Several months had passed since the Five-colored Blades gave up on conquering the Trial of Zakkart and entered the mysterious Dungeon that had appeared before them.
Despite that, Heinz and his companions had not even managed to clear thirty floors yet. The trials imposed upon them by this Dungeon were, in a way, more difficult than those in the Trial of Zakkart.
A glowing knight stood before them… Joshua Arkum, a loyal knight who, in his past, had avenged his master who had been killed in a rebellion.
“You will never give up, you say? Then become the embodiment of your words!” the knight declared, swinging his magic sword at Heinz.
The blade of his sword produced a sharp shockwave that assaulted Heinz and his companions.
“Kuh!” groaned Delizah, the Dwarf shieldbearer, as she stepped forward and deflected the enormous shockwave.
“Aurora Rapid Reaction!”
“Super Rapid Reaction!”
Behind Delizah, Heinz activated a Holy Light Armor Technique martial skill while the female martial artist Jennifer activated an Armor Technique one. With their reaction speeds improved, they leapt forward at Joshua, whose sword had finished its swing.
Both of them were so fast that the eyes of an average adventurer wouldn’t be able to keep up with their movements, but a black shadow appeared behind Jennifer.
“That was close!” said the scout Edgar, deflecting the scimitar thrust by the shadow with his heavy knife.
The shadow was Luke, a heroic spirit of Niltark, the god of judgment.
“You must be finding this quite easy, for a scout to be focused on defense,” said Luke, taking its distance from Edgar.
“Shit, does this guy only ever make sarcastic comments?!” Edgar cursed.
“You’re our successors who slew a Pure-breed Vampire, something that even we could not accomplish. We came to test your character and found that you only amount to this much. It’s only natural for a dozen or two sarcastic comments to come out, isn’t it?”
In his previous life, Luke had almost been executed for a crime that he had no knowledge of. Receiving a Divine Message from Niltark, he had broken out from prison, escaped the law and gone on to judge a thousand evils. For such a heroic spirit, he was unexpectedly talkative.
However, the words of a heroic spirit could be communicated in an instant, so conversations took almost no time at all. Using the opening that Edgar had given them by stopping Luke, Heinz and Jennifer were closing in on Joshua – or at least, they should have been.
“Inexperienced! Inexperienced! You are overwhelmingly inexperienced!” shouted the man who was standing in front of Jennifer, stopping her.
“Gah! This guy… He’s so fast but heavy at the same time,” Jennifer groaned.
Her martial skill, using Unarmed Fighting Technique which mainly relied on her fists, was parried by the man’s own Unarmed Fighting Technique martial skill, allowing him to put in a counter-attack.
“At this rate, not only will you be unable to defeat the Demon King, but you will become corpses in an instant! You inexperienced fools!” the man shouted.
This man was Gorsh. He was a heroic spirit of the heroic god Bellwood, having given his life to protect Bellwood during the war against the Demon King Guduranis.
Meanwhile, Heinz was unable to even reach Joshua as well.
“To think that you’re not even budging. What a solid defense,” he muttered, his blade having been stopped by an Elf woman.
“To possess Radiant God Swordsmanship and Holy Light Armor Technique, only to amount to merely this much… Your abilities truly fail to live up to your Skill names. In the face of the Demon King, what you call light will be but the faint flicker of a firefly. It will be snuffed out in an instant,” said the Elf. “You should know that as you are now, you will not conquer the Trial of the Champion, even if you spend a thousand years here.”
The Elf was Firlietta. She was a heroic spirit of Nineroad; she had served at her side during the battle between Alda and Vida that had taken place a hundred thousand years ago.
And there was a female mage guarding Joshua’s back… She was Porla, a heroic spirit of Forgan, the god of dancing flames.
“Let us put this to an end. It seems that your priestess is almost out of Mana, and you will be unable to escape this spell,” she declared mercilessly.
Flames erupted from her staff, dancing through the air in a complicated pattern, and rapidly flooded in towards Heinz and his companions.
The moment Heinz felt his consciousness slip away, a hard impact on his back woke him up.
“Gah! … So, we only managed to clear thirty floors again…” he muttered in frustration.
His sweat-drenched fringe was stuck to his forehead, but other than that, nothing suggested that he had been in a fierce battle just a moment ago.
