That day, Zadiris was holding a study meeting with the young girls from the village to teach them about grasses, fruits and mushrooms that could be used for making medicine or food.
Many of the race that Zadiris and her group belonged to did not place a high priority on passing on their knowledge, but she knew the importance of teaching the younger generation these things and often talked about it to the people around her, so the people of her village were likely aware as well.
The reason she was only bringing girls with her was the great difference in appearance and characteristics between the two sexes in her race. Males were well-suited to fighting and manual labor, while women did work that required thinking. Though this was a general rule, she had already taught the smarter men in the village enough, so she didn’t bring them with her today.
Of course, just because monsters weren’t attacking didn’t mean that she let her guard down. Zadiris herself was confident in her strength and magic, and their study meeting was happening just at the edge of the forest. Strong monsters wouldn’t appear, and at this time of year, adventurers shouldn’t come this way either.
「She went that way!」
「Shit, she's fast! Don’t let her get away!」
However, the reason things had turned out like this was because she had let her guard down after all.
They were found by a group of five adventurers.
「Be careful, she’s a Mage, a high-class one! Don’t let your guard down!」
「I know! We let all of the others escape; if we don’t catch this one we won’t make it through the winter!」
Zadiris had succeeded in using her magic to confuse the adventurers and allow the other girls to escape. However, she had expended too much Mana in doing so – to the point that it would be difficult to defeat the adventurers if she fought them now.
With that being, the case, her only option was to run, but –
「Haah, haah, haah.」
Her breathing became quick, like that of a dog or a wild animal. Her heart was pounding painfully, but she couldn’t do anything about it.
『To think that I’ve run out of breath already! I guess I can’t win against time.』
As Zadiris lamented her old age, an arrow flew across just to her side. As the adventurers took aim at her, she reflexively spun her body to the right.
Three seconds later, her feet were standing on empty air. She was at the edge of a cliff. It was a small cliff on the boundary of the forest. It was a cliff of a height such that one wouldn’t die by jumping off it, and one would normally be able to make a safe landing in the forest.
However, this time it was fatal.
Zadiris, losing her balance, hit the cliff’s slope like a ball and began rolling down.
She crashed into the ground and landed face-down. She tried to stand up, but she couldn’t put any strength into her legs and arms. Despite the fact that her life was in danger, they demanded rest and refused to obey her commands.
She was already winded, but this was the effect of leaving the Devil’s Nest. She was really feeling her age taking its toll on her.
『Well, this is fine. The clan will not perish just because I am gone.』
Her successor had already been nominated. There were reliable men. She had managed to let the young ones with the future on their shoulders escape.
Considering that she had only ten years or so remaining in her life, hadn’t she done pretty well? It was probably better for her to die already, before she became any more senile than she already was.
Several laughing voices and sets of footsteps came closer. It was the adventurers. From here, they would certainly finish her off and collect the Magic Stone and her body parts that would become raw materials.
She didn’t really care about this; she had done the same thing countless times herself. She hadn’t gone out of her way to do so, but she had even killed adventurers in the past.
She harbored no grudge against them. They should finish her quickly.
Zadiris quietly stayed face-down and closed her eyes, but the adventurers grabbed her legs and turned her face-up.
If they wanted to kill her, they could have stabbed her in the back, so why? As Zadiris thought this, she opened her eyes to see the adventurers looking down at her with vulgar smiles on their faces.
「Heh, I thought this while we were chasing her, but isn’t she quite the pretty woman?」
「You think so? I like mine a little more grown-up.」
「Nobody asked about what you like. What’s important is whether we’ll be able to sell her at a high price.」
Zadiris had thought that they were perhaps inspecting the materials that they would be harvesting before they killed her, but upon hearing the word “sell”, she realized that this was not the case.
「The females of these creatures can be sold to underground slave traders for quite a lot. Thanks to that, we’ll be able to take it easy during this year’s winter.」
The adventurers hadn’t been chasing her around to kill her and harvest raw materials from her, but to capture her alive and sell her to a slave trader.
Zadiris opened her eyes wide. Being defeated and killed was one thing, but she wouldn’t allow herself to become a sex slave and treated as a plaything until she died.
