The region ruled by Viscount Balchesse was experiencing an unexpected period of prosperity.
This was because the project to reclaim the Devil’s Nest forest three days’ journey from the town was proceeding smoothly.
Most of the powerful monsters living there had already been hunted down, and even when monsters did appear, it was usually an Orc or two wielding thick tree branches as clubs. The hired adventurers had no problem dealing with them.
The soldiers cut down the trees and earth-attribute magic was cast by mages to make the ground flat and to crush the rocks into smaller pieces, making them easier to transport.
It hadn’t even been half a year since the cultivation began, but not even a quarter of the original Devil’s Nest remained.
The cultivation would continue until snow began falling and the rich soil would be cultivated. Water wells, reservoirs and irrigation channels would be dug into the ground and the preparations to set up multiple farming villages would be complete.
With the coming of spring, people would immigrate and gather here; houses would be built and seeds would be planted in the ground. Considerable harvests could be expected on the first year cultivating the land of the Devil’s Nest, so the inhabitants cultivating the land would need little assistance.
Once the tax exemption period ended, plenty of taxes would enter the purse of Viscount Balchesse. In ten years’ time, not only would he have recouped the costs of reclaiming the land, he would have made a profit.
It had even been decided that the viscount’s third son would take the position of governing the reclaimed land.
Of course, it was not only the viscount and his vassals that were making a profit here. Those immigrating to live in the farming villages that would soon be built, the inhabitants of slums who were unable to find jobs, sons of farming families who couldn’t inherit their families’ fields because of the order in which they had been born, adventurers who had been forced to retire due to reasons such as injury or age and other people like these would also benefit.
Thanks to this cultivation project, they would be able to own their own houses and fields, get married and have families.
And building farming villages would mean that guards would need to be organized to protect them, so the budget and number of available positions in the army would increase. Churches for Alda, the God of Law and Fate, would also be built so there would be more positions available for those involved with the Church.
The viscount’s region had been reliant on trading with other regions to obtain produce up until now, but if they people could harvest their own crops, they would be able to obtain fresh produce for cheaper prices.
And the town closest to the reclaimed land would be supplying the villages with goods and daily necessities, lining the people’s pockets even further.
Everyone would be receiving the blessings of this time of prosperity.
Even people living outside Viscount Balchesse’s region were benefiting; immigrants were being recruited from slums elsewhere in an effort to reduce poverty.
The ones not benefiting would be the adventurers and Marshal Palpapek. However, even though they were not benefiting largely, that didn’t mean that they were being set back by this project, either.
The adventurers had lost the Devil’s Nest forest as a place they could earn money, but there had always been a larger Devil’s Nest that was even closer to Viscount Balchesse’s town. It wasn’t a large problem for a small Devil’s Nest with no Dungeons that took three days to reach on foot to disappear.
Marshal Thomas Palpapek had been criticized harshly by the finance minister and resigned from his position of marshal in order to clear away the accusations that he had some kind of illegal backroom deal with the cultivation project.
But though the shield-nation’s government couldn’t publicly commend Palpapek due to how things had turned out, it was true that the nation had benefited from these events. And though his failure had been an unprecedented event, it didn’t produce any casualties.
So it was expected that he would be reappointed to his position after the commotion surrounding the cultivation project died down, or even if it didn’t, he would be reappointed within the next ten years.
The Palpapek family of earls didn’t have a monopoly over the position of marshal; three families of earls would take turns filling the position in periods ranging from a few years to over a decade. This was because if the position was owned by a single family and that family’s head and his heir were to be suddenly assassinated, the army would lose its chief executive.
With other families filling the marshal position generation after generation, marshals supported by knowledgeable vassals could be prepared if such a thing were to happen.
It seemed like a callous approach, but the nation had been at war repeatedly with neighboring nations since its foundation. There was no room for naivety.
The Palpapek family of earls had produced the most exceptional marshals among the three families that filled this role; even now, Thomas was striving to be known as a protective god of the nation.
In fact, several vassals of the Palpapek family of earls were planning to enlist to become guards for the new farming villages that would be built. Even they were benefiting from these events.
That was why nobody was at a loss from this cultivation project; everyone was benefiting.
On the surface, at least.
「Has a route through the mountain range still not been mapped out yet?」(Eleanora)
In a room of an inn in the town reserved for the upper class, the red-haired Noble-born Vampire Eleanora was sitting in a chair with a seemingly… no, a very clearly scornful gaze directed at Sercrent, who was wearing a sour expression.
