The seven bandits sat in their simple hideout, drinking the alcohol that they’d stolen from their victims today.
「Today’s haul was pretty good, wasn’t it?」
「Yeah, if we take it to the village everyone else will be happy as well.」
It looked as if they were farmers sharing a drink after finishing their work in the fields, but they were definitely bandits.
The proof of that was the fact that the wine that they were drinking was taken from merchants who had been too stingy to hire adventurers to escort them, along with their lives.
Their equipment was old; their leather armor had numerous patches where they had been previously repaired and their weapons consisted of handmade spears, woodcutting hatchets, bows and arrows – they were incredibly poorly equipped. In addition, they hadn’t received any formal training; if you looked at it one way, their method of fighting came from experience in real battle and brawls. If you looked at it another way, they were just a group of people who merely swung their weapons around.
In fact, most of their jobs were Farmer, so they hadn’t received training for battle. The reason that they were bandits was their poverty.
The young men from a village that had become poor for to various reasons had left the village to commit crimes. Such cases were not rare in Lambda.
「Well then, I suppose someone should stand watch so we can sleep.」
The bandits’ base simply consisted of several tents put up in a meadow with long grass, in a spot where they had cleared some of the grass away. They did have a lookout tower, but they didn’t seem to have any intentions of using it.
In fact, there was nothing in this meadow but wild deer, so they were safe as long as they kept a fire lit. The reason they still kept watch is because sometimes a stray Goblin came to attack.
But even such a Goblin would scream loudly as it approached them, so they had little motivation to stand guard.
That was why they had no way of knowing if any enemy were to approach them quietly, concealing the sound of their footsteps.
「Hic, I’ve drank a little too much – UOH?」
The bandit on watch who had apparently drank too much wine was snatched up by Bone Bear’s paw that had risen up from the wall of grass and disappeared.
Muffled sounds came from inside the tents, but nobody came out. Instead, Bone Man, Bone Monkey and Bone Wolf with Bone Bird on his back emerged from the long grass.
And behind them was Vandalieu.
「There are six left. Finish them quickly.」
The air was filled with the sound of rattling bones.
The bandits never returned to their village.
For Vandalieu, finding the hiding place of bandits was easier the more atrocious their crimes were, as he could use the spirits of their dead victims as sources of information.
The victims who were attacked by their bandits and had not only their belongings taken, but also their lives. Their regret and hatred towards their assailants was fierce, and having bugs find the spirits was a simple task.
Even if the spirits were far away, he could use the【Spirit Communication】technique to summon them to hear what they had to say.
And then he would send out the Undead using the information he got from the spirits, and the hideouts would be found within a few days.
With this method, Vandalieu had already found four groups of bandits operating in the area around Baronet Bestero’s territory.
After finding them, he continued to gather information such as how many of them there were and how they were armed. The villager bandits that he had attacked today were the smallest, most poorly equipped group out of the four.
「Nice, the training’s successful. Good work, everyone.」
Vandalieu was emotionless as he confirmed that the bandit group had been exterminated, but he was in a good mood as he praised the Undead.
Of course, the Undead, being made of only bones, were unable to smile, but the blue glow in their sockets seemed to flicker in happiness. Their MVP was Bone Bear, who had killed the one on lookout duty with a bear hug and then buried another bandit with his claws.
Bone Man had stabbed two of them to death with his dagger, and Bone Monkey and Bone Wolf had taken one each, strangling and biting them to death.
「Err, it’ll be fine. You’ll be able to fly soon!」
Bone Bird was the only one to be depressed. Vandalieu had made a Golem of the earth and buried one of the bandits from the neck down, and Bone Bird had defeated this bandit by diligently stabbing him with its beak repeatedly.
With only one wing, it was just a burden, but there was no helping it. Bone Bird couldn’t fly.
It was obvious that wings made of only bones and no feathers would not be able to fly.