「Oh, she understands language. I suppose that’s to be expected of Mages; this one should sell for even more than the market price.」
Zadiris bared her fangs and glared at them, but the smiles of the adventurers looking down on her only widened. She mustered what was left of her strength and tried to take at least one of them down, but one of the adventurers stabbed her with a knife.
「Guh! Ah, AAAAAAAAAGH!」
Violent pain flooded through Zadiris’s body.
Her vision turned pure white, and she couldn’t help but let out a girlish scream.
「It hurts, huh? You guys are pretty tough when it comes to dealing with pain, but this knife is a Magic Item with the Pain Up enchantment; being cut by this knife will hurt three times more than usual.」
「A little while ago, we caught a bandit and all we had to do was give him a light cut with this knife for him to spit out where his base was.」
「Guh... Haah... Haah...」
By the time Zadiris had recovered a little from the violent pain, her willpower fell along with the tears from her eyes.
「Heheh, I bet you’ve done it plenty, right? With that being the case, isn’t it alright to have a taste of the goods before we sell you off?」
「Hey, if you’re not careful, you’re going to get scratched.」
「It’s fine, but don’t go overboard. And be quick about it, it’ll be a pain if other monsters were to come.」
One of the adventurers lowered himself onto Zadiris to straddle her and began taking off her clothes. He exposed her grey-brown breasts and grabbed hold of them, but she didn’t give the response that the man desired.
Dissatisfied, the man reached for the knife that was still stuck inside Zadiris.
Thinking that she would experience that intense pain again, Zadiris tried to scream, but –
The Thief that had been watching to make sure that no monsters came out of the forest gave a hoarse grunt.
There was an arrow protruding from the Thief’s back. Zadiris immediately thought that her allies from the village had come to save her. It seemed the adventurers thought the same.
「They’ve come to save her?!」
Including the man that was straddling Zadiris, the Warriors among the adventurers pulled out their weapons and faced the forest. However, the robed Mage gave a shout as he pulled the arrow out from the Thief.
「You morons! It didn’t come from the forest, it’s from behind us!」
Before the Mage’s eyes was a carriage moving at incredible speed while making very little sound, and a group of beasts made of bones.
「U-Undead monsters?! Why are they coming from the plain and not from the Devil’s Nest?!」
「Who cares! More importantly, there’s one of them with a bow and arrows, hurry up and get in front of me!」
Shouting at his flustered shield-holding companion, the Thief who had managed to avoid a fatal wound thanks to his leather armor put a Potion to his mouth.
And as the adventurers prepared to have him recover from his injury, Vandalieu’s army attacked. Bone Man nocked another arrow into his bow and fired a second shot, but the Thief managed to dodge it. It couldn’t be helped, as Bone Man’s skill with the bow was level 1.
Vandalieu’s options for long-ranged attacks were too limited. Perhaps he should have had Saria and Rita learn archery as well.
As this thought ran through his mind, he released his spell towards the Mage who seemed to be chanting an incantation.
「...【Magic Absorption Barrier.】」
A black mass of Mana flew towards the Mage. He immediately tried to block it with some kind of defensive spell, but the black mass absorbed and nullified it completely.
「U-uwah! That Ghost Carriage used some kind of strange magic! What the hell is this?!」
The black mass covered the Mage like a dome, but for now, it seemed that it wasn’t doing him any damage.
「Don’t worry about that, hurry up and chant your spell!」
The ones at the front holding swords, spears, axes and shields stepped forward to meet the enemy, but in the next moment, their well-prepared front-line crumbled.
『Haah! If you will not fall back, then I shall trample you!』
Sam, sitting in the driver’s seat of the Ghost Carriage, gave a shout as he ordered an increase in speed. The faint, white horses gave a neigh as the carriage closed in on them at incredible speed.
As the man with the shield gave a shout, the adventurers all jumped out of the way of Sam’s path. No matter how powerful their defense was, even if they possessed shielding techniques such as【Stone Shield】and【Stone Wall】, they wouldn’t be able to stop the 【High-Speed Travel】+【Charge】combo of Sam, a three-horse carriage.
Because they reacted quickly, they succeeded in avoiding Sam in time, and Sam performed a magnificent drift turn just two meters away from Zadiris’s feet. This was something that he was only able to do because the spirit horses were a part of him.
The carriage should have been shaking violently, but thanks to the【Impact Resistance】skill, everyone inside was able to remain standing with the exception of Vandalieu.