His wounds, including his burns, and even the damage to his equipment was gone. His body was tired, but even when he checked his Status, his Vitality had not decreased. If it weren’t for the fact that his Mana was still drained, the whole thing might have been a dream.
Heinz turned around to see that his companions were nearby. Of course, they were unharmed, just like him.
Diana’s Mana was completely empty, but even Delizah’s shield, which had been deeply damaged and on the verge of breaking, was back to normal.
“To think that we would have to continue fighting heroic spirits… I mis-allocated my Mana,” said Diana.
“Diana, it’s not something you should be concerned about. The one who needs to apologize is me, the leader who gives the instructions,” said Heinz.
“Nah, neither of you should worry about it,” said Edgar, giving the two of them a weak smile. “Three consecutive battles against heroic spirits… And the first battle was only one heroic spirit, the second was two, and then the third one suddenly had five. Nobody could have expected that. And our party formation is clearly coming together. It’s just a matter of whether we can win.”
Heroic spirits… these were souls who had been turned into heroic spirits by the gods after performing worthy heroic deeds while alive. They were generally similar in nature to familiar spirits, but they had a different role. If familiar spirits were civil officials who served the gods, then heroic spirits were the military officers.
They had the same duties of supporting the gods and guiding the people, but heroic spirits also had the tasks of protecting the Divine Realms and, in times of emergency, descending upon the world in order to vanquish evil.
As most heroic spirits were chosen from among exceptional fighters, it wasn’t uncommon for them to be more able in combat than gods who were not skilled in battle.
Thus, in many cases, the Heroic Spirit Descent Skill was considered a superior version of the Familiar Spirit Descent Skill, as it summoned a heroic spirit onto the user’s body.
If their strength was converted to a Rank it was said that they would be at least Rank 12, but having actually fought them, Heinz and his companions couldn’t help but think that this was an underestimated value.
Almost all of the heroic spirits had awakened superior Skills, and they used them masterfully in coordination with each other.
During the battle against the single heroic spirit, Heinz and his companions had been able to push through by relying on their numbers and coordination. This had also been possible during the battle against two heroic spirits. But against five, they had been overwhelmed.
“To begin with… heroic spirits don’t… Isn’t it said that they don’t descend upon the world even if a nation or two is destroyed? What are they doing in a Dungeon?” complained Jennifer, who was lying on the ground and still trying to catch her breath.
Indeed, heroic spirits descending upon the world and wielding their powers had only occurred a handful of times in the entire history of Lambda. They had not descended upon the world even when humans fought wars against each other, when monsters overflowed from Dungeons, when the Demon King’s fragments appeared or when evil gods were scheming in the shadows.
It was said that heroic spirits depleted much of their strength by descending directly upon the world, causing them to fall into slumber for ten thousand years afterwards, but that wasn’t the only reason.
If the gods sent heroic spirits to correct every evil in the world, the people would not develop. And since there was so much evil in the world, every heroic spirit would end up in slumber if they were sent so frequently.
If truly powerful evils were to make a move after that… such as the deranged Zantark, the Pure-breed Vampires that lurked in the Boundary Mountain Range or the hidden evil gods, the entire world would be put at risk.
Indeed, Heinz and his companions had been able to seal the Demon King’s nose, corner the Pure-breed Ternecia… and deal the killing blow to her.
It was said that the ‘Thunderclap’ Schneider had personally defeated evil Elder Dragons and gods, and Randolf ‘the True’ had fought against the Demon King’s fragments and the disciples of the evil gods when he was still active.
That was why the heroic spirits rarely descended upon the world, but… heroic spirits were constantly appearing on the thirtieth floor of this Dungeon, and they did not offer any blessings for Heinz and his companions.
“It’s probably because it’s a Dungeon, right?” said Delizah, wiping her sweat with her sleeve. “I don’t know the circumstances that the gods and heroic spirits face, but this Dungeon seems to be special. Even on the previous floors, there were monsters that only appear in myths and legends, and they all vanished like fog without leaving a corpse when we defeated them, didn’t they? Those heroic spirits might be the same.”
Up until the thirtieth floor, Heinz and his companions had defeated strange monsters such as Ghoul Wizards, Ghoul Amazonesses and Bone Forts, but they had vanished like illusions after being defeated, their corpses leaving no materials or Magic Stones behind.