The wounds on his face and body from the merciless punishment that Birkyne had inflicted on Sercrent had healed completely, leaving no scars behind. However, it seemed that he found the rage induced by the words spoken by the woman in front of him to be more unbearable than the pain of that torture.
「Do you even understand how difficult the request you are making is?」(Sercrent)
However, Sercrent exercised the all of the patience he possessed to control his rage. Though this was a high-class establishment, it was still just an inn, not a castle or building owned by Vampires. He couldn’t raise his voice to be heard in the nearby rooms and corridors.
「Oh, but didn’t the humans accomplish that just two hundred years ago?」(Eleanora)
「Two hundred years ago is different from now, and why do we even have to avoid monsters as much as possible in the first place? That is where we are different from the humans!」(Sercrent)
Sercrent and Eleanora were both Noble-born Vampires. Their ability in battle surpassed that of lesser Dragons, and could even be compared to Fire Dragons and Ice Dragons.
They also possessed various special abilities that Dragons did not have, and as their bodies were in the same shape as those of humans, they were able to move around very dexterously.
Of course, they had weaknesses as well. The sun, silver, offensive light-attribute spells and anti-Vampire Magic Items created by the followers of the god Alda. However, when crossing the mountain range, the only thing they would have to be careful about was the sunlight. There were monsters that cast light-attribute spells, but most of these spells would be flashes of light to blind the enemy, deceiving illusion spells and spells that removed all light from a space in order to create an opportunity for a surprise attack in the dark. These wouldn’t be a threat for Vampires.
Even if they didn’t bother finding a route that would let them avoid monsters, they would probably lose a few Subordinate Vampires crossing the mountain range, but that would be the extent of their losses.
However, Eleanora gave an exasperated sigh.
「Sercrent… Your foolishness is beyond help.」(Eleanora)
「What did you say?!」(Sercrent)
「How skillful of you to shout while still keeping quiet. But it would be troublesome if you don’t use your brain more than just for that.」(Eleanora)
Eleanora treated Sercrent with none of the ladylike behavior that she had displayed in front of Birkyne; this was her true self.
She was showing that there was no need to keep up appearances with Sercrent.
「Did you forget the information that you reported yourself? The target Dhampir is a Spiritualist, isn’t he? With that being the case, he’d be able to obtain information about us from the spirits of the monsters we kill, won’t he?」(Eleanora)
「Th-that may be possible, but that would normally be quite difficult. Didn’t you conclude that Spiritualists aren’t capable of anything significant with your own investigations?」(Sercrent)
There weren’t many who possessed the Spiritualist Job. It is a Job that is completely unsuitable for battle, and it does not enable the creation of items or products, either. It only enables communication with the dead, fortune-telling and small exorcisms.
Because of this, the number and popularity of Spiritualists was quite low. That was why Eleanora was planning to use her inherent skills to obtain information about Spiritualists from the Adventurers’ Guild and a Spiritualist in person while Sercrent was to find a route across the Boundary Mountain Range.
「And do you think that the spirits of the monsters would seek the Dhampir of their own accord?」(Sercrent)
Spiritualists are capable of seeing and conversing with spirits, using Necromancy to summon the spirits of the dead and reading residual memories.
Though it was impressive that they overturn the rule of “dead men tell no tales”, it is not as if all spirits are friendly towards Spiritualists and they are unable to tame Undead.
Sercrent thought that a Spiritualist wouldn’t be such a large threat if caution was taken against them, but Eleanora had a different opinion.
「And what will we do if he is capable of something significant? The information I gathered only applies to normal Spiritualists. This Dhampir has been accomplishing unprecedented things one after another, hasn’t he? Doesn’t that make you think that he might not be a normal Spiritualist?」(Eleanora)
Sercrent had no response to these words other than to nod.
For example, what if he was able to summon only spirits that met certain conditions among a large group of spirits?
If the Dhampir was able to summon spirits holding malice against those who meant to do him harm, the Boundary Mountain range was not only a sturdy wall but a garrison of faithful guards for him.
Eleanora did think that such a thing would be impossible, but this Dhampir had already done plenty of things that were considered impossible, and as a result, the man before her eyes was on the edge of a dangerous cliff.
If she underestimated the Dhampir, she would be joining him on the edge of that cliff.
「So make sure you plan our route properly. To think that you wouldn’t understand these things if I didn’t explain them to you… If you don’t understand things, can you at least have the obedience to listen to what I say despite not understanding?」(Eleanora)
Being reprimanded in a way even worse than simply being told outright that he was incompetent, Sercrent ground his fangs together.