And as the adventurers’ formation collapsed, Bone Wolf, Bone Bear and Bone Monkey attacked. The adventurers seemed quite skilled; each of them managed to avoid the first attack and retake their stances with their weapons ready.
With Bone Bird’s Talon attacks coming from above and Bone Man joining the fray after leaping out of the carriage, things weren’t just looking bad for them; it was downright disastrous.
「W-what are Rank 3 monsters doing outside the Devil’s Nest?!」
「How the hell should I know?! 「【Single Flash!】」
「Oi, how long is that support magic going to take?!」
One of the men somehow managed to block a swing of Bone Bear’s front paw that was powerful enough to break his shield, another had his basic swordsmanship skill【Single Brandish】avoided by Bone Monkey, and the last was shouting at the Mage that seemed to be taking forever to cast his support magic without turning back to look at him.
「O flames, gather forth in my hand... It’s no good! My magic, my Mana is being absorbed so I can’t use magic!」
The Mage was clearly chanting a spell, but every time he drew his Mana forth from inside his body, it was taken away from him. That was the effect of Vandalieu’s【Magic Absorption Barrier.】If one attempted to use magic within the barrier, the Mana was stolen away before the spell could be completed.
To overcome the effects of such a barrier, one must release a sheer amount of Mana that the barrier simply couldn’t absorb, use an anti-barrier spell or simply move at a speed at which the barrier cannot follow him. But only a master Mage would be able to overcome the Barrier that Vandalieu had poured an overwhelming amount of Mana into.
Of course, it was impossible for this Mage with his current mana pool and magic.
「D-damn it! What’s with this guy?! Where am I supposed to attack?!」
On one side, the Thief was fighting against Saria and Rita. Normally, the Thief with inferior pure fighting ability would be at a disadvantage fighting against two monsters head-on.
However, Saria and Rita were barely able to swing their weapons, and it was not difficult for the agile Thief to avoid their attacks.
But it was difficult for the Thief to attack them with his dagger. If they were normal Living Armors, defeating them would be simple. By inserting the dagger into the gaps between the armor pieces and destroying the joint between the helmet and the torso, he would be able to separate them into pieces.
Unfortunately for him, neither Saria nor Rita possessed a helmet portion. In Rita’s case, the torso proportion of the armor was already separated into two pieces.
Trying to separate the armors into pieces would be impossible, as the Living High-Leg Armor and Living Bikini Armor were already in pieces.
「Where’s the head, where are the vital points, goddamn it! Gyah!」
He tried to stay calm, but his companions at the front were at a disadvantage already. Their Mage had been made useless. And then the bewildered Thief let out a scream that sounded like a dog as Sam sent him flying like a rubber ball.
The adventurers, given no chance to turn the battle back around, lay on the ground as corpses.
The only casualties for Vandalieu’s party were several broken bones on Bone Wolf and Bone Bear, and Vandalieu’s own injury that he sustained while rolling around in the carriage.
『I-I am terribly sorry, Bocchan.』
「... I said it’s fine. It’ll heal soon anyway.」
There was a deep, bleeding gash on Vandalieu’s forehead, but as he possessed the【Rapid Healing】skill, it would heal within a few days.
As for the broken bones, they were easily repaired as Vandalieu had recently discovered that he can use death-attribute magic to restore them.
In the end, their losses were basically non-existent.
「Fuh, looks like I need to reflect upon my actions.」
However, Vandalieu was reflecting on his rash decision to attack these adventurers.
The reason he won this battle easily was because his surprise attack had gone well, he had used death-attribute magic that they had never seen before and because they weren’t all that skilled.
He had checked the Guild Cards that were the identification documents issued by the Adventurers’ Guild, and according to those, these adventurers were D-class. If they had been C-class or higher, it was likely that he would have had the tables turned on him.
Attacking adventurers whose strength he couldn’t judge at a glance was a dangerous move.
However, the option of leaving a girl to be attacked by these thugs was out of the question.
「Next time, we’ll do our surprise attack better.」
End of self-reflection.
Leaving the tasks of stripping the adventurers of their belongings, taking care of their corpses and gathering information from their spirits until later, the first thing to do was to help the girl who had been attacked.
When he had used his【Sense Life】earlier, she had not been in a state where she might die soon, but she had been greatly weakened. This was where the Potions that he had acquired in the Dungeon that he had kept just in case came in handy.