「If you keep gathering experience and rank up again, you’ll definitely be able to fly. Believe in yourself!」
As Vandalieu encouraged Bone Bird, it flapped its wings with a rattle to express its happiness, as if to say that it would try its best.
After looking at Bone Bird happily and giving it a pat on its skull, Vandalieu examined the treasure that the bandits had gathered.
The first thing that caught his eye was the wagon with three barrels of wine still left in it. They were the leftovers of what the bandits had been drinking.
Evbejia prided itself on its wine, so it was probably of reasonably high quality.
「... I wonder if there’s anything else.」
But to a one-year-old, it held less value than water. He had no way of selling it for money and his companions were all made of bones, so it was completely useless. At best, he could perhaps use it for cooking.
No, it was probably possible for him to drink it. Even as a one-year-old, Vandalieu possessed the Status Effect Resistance skill at level 3, so he would likely not become drunk unless he consumed a very large quantity of it.
『No~♪ You can’t drink alcohol at the age of one. What if you become a drunkard later in life?』
However, his guardian would not allow it, so he decided not to drink it.
「Well, I might as well take at least one barrel back. There’s even a wagon for it. And next is -」
Vandalieu searched around the wagon and inside the tents, but concluded that they were「completely broke」compared to normal adventurers or soldiers. They had apparently stolen cloth purses from the merchants who had normally stored copper and silver coins in them, but there was a whole pile of pouches filled with only seeds and oats that would normally be fed to pets and livestock on Earth. There were some dried river fish. The rest were items for the bandits’ daily necessities.
The special feature was perhaps the vase filled with about five kilograms of salt.
It was a considerably meagre treasure, but perhaps that was to be expected. They were merely seven men that were normally farmers.
They would have been unable to aim for targets with a larger payout - the kind that would hire adventurers as escorts.
But for Vandalieu, it was a decent harvest in its own way.
「This is a great result. I was getting sick of eating only meat and blood, and the salt that Mom had ran out ages ago. And I’m glad I got my hands on some cloth.」
Vandalieu’s lifestyle up until now had been sustained through hunting the deer in the forest. Darcia’s emergency stores of wheat, cheese, vegetables and salt had been used up relatively quickly after her death. In the first place, it was only one person’s worth and it was for the journey that she had been planning, so it was only an amount that she would have been able to carry.
And as Vandalieu developed, the amount that he ate also increased.
It would be problematic to use blood for all of his dietary needs, and if he became too much like a vampire, he would become weak to the sun so that would be problematic. That was why he wanted to eat normal food as well. But meat that was simply cooked after having its blood extracted was dull as well and there were times when he could only get his hands on the meat of raccoons and foxes and such, whose meat was not tasty. Though it was much better than the times he only had Goblin meat available.
The clothes he was wearing were not really clothes, but furs that he had wrapped around himself.
He was like a barbarian child.
「If I use the bandits’ spare clothes, I might be able to make proper clothes for myself. There’s also money, but… well, will I get a chance to use it?」
The Amid was the currency of the Amid Empire and its countries. One Amid was worth about a hundred yen on Earth. There was a half-Amid copper coin, a one-Amid copper coin, a ten-amid copper coin, a 100-Amid silver coin, a 1,000-Amid gold coin and a 10,000-Amid platinum coin.
In addition, there was apparently also paper money used only by wealthy merchants and nobles, notes worth 100,000 Amid and 1,000,000 Amid. To be more accurate, they may not be actual notes, but something like handwritten government bonds.
The bandits had saved up about 1,000 Amid, about twice the monthly income of a worker living in an urban area.
But if Vandalieu were to enter a town, guards or adventurers would kill him without any questions asked, so it was doubtful whether he would get a chance to use it.
However, it might be possible to exchange it after moving to another country, so he decided to keep it.
「Hmm? What’s this pouch?」
He realized that there was another leather pouch beneath the pouches containing the money. It was light and something clinked around inside softly when he moved it.
