After the mysterious incident in which Evbejia’s outer walls turned into Golems, the people of the city began working on the large scale construction to rebuild it with heavy hearts. The Adventurers' Guild set E-class adventurers to carry out human wave tactics to defend the city and the country’s government requested for renowned mages and adventurers to be dispatched in order to investigate the incident. Meanwhile, the mastermind behind all of this was in the midst of an enjoyable journey by carriage.
He was sitting on the hide of a beast spread out inside the carriage in place of a cushion, listening to the cries of insects as he murmured to himself about how it would be autumn soon.
「Now that I think about it, this is the first time I’ve been on a journey.」
Technically, he had gone on a school trip while on Earth, but the ferry had blown up partway through and he had drowned, so it didn’t count. In any case, he remembered that it wasn’t exactly enjoyable.
Speaking of journeys -
「A different atmosphere from your everyday life, new experiences, rare sights, delicious food, talking with family or friends… No, that’s not a journey, it’s a trip.」
『How is a trip different from a journey?』
「If your goal is to have fun, it’s a trip. If not, it’s a journey.」
Dictionaries back on Earth probably defined it differently.
『So that’s how it is. Vandalieu is much more knowledgeable than his mother.』
Darcia gave a small, happy-sounding laugh. Hearing only this conversation, one might think that it was the start of a happy family trip.
However, the mother was the ghost of a Dark Elf, with traces of gruesome torture visible on her slightly glowing body. And the child that was sitting in the carriage had shining red and bluish-purple eyes; he was a one-year-old Dhampir with even less of a presence than the ghost.
The carriage that they were riding on was moving without a driver or horses to pull it. It was a Rank 2 Undead monster, the Cursed Carriage. Flying in circles high up in the sky and keeping watch was the Rank 3 Phantom Bird, a bird with a body of bones surrounded by a bluish glow. And protecting the carriages on all sides were the Rank 3 Skeleton Warrior, and the Bear, Monkey and Wolf Bone Beasts.
This group that was proceeding forward in the middle of the night looked like a monster parade, a small-scale pandemonium. If there were any adventurers nearby, the only two responses they would have to them would be to either attack or run away.
「I think I’ll go to sleep now… Before the sky gets brighter, I need to hide somewhere.」
Knowing this, Vandalieu and his party only traveled on the highway at night. They were heading to the Orbaume Kingdom, which had been in conflict with the Amid Empire for centuries.
The original plan had been to head to the village where Darcia had been born and raised, the place she had been living when she was still alive, but Darcia herself stopped them.
『I think it’s better not to go to my birthplace. Since I went and died, there is no way to prove that Vandalieu is my child, and I’m not sure that everyone would believe my words as I am now.』
Vandalieu’s skin was as white as a dead man’s. His ears were pointed, but because of his skin color, one would not think that one of his parents was a Dark Elf.
According to Darcia, the relationship between Elves and Dark Elves of Lambda was not a good one. There were some Elf clans that had friendly relations with Dark Elves, but they were a minority; most Elves hated Dark Elves and regarded them as “the filthy Elves birthed by Vida”.
And there was no need to even question what the Dark Elves thought about the people that hated them. If Darica herself had been alive, they would have believed her, but unfortunately, she had died. She did exist as a spirit, but the only ones who would be able to see her other than Vandalieu would be those who possessed rare jobs such as Spiritualist.
『Also, I don’t know if they’ll forgive your father or not. Your father was the subordinate of a Vampire that believed in evil gods.』
The Dark Elf race had been birthed by the goddess Vida and most of them lived while worshipping Vida and the Spirits while also intermingling with the other races created by Vida. Therefore it made perfect sense that they were also friendly with Vampires and Dhampirs, but only those that believed in gods other than Alda or the evil spirits.
There are also races of monsters such as Lamias and Scyllas that share a parent with the Dark Elf race, but if they were made obedient by tamers, it wasn’t a problem. But the evil gods that were once the Demon King’s subordinates are still enemies. Those who worshipped them, even if they were of races given birth to by Vida, were considered traitors.
「...It’s a tough world we live in, mother.」
『Yes, that’s why I think it would be better if we headed towards the Orbaume Kingdom.』
The Orbaume Kingdom and the Amid Empire made up the two halves of the Bahn Gaia continent.
The continent of Bahn Gaia was sometimes called “Warhammer of Zantark” because of the fact that it was shaped like the letter T. The warhammer’s “handle” part was thought to be the place where the fallen champion Zakkart had faced his end for the second time, an area filled with high mountains and countless Devil’s Nests. It was unexplored territory where even adventurers had never set foot.
