On this day, Thomas Palpapek was once again drinking black tea in his personal room with a bitter look on this face.
It had been around two years since he had resigned from the position of marshal; his daily duties had decreased considerably. As he was an earl who owned no land, his schedules were very free when he wasn’t assigned to an important position, allowing him to peacefully enjoy his black tea as he was doing now.
What he didn’t have was peace of mind.
“Those damned Vampires,” Thomas muttered.
The Vampires of whom he was speaking under his breath in a tone of irritation were the Vampires who worshipped the evil god.
They were allies. Not to Thomas as an individual, nor to the Mirg shield-nation. Thomas was fully aware that he and the Vampires had simply used each other when their interests aligned.
However, there was no way that he could not feel angry after being made to do something that was so clearly disadvantageous for him.
Around a year ago, a certain movement had occurred in the Amid Empire.
An expedition into the Boundary Mountain Range. The Empire was considering ordering the Mirg shield-nation to make such an expedition happen. No, it was already certain that they would make this order.
The Empire was giving the Mirg shield-nation a chance to rid themselves of the dishonour of the failed expedition to Talosheim of two hundred years ago.
It was likely that because the Mirg shield-nation’s power as a country had increased more than expected due to Viscount Balchesse’s cultivationproject, so the Amid Empire was intending to shave a moderate amount of that power off.
However, it would normally be impossible for such an expedition to happen even under the orders of the Empire. None of the Empire’s vassal nations would obey the command of, ‘All of you, go out and die meaningless deaths.’
But with the tunnel that had been built a hundred thousand years ago, large enough for an army to march through… One of the Amid Empire’s generals, General Mauvid, had presented proof of the existence of such a tunnel and an ancient document that detailed its location.
The tunnel had yet to be excavated, but once it was repaired, crossing the Boundary Mountain Range would become simple. An army would be able to reach the other side of the tunnel in a matter of days.
They would be able to do so safely, with no fear of monster attacks until they reached the end of the tunnel.
With this, the main reason to oppose to the expedition had disappeared.
And much to Thomas’s dismay, the Mirg shield-nation and its current marshal, Earl Legston, were eager to make this expedition happen.
It was likely that they had received permission to add any land cultivated inside the mountain Boundary Mountain Range to the nation’s territory, and they would likely receive financial assistance for the cultivation process as well. These conditions had likely been offered to them.
The king of his nation and the nobleman who was an earl like Thomas were truly fools.
Thomas could imagine the reasons behind this expedition.
The Dhampir who had led a horde of Ghouls across the Boundary Mountain Range and vanished two years ago.
The Vampire who acted as a contact between Thomas and the other Vampires, the one who had panicked after learning that the Dhampir had been allowed to escape.
And for some reason, a new contact had come and told Thomas that his predecessor had been entrusted with another mission.
A year had passed since then, and the only thing Thomas had heard from the Vampires was, “It would be wise to stay quiet for now.” He hadn’t even been able to tell whether this was an order or advice.
In other words, the purpose of this expedition was to kill that Dhampir and the Vampires were planning to use the Mirg shield-nation’s army to do so.
Without their influence, there was no way that a one-hundred-thousand-year-old tunnel whose existence hadn’t even been confirmed could have been discovered by a general of the Amid Empire who was not even from the Mirg shield-nation adjacent to the tunnel itself.
There was no doubt that the Vampires would get the Dhampir involved with the official reason for the expedition. They would use some pretense such as there being a deposit of precious magical metal in the region the Dhampir was hiding in, or an Artifact that was supposed to have been lost in the battle that had taken place a hundred thousand years ago.
If the Dhampir was living in the ruins of Talosheim, that would be the worst-case scenario. That place was the site of an unforgettable, humiliating victory for the Mirg shield-nation.
They had sacrificed enormous amounts of funds, over ten thousand soldiers, a national hero along with his party and an Artifact, but only gained a small amount of treasure and a meaningless victory.
That was why the Mirg shield-nation had feared the Boundary Mountain Range until now. That place was a demon’s gate, a place to be avoided.
However, now that it was clear that there was a simple method of crossing the mountain range, there was enthusiasm among the nobles of the Mirg shield-nation for committing a second expedition to Talosheim, recovering the fallen hero’s spear that was an Artifact of Yupeon, the god of ice, and wiping the humiliating victory from history.