He untied the string and looked inside to see two transparent, colored stones inside. They looked like some kind of gem, but they were not very pretty.
「Mom, do you know what this is?」
『These are Magic Stones. You can collect them from monsters, and from this size and color, I think they’re from Goblins. If I remember correctly, they sell for ten Amid each.』
The Mana in monsters’ bodies crystallized in the moment they died, and the Magic Stones were apparently the result of that. They were used as ingredients in various magical items and spiritual medicines such as potions, or used as sources of power for even normal people with low Mana to use magical items.
If used as sources of power in this way, they became normal stones after the Mana they contained was depleted, so they were consumable items. But with alchemical refining, Mana could be imbued into the stones again, so they could be used over and over.
Nobody would bother refining the Magic Stones of Goblins and they would be used as disposable items, which was why their value was low.
『Incidentally, it’s more common for low-rank monsters to not even drop Magic Stones when they die. The probability for a Rank 1 monster to drop one is about one in a hundred. On the other hand, higher-rank monsters are almost certain to drop Magic Stones when they die. Rank 5 monsters and above will definitely drop them.』
Incidentally, Darcia had apparently thought it pointless to tell Vandalieu about Magic Stones earlier because he had been fighting nothing but a few Rank 1 Goblins at a time.
Also, it seemed that there were some low-rank monsters that easily dropped Magic Stones, and also monsters that dropped Magic Stones of far higher quality than their original rank. But to Vandalieu, who was focusing on hunting bandits for now, this was all just information for future reference.
He wanted to register with an Adventurer's Guild and become an adventurer as soon as possible.
「Finally, let’s check the status of Bone Man… Oh, just by killing two of those weak Bandits, you’ve gained thirty levels. You too, Bone Bear. The rest of you too. Just by killing a single man each, you’ve gained more than 10 levels!」
Just by ambushing and killing one or two bandits that had failed as farmers and couldn’t even fight properly, their levels had risen this much. The amount of experience they got from Goblins or the monsters in the forest couldn’t even be compared to this amount.
If this applied to not just the Undead but all monsters, than that meant that humans were a very good source of experience of the monsters. It would also explain why monsters were so aggressive against humans.
「Alright, I’ll wipe out all the Bandits in this area and increase everyone’s levels.」
After seeing this explosive increase in level, he couldn’t go back to hunting small monsters.
There were still many Bandit groups left in the area around Baronet Bestero’s territory. One of them had the same number of people as the one they had killed today, one of them had more than ten people, while another one had around twenty.
The Undead would surely reach Rank 3 after they were all exterminated.
『Since you were able to kill us, the guys to the south will be a piece of cake.』
『The guys west of here are from three villages over. They have a lot of people, but it should still be easy.』
『But the guys up north are professional bandits. Their leader was apparently a guard in some city, and I’ve heard that he’s gathered himself a bunch of strong underlings. They extorted some money out of us as well.』
While learning some information from the spirits of the dead bandits, Vandalieu used the Earth Golem to bury their bodies. After loading up their loot on the wagon, Vandalieu left, leaving the tragic scene behind him.
Around a month had passed since Vandalieu’s first Birthday. It was the season in which he had to get rid of mosquitoes every evening using【Bug Killer】, and he was finally ready to take on the largest and most highly-trained bandit group in Baronet Bestero’s territory. They moved while making sure no travelers or guard patrols on the highway found them and trained in forests or in areas with high, thick grass to polish their skills.
「Our opponents are in a different league from the bandits we’ve been killing up till now. Their leader is a ex-soldier, and his subordinates have been trained under him to some extent. In other words, we can’t just raise our weapons and scare the enemy, we actually have to『fight』them.」
The Undead listening to Vandalieu literally had fires of determination burning in their eye sockets. Because of the experience they had earned from killing all the bandits, Bone Man had increased his rank to become a Skeleton Solider, while Bone Monkey, Bone Bear and Bone Wolf had become Bone Beasts.