Zadiris was fully prepared to be killed at this point. It was not her allies who had killed the adventurers, but Undead. So she thought that the Undead would kill her next.
「Are you alright?」
So she had thought, but time passed and the Undead didn’t attack her. Not only that, but an infant with blood dripping from his forehead was speaking to her.
She was astonished, bewildered and fearful that this infant might be some kind of dead person’s ghost. And because of the strong, stinging pain from the wound in which the knife was still inserted, she was unable to answer his question.
As Vandalieu looked down at Zadiris, he thought,「Her skin color is unusual, but she is a cute girl, huh.」
She seemed to be in her mid or late teenage years. Her lovely features and wet eyes made Vandalieu want to protect her. Her physical appearance was such that she would have easily been able to make a debut as an idol on Earth.
Her grey-brown skin was unusual, but this was another world, after all. It might not even be considered unusual here.
Even her exposed breasts –
『Ah, I shouldn’t look at any more than that.』
Vandalieu quickly averted his eyes away from the girl’s chest. Leaving his mental age aside, his physical body was that of an infant, so fortunately he had not yet experienced sexual desire, though it would have been fine as long as his gaze didn’t become a lewd one.
Well, his eyes were as lifeless as those of the Undead, and his gaze instilled fear more than embarrassment and disgust.
Not realizing this, Vandalieu thought that the treatment of her wound came first, and reached out for the handle of the knife.
But this knife was a Magic Item that increased the pain it inflicted. Knowing that pulling it out would cause that violent pain once more, Zadiris tried to stop Vandalieu’s hand.
Knowing that she was in pain, Vandalieu used death-attribute magic to erase the pain that she experienced.
As Zadiris was bewildered by the sudden disappearance of the pain, Vandalieu pulled the knife from her abdomen in one movement. And then he poured the 3rd-class Potion on the wound.
The wound closed in a ridiculous fashion. The deep opening that pierced through her flesh closed before his very eyes to become new, smooth skin. There was not even the slightest sign that there had been a wound there.
Surgically treating such a wound and the plastic surgery required to remove the scar left afterwards on Earth would take a great deal of time and effort, but on Lambda, it was done by applying a single Potion. In this regard, Lambda was more advanced than Earth, thought Vandalieu.
Though he probably wouldn’t have thought so if he knew just how much that 3rd-class Potion was worth.
「My name is Vandalieu. Should I prepare water to wash your body and clothes to change into?」
He spoke to the girl looking up at him with a dumbfounded expression. She was probably in a state of shock; it was to be expected, as she had just been stabbed by a thug and almost raped.
『On Earth, a female police officer would handle this kind of situation...』
The only females here were Darcia (whom only Vandalieu and the Undead could see), and Saria and Rita (who simply appeared to be floating suits of armor, so one might not immediately assume that they were females). Therefore, by process of elimination, the only one who could offer Zadiris support was Vandalieu.
(Though I think that I’m definitely the wrong person in the wrong place for this job.)
In both lifetimes on Earth and in Origin, he hadn’t really interacted with members of the opposite sex, so there was no way that he could handle a delicate task like supporting a sexual assault victim.
As if proving this correct, tears welled up in the girl’s eyes. Her face had been wet with tears and sweat since before her wound was healed, but she appeared as if she was going to burst into tears again.
And sure enough, she burst into tears and held onto Vandalieu tightly.
She was so forceful that Saria and Rita reflexively attempted to recover Vandalieu from Zadiris’s arms. Vandalieu waved them down with his hand, and was being hugged at her mercy... That wasn’t quite right.
She was much stronger than she appeared.
She wasn’t forceful enough to break his bones, but it was hard to breathe. Her fingernails were digging into him.
(I-it’s quite painful... But it’s nothing compared to the reconstruction surgery and human experiments I endured in Origin.)
He tried to endure it, but he really didn’t have the freedom to be happy about being hugged by a cute girl.
「You really saved me. You saved my life. Not only did you defeat the adventurers, but you even used a precious Potion on my wound, I do not know how to thank you.」
Vandalieu and his party were making their way through the Devil’s Nest. They had waited until Zadiris had calmed down, stripped the adventurers of their equipment and then ventured into the Devil’s Nest.
「My apologies, the village is a little further.」
In order to take Zadiris home.