This had happened for the entirety of the ‘Trial Dungeon.’
“Are you saying that they’re like illusions as well? I can’t really believe that, but…” Jennifer murmured.
Having exchanged fist-blows with Gorsh, Jennifer was inclined to believe that he was real. It wasn’t just his appearance; the way he breathed and the smell of his sweat made her think that he had to be a living human.
The monsters that they had defeated up until that point had all had the same sense of presence that made it difficult to believe that they were illusions, but the heroic spirits had seemed even more real than that.
“Yeah, Luke’s unpleasant comments, their coordination and ability in combat make it difficult to believe they’re just illusions,” said Edgar. “So then, aren’t they in a state where they’ve descended upon bodies that are illusions? The superior Skill of Familiar Spirit Descent is Heroic Spirit Descent, which summons a heroic spirit onto the body, so that might be possible.”
“Heroic spirits descended upon bodies created as illusions… Is something like that even possible, Edgar?” asked Heinz.
“Who knows. I just thought of this possibility and decided to say it out loud. You should know more about this than me, since you can actually summon heroic spirits with your Skill. Now then, let’s cut the chatter and head back to ‘town,’” said Edgar, standing up and walking towards the ‘town.’
… Indeed, there was a ‘town’ in this ‘Trial Dungeon.’ It was the first thing that had greeted Heinz and his companions as they entered the Dungeon.
It was a town with an old-looking architectural style, filled with humans, Elves and Dwarves wearing strange clothing. There were inns, bars, blacksmiths that repaired equipment and second-hand stores, as well as a Church that Heinz and his companions had never seen before. It was a Church that worshipped all of the great gods equally. Alda was one of them, of course, but there was also Vida and Zantark, as well as the gods that had already perished, like the Colossus god Zerno.
The one thing that was out of place in this ‘town’ was the single Job-changing room. If it weren’t for that, Heinz and his companions would have thought that this was a town that existed somewhere today.
From the corridor that was just outside this ‘town,’ Heinz and his companions would head for the floors that they had cleared so far. Every time they were defeated by the enemies, they would be returned to the town unharmed.
And they were unable to leave the Dungeon from the town.
“Still, you could have said this about the Trial of Zakkart, but the difficulty of this Dungeon is strange, in a weird way. There’s no telling how many times we would have died if this was a normal Dungeon,” said Edgar. “But at this rate, we have no idea when we’ll be able to get out of here.”
The enemies in this Dungeon were more powerful than the enemies that appeared in the Trial of Zakkart, but Heinz and his companions would never be killed by them. This was the perfect trial created by Alda to make them at least more powerful than heroic spirits without risking losing them.
“We’re being held up on the thirtieth floor. I don’t know how many floors this Dungeon has, but I can’t imagine that it will stop after the thirty-first floor,” said Jennifer. “It looks like it’ll be a while before we can see Selen again.”
Heinz thought of the Dhampir girl that had been left outside the Dungeon. She was like a younger sister or a daughter to him; even inside this Dungeon, there was not a single day where he did not think of her.
But there was something that concerned him even more than that.
“The ‘new Demon King’ that the heroic spirits mentioned… I wonder if Alda made this Dungeon appear before us so that we can defeat the ‘main body’ that the Demon King’s nose was trying to join,” he said.
Vandalieu explained the events that had led up to Gufadgarn creating and inhabiting a vessel in the shape of a beautiful girl. However, the misunderstanding that Zakkart wanted a beautiful girl had still not been entirely cleared up.
That was because there was no guarantee that it was entirely a misunderstanding.
The Moon Giant Deeana, the mountain-queen Elder Dragon god Tiamat, and the Kijin Ancestor seemed to show some understanding for Zakkart’s complaints.
“Well, he was a man. It’s normal for him to be interested in the opposite sex,” said Deeana.
“Back then, nobody, not even me, had the time for anything,” said Tiamat. “Meanwhile, Bellwood was walking around with women following him. Not that I think he was aware of it.”
“It was a complaint that he voiced while drinking, and it’s not surprising that he’d say things like that, since he hadn’t had any relationships with anyone. Zakkart’s physical age was reversed to his teenage years, too,” added the Kijin ancestor.