But for the Vampires who followed the teachings of the【Evil God of Joyful Life】, this kind of conversation was extremely commonplace.
Their personal relationships with each other generally only amounted to whether the others were superior or inferior to themselves. They used words like equals, companions, brethren and siblings, but they only judged and thought of others as above or below them.
It was simple when the hierarchical difference was clearly established, like the difference between a Pure-breed and a Noble-born or the difference between a Noble-born and a Subordinate. However, things got very bloody very quickly between Pure-breed Vampires or Noble-born Vampires.
With others in better positions than them, they would take any opportunity they could to bring the others down and raise themselves above.
With others below them, they would emphasize their superiority and make the others obey, trampling them underfoot to make sure they didn’t get any funny ideas.
And when those hierarchical differences of who was superior and who was inferior had not yet been decided, they fought in various ways to establish those differences.
And though Eleanora was a genius, only several years had passed since she had become a Vampire while Sercrent had spent a considerably long time as a Vampire. Though Eleanora was a little stronger than him, the difference between them wasn’t a large one.
However, Sercrent had been criticized harshly for his failure by Birkyne and almost all of the important figures in the community had seen him in an extremely pitiful state. He had received no protection or support from Gubamon, his「parent」; there were orders that he was to be killed if he failed again. That was why he was in a vastly inferior position to Eleanora.
As long as he was in an inferior position, Eleanora would have to keep kicking him down. If she didn’t, then that would mean that she wasn’t superior to this fallen man. In short, she would be viewed as inferior to him.
「… Alright. I’ll make the Subordinates work faster.」(Sercrent)
「If it seems that it will take some time, perhaps you should ask Elder Gubamon for any suggestions. He was involved with the events of two hundred years ago, wasn’t he? He might know something that would be helpful here.」(Eleanora)
「… I’ll take that into consideration.」(Sercrent)
Seeing Sercrent say these words over his shoulder and leave the room, disappearing behind the door, Eleanora whispered.
「Sorry. But I don’t want to be dragged down with you.」(Eleanora)
Eleanora no longer felt hunger and had gained the power that would allow her to fight against even a Dragon without dirtying her own body in the process. But the color of fear was visible in her eyes.
Because she understood that if she failed, she would be the next to stand in Sercrent’s position.
The final day spent training to acquire the【Chant Revocation】skill was the seventh day of training.
「Ooh! I have finally acquired the【Chant Revocation】skill; this is yet another warm gift of generosity from the Holy Son!」(Nuaza)
Nuaza raised his arms that were supposed to be made of skin and bone but were now thick and muscular up in the air as he let out a happy shout.
「Huh, it seems that I have been beaten to it.」(Zadiris)
「Hahaha, though I am a Lesser Lich, I am still a Lich, after all.」(Nuaza)
「Well, I am a Ghoul Mage. And I even possess the Mage Job.」(Zadiris)
Zadiris seemed envious of the proud Nuaza. She still hadn’t managed to learn the trick behind using the skill.
Monsters do gain bonuses and penalties to skills based on their race. They aren’t as remarkable as the bonuses a person would get from acquiring a Job; it is simply a matter of being suited or unsuited to certain skills.
Orcs are strong, Kobolds are agile and so on.
So the fact that Nuaza had acquired the【Chant Revocation】skill before Zadiris meant that he possessed more aptitude for the【Chant Revocation】skill than her, or that he possessed more relevant knowledge.
Incidentally, it is a fact that talent in this world allows those who possess it to level up more easily, increase their Ranks quickly and learn and develop skills more quickly than normal. However, that doesn’t mean that hard work isn’t important.
Both people and monsters level up through training and diligent study, and can increase their Rank by meeting certain conditions. They can even learn skills through hard work.
However, it was a matter of when.
Even if someone with genius talent in wielding a sword were to acquire a level 5 skill in Swordsmanship within a year, a normal person might be able to reach the same level with years or decades of dedicated training.
Even a particularly unintelligent, weak Goblin would be able to become a Goblin King. Though that would require it to put in tireless effort for almost its entire lifespan, it is possible.
When an adventurer with a superhuman talent studies diligently and gains experience with various things, he becomes an A-class adventurer capable of defeating Dragons and fully clearing high-difficulty Dungeons.
An adventurer with meagre talent may only end up as a D-class adventurer even with the same amount of hard work and experience. However, if he puts in ten times or even a hundred times the work of the adventurer with superhuman talent, his hard work and tenacity may be rewarded with the achievement of becoming an A-class adventurer.