The “head” part of the warhammer was divided into two: In the west was the Amid Empire, and in the east was the Orbaume Kingdom. They had been fighting one another for centuries to take over the other and unite the continent. The Orbaume Kingdom had formed from the alliance of many smaller countries that rebelled against the Amid Empire around five hundred years ago.
But since it was a union of countries now, it needed to be managed properly. For this purpose, they had made an electoral system called selective monarchy where the royal families of the participating nations became dukes and then a king was selected from among these. The term of the king was ten years, and reappointment was possible only once. However, since the reappointment of a king was common, the effective term period was usually twenty years.
Politics in the Orbaume Kingdom changed depending on the personality and policies of the new king, but whatever the case, Alda’s teachings, the state religion of the Amid Empire that was the enemy nation, should be weak.
『It seems like there are Beast-men and Titans among those who can be selected as kings, so a Dhampir such as Vandalieu should have no problem.』
Darcia had never been to the Orbaume Kingdom herself, so she couldn't be sure. But since there were Beast-men and Titans among the candidates for king’s position, it was certain that the Vida’s offspring there were treated very differently compared to the ones in the Amid Empire.
And so they were headed towards the Orbaume Kingdom, but they were unable to follow the straightest, shortest path there. They had heard that a war between the Orbaume Kingdom and Amid Empire was close.
『Uhehe, this is a secret okay? It’s special, national-secret-level information, okay~?』
The spirit of a spy of the Amid Empire who had died several months ago and gone slightly insane told them this.
Vandalieu actually wondered whether he should believe him or not, but it would be terrible if he ignored him only to find that the war had already started when he reached border between Mirg and Orbaume. Of course, there would be increased security, and even if he managed to get through it to sneak out of this country, he wasn’t sure if he could sneak into the next.
Convincing a suspicious soldier that they weren’t spies of the enemy would be no easy task. In fact, the soldiers would immediately assume that they were a small group of Undead. There would be no Monster Tamer that they could spot with a single glance, so instead of「Let's try talking to them first」they would surely think「Let’s get rid of them first.」
「If I’m lucky, they’d take me into custody, but I don’t want the Undead that I took the time to raise to be destroyed, and who knows what they’d do if they found Mom.」
Vandalieu was just a fourteen-month-old child, so if they didn’t pulverize everything including the carriage from long range using offensive magic, he would probably be taken into custody, but that was impossible for the Undead.
As for Darcia, she was unlikely to be discovered as there was probably no soldier with the Necromancer job, but if they took the bone she was residing in and buried it, she might just disappear this time.
For that reason, they were not heading north-east to the Mirg country that was closest to the Orbaume Kingdom’s border, but were rather heading south-east towards the southern part of the continent, the area covered in high mountains and Devil’s Nests.
「Crossing high mountains and Devil’s Nests will be difficult, but it’s still better than coming into contact with humans.」
This was also often true on Earth too. Humans were the most fearsome creatures of all, and this was probably true for his situation right now.
Incidentally, the reason why Vandalieu hadn’t trained any Golems or Zombies till now was because he had been planning for this journey.
The movements of Golems were sluggish, and if he made them big to cover for that, they would be conspicuous, even in the middle of the night. Zombies were the same; their movements were also very sluggish. In movies on Earth, he had seen Zombies that could run at the same speed as athletes, but you shouldn't expect fiction-like things in reality. Yes, this world was a fantasy world, but it was also reality.
Also, in the case of Zombies, he would have to use the corpses of the bandits or Orbie and his companions, and they were hardly faces that he wanted to look at all day. This was another very important factor.
And so, Vandalieu’s little group was composed of just bones.
Vandalieu’s travels, except for the fact that they couldn't move around while the sun was up, was progressing smoothly. During the day, they hid in forests away from the highway, and resumed their travels once night fell. If there were some peddlers or adventurers that were travelling along at night, they would go off the highway and continue on, and do the same when there were guard stations or checkpoints in the way...
Even though they were making steady progress, their pace was less than half that of a normal traveler, but that couldn’t be helped.
「I want to hurry and be able to travel boldly in the middle of the highway.」
He hadn’t done anything wrong (except for his revenge); it was such an unfair world.
He had to worry about the risk of beasts, monsters or even bandits attacking them if they travelled off the highway, though that was quite rare. Just from seeing Bone Man or Bone Monkey protecting the carriage from far away, beasts and bandits would be discouraged from approaching.