“Gufadgarn, what surprised us is that you yourself are residing in the vessel, not a spirit clone. We knew that you were hermaphroditic or asexual, but… I think you were a little too decisive,” said Deeana.
“I gave it some thought, and this was the best way to adhere to Zakkart’s wishes. With that being the case, there was no reason to hesitate,” said Gufadgarn.
“Even if that’s true, I think that a god would normally allow him to meet a beautiful girl rather than become one himself. It is not as if you are a goddess from the age of the gods.”
“… I did not think of that option,” said Gufadgarn, clearly taken aback despite her face still being mask-like and expressionless. “Such deep thoughts… I can understand why the Demon King’s army was defeated.”
“No, it isn’t anything special,” said Deeana, giving a bitter smile. “I have heard that Zuruwarn advocated that we should at least do that much for the champions, as they were summoned into this world that they have no connection to. Ricklent also said that the champions’ will would take root more firmly in this world if they had lovers and friends, and nobody objected to it.”
It wasn’t just Gufadgarn who was surprised by Deeana’s words.
“I’ve never heard that before,” said Tiamat.
“… I’ve never heard that either,” said Farmaun.
“Of course you haven’t. These conversations took place before you were summoned,” said Deeana. “And since there was no time to form relationships as the war grew fiercer, the only ones who ended up being successful in that regard were apparently you and Bellwood.”
It seems that the mythical tales of Bellwood left out these facts.
“Did Zakkart, Ark and Nineroad not do those kinds of things?” asked Vandalieu.
“Zakkart, Ark and the other creation-oriented champions didn’t go onto the frontlines much; things apparently didn’t go well for them because they spent a lot of time holed up in their workshops,” said Deeana. “In other words, they didn’t have any opportunities to meet people, even if Vida, Ricklent and the others who summoned them might have expected otherwise.”
“As for Nineroad, it must have been misfortune,” said Tiamat. “Shizarion and the other gods merely gave them the opportunities to form bonds with the opposite sex… to become more than friends. They did not set up marriage meetings. Well, we are not the ones who devised this scheme, so if you wish to know more, it would be best to ask those responsible directly.”
It seemed that the gods’ intervention was merely introducing people to the champions and then leaving the rest up to them.
“Could it be, that time…” Farmaun murmured, looking up at Zantark, but Zantark gave a vague smile and looked away.
“I apologize for my incompetence, Vandalieu,” said Gufadgarn, moving to get on her knees.
“No, no, just stay as you are now,” said Vandalieu as he stopped her; he had the feeling that if Gufadgarn had been ‘competent,’ the situation would have certainly been even more ridiculous than it was now. “By the way, do you have any seals on the Demon King’s fragments and the remnants of the Demon King’s army?” he asked, trying to change the topic. “If you do, I’ll dispose of them for our mutual benefit.”
The seals suppressing the Demon King’s fragments that were directly maintained by the gods were more secure than Orichalcum Artifact seals, but they also placed a great burden on the gods.
“Yeah, please do. But the ones I was in charge of are managed by Churches in the Amid Empire and Orbaume Kingdom, and I wasn’t able to bring them with me,” said Farmaun.
“Please do something about that,” said Vandalieu.
“Sorry, that’s impossible,” said Farmaun. “About 50,000 years ago, if I’d predicted that you would come, I would have forcibly brought some with me, but…”
Back when Farmaun left Alda’s forces, the Demon King’s fragments were still just dangerous objects to the gods, not things that would be suitable as an offering. He didn’t know how to turn them into Demon King equipment, and even if he could, it was difficult to imagine that the Majin and Kijin would be able to use such dangerous items.
“If he had concealed such items on him back then, we would have certainly suspected that he was up to something and driven him away,” said the Majin ancestor.
“And going to take them back now is impossible,” said Farmaun. “Alda is letting me manage the fire attribute to maintain the world, but… if I were to return, he might do something so that I can do nothing other than maintain it.”
“I see. That’s unfortunate,” said Vandalieu.
“A-are you going to devour me after all?! N-no! I don’t want to be destroyed!” Luvesfol cried, thrashing about in terror at the words ‘dispose of.’
“You don’t have to be scared. Van told you that the decision is on hold until we go back to Talosheim and see what Fidirg and the others think, didn’t he?” said Pauvina, gently embracing Luvesfol’s wings… or rather, holding them down.