In the majority of cases, the hard work is interrupted before it can be rewarded.
There are few who can obstinately strive for the top while sacrificing everything else in their lives to do so; there are plenty who give up and turn their attention towards other endeavors.
In the case of adventurers and monsters, many die or are forced to retire due to serious injury before their hard work produces any results. The law of “survival of the fittest” applies to everyone.
(I did like the type of protagonists who overcome genius with hard work when I was on Earth, though.)
As Vandalieu absentmindedly made acorn powder while supplying everyone with Mana, he realized that to everyone else, he must seem like a genius rather than an ordinary person.
Having a vast amount of Mana was a great talent in and of itself.
He had been an ordinary person on Earth and his talent had never been rewarded in Origin, so he didn’t really get the feeling that this was the case, however.
「Now then, I think that if you use【Chant Revocation】to cast spells the skill will level up, so please return to your normal training.」(Vandalieu)
「Muh, now that it has come to this, I feel a little reluctant…」(Nuaza)
「Fufufu, you can go to the Dungeons and Devil’s Nests anytime now.」(Zadiris)
Nuaza seemed disappointed, while Zadiris gave an ill-mannered laugh. It seemed that Vandalieu’s Mana made those under the influence of his【Death-Attribute Charm】feel a very pleasant sensation.
「Well, since my one-week break is over today, I’m thinking of going into a Dungeon tomorrow.」(Vandalieu)
Zadiris was surprised, and Nuaza was the one to give an ill-mannered laugh this time. Their positions had been reversed.
「B-boy, do you not think that it would be wise to rest a little longer?!」(Zadiris)
「I want Experience Points, not rest. And there are materials that I want to get my hands on as well.」(Vandalieu)
The next Dungeon Vandalieu planned to clear was Doran’s Aquatic Cavern. It was a D-class Dungeon like Garan’s Valley, but it also had many floors and its monsters were considered stronger than those of Garan’s Valley and dangerous traps appeared more frequently.
It was also the Dungeon that had supplied Talosheim with its marine products.
Many of the floors in Doran’s Aquatic Caverns were arranged as caves containing underground lakes with islands of various sizes and underground rivers, but the water of the rivers was saltwater and inhabited by creatures that would normally be found in oceans.
Vandalieu hadn’t been particularly fond of seafood on Earth, but right now there was an ingredient that he had to get his hands on no matter what.
He wanted kombu, wakame1 or any kind of seaweed that could substitute for those.
(I tried making miso soup with the acorn miso, but it didn’t turn out well for some reason. That reason is because I don’t have dashi2!)
Vandalieu had made miso soup for himself as a student on Earth, but he didn’t use dashi back then either. He had tried to reproduce that miso soup in Lambda, but for some reason it was clearly worse than when he had made it on Earth.
Perhaps there was a problem with the tools he was using to make the soup, or perhaps the miso made from walnuts and acorns weren’t suited to be used in soups. Giving it some thought, he had come to a sudden realization.
The miso soup he had on Earth had contained dashi!
The miso he had used back then contained dashi to begin with. But the miso soup he was making now was handmade, dashi-less miso. There was no way that he could create delicious miso soup this way.
He had come to the conclusion that to make delicious miso soup, dashi needed to be used as a base.
And with dashi, he would also need katsuobushi*, dried sardines and kombu. He had to obtain these from Doran’s Aquatic Caverns. The kombu was the most important one.
It was possible that the culture of eating seaweed didn’t exist in the continent of Bahn Gaia. At the very least, it didn’t on the Amid Empire side of the continent.
Darcia, Sam and the others had never heard of eating seaweed before, so Vandalieu wanted to at least try spreading the idea.
Even on Earth, only certain regions and people had the culture of eating seaweed including Japan, so there couldn’t be many people eating seaweed in this world.
Since it seemed unlikely that he would be able to obtain these ingredients in the Orbaume Kingdom, he needed to obtain them and experiment while he could. Katsuobushi would need preparations in order for the smoking process, so he wanted to obtain the kombu first. Also, wakame and… nori1! Nori was a necessity for sushi, ramen, soumen2 and onigiri.
He also wanted tengusa3 to make vegetable gelatin.