The reason that her village was in the middle of a Devil’s Nest ruled by monsters was that she belonged to a race generally considered to be monsters.
「We Ghouls are resistant to pain, but that Magic Item put me through hell. On top of that, they were going to turn me into a sex slave and sell me off... Humans are scary.」
Indeed, Zadiris was a Ghoul.
Judging from the color of her skin, Vandalieu had thought that she might not be one of the races of people, but he hadn’t imagined that she would be a Ghoul.
However, as Vandalieu sat in Zadiris’s lap wrapped in her arms, he felt uncomfortable with just how different she was to the image of Ghouls that he had in his mind.
「Ghouls are not Undead?」
The image of Ghouls in Vandalieu’s mind was that of Undead monsters with long claws and fangs, strength greater than that of Zombies, and a love for feasting on dead flesh.
However, he could feel the comforting warmth from her body that he hadn’t felt since Darcia had died, and his【Sense Life】skill detected life in her. She might not be a human, but she was definitely a living creature.
『Bocchan, we ordinary people are told that Ghouls are higher-class Zombies, not very different from Vampires.』
According to Sam, Ghouls were treated like an inferior species of Vampires. They lived and had children. However, they were powerful monsters that attacked people, had great physical strength and resistance to pain and secreted venom at the claws of their hands and feet.
And they apparently turned freshly-killed corpses into members of their own kind in some evil ceremony.
「Hmm, we are not higher-class Zombies, but you are half-correct, Sam.」
But according to Zadiris, the reality was quite different.
Ghouls were apparently not an inferior species of Vampire, but their lesser relatives.
「To put it simply, the founder of us Ghouls was the twin brother of the founder of Vampires, or perhaps his younger sister. That means that Ghouls are also children of the goddess Vida.」
「But Ghouls weren’t mentioned in the legend that Mom told me?」
「Well, I do not know the details, but this is something I heard from the eldest member of the generation before last.」
According to the legend that Vandalieu heard from Darcia, Vida birthed Lamias, Scyllas, Harpies, Arachne and Centaurs, but nothing about Ghouls being among those monsters.
Well, it wasn’t like Darcia knew everything, and it was the kind of story whose contents would differ slightly from region to region.
It seemed that the Ghouls of Zadiris’s village believed in Zadiris’s story... But that didn’t mean that they were particularly friendly towards humans. Nobody would want to try to become friends with people that branded them as monsters and tried to kill them.
In fact, Zadiris had killed numerous adventurers in the past, and lost companions to them.
「But to think that they would sell me as a sex slave. If I was simply going to be killed, I would have accepted it and given up.」
Becoming a target for the sexual desires of humans had apparently been a shocking experience for Zadiris. However, unbeknownst to her, the reality was that this kind of thing was not unusual in underground societies.
If a monster species existed that only differed from humans by their skin tone and a small part of their bodies, then it was only natural that humans would think to buy and sell the females of that species as sex slaves.
「For heaven’s sake, it is not as if they would think the same about a female Orc. Do you not agree?」
In response to this question, Vandalieu looked up at her and shook his head sideways.
「I think you are very attractive.」
Even after learning that Zadiris was a Ghoul and re-evaluating her, she was still lovely in Vandalieu’s eyes.
He thought that her yellow pupils and grey-brown skin were exotic, and her fangs resembled yaeba* so he found them cute. With her young-looking, curved cheeks and captivating lips, it wouldn’t have been strange if she became Vandalieu’s first love if he had been a little older.
Vandalieu felt like he was missing out, but putting that aside, Zadiris would have been worth an incredible amount as a slave.
「So it is possible that those men attacked you not because they are fine with any women, but because they had their eyes on you from the very beginning. You should be careful from now on... Is something wrong?」
「N-no, it is nothing.」
In response to Vandalieu saying that she was attractive, Zadiris’s heart began to throb violently for some reason.
Despite thinking, (Wait, wait, what am I thinking about a child young enough to be called a baby?), her heart didn’t stop pounding.
(W-what a strange boy. He commands the Undead and uses unknown magic. And when he stares at me directly, I feel strange... C-could this be the charming gaze of the Vampires?!)
Her knowledge about Dhampirs was far from complete, so she somewhat misunderstood her own feelings towards Vandalieu.