The wild beasts such as wolves and bears instinctively feared monsters except in cases where the monster was plainly weaker than them. Bandits were the same. Their targets were merchants and travelers, not monsters.
Of course, by defeating monsters you could expect some gains like ingredients and experience points. But if they had the skills to take on monsters, they would be working as adventurers, not as bandits.
And as for monsters themselves, there weren’t many monsters that attacked other Undead monsters, especially skeleton types that were made of just bones.
The primary reason for a monster attacking another monster was to feed, but skeletons didn’t have any edible parts.
There were other reasons such as territorial disputes and self-defense, but Vandalieu and the others never invaded the habitats or entered too far into the territory of other monsters, so the monsters would not do much other than wait and see.
Well, from time to time monsters with low judgment capabilities decided to attack them.
Bone Wolf dragged a twitching, almost-dead Goblin in front of the carriage’s wheels.
The Goblin was crushed with a loud crunch.
「We haven’t been able to gain levels these days by killing monsters like Goblins, huh.」
Vandalieu didn’t pay the Goblin any attention as he left it behind. He didn’t bother searching for a Magic Stone, let alone the right ear that adventurers took to prove that they had killed the monster.
Darcia had told him that because the chances of finding a Magic Stone on a Rank 1 monster was less than one in a hundred, even many higher-rank adventurers didn’t bother searching monsters like Goblins for them. Since Vandalieu had no way of even exchanging the Magic Stones for money, he decided to follow their example.
What concerned him more was the difficulty he was having in raising the levels of his Undead.
When they were Rank 1, their levels increased even when they killed a single monster together, even sharing the experience between all of them. But now, killing numerous monsters without sharing experience didn’t even yield one level.
The Rank 2 carriage still increased in levels after running over some Goblins, but the levels of the Rank 3 Undead weren’t increasing at all.
「I suppose I have to kill more bandits after all. Though I want the carriage to be Rank 3 before we cross the mountain range.」
『Vandalieu, Rank 3 is normally considered quite strong, you know? It would take several normal Rank 2 people to drive away one Rank 3 monster.』
A Rank 3 monster was so threatening that it could still trample one-sidedly over a group of normal people. At the very least, even normal citizens who were proud of their fighting skills or physically strong town guards wouldn’t stand a chance.
「But Mom, there aren’t going to be any normal people in the place we’re going to, and since I can’t get any stronger myself right now, I want everyone to get stronger instead.」
『I suppose that’s true~ though you’re able to make Golems quickly, so you’ll be fine.』
This mother of Vandalieu’s was an easy-going person, even after death.
The Amid Empire had been founded by the descendants of Bellwood, a champion who was guided to this world long ago.
The champion Bellwood had stood on the frontlines with the people who were forced to do battle against the Demon King’s forces, and fought bravely. Within ten days of coming to this world, he had defeated a Dragon and rescued a nobleman’s daughter and the First Lady who had been captured.
Within a month, he had repelled a large army of Giants together with the Second Lady who was a warrior. Within half a year he had fought the Knights of Darkness that the Demon King had sent while protecting the Third Lady who was a Priestess and prevailed. And finally, after ten years, he defeated the Demon King, even as Zakkart and the other champions were lost, bringing peace to the world. It is said that he and the other surviving champions offered their wisdom to help rebuild what had been destroyed.
Much of the champions’ wisdom had been lost, but what remained was the hiragana, katakana and kanji that was the commonly-used writing in this world, and the Amid Village that eventually became the Amid Empire.
And Balschmidt, the great First Emperor of the Amid Empire who appeared tens of thousands of years later, was a direct descendant of the champion Bellwood.
「It sounds made-up and unpleasant.」
Vandalieu closed the book that had been mixed in with the bandits’ treasure and threw it away violently.
In Lambda, where the technology for printing presses didn’t exist, every book was a written copy. Therefore, they were quite high-class items.
But Vandalieu didn’t see even a single copper coin’s worth of value in the tales written about the actions of Bellwood, the champion who had founded the Amid Empire, and the First Emperor Balschmidt.
Firstly, the whole thing sounded like nonsense.
The proof that the First Emperor of the Amid Empire was a direct descendant of the champion was incredibly questionable. Surely there was no way to prove a relationship with an ancestor who had lived a hundred thousand years ago. The book had covered this up with stories about destiny, prophetic dreams and an illusion of the champion himself appearing and speaking to the emperor.
Secondly, it was unpleasant because it made Vandalieu feel envious.