“That’s right, calm down,” said Oniwaka, wrapping her arms firmly around Luvesfol’s head.
They were treating Luvesfol like a small animal, but due to the special seal on him, he had the appearance and the strength of a Wyvern. To everyone else present here, he really was as weak as a small animal.
“… Yes, I apologize for causing a fuss. I am alright now,” said Luvesfol, immobilized by Pauvina’s smile.
She was three meters tall and didn’t weigh much less than Luvesfol; it was entirely possible for her to crush him to death right now.
“That’s good,” Pauvina said cheerfully.
… Thinking about things calmly, Luvesfol realized that if he resisted and accidentally injured anyone, Vandalieu really would dispose of him.
But why is my judgment ‘on hold,’ while the remnants of the Demon King’s army that have been sealed by Zantark and the others will be ‘disposed of?’ Luvesfol wondered suspiciously. Unlike me, the other remnant evil gods haven’t directly caused him any losses.
But the answer was this: The difference between Luvesfol and the Demon King’s army was that Luvesfol had directly begged Vandalieu to spare him. In other words, Vandalieu had taken pity on him.
Considering that, one might feel pity for the sealed evil gods that would not have the opportunity to beg to be spared, but that was a result of their past actions.
There was no point in removing the seals and trying to convince them to become allies if they ended up trying to escape and causing damage to their surroundings.
Zantark gave a roar.
“Zantark is saying, ‘We have several fragments sealed. However, we cannot acquire the fragments in the hands of Alda’s forces in the current situation,’” said Gufadgarn, interpreting it. “Perhaps this cannot be helped, as Alda had three champions on his side when the Demon King was defeated, and their Divine Realms were compatible with the seals.”
On the other hand, Zantark had been insane and unable to participate in battle when the Demon King Guduranis was defeated. The sealed Demon King fragments he and his allies possessed were those that were entrusted to them when they rejoined Vida and her allies.
“When we retreated here after being defeated a hundred thousand years ago, we were throwing them and stuff at Alda’s hounds. Looking back, I was so naïve back then,” said the Kijin ancestor.
“… Kijin boss, I’m the one you were throwing them at,” Farmaun pointed out.
It seemed that the fragments had been used to slow down Zantark’s pursuers.
“I see. Alda and his followers proclaim themselves to be on the side of justice, so they couldn’t allow the fragments to go out of control. They were forced to retrieve and seal them, and so they were slowed down,” Gufadgarn murmured.
“We did actually stop, but… come to think of it, are you guys alright looking at us?” asked Farmaun. “Apart from the Undead, you’re humans… aren’t you?”
“I think it is enough that their only reaction is sweating…” said Tiamat.
The gods gathered here were powerful figures, but most of them were gods of this world. Thus, looking at them would not cause damage to the mind like evil gods would… though weak-willed individuals would still lose consciousness.
But there were also gods that had fused with evil gods, like Zantark and the bird beast-king Lafaz.
“Farmaun, none of them could be considered ordinary people. If they were so weak as to lose their sanity by looking upon us, they would have lost their sanity long ago by looking upon the champion,” said the Majin ancestor.
“Indeed. I apologize to you all, but Master has the stranger appearance,” said Luciliano.
“… Isn’t it rude to say it like that? Though it’s not like I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Vandalieu.
Vandalieu’s companions were not only accustomed to seeing Vandalieu in battle with the Demon King’s fragments activated, but all of them had abilities beyond ordinary people, including Luciliano.
For the Undead, insanity was their sanity. With all of these factors, the only effect that everyone felt was that they were sweating.
Vandalieu had the feeling that Oniwaka was coping by avoiding reality, however.
“There, there, good boy,” she said, focusing her attention on Luvesfol.
“Leaving the Demon King’s fragments aside, is it really alright for you to eat the evil gods in one sitting?” asked Deeana. “All of the ones we have sealed are the same kind as Ravovifard, so isn’t it better to devour them one at a time?”
“Now that you mention it, they might cause indigestion,” said Vandalieu, imagining the fatty lumps of meat.
They had been quite delicious, but it certainly seemed like it would be bad for the stomach if he ate them continuously. If it were real meat, he could put it on skewers, fry the excess fat off or add lemon juice to give it a refreshing flavor, however.