「It seems that is indeed the case; I shall have to take care from now on. I must also warn the women of the village. Someone like me with few years left to live was targeted; there is no guarantee that the younger ones will not be targeted as well.」
Zadiris was the eldest member of the Ghoul community. She was apparently two hundred and ninety years old this year. And the lifespan of a Ghoul was apparently three hundred years. It seemed that she was not lying when she said that she didn’t have long to live.
When Vandalieu had used his【Sense Life】skill, he had felt a weak reaction from Zadiris. This was not because of the knife that she had been stabbed by at the time, but because of her age.
「... Though I don’t think adventurers would be able to tell a Ghoul’s true age.」
Though she had the lively skin of a teenager without a single wrinkle, Zadiris gave a sigh as Vandalieu said this to her.
「Hmm, I suppose one becomes accustomed to this fact as one lives life as a Ghoul. Us Ghoul women’s physical appearance stops changing at the age we bear our first child, but most people in the village have a good idea of how old the women are. Hmm? What is wrong, boy? Are you sleepy?」
Vandalieu looked down and sighed, feeling disappointment in response to Zadiris’s words for a reason that he himself didn’t know.
「Is that so? In that case, I would like you to promise me something now... Would you keep the fact that I sobbed like a small girl a secret? Of course, Sam-dono as well.」
「I don’t mind.」
『I simply obey Bocchan’s commands.』
「Hmm, my endless thanks. Ah, it seems that something has approached us while we were talking.」
Though they had been having calm conversation, Vandalieu’s party was traveling through a Devil’s Nest right now. It was inhabited by monsters in far greater density and numbers than in ordinary forests and wastelands. But as Bone Man and Bone Wolf were guarding Sam’s surroundings, only a single foolish Goblin had attacked them and been quickly cut down.
Using【Sense Life】as Zadiris instructed him to, he felt reactions from about a dozen human-sized or slightly larger creatures about fifty meters ahead. However, there was no reaction from the constantly-active【Danger Sense: Death】, so it seemed that it was not a group of bloodthirsty monsters waiting to ambush them.
「Just keep going forward for now, I suppose.」
Because they were in a forest, having Bone Bird scout from the sky was likely to be ineffective, so he simply decided to wait and see what would happen. From the shadows of the trees and bushes, monsters emerged.
The monsters had a roughly human-like shape. However, their heads were those of lions – proud, ferocious-looking kings of the forest with bare fangs and disheveled manes.
The skin below their necks was grey-brown, and the length of their arms stood out to the eye – their arms were so long that their fingers would reach the ground even if they stretched their backs up to stand up straight. However, one could also not overlook the fact they possessed the tough, flexible musculature of wild carnivores.
Even though the Goblins were humanoid monsters just like them, these were clearly different from Goblins.
However, for some reason, these monsters approached not with the intent to kill, but feelings of bewilderment.
「Ah, everyone, you have come out to greet me.」
With those words, Zadiris stood up, still holding Vandalieu in her arms.
「Elder-sama, we were going to help... But why have you brought Undead with you?」
「We are happy that you are safe... But what are these things?」
The monsters spoke with a low tone that sounded like growling, but also quite skillfully considering that they were doing so with the mouths of lions. As Vandalieu was feeling just as bewildered as they were about the current situation, Sam whispered to him.
『Bocchan, I have heard that Ghoul male and fe... Men and women are greatly different in their appearances. Though this is my first time seeing it for myself.』
Zadiris completely resembled a human other than her fangs and the color of her skin. But on the other hand, the appearance of the men was not human at all, even though they were all of the same race.
「Yes, I was in danger when adventurers attacked me, but I was saved by this boy. The Undead are under this boy’s command.」
「That small boy defeated the adventurers?!」
「And he commands the Undead...?」
In response to Zadiris’s words, the Ghoul men exchanged looks of disbelief. Well, even Vandalieu thought that the truth would be difficult to believe right away.
And then an enormous Ghoul appeared from deeper within the forest, even larger than the other male Ghouls, standing two meters tall.
He was wearing leather armor made from the hide of a monster, and his mane was adorned with a brilliant bird-feather decoration.
On his back, he carried an enormous battleaxe that looked as if it could cut a bear in half. This Ghoul was likely the leader among the males.