The champion Bellwood… He was probably known as Suzuki in Japan*. He had manifested cheat-like abilities or something as soon as he arrived in Lambda, and within ten days he had become known as a Dragon-slaying champion who had rescued the princess. Within a month, six months, he had continued piling up achievements and connections and after ten years, he was known as a great hero.
What was Vandalieu compared to that? He couldn’t help but to ask this question to himself.
Fifteen months had passed since he was born. The only member of the other sex that he had talked to was his own mother. It seemed impossible that he could become a great hero within ten years.
Of course, the champion Suzuki probably endured hardships and suffering of his own; he had survived the battle with his life on the line, after all. Even so, Vandalieu is all too aware of the difference between receiving a god’s blessing and being cursed by the god instead.
「This is all Rodcorte’s fault as well.」
『You’re right, it’s all this god Rodcorte’s fault. But even so, I’m a little thankful. It was that god who made you my child, Vandalieu.』
His splintered heart began to heal a little. Vandalieu reconsidered, thinking that perhaps he should at least be thankful to Rodcorte for making Darcia his mother.
But if it weren’t for Rodcorte’s curse, he would be able to use death-attribute magic at the level that he had been using it just before he died for the second time in Origin. He would be able to employ countless Golems freely, manipulate many spirits simultaneously, turn an entire lake of water into deadly poison or reverse the process, turning deadly poison into pure water. If he had been able to do all these things, perhaps Darcia wouldn’t have had to die. When he thought about that, any gratitude that he might have felt towards Rodcorte was blown away.
The carriage that had been proceeding along a side road to avoid being spotted suddenly stopped.
「What is it?」
Due to his【Danger Sense: Death】magic, he knew that they weren’t in an emergency situation such as being surrounded by enemies or attacked by a powerful monster. That magic detected not only poisonous mushrooms and plants, but also the bloodlust given off by monsters and humans.
Therefore, he shouldn’t be in a dangerous situation… or so Vandalieu thought as he poked his head out from inside the carriage to see a gate that led underground.
「A gate? A base used by bandits… it’s a little too well-built to be something like that. Is it some kind of ruins?」
As Vandalieu tilted his head sideways, it was Sam who told him what the gate was.
『Goshujin-sama, I believe this may be a Dungeon.』
『Yes, it is a Dungeon.』
Because Vandalieu was inside the carriage, he couldn’t see Sam, but he could hear his voice clearly.
Dungeons. They were originally breeding facilities created by the Demon King to multiply his monster subordinates and increase their individual strength. Afterwards, Ricklent, the genie of time and magic, used his secret magic to turn them into places that humans could use to train and obtain materials.
The basic principle behind their appearance was that when a certain place was corrupted with a certain amount of magic, there was a corresponding probability that a Dungeon would form. Their shape, size and degree of danger varied greatly, and some of the first Dungeons that had appeared over a hundred thousand years ago still hadn’t been discovered yet.
There were Dungeons that only consisted of one floor that couldn’t be distinguished from a normal cave, home to only weak monsters like Goblins, but there were also enormous fortress-like Dungeons with over a hundred floors, crawling with high-rank monsters that even A-class adventurers would have a tough time getting through.
And as the requirement for the formation of a Dungeon was for magical power to contaminate the earth, most Dungeons existed only in Devil’s Nests…
「Is this place a Devil’s Nest?」
『Probably not. If this were a Devil’s Nest, we would be seeing a lot more monsters coming out. This is likely a rare Dungeon that has appeared outside a Devil’s Nest.』
As Darcia said, Dungeons forming in normal forests and fields were rare, but not unheard of. But in such cases, the Dungeons were often not very dangerous.
But if left alone for too long, the monsters multiplying inside the Dungeon would eventually emerge from it and turn the surrounding area into a Devil’s Nest.
There were apparently continents in Lambda whose entire land surface and surrounding oceans had become Devil’s Nests due to this process repeating numerous times.
「So then there should be a lot of monsters in here that aren’t too strong. Judging from the grass growing thickly in front of the gate, it seems that adventurers haven’t been here in a while… Alright, let’s stop by and go inside.」
Dungeons. The fantasy-like sound to the word and the sense of adventure excited Vandalieu.
Though the ones who would actually do the adventuring and fighting the monsters would be Bone Man and the other Undead.
That couldn’t be helped, since he was still only fifteen months old.
Around the time that Vandalieu was preparing to enter his first Dungeon, Degan, the guildmaster of the Adventurers’ Guild in the town of Terow was watching three adventurers glaring at each other with a troubled look on his face.
