A waterside town in a maritime nation called Kalahad, in the Amid Empire’s southern region.
This place in that waterside town, which resembled a bar, was the base of the only S-class adventurer in the western region of the Bahn Gaia continent, the Thunderclap Schneider.
It seemed rather unfitting to be used as a base by an S-class adventurer, but he was not using it as a ‘guest’. He had bought the entire building and was using it as the ‘owner’.
Four men faced each other in seats placed far inside the bar.
Two of them were sitting in the seats. One of them was a man in his thirties with numerous scars on his face, and it was easy to tell even through his clothes that his body was well-trained. Standing behind him were two men who appeared to be accustomed to fighting.
The man facing them was a tall man with blonde hair who appeared to be in his early-to-mid-twenties.
His face appeared to be well-featured and feminine on close inspection, but his body was packed with enough muscle to dilute that impression and there was a wild air about him.
If the beauty and ferocity of a large, wild carnivore were turned into a person, this man might be the result.
“So, you’re saying that you’re messengers from Duke Marme?” said the man.
He was the Thunderclap Schneider. He was sitting with his legs outstretched and crossed over each other as he gestured for the messenger from a duke of the Amid Empire to continue speaking.
“That’s right. We want to request that you investigate the southern region of the Bahn Gaia continent.” The man who gave this response had sweat forming on his forehead. As he was a lesser nobleman himself, he should have been reprimanding Schneider for his arrogant behavior, but this was something that he would never do.
Schneider had the privilege of the ‘strong’.
Numerous noblemen who had incurred Schneider’s wrath in the past had been buried.
Among them was an earl who had been directly punched to death in a public place without any schemes or hidden plans.
However, Schneider received no punishment whatsoever. No, the earl had forced him to accept an illegal request that would normally have ended in his death, but… he had completed the request easily and returned quickly.
Marshukzarl, the current Emperor, had acknowledged Schneider’s results, acquitted him of his crimes and crushed the family of the earl who had been punched to death.
That had been the moment the Emperor declared that Schneider was more important than foolish noblemen.
“Investigate, huh? How long do I have to investigate for and what am I supposed to investigate?” Schneider asked. “If you just tell me to investigate, all I’d have to do is go there, come back and say, ‘I’ve investigated the continent’s southern region,’ and that’d be it, messenger.”
In reality, however, anyone with superficial skills would become monster food on even a short trip to and from the continent’s southern region.
Even if one took the sea route from Kalahad, there would be numerous Devil’s Seas, seas that had become Devil’s Nests, along the way. They would be crawling with enormous monsters such as Krakens and Sea Dragons that were capable of sinking large ships.
So even if Schneider was able to perform the investigation that he had described, even though it wasn’t really an investigation at all, it would be a great enough achievement to leave his name in history.
“… We want you to dispose of a certain Dhampir, and then come back,” said the messenger.
This was what Duke Marme, the man who had sent the messenger, truly wanted to request. Not an investigation, but the murder of a Dhampir.
Duke Marme, Marshukzarl's cousin, was a devout follower of Alda and held the honorable position of Cardinal himself.
High Priest Bormack Gordan had become an Undead and attacked a town as a result of the expedition. For Duke Marme, this was a problem that needed to be dealt with immediately.
“Oh? I’ll have you tell me all the details,” said Schneider. “Lissana, it seems that this conversation is going to take a while. Bring some drinks.”
An Elf woman with a sensational, dancer-like appearance brought a pot and cups. The men standing behind managed to resist running their eyes over her mostly-bare legs and bouncing breasts, but the jaw of the messenger dropped.
“Ah, sorry, but you’ll have to make do without alcohol. I’m abstaining for health reasons, you see,” said Schneider.
“No, it’s not that. This is a private conversation. If possible, people should –” The messenger suddenly became unable to continue speaking. Being stared down by Schneider’s gleaming eyes, his tongue had become immobilized.
“Did you not investigate properly at the Guild before coming?” Schneider asked. “Lissana is one of my party members. If you can’t trust her, hurry up and get out. Or would you like me to help you with that?”
“N-no! Stop! It was a slip of the tongue! Lady Lissana, I humbly offer my apologies! Please forgive me!” The messenger poured everything he had into his apology. If his apology had been a moment too late, Schneider would have grabbed him by the head and thrown him outside. Schneider’s Title of ‘Person Launcher’ was famous in the Empire.
“It’s fine, I’m not bothered by it.” Lissana seemed unfazed as she poured tea into the cups, as if this was a regular occurrence.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” Schneider asked, his bloodthirst vanishing as if nothing had happened at all.
The men moistened their dry throats with the tea they couldn’t taste or smell to calm their minds, and the conversation somehow continued.