“No, that’s not what I meant. I was worried that it might have effects on your body or mind,” said Deeana.
“There is no hurry, Your Majesty, so let’s go with eating one evil god per day,” said Princess Levia.
But Vandalieu wasn’t very aware of this. He had once acquired the Body Extension: Tongue Skill after eating an evil god, allowing him to stretch his tongue.
It was decided that he would eat one a day, as everyone was worried that it might be problematic if such things happened multiple times at once.
However, there were no problems with the Demon King’s fragments, so Vandalieu absorbed them one after another.
“Phew, it is nice to be free from the Demon King’s fragments. It has been a while since I felt this good. It is truly moving to know that the one who has achieved this is the great-great-grandchild of Vida-sama… How about creating a race with me?” asked Tiamat.
“You’re too casual in inviting me to create a new race…” said Vandalieu.
“Bocchan already has several previously-arranged engagements!” Saria protested.
“Even if you’re a god, please wait your turn!” said Rita.
“Muh, if there are already arranged engagements, then it cannot be helped. I thought that I could create a third race, following the Kiryujin and Maryujin,” Tiamat murmured, withdrawing her offer.
It seemed that things were different for a goddess like her, who had created children with various Elder Dragons, Colossi and beast-kings since the age of the gods.
Vandalieu and Oniwaka glanced at the Kijin and Majin ancestors, who were looking away and scratching their heads awkwardly.
“Many of our children were protected by Garess, the god of warriors, and Xerxes, the god of battle flags, but… because of that, there were less of our children that could escape with us.”
“Because of that, we thought that the gods would need more children to become their followers, so that they could recover their power… right?” said the Majin ancestor.
That was how it was. Apparently, near this land that had become Zantark’s Divine Realm, there was a large town inhabited by Kiryujin who possessed the features of both the Kijin and Drakonids, and the Maryujin who possessed the features of both Majin and Drakonids.
“We didn’t hear anything about this from Schneider, though?” said Vandalieu.
“We did not want our old friends Zorcodrio or Jurizanapipe to know about them,” said Tiamat. “It is a naïve thought.”
It seemed that the existence of the Kiryujin and Maryujin hadn’t been told to Schneider and his companions, as these races were not in any particular need of help.
It seemed that the parents of these races very much wanted to keep them a secret.
“Are you alright with telling me?” asked Vandalieu. “I’m not an old friend, but I suppose I’ve been invited to Vida’s Divine Realm before…”
“… It is regrettable, but we cannot keep silent about the matter forever because of our own embarrassment,” said Tiamat. “Also, we wish to ask of you things that Schneider and his companions cannot do.”
“I see. I understand… Well then, I will absorb your fragment, so please stay still,” said Vandalieu.
“Incidentally, the fragment that I have sealed is the auxiliary brain. Will there be no problems?” Tiamat asked.
The auxiliary brain – from what Vandalieu knew, he vaguely had the feeling that it was an organ that controlled the body. If he recalled correctly, it was not where memories were stored. He didn’t know whether there were any organisms that actually had auxiliary brains, though.
“Have you ever felt the Demon King’s will or seen his memories from it?” Vandalieu asked.
“No, I have not,” Tiamat replied.
“Then it should be fine.”
《You have acquired the Demon King’s retinas, lens, compound eyes, lips, tongue, gills, auxiliary brain, blood vessels and tumors!》
《The Demon King’s retina and lens have been added to the Demon King’s eyeballs, and the Demon King’s lips have been added to the Demon King’s jaws!》
Vandalieu absorbed numerous fragments including the auxiliary brain, but he couldn’t feel any signs of the Demon King’s will or his memories. However, the fragments began to clamor in an unusual manner.
We’ve reunited with the main body! We’ve reunited with the main body! We’ve finally reunited with the main body!
We will be resurrected, right here, right now!
《The Demon King Fusion Skill has awakened into the Demon King Skill!》
Before Vandalieu could stop them, the fragments let out shouts of joy and, in the next moment, Demon King Fusion awakened into a superior Skill.
It seemed that the fragments considered the Demon King to have been resurrected.
“… This might be a little problematic. Excuse me, I want to talk to you about something,” said Vandalieu, worried about possible effects of the Demon King Skill on him and deciding to consult the gods around him.
Buy us some coffee!