The three people here were each a leader of an adventurer party that was well known here in Terow.
Cashew, the leader of the D-class adventurers’ party, the『Wind Chasers.』Barn, the leader of a similar party called the『Steel Wings.』And Miranda, the leader of the『White Stars.』
It was safe to say that none of them were famous on the national level in the country of Mirg, and none of their abilities surpassed the D-class level. However, in this modestly-sized commercial town of Terow where there were no Devil’s Nests nearby, they were top-class adventurers.
In fact, they had repelled bandit attacks numerous times and overcome the explosive increase in the Kobold population. They were known as heroes here in Terow.
They had accepted a request to exterminate a lost Ogre together and searched the forest near Terow, and had discovered a Dungeon on the way back.
Only the members here, the town’s feudal lord and his aide knew about this, but Degan was ecstatic as this was a big opportunity to develop the town.
Indeed, the Dungeon was dangerous. If left alone, monsters might emerge from it and advance onto the town.
But if adventurers were to venture into it from time to time to thin out the monster numbers, it was essentially a chicken that laid an unlimited amount of golden eggs. The fact that monsters spawned without limit meant that there was a limitless amount of raw materials to be obtained from them, as well as precious plants and ores that could only be found inside Dungeons. Not to mention the treasure chests that appeared in Dungeons that could yield valuable magic items.
Adventurers seeking this Dungeon would gather in the town, and in turn, merchants seeking the gold that the adventurers would spend would also gather here, and thus the town would develop.
And if the Dungeon was cleared in this way, it would become a resource with greater returns than the risk.
With that said, there were also Dungeons in Lambda with only monsters such as Goblins that yielded only small amounts of raw materials and treasure boxes with poor contents, the kind of Dungeons that only caused trouble just by existing.
Would this be one of those failures, or a great success? Most importantly, adventurers would need to be deployed into the Dungeon to determine how dangerous it is, and there was an unspoken understanding that the adventurers who had discovered the Dungeon would have the first rights to it.
Of course, in cases where adventurers that were not hunters or otherwise not confident in their abilities discovered the Dungeon, they could sell the rights to explore the Dungeon first through the Adventurers’ Guild.
In cases where multiple adventurer parties discovered the Dungeon together, they often negotiated with money or performed the first exploration together.
「We『Wind Chasers』will explore the Dungeon first!」(Cashew)
「What are you saying! We『Steel Wings』are more suitable for the task!」(Barn)
「Leave it to us, the『White Stars!』The rest of you can go and collect some Goblin ears or something!」(Miranda)
However, it seemed that these adventurers had no intention of coming to a compromise, and expecting them to join forces seemed hopeless.
「This is a problem. Though I suppose that they were competing against each other since the very start...」(Degan)
For a long time, these three adventurer parties had been competing with one another for the title of the best adventurer group in the town. However, they had a proper sense of morals as adventurers, so they had worked together to overcome the Kobold population problem in the past, but that was all.
The Dungeon that had been discovered had no evidence that any monsters had wandered outside from within, so there was no hurry to explore it. Also, Dungeons that appeared outside of Devil’s Nests were generally not very dangerous and small in size.
Therefore, there was no need to cooperate; any one party could take the Dungeon on without a problem.
In fact, if the first exploration of the Dungeon was successful, the party that completed it would be viewed favorably by the Adventurers’ Guild and may even be able to increase their rank to C-class. It was a chance for one party to surpass the other two.
「We『Wind Chasers』have members that are good at disarming traps! The best your party’s Thieves can do is conceal their presence and scout, hardly suitable for exploring a Dungeon!」(Cashew)
「What the hell are you saying, Cashew?! Your party has no Healers; exploring a Dungeon relying only on potions is too dangerous! In that regard, we『Steel Wings』have two Healers who can heal injuries, remove poison and cure diseases on the spot!」(Barn)
「What are you talking about? It seems that in short, you have a bad balance in members. I’ll tell you this, we『White Stars』are a perfectly balanced party with one person on attack and one on defense, an Archer and a Thief, an offensive Mage and a Healer! You should leave the first exploration of the Dungeon to us!」(Miranda)
Seeing these three giving each other angry looks, with a fistfight that could break out at any moment, Degan pressed his fingertips against his eyebrows.
「You three… we’ve been having this conversation for three days now.」(Degan)
Perhaps this would be settled faster if a fistfight really did break out. It took everything in Degan to resist the temptation to suggest this.