Duke Marme had a pride that couldn’t overlook a being who had damaged the dignity of the Church of Alda, but another very probable reason that he had gone out of his way to ask Schneider to exterminate the Dhampir was that he couldn’t simply leave a dangerous individual who was somehow capable of taming thousands of Undead.
The reason he had asked Schneider to carry this out was because the Dhampir lived in the southern region of the continent that was full of unexplored Devil’s Nests that couldn’t be reached by incapable individuals, and, most importantly, because the Dhampir could apparently tame Undead.
If large numbers of men were dispatched in the hope of overwhelming the Dhampir with numbers, there was the possibility that the dead would switch over to the Dhampir’s side. Considering that the expedition army of thousands had come back as Undead, this was almost certain.
In other words, it would be preferable to send a small number of powerful individuals.
“So, you want me to do it, huh?” said Schneider.
“That’s right,” said the messenger. “And this isn’t certain, but the Divine Message from Alda could be related as well.”
“Divine Message? Ah, ‘Be prepared for disease,’ was it?”
The Divine Message that had been made public several days ago was sent by Alda, who had seen through the Records that Vandalieu had rendered the expedition army helpless with a disease, but… Strangely enough, its true meaning hadn’t been understood.
But supplementary budgets had been granted to mages of the Mages’ Guild specializing in the research of disease, and the priest-warriors were trying to acquire the Disease Resistance skill. The Divine Message hadn’t been entirely meaningless.
“No, not that one,” said the messenger. “The one before it.”
“The one about the Demon King… So, you’re saying he’s the Dhampir?” asked Schneider.
“Duke Marme believes so.”
As Schneider looked to be deep in thought, still holding his cup, the messenger saw hope and pressed him for an answer.
“Schneider-dono, you are someone so great that Alda worries for your safety. I believe that you are interested. And the fees paid will be substantial. The Duke will pay 100,000,000 Amids, and I have received word that you will be allowed to take up to ten women from the duchy and Amid’s Church. Of course, anything you acquire while completing the request is yours without question.”
The messenger’s words made it clear just what people all over the Empire thought of Schneider.
A worldly-minded person who loved money and women despite being loved by Alda, the god of law and fate. This was the nobles’ image of Schneider.
“No, I have to decline.” Schneider’s answer was one of refusal.
“W-why?! If the Pope-sama accepts this, you can take as many as you want from the monastery; if you want priestesses, they can be made to live secular lives!” the messenger exclaimed. “Please reconsider!”
“Hey, hey…” Lissana whispered. The messenger was saying something that would become a terrible scandal if it ever became public, but she was the only one to take any notice of it.
Alda was prone to being thought of as a god with strict teachings as his teachings included, “Uphold law and order.” But in reality, this teaching could be interpreted as, “As long as law and order are upheld, everything else is fine.”
The reality was that excuses such as, “This is for maintaining order,” and, “This is what the law has decided,” were becoming more commonly used among the Great Church’s high officials lately.
One reason High Priest Gordan had refused the position of Cardinal and continued working on the frontlines was because he hated these high officials.
“No, it’s not that I’m dissatisfied with the rewards being offered,” said Schneider.
“So why?!” the messenger demanded.
“… I’ve become rather sensitive to the cold lately.” Schneider opened his hands for some reason as he answered the question.
“It’s summer now, but it will be autumn and then winter soon. Whether I cross the mountain range or take the sea route, it will be cold, won’t it?”
“… I-it can’t be, you’re refusing for that reason?”
The men’s jaws dropped.
Schneider gave them a frustrated frown. “Look here. Despite my looks, I’m in my fifties and my body is on the decline. Are there really people who make faces like that when a well-aged old man is worrying about his sensitivity to the cold?”
In fact, Schneider was well over fifty years old. He looked like a man who was only in his twenties, but remaining records showed that he had been registered at the Adventurers’ Guild over forty years ago.
His Guild Card and Status displayed the same thing, so it was impossible to doubt this information.
There were all kinds of rumors about how he maintained the strong, well-trained body of a man in his twenties despite his age.
A rumor that he had killed and bathed in the blood of so many Dragons and Elder Dragons that he had become immortal.
A rumor that one of his mistresses was a master of love-making, and it was thanks to her that he was staying young.
There was even a half-slandering rumor that he had signed a contract with an evil god that he was supposed to defeat, gaining perpetual youth.
But if anyone asked him, he would simply answer, “I just look young,” and he was a troublesome man who used his age as an excuse at every opportunity he got, as he was doing now.
“Can your eyes not see these white hairs? They used to be blonde back in the day…” Schneider pinched his platinum-blonde hair that he was calling white. There was indeed proof that his hair had once been blonde, but because it was so glossy and abundant, nobody other than him thought that it was white hair.
“Schna*, you’ve been complaining about the same thing for ten years, you know?”
“Yeah, my hair had already turned white ten years ago.”