This was merely what was happening among the nobles; there would be more enthusiastic movements in the nation if its commoners were to learn of the tunnel’s existence.
“I am an earl of the Mirg shield-nation with connections to the Vampires. I had naturally expected that there would be other noblemen within the Amid Empire with connections to the same Vampires, but… to think that there would be one with the position of general.”
A general who knew that the expedition would fail, no less.
Indeed, the expedition that was going to begin shortly would fail. They would dispose of the Dhampir and everything would go well up to that point. But after that, it would definitely come to a halt.
Because the Vampires would never allow humans to step foot south of the Boundary Mountain Range. The ones they feared most were the other Pure-breed Vampires worshipping Vida, who were slumbering in the southern reaches of the continent.
It was particularly likely that the officials of the Church of Alda would announce the beginning of a holy war to purge the Vampires who worshipped Vida. For generations, the Church’s Pope had always been radical about denying Vida. Even if individuals were more moderate before becoming the Pope, once they assumed that position, they would become more extreme.
That had always been the case, so it would likely be the case from now on as well.
And so the Vampires who worshipped the evil gods would stop the expedition.
Probably by collapsing the tunnel or making it unusable in some other way.
Two hundred years ago, the tunnel that led to the Orbaume Kingdom had been collapsed; Thomas had heard that it would still be unusable even now. It wasn’t guaranteed that this had been the work of the Vampires, but they would surely be able to do something similar to the other tunnel.
“The rewards offered to General Mauvid would be a large sum of money, or perhaps they have offered to turn him into a Vampire. He will obtain immortality, and after that he will use his son, who is rumored to be incapable, as a puppet in order to maintain his public appearance and authority. I suppose the current situation is something like that.”
Even if the expedition were to fail, by the time it did, he would have used poor health or some other excuse to resign from the position of general, thus no longer being in a position where he would be held responsible.
What a carefree position. The Mirg shield-nation would naturally suffer as a result of the expedition, but even the Amid Empire had nothing to gain from it. Mauvid would be the only one backing the winning horse, after all.
Thomas would have liked to crush the plans of the Vampires and General Mauvid, but this was impossible for him alone.
The moment he made a move, the Vampires would likely dispose of him. That was the meaning behind the words that he had been told: “It would be wise to stay quiet for now.”
It would be a different matter if he had his own fighting force and capable spies that he could use to outwit the Vampires, but…
In reality, if Thomas didn’t move, he and the Palpapek house of earls would come out of this unscathed. He owned no land and thus there were no people under his rule who would be enlisted in the expedition, and since he was no longer a marshal, he would not have to take any responsibility.
However, after the pitiful Marshal Legston was forced to retire or hung, he would have to do his utmost to rebuild the strength of his nation that would greatly suffer as a result of the expedition.
“I have to do whatever I can to reduce the homeland’s losses… Now that I think about it, I have him, don’t I?”
There was a former member of an up-and-coming adventurer party, someone whose personality-related problems prevented him from making use of his excellent ability. He would likely ruin himself one day, getting those around him involved.
This was a perfect time to shuffle the cards.
Thomas rang a bell that was on his desk, summoning his steward who was also his confidant, to whom he told everything except the Vampires.
“Was there something you needed done?” asked the steward as he entered the room with a bow. He appeared to have come straight out of a ‘steward’s textbook’; he was more like a butler than real butlers. “If you are lacking entertainment, I can make arrangements for something right away.”
“If it is a marriage interview, I would rather not,” said Thomas. “Do you intend to have me die during intercourse, old man?”
The steward chuckled. “I do pity those who must act as the head of the Palpapek family of earls. It is the duty of a nobleman to take concubines.”
“I believe I already have three wives.”
“That is not even a third of the number your predecessor had. You must take at least two more,” said the steward.
“Then please introduce me to an elegant, tidy lady, seventy years of age or older,” Thomas requested. “If she has few relatives and looks like she will die within a year, that is even better.”
“Thomas-sama, you must moderate your liking for women who are older than myself.”
“I merely want to avoid leaving any roots of evil for the next generation.” Thomas changed the subject. “The conversation about marriage interviews ends here, old man. I want to talk about Riley. Is it possible to indirectly place him at Marshal Legston’s side?”
Though surprise appeared on the face of the steward whose expression was hidden among his wrinkles and beard, his eyebrows did not even twitch.