「Vigaro, you came out as well. I have told you many times that the chief of the village should not leave it so easily.」
「You’re still the chief, Zadiris. If the chief is in danger, then it’s only normal for me, the leader of the warriors, to step forth.」
「You are the effective chief. Even if I die, as long as you are still here, the village will thrive on.」
「Effective chief? The village will thrive on?* What kind of nonsense are you saying? Did you hit your head when the adventurers attacked you?」
「... I will retract my words. You clueless fool, you shall need to train that brain of yours for a while later.」
「Retract? I’ll have you know, I’ve been training my brain. And before that, I defeated an Orc with a head-butt!」
As Vigaro threw out his chest with pride, Zadiris gave a deep sigh. Her breath tickled the back of Vandalieu’s head. Still, the Ghoul called Vigaro possessed log-like upper arms. How did one acquire that much muscle? Vandalieu really wanted to know.
「So what are you planning to do with that child?」
「Of course, we will make him welcome at our village. This boy is very generous; he says that he will even provide the meat for us to have a banquet. There is no problem with that, is there?」
Vigaro tilted his head in response to Zadiris’s reply. In normal circumstances, she would never allow a member of another race to enter the village, even if he had saved her life.
In the first place, since the Ghouls lived in a Devil’s Nest, every other species existed simply as their enemies and prey. It wasn’t unusual for Ghouls of separate villages to kill each other in some cases.
That was why Zadiris and Vigaro advocated for the exclusion of outsiders. For the sake of survival, this was the correct choice.
Vigaro had noticed that Vandalieu was a Dhampir. He was also interested in the meat that Vandalieu was supposedly offering. However, his feelings of danger about having the location of the village known by an outsider were stronger.
He felt no hostility at all from Vandalieu, who was looking up at Zadiris with eyes as lifeless as the eyeballs floating in Orc soup... No, something was strange.
He wanted those dead-looking eyes to look at him; he wanted to do something for this child. Vigaro consciously realized that he was beginning to feel this way.
「If it’s too much trouble, then we can just be on our way...」
As Vandalieu said those words, Vigaro and the Ghoul men under his command let out a small growl as they felt the sensation of their chests tightening. They felt feelings of guilt, as well as discomfort at the fact that Vandalieu would simply leave if they did not stop him.
「It’s not too much trouble! We’ll lead you to our village, please let us welcome you there!」
Vigaro immediately shouted this response. The other men cheered in agreement.
「Vandalieu, you’re our guest, so we’ll welcome you. GRRRRRRRRR!」
And then Vigaro looked up at the sky and let out a beast-like roar. As Vandalieu was shocked by the loud roar that caused the air to vibrate, Zadiris spoke to him.
「He is communicating with the people in the village. He is telling them that the chief is safe, there is a guest coming and that they should make preparations for a feast.」
And so Vandalieu was welcomed into a friendly community for the first time in his life.
These are Ghouls that have learned magic past a certain level. Their skills are beyond those of inexperienced adventurers, and they are still excellent at close-quarters combat due to their physical ability and the paralyzing venom of their claws.
They are more intelligent than other Ghouls; most Ghoul Mages are in high societal positions such as being the head of a family or a staff officer. Because of this, there are almost none that act on their own, and they often have multiple subordinate Ghouls serving them. For this reason, the Adventurers’ Guild recommends that adventurers form parties if they are planning to eliminate them.
The item that one uses to prove that he has eliminated a Ghoul Mage is the Ghoul’s right ear. Materials that can be harvested include the claws of all four limbs, the eyeballs and tongues that are infused with Mana, the liver which can be used in medicines, and the spinal cord which can be used as a catalyst in alchemy. Ghoul Mages are among the most dangerous of Rank 5 monsters, so there are many adventurers who believe that the reward for eliminating them and the amount that the ingredients sell for is not worth the effort.
As many Ghoul Mages are female, they are worth a lot in the underground slave market. However, selling them this way requires one to capture them alive, which is more dangerous and more often than not, the Ghoul Mage can turn the tables on the hunter. The Ghoul Mages bought and sold in the underground market often teach magic to the other female Ghouls, causing them to increase their rank.
In order to increase in rank and become a Ghoul Mage, a Ghoul requires a level 3 skill in at least one attribute of magic.
Zadiris possesses excellent mastery over magic for a Ghoul Mage, but her Stamina and Mana have declined as a result of her own age, which means that her effectiveness in combat has significantly decreased.
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