“… This is hopeless.” Even Lissana, who referred to Schneider by a nickname, gave up on convincing him.
“That’s how it is,” Schneider told the messenger. “Sorry, but you’ll have to leave. Tell Duke Marme that I’ve refused because I’m worried about my old age.”
“A-alright… Well then, excuse us.” The messenger and his men slowly got up and left the bar. They were thoroughly unconvinced by Schneider’s reason for refusing the request, but there was nothing that they could do.
They didn’t have the strength to do anything against a superhuman capable of defeating Elder Dragons and evil gods, and if they tried to threaten him, it would be them who ended up destroyed. In the worst case, something could even happen to Duke Marme himself. There would be no need for the Emperor to make a move to defend his cousin who opposed him.
That was why the messengers left, with only the news that the offer had been refused to report.
“Now then, what do you think of the conversation just now?” asked Schneider.
People who had stayed inconspicuous in the background until a moment earlier now opened their mouths to speak.
“Let us see… It seems that the Pope is simply being impatient, rather than Alda being involved.”
“But it's not a problem, is it? It won’t make any difference no matter how much noise that fool makes, and if he makes too much noise, he might be erased by that Emperor.”
“That would actually be problematic. What will we do if the next Pope is actually competent?”
They chuckled amongst themselves. Those gathered around Schneider and Lissara looked to be an ordinary bartender and waitress, if disregarding the fact that they were beautiful and sinister-looking, and a drunkard who had been drinking and talking drunkenly to the waitress.
But in reality, all of them shared a certain secret.
“Still, they expected quite a lot, didn’t they… hic. If it were me, I definitely wouldn’t want to go to the southern parts of the continent,” said the drunkard with a mohawk. He was actually a Dark Elf. As he was concealing his long ears with a special Magic Item, he simply looked like a muscular, dark-skinned man.
He was Dalton, a warrior from the great tribe of Dark Elves.
“You drank too much, Dalton. Tea, drink some tea.”
“Geh, you can’t expect me to drink colored water! And if you’re going to complain, complain to Zod for providing me with this delicious drink.”
“My apologies.” The bartender, who had no notable features other than a slim figure and small moustache, smiled. But those who learned of his true identity would likely scream and flee.
His real name was Zorcodrio. He was a Pure-breed Vampire.
“Here you are, a refill,” he said, handing Dalton a drink.
“Ah, thanks,” said Dalton, drinking a mouthful. “Kah, delicious!”
“Hey, aren’t you letting him drink too much?” Lissara complained.
“That is water flavored with mint,” Zod replied to her in a small voice.
Indeed, he had never said, “This is alcohol,” when handing Dalton the drink. Even though the cup contained water, it was a refill nonetheless.
“Health problems aside, the curious thing is that Dhampir, isn’t it?” The Dwarf waitress, Merdin, returned the conversation to its original topic. She was an ordinary Dwarf.
Her occupation was that of an A-class adventurer rather than a waitress, however.
“Leaving the Divine Message of the foolish Pope aside, I can’t stay uninvolved if he has some relation to the Demon King. If by some chance the Demon King were to be revived, I might really be destroyed this time,” said Lissana as her appearance suddenly changed.
Her white skin turned blue-black and a third eye opened as if opening a fissure in her wide forehead. Her red tongue turned a fluorescent pink and her already-abundant chest expanded further.
“Oi, you’re returning to your normal form,” Dalton warned her.
“Sorry, sorry, I was remembering the past and I couldn’t help it.” Lissana giggled and withdrew her tongue back inside her mouth as she returned to her previous Elven appearance.
As written on her Guild Card, she was an Elf woman.
She often skipped introducing herself as the incarnation of Jurizanapipe, the Evil God of Degeneration and Intoxication, however.
She was the evil god supposedly defeated by the Thunderclap Schneider.
“So what are we going to do, Schna?” she asked. “It seems like you’ve refused to exterminate him, but are we going to go and meet him?”
“I do want to go, but… I can’t, can I? There a lot of things to do over here as well,” said Schneider. “And unlike Duke Marme, the current Emperor has become aware of my true nature.”
Schneider. He was without a doubt a human man. He wasn’t a Vampire, an evil god or a member of Vida’s races.
However, he was a follower of Vida.
“That Emperor has known for a long time that I’m not a devout follower of Alda,” he continued. “He knows that the Pope’s Divine Message of me being in danger actually means that I’m a dangerous person and that he should be wary of me.”
In the past, Schneider had been told numerous times by the Pope that a Divine Message warned of danger, but nothing had happened. Alda was warning the Pope that Schneider was a dangerous person.
Schneider was aware of how difficult it was to fully understand the meaning of a Divine Message, however, so he wasn’t particularly inclined to call the Pope a fool.
As a mortal, Schneider was unaware of the gods’ circumstances, things like the circle of transmigration systems. But despite being unaware of them, he had always held doubt towards Alda’s teachings since he was a child.