“The Green Wind Spear, Riley-dono. It is likely possible, but… is this fine with you?” he asked. “My lord, he is the B-class adventurer that you spent much effort in drawing to your own side to replace the Blue-flamed Sword, Heinz. No matter how inferior he is to Heinz, placing him with Marshal Legston… and if you make him approach on his own with no letter of introduction, the marshal will not owe you any favors.”
To the steward’s knowledge, Riley had clearly inferior qualities.
There was nothing dissatisfactory about his ability… his strength in battle. He possessed strength worthy of his class and he had talent. Enough talent that he could become at least A-class if he improved himself.
What was actually inferior was almost everything other than his strength in battle. He was inferior as an adventurer, as a nobleman’s vassal, as a person.
His personality was a particularly poor quality of his character. At first, it had been thought that he was simply ambitious to achieve things, but he had a strong complex and craving for fame, and… lately he had been displaying elitist behavior, as if he were under the impression that he was a chosen hero.
Learning from the examples of heroes in the past, he had bought slaves, trained them into adventurers and gained a sense of self-satisfaction in doing so, so he was almost beyond saving.
He was a poor product that would fail in the distant future, disguised as a high-quality one. Thomas had already been deceived, but this was the perfect time to send him out and be rid of him.
“I do not mind,” said Thomas. “In fact, if I write a letter of introduction, it will be my reputation that is damaged when he makes a mess of something. Make Legston think that this is ‘the second coming of the tragic hero Mikhail’ or something. Fortunately, Riley wields a spear, so he will be popular among the citizens. Ah, and do not forget to have the Adventurers’ Guild make him A-class.”
“Certainly. He would be satisfied with becoming a hero as well. I will first order the Guild Master of the Adventurers’ Guild to promote him to A-class, and then I will send indirect whispers to him that staying by your side will hurt his chances of becoming a hero, my lord.” The steward left the room with a bow.
The work he would be doing from now, sending ‘whispers’, was clearly not a simple task, but the reason he was serving as the steward for a house of earls was because he was able to do such work.
If he hadn’t already been marked by the Vampires, he would have had a little more freedom to move, however.
“I suppose there is no use giving this any more thought,” Thomas told himself. “If this causes Riley to serve beneath Legston, the strength of the force that I can mobilize will likely decrease considerably.”
If a great hero took part in the expedition, less other men would be needed.
It would be most satisfactory if this move would prevent at least a hundred or two hundred more soldiers from joining the expedition.
“Fortunately, our army tends not to allow the participation of adventurers in military expeditions that do not involve the hunting of monsters. Even in the worst case scenario, we will not suffer an increase in the frequency of monster rampages due to a fall in adventurer numbers.”
Now all Thomas had to do was pray that Riley would be accepted by Legston. Don’t disappoint me.
The day after Vandalieu had told Darcia that he couldn’t repair the resurrection device yet, he headed towards the ruins of the Adventurers’ Guild for his third Job-change.
The trading area was busy as usual, so much so that there was apparently a shortage of fish sauce. Talosheim’s fishing industry was dependent on Doran’s Aquatic Caverns.
The fishermen would walk into the Dungeon, cast their nets, thrust their spears into the water, throw their fishing lines out and then bring the fish home. However, the amount of fish they could bring back this way was smaller than if they could simply pile the fish onto a boat to bring them back.
Apparently this was why supply of the small fish used as ingredients for fish sauce couldn’t keep up with the demand.
Even Vandalieu couldn’t make fish sauce without using small fish.
“Couldn’t they catch small fish in the waterways?” Vandalieu wondered. “We’ve hunted all of the Flying Sharks living in them, so it should be easier to fish there than in Doran’s Aquatic Caverns.”
“Yeah, that’s true, but the fishermen don’t really want to do it. They say that there’s not enough excitement,” the Undead Titan receptionist explained. She had been made of bones and rotting flesh, but Vandalieu had used Freshness Restoration to return her to the state she had been in when she was killed.
“… As expected of a fighting race.”
It seemed that the battles that occurred during fishing were exciting events for the fishermen.
“If it weren’t for the katsuobushi and kombu, there would have been a major shortage of fish sauce,” said the receptionist. “In my opinion, the solution for this problem is the development of a new product.”
Her one remaining eye glistened with expectation.
Indeed, if a new product was developed and demand was divided between it and fish sauce, a shortage of fish sauce could be avoided even if its supply stayed as it was now.