They had also gained the skill【Superhuman Strength】and, perhaps because they had been killing bandits by ambushing them, they had also gained【Silent Steps.】When this skill was used, the sounds of their bones hitting and grinding against each other completely disappeared. In addition, Bone Man had gained the skills 【Swordsmanship】, 【Archery】 and 【Shield Technique.】
They were all still level 1 skills, but the results were pretty good considering that they had obtained them after fighting in practice battles against golems for a month.
Bone Bird, however, was still at Rank 2. But it was at Level 90, and if today’s plan went well, it would also rank up.
「That’s why we need to be extra careful today. We have a lot of spare bones for you, but make sure your skulls are not damaged or broken. Also, if there are any humans that don’t look like bandits… For example, humans that are tied up with rope or humans that are in cages, don’t kill them. Lastly, we’ll begin the plan as soon as I cast the support magic.」
Speaking in his usual indifferent tone and expressionless face, Vandalieu didn’t show his internal nervousness at all as he cast the spells.
「First,【Bloodshed Enhancement】to their weapons, fangs and claws. Then【Energy Absorption】to their armor and bones.」
【Bloodshed Enhancement】 was a magic spell that boosted the attack power of whatever it was cast on; even shields and armor could damage the enemy if they came in contact with them.
【Energy Absorption】 was a defensive spell that could absorb magic, heat, electricity and even motion energy, and in Lambda it was effective against both magical and physical attacks.
Both of these spells had very strong effects, but since both were not that hard to use with the Death Attribute, mastering them was easy for Vandalieu.
The first to move among the Undead surrounded by dark blue magic was Bone Man. He headed towards observation tower the bandits’ base - a small gathering of simple huts surrounded by a wooden fence - loading an arrow into the bow taken from Orbie and his companions and pulling back the string.
The bandits in the observation tower were holding bows with quivers on their backs and seemed completely unmotivated.
「Man, we’re really unlucky. Getting guard duty on the day before we’re supposed to withdraw.」
The bandits were planning to take all that they had earned up till now and move to a new location. They were planning to pick up the ransom money for the hostages along the way and then go on to a new territory or even a new country, and start their jobs as bandits all over again.
Other bandit groups had been disappearing lately and they had heard rumours that a Lord had become fed up with the deterioration of public order on the highway and put together a subjugation team. If that was the case, then it really was time to leave.
They had decided to get rid of things that would get in the way of traveling, and were in the middle of a party to consume all of the excess food and liquor they had in one go.
These bandits were the unlucky ones that were unable to participate in the party, and they were too distracted by their own misfortune to notice anything.
Bone Man’s arrow cut through the night and buried itself in one of their throats. Letting out a short scream, he lost his balance and fell from the tower.
Seeing one of their own guards fall down with a arrow in his neck, the bandits that had been drunk and enjoying themselves woke up from their stupor.
「Wake up, you bastards! Get your weapons!」
As they bandits tried pick up their axes, maces and spears…
Destroying the wooden fence and scattering splinters all over the place, Bone Monkey and Bone Bear charged in.
「I-it’s the Undead! Monsters! We’re being attacked by monsters!」
「Calm down, you idiots! Those of you specializing in axes and maces, move forward! Those who have swords and spears, fall back! Archers as well!」
The leader of the bandits calmly gave his subordinates clear instructions, a halberd in his own hands.
This man had experience fighting with Skeletons and Zombies from when he was still a soldier. He knew that his subordinates could deal with Undead effectively if they used blunt weapons like clubs or axes rather than bladed weapons like swords or spears, even if they weren’t very skilled at fighting.
「A few Rank 1 or 2 monsters are no match for twenty of us! Get ‘em!」
The bandits’ morale that had been withering because of the sudden attack and death of one of their own was recovered thanks to the instructions from their boss. They rushed at the boorish Undead who had rained over their festivities.