He had never understood why Vida’s races had to be hated so fiercely. After he became an adventurer and encountered members of one of Vida’s races, Lamias, he became certain.
Alda was wrong.
… It might have simply been that his late first love was a beautiful Lamia.
Leaving that reason aside, he made contact with the Lamias, and during the time he spent in their village, his belief became firmer.
But thinking that perhaps these Lamia were just special, he made contact with other members of Vida’s races.
And then Schneider chose Vida over Alda.
He hid his true beliefs, trained himself and built his achievements as an adventurer. There was the option of crossing over to the Orbaume Kingdom, where the religion of Vida and the existence of Vida’s races were acknowledged to some extent, but that would have been a foolish move for him.
If he ran to the Orbaume Kingdom, he couldn’t help the members of Vida’s races who were currently suffering in the Amid Empire.
There were things he could only do in the Amid Empire. A single adventurer from a commoner background likely couldn’t achieve much, but even so, he would be satisfied with helping as many as possible.
Before he knew it, he had become an S-class adventurer.
Life is full of surprises.
“Well, he likely hasn’t noticed the truth about you, Lissana,” said Schneider.
“Yes. I wonder why. Nobody ever notices, do they? That there are some among the evil gods who have changed sides to join the champions.”
Legends told of gods, giants and Elder Dragons who had surrendered and joined the Demon King out of fear. But they didn’t tell of the considerable number of evil gods who betrayed the Demon King and fought him alongside the gods and champions of Lambda.
They were indeed called evil gods, and they possessed powers that most in this world would consider abominable and wicked.
But they weren’t the incarnation of pure evil or anything like that.
The champion Zakkart had called the Demon King and his followers, ‘Invaders from another world.’ This was the truth.
For the inhabitants of Lambda, the fight against the Demon King was a holy war to defend this world. However, looking at it objectively, it was a war between invaders and the native people.
Of course, it could not be said that the Demon King and his followers were innocent and had done nothing wrong. After all, they had come to another world and chosen not to ask its people politely to allow them to move in or make any effort to assimilate by adopting their morals, sense of values and manners.
But there were some who had no choice but to obey the Demon King out of fear despite wondering why a war was being started so suddenly.
One of them was Jurizanapipe, the Evil God of Degeneration and Intoxication.
Zakkart had persuaded her to join the champions’ side.
The former evil gods who had changed sides allied themselves with Vida and the resurrected Zakkart when her conflict with Alda began.
They were thoroughly defeated by Alda and Bellwood. They were either sealed away after having their powers reduced, or forced to discard their bodies and physically incarnate themselves.
And Bellwood, who had opposed the evil gods joining them but had no choice but to reluctantly give in due to their strategic value, buried them in the darkness of history.
“If I headed for the continent’s southern region, the Emperor would probably make a move, thinking that I’m planning to finally make contact with the Pure-breed Vampires who worship Vida,” said Schneider. “He’s letting me swim around because I’m useful to the Empire, but it’d be troublesome if he were to think there was a chance that I’d cause the Empire harm.”
Though Schneider was an S-class adventurer and an evil-god-killer (though in reality, this was equivalent to being a lady-killer), the Empire wasn’t small enough for him to defeat on his own. There were imperial guards as strong as A-class adventurers, and it was certain that there were ten or twenty more individuals being kept hidden as extra fighting strength who even Schneider wouldn’t be able to defeat easily.
“And I’ve received a Divine Message as well,” Schneider continued. “I’m going to obey it.”
“Divine Message, you mean that one?” asked Dalton. “The one that told you to save the mothers and children…”
It had been ten years since Schneider had received this Divine Message. He had been surprised upon receiving a Divine Message for the first time. He deciphered the cryptogram-like combination of vast information and intent that had entered his mind, and somehow managed to understand its meaning, the words spoken by Dalton.
To be more precise, it was a Divine Message saying, “Become a shield, help the mothers and rescue the children from the blood, but without crossing the peak or the sea.”
“Haven’t you already fulfilled that?” asked Merdin. “You saved plenty of mothers and children, and because of that, you found Zod who had been sealed up.”
“Yes, you really saved me back then,” Zod added.
Schneider, having thought that the Divine Message meant, “Stay on the western side of the Bahn Gaia continent and risk your life to protect mothers and children,” saved numerous mothers and children as Merdin said. There were incidents where he simply saved them from bandits, and in one case, things developed into a great adventure, as a result of which he ended up undoing the seal on the Pure-breed Vampire Zod.
Of course, wondering if there were other ways to interpret the Divine Message, Schneider had visited the grave of his mother who rested in his birthplace and searched for signs of danger approaching the women around him, thinking that one of them might be pregnant.
As a result, it became clear that Schneider had unknowingly fathered children among