“But the one who has to make that new product is me, isn’t it?” said Vandalieu. “The amount of products I make each month has decreased, though.”
“Do your best~♪ Ah, please work on replacing my other eye quickly too!”
It would be nice if I could get along well with the receptionists of real Adventurers’ Guilds later as well, thought Vandalieu as he headed into the Job-changing room.
『【Undead Tamer】【Soul Breaker】【Venom Fist User】【Insect User】【Archenemy】』
“… What is Archenemy?”
There was a new Job there. What was this Archenemy Job? Was it supposed to be read as ‘taiteki*’? Did that mean that he would be something like Satan? Satan, not Santa.
It was probably related to the destruction of the Dragon Golem and the breaking of Ice Age’s soul. Archenemy… It would probably grant a bonus to the God Slayer skill.
But it wasn’t the kind of Job he wanted being recorded in an Adventurers’ Guild.
“Let’s take that one later,” Vandalieu decided.
He picked the Undead Tamer Job this time. With this, Borkus and Bone Man would likely be strengthened even more.
《You have acquired the【Strengthen Subordinates】skill!》
The moment Vandalieu’s Job changed, he acquired the Strengthen Subordinates skill. This was the human version of the Strengthen Followers skill, a lower equivalent.
It strengthened familiars, beasts, spirits, livestock and Golem accompanying the user, and the amount they were strengthened was about the same as the Strengthen Followers skill. It was mainly used by Alchemists, spirit-users and shepherds.
But as the skill could level up without increasing the number of subordinates, it was simpler to acquire than the Strengthen Followers skill.
“In my case, my followers will have double strengthening from both Strengthen Followers and Strengthen Subordinates.”
Vandalieu chuckled to himself at the fact that this was such an easy, certain and effective method of improving everyone’s strength.
Incidentally, after this, Vandalieu dug up the buried statue of Yupeon and repeatedly destroyed it and rebuilt it in order to examine his God Slayer skill, but nothing happened. It seemed that he would need to take on a god-made Artifact or a god’s subordinate in order discover its effect.
He got the feeling that the dirt around the statue had turned a little red, but nothing about the statue had changed.
A few days after his job-change, Vandalieu went into the underground chamber beneath the royal castle once more. This time, he was here to recover the wreckage of the Dragon Golem.
Though it was wreckage, it was still Orichalcum; with his current level of Golem Transmutation, he was able to change its shape and preserve it.
However, he knew that he could not genuinely manipulate it as he wanted to.
“If I could beat Orichalcum to turn it into weapons, I would be a god right now instead of an Undead,” said Datara. Orichalcum was a wondrous material for a blacksmith, and yet it was impossible to manipulate.
It could not be melted even by magma. No file could shave its surface off and even if it bent after being struck, it would soon return to its original shape.
Because of this, not even a first-rate blacksmith could turn it into weapons or armor.
It was said that any blacksmith capable of doing so would likely be praised as a divine craftsman.
“But it’s possible to use it in various ways, isn’t it,” said Vandalieu. “Like turning it into flat pieces and using them as a shields, or turning it into lumps to use in maces and hammers, or using them as ammo for the catapults.”
Shields boasting the greatest physical and magical defense of any shield in the world, and blunt weapons capable of tearing through any barrier like paper. Leaving aside the joke of using the Orichalcum as ammunition for the catapults, it should be very useful.
Incidentally, there were no spear-wielders to use Ice Age which was now just an Orichalcum spear, so Sam was holding onto it for now. It would probably make a good lance.
As Vandalieu was splitting the Golem’s wreckage into pieces small enough to fit through the entrance to the audience chamber, he found something interesting in the corner of Dragon Golem’s chamber.
As he moved aside the broken pieces of the Dragon Golem’s wing that Mikhail had destroyed, he found dead bodies covered in cursed ice… probably around five of them.
“These corpses… Whose are they?” Vandalieu wondered.
Though they hadn’t decomposed as they had been covered in ice like Zandia’s severed hand, they had been horrendously damaged; there was not a single corpse left intact. But they were probably not Titans. And they probably weren’t Vampires, either…
“Ah, come to think of it, Mikhail had a party, didn’t he?”
Borkus hadn’t mentioned them, nor had Vandalieu seen them in Zandia’s residual memories. In the stories told in Talosheim and in the Mirg shield-nation, they were simply mentioned as Mikhail’s companions; Vandalieu hadn’t known their names or how many of them there were so they hadn’t made much of an impression of him. But now that he thought about it, Mikhail did indeed have a party.