A bandit that had raised his axe went flying as Bone Bear stood up on its hind legs and delivered an attack with its front paws.
With a crunch, Bone Monkey crushed a bandit’s skull like an egg.
The fangs of Bone Wolf pierced the legs of the bandits, and when they fell down it ripped out their throats.
Bone Man put away his bow and drew the long sword that he had taken from the other bandits they had defeated to cut his way into the bandits’ ranks.
Bone Man against the bandits. Both sides had never received any formal training in swordsmanship, and soon Bone Man came out as the clear winner.
Their fighting skill was about the same, and the longsword that Bone Man was using was an iron sword with a crude casting. In fact, the enemy’s weapons were of better quality.
However, the strength of a Rank 3 Skeleton Solider was far above that of an average human, and especially because of the 【Superhuman Strength】 skill, Bone Man was far stronger than the bandits.
As humans lacked physical strength and special abilities, they honed their skills and learned martial arts and magic in order to fight against monsters. A human going up against a monster while possessing the same amount of skill as the monster had no chance of winning.
Bathed in the blood of his enemies, Bone Man shivered from the feeling of getting experience by taking a life, and wanting to earn even more, jumped at his next prey.
「Boss! These aren’t Rank 2 monsters!」
「We can’t handle them! Help us, boss!」
Hearing the pitiful screams of his subordinates as their number decreased, the leader clicked his tongue.
『Those useless fools! If it’s come to this, I have to get away by myself.』
The bandit leader chose to run without hesitation. He didn’t think about fighting the Undead for his men for even a second.
He didn’t even have enough skills to even fight one-on-one with a Rank 3 or higher monster in the first place.
He had certainly been a soldier at point in his life, and even had a level 2 skill【Halberd Technique】that allowed to him to use the Halberd. But in the end, he was just an ex-security guard. According to the Adventurer's Guild, his fighting prowess was at most a E-class.
It was said that to win a fight one-on-one with a Rank 3 monster, you needed to be at least D-class.
If he made well use of his subordinates, he could defeat maybe one of the Undead. But there were four Undead. No, five.
The leader noticed Bone Bird, who was finishing off the bandits that had fallen unconsciousness by stabbing them with its beak, but considered that to be an exception.
Even if he did manage to defeat one of them, there would be no point as they would be finished off by the rest. There was no point in retaliating if there was no hope of winning.
「All of you! Don’t back down, push forward!」
Giving that unreasonable order to his men, the leader himself began backing off carefully so as not to be noticed by them. He would just jump in the carriage he had taken from the merchants and run away. If he could get away, he form another bandit group.
His hopes of getting away were shattered as a wooden wall grew from the ground behind him.
「Uoh?! W-what?! An alchemist?!」
He had heard a shrill voice like a small girl’s through the dying screams of his men and the resentment filled roars of the Undead. He realized that this was the doing of the owner of the voice, and looked around for it’s owner.
He found him almost immediately.
A small child stood some ways away, wearing a rag. It was easy to tell that he was a baby.
「Are you telling me this is all this kid’s doing!?」
The leader’s eyes opened wide, but there was no denying the child’s – Vandalieu’s – strangeness.
The white hair and odd-colored deep crimson and purple-blue eyes. And even on this bloodstained battlefield, the weak, ghost-like presence. If the child hadn’t said anything, he could approached the bandit leader all the way up to his feet without the leader noticing.
「A-are you the one controlling these Undead? I-in that case, I give up. I surrender. I’ll let you have all the treasure, go ahead and hand me over to the Adventurer’s Guild or wherever.」
Throwing down his Halberd, the leader put up both hands and gave up.
If he couldn’t win, he would run. If he couldn’t run, he’d live by giving up. Stubbornness and pride wouldn’t get you even one Amid.
「Yeah, that’s right.」
Forcing a smile to his face, the leader replied to Vandalieu who spoke in a flat tone.