「Zadiris, I need kombu. I need it to make delicious miso soup.」(Vandalieu)
「No, I think it is plenty delicious as it is.」(Zadiris)
「I think so too, but the Holy Son seems to have a strong ambition to reach new heights.」(Nuaza)
「I would say the boy is quite the glutton rather than that he has strong ambitions.」(Zadiris)
It seemed that Vandalieu’s passion for food wasn’t shared by the others.
However, everyone’s opinions would change once they tasted miso soup containing dashi. In fact, Vandalieu himself had given a strong reaction upon trying miso soup before he tried making it himself.
(Ah, I forgot to think about the tools for making it.)
The next day, Vandalieu entered Doran’s Aquatic Caverns.
The members joining him this time were Sam, Braga, Zran*, Kachia and Vigaro.
Sam had been brought along because of his ability to carry things and because he wanted to test his new equipment. The Black Goblin Braga had increased his Rank and was joining him to test out his strength. Zran, who had formerly been a rare Scout among the Titans, was acting as Braga’s supervisor. Kachia had been brought along as a frontline fighter.
And Vigaro, who was clearly excess firepower to bring into a D-class Dungeon, was here for safety reasons just in case anything happened.
They entered the first floor to find…
「Fish, catch the fish!」(Titan)
『Fish sauce, FISH SAAAAAUCE!』(Titan)
The Undead Titans catching small fish using nets.
「I’ve seen this scene before...」(Vandalieu)
『We can’t help it, Holy Son. It’s all for the fish sauce.』(Titan)
「The one making it is me, though.」(Vandalieu)
The hunters of Talosheim had originally ignored the small fish. Fish smaller than fifty centimeters in length were incredibly small to Titans, had few edible parts and didn’t sell for much. They had been better off spending their time catching the big ones that were over two meters long.
That was apparently how they had thought back then.
Fish sauce was the thing that had overturned the large-fish-supremacy movement. Undead Titans charmed by its taste had appeared one after another just like they had after being charmed by miso, and there were many who had been farmers while they were alive but had now become fishermen instead.
Incidentally, they were still reliant on the rock salt in Garan’s Valley as a source of salt.
The water in Doran’s Aquatic Caverns was seawater, so it was possible to make sea salt from it. But unlike the rock salt that could simply be carried off and used after being mined, sea salt would take time and effort to make.
If they simply let the water dry off they wouldn’t be able to remove the impurities from the salt, and it would be impossible to build salt evaporation ponds inside the Dungeon. Sunlight didn’t even reach inside the Dungeon in the first place.
With that being the case, the next logical step would be to carry the saltwater outside the Dungeon, but that would be difficult, of course. It would be fine if it were a just a few sacks full of water, but transporting the saltwater en masse would require containers like barrels, and the Titans would be defenseless if monsters were to attack them while they were carrying those barrels. And if the barrels were damaged and the water was spilled, it would all be for naught.
That was why the Titans of Talosheim hadn’t used the saltwater here for their salt. Though there was one occasion in the past in which the Second Princess Zandia had used space-attribute magic to transport seawater outside to turn into salt.
「With that being the case, I’ll collect some saltwater before we clear the Dungeon.」(Vandalieu)
Why was he going out of his way to do this when there was rock salt available? As this question passed through the minds of everyone here, Vandalieu nimbly rolled the barrels that were loaded in Sam’s carriage.
「Get up, get in.」(Vandalieu)
Turning the pure saltwater running down next to the path into Aqua Golems, he ordered them to enter the barrels. It was difficult to maintain the shape of Golems made of liquid, but it was possible to have them enter these nearby barrels that were lying on their sides.
Now he just needed to carry them, but…
With a loud rumble, the wall of the corridor began to move and became Rock Golems that picked up the barrels.
「Now then, please head to Talosheim.」(Vandalieu)
And then they lumbered off.【Golem Transmutation】was a truly convenient skill.
「Vandalieu, what are you going to do with the saltwater?」(Vigaro)
「Rock salt has a different taste from sea salt.」(Vandalieu)
Vigaro gave Vandalieu a puzzled look, but Vandalieu assured him that he would notice the difference if he tried both.
He was going through this effort to turn the saltwater of a Dungeon into salt not only because its taste would be different, but also because since salt was such an important seasoning, he thought that it would be better to have multiple ways to acquire it.
At any rate, there were many Undead Titans addicted to miso and fish sauce. It was important to have a steady supply of the salt needed to make them.
However… he did wish that he could get his hands on soya beans or some kind of sweet flavoring.
「I wonder if there’s any sugarcane growing somewhere.」(Vandalieu)
Well, he couldn’t expect to acquire it from this Dungeon.