With that being the case, this was a tomb created by Ice Age. Perhaps because he could not bear to leave the corpses of his master’s companions, he had covered them in cursed ice and buried them with small fragments of the Golem in a crater that had been made during the battle.
There was no tombstone, but it was a more extravagant grave than the ones dead royalty and nobles lay in. Considering the price of Orichalcum, it was no doubt equivalent to being buried in one of the pyramids on Earth.
Vandalieu removed all of the Orichalcum and inspected the bodies one by one.
One of them was an enormous man, almost the size of a Titan. There was a crushed shield next to him, so he was likely a shield-bearer. But as his body had been turned into mince from the neck down, he was very grotesque.
The second was a Dwarf… perhaps? There was no corpse, only shredded lengths of braided hair… No, those were probably only his beard and the scraps of metal were likely his armor. There were some pieces bearing the holy mark of Alda, so was he a zealous believer or some priest warrior?
The third was a female witch. She was wearing a robe and holding a staff, so there was no doubt about that. But it was uncertain as whether she was a human or an elf. The lower jaw was the only remaining part of her head, so it was impossible to see the shape of her ears. Vandalieu did think that she was a human, however.
The fourth was a dark-skinned woman wearing armor made of leather taken from a monster. Her head was intact, but the rest of her body was in pieces, like a disturbing jigsaw puzzle. She had probably been cut by the Dragon Golem’s wings.
The fifth was… on close inspection, not a person.
“Isn’t this an Ogre?”
It was the corpse of a demi-humanoid monster, an Ogre. It was wearing armor and holding a weapon so it appeared to be a large warrior, but the horn that initially looked like an ornament on its helmet were actually growing out of its forehead.
Incidentally, they were often confused for Majins, which were one of the races created by Vida, but they were different. Ogres only had one horn while Majins had two.
It seemed that this Ogre was a tamed familiar of one of the other four. But there were multiple gaping, fist-sized holes in its body; only its heads and limbs were unharmed.
Mikhail, these four and the Ogre had challenged the Dragon Golem and only Mikhail had managed to return to the ground’s surface after suffering a fatal wound. His encounter with the Vampires that followed shortly after that had spelled the end of the entire party.
These four had not even left their names behind; even if Vandalieu were to try to listen to their spirits, they had probably likely already returned to the circle of transmigration. With the corpses of these heroes before him, Vandalieu didn’t even offer them any prayer as he contemplated.
“What kind of Undead should I create using these?” he wondered out loud. He had no feelings of grief over the corpses of his enemies. He would have been more reserved if they were Titan bodies, but as they were the dead bodies of those from the Mirg shield-nation, they were nothing more than materials to him.
This was no different from stripping the meat off the bodies of Orcs and taking the bones and skin of Dragons. If he had felt aversion to doing things like this, he would never have created Bone Man to begin with.
“First, I’ll give this big eyeball to the receptionist-san, but the rest of them are too damaged to make them Undead just as they are. Hmm… I suppose I’ll take them apart and then join them back together.”
This would also be good practice for creating Darcia’s body.
“But I’ll do that after the Orichalcum is all carried outside.”
After he put the corpses together, he would need to think about the spirits he put in them. It would likely be fine as he had the Death-Attribute Charm skill, but it would certainly be problematic if the Undead were to turn on him like Frankenstein’s monster.
The highest-Rank form of Ghoul that has ever been witnessed. They possess bodies as large as Titans and four arms, and it is said that their lion’s heads are fearsome enough that even the true kings of beasts would tremble before them.
As they usually rule groups of hundreds of Ghouls, they almost always possess the Strengthen Followers skill.
A Ghoul Tyrant has not been seen in the past thousand years, leading some scholars to believe that they are not a high-Rank version of Ghoul at all, but mutated individuals who are born that way.
A Job that can only be acquired after an individual reaches level 100 with the Axeman Job and possesses a level 6 or greater skill in Axe Technique.
The 'Strengthened Attribute Values when equipped with an axe skill’ is a perfect example of the skills specialized for the wielding of axes that can be gained with this Job.
This Job is essentially proof that those who have acquired the Job are first-rate fighters when wielding axes. They can easily become servants of noblemen or open their own Axe Technique dojo.
Adventurers possessing this Job are usually B-class.