「There’s a bounty on my head. And I also have information about the other bandit groups in this area. And the half the money made from selling criminal slaves goes to your pocket. Don’t you see? If you capture us alive, it’s a lot more profitable for you.」
The things that the leader said were all true. This was man that was willing to sell off other people in the same trade if he was able to live.
Also, depending on the severity of their crimes, the bandits that were captured alive were sold off as criminal slaves. Most of them were overworked in mines and the army, doing odd jobs and labor. Half of the profits earned from them were not to be underestimated, and depending on the number of bandits captured alive, it could be worth even more than all the treasure that the bandits had gathered.
「... Are you an idiot, perhaps?」
But what came was an insulting reply; a baby asking about his mental capacity.
「Wh-what did you say!?」
「As you can see, I am a Dhampir. If I took you to the Adventurer’s Guild to hand you over, I would just be killed. I would be dead before you could be sold as a criminal slave.」
In the Amid Empire and its countries, where the people worshipped Alda, the God of Law and Fate, Dhampirs were treated as monsters rather than people. Even if he entered the city with the intention of handing over the bandits, the guards or adventurers would prioritize dealing with the Dhampir over the bandits.
The bandit leader was not an adventurer and he was unaware of the Dhampir panic that had happened a while ago, so he was late in realizing that he was talking to a dhampir.
「Th-then make me one of your subordinates! I’ll be really useful. Your Undead are pretty strong, but you do need one human subordinate as well, right?!」
In that moment, Vanadalieu’s impression of the bandit increased slightly as he thought that he was more clever than he looked.
In fact, Vandalieu had been been feeling the same thing from quite a while back. The Undead that followed his every command. The spirits of Darcia and the others. Their presence alone could not solve the small inconveniences of his day-to-day life.
However, using the man in front of him to solve them was unthinkable.
「While it is true that I need a living companion, I don’t need a bandit who would sacrifice his men to run away. But I can make you one of my subordinates after you’ve died.」
Pointing at the leader that had first expressed hope and then despair, Vandalieu asked Bone Bear and the others.
「P-please wait! I-I don’t want to die!」
「...? Wasn’t it same for the people that you killed?」
This man was oblivious to many things. By the time this thought occurred to Vandalieu and he turned around to talk to the leader again, Bone Bear had already crushed his neck.
Crap, did I kill him too early? Bone Bear seemed to ask, but Vandalieu waved a hand to say「It’s fine, it’s fine」and exhaled heavily.
「Ahh, that was nerve-wracking. It was my first time talking to anyone besides Mom, so I was pretty nervous.」
He had suffered from stranger anxiety in all three worlds: Earth, Origin and Lambda. He wished that he could have avoided having this kind of face-to-face conversation in this bloodstained place.
「The smell of blood is so strong that I’m getting hungry. But I don’t want to get closer to being a vampire by sucking the blood of the bandits, so I have resist. Resist… For now, I’ll check if there are any survivors.【Sense Life.】」
To distract himself from his hunger caused by the smell of blood, he used a death-attribute spell that detected all the life in the vicinity.
Ignoring the reaction from bugs, weeds, germs and fungi, he searched for reactions from animals, humans containing magic or large monsters.
There were… three large animals behind the large hut, probably horses. There was also a reaction from the basement of the hut. From the reaction, it was human.
He had heard from the spirits that the number of bandits had been nineteen. The number of corpses was also nineteen.
「There’s someone in the basement of the hut, is it a new guy?」
『N-No, that one is not my subordinate. It’s a peddler I caught a few days ago. Ugeh. I let him live because it seems like he has a family business or something in a town over in Viscount Maggio’s domain, and ransom money can be e-expected. M-my n-neck.』
Because of the shock and fear he had received at the time of his death, the neck of bandit leader’s spirit was still twisted. Vandalieu wrinkled his eyebrows as he processed the information he had given.
Things had become a little troublesome.