further.
As someone who is currently being transported by his carriage, the fact that his safety has increased drastically due to his development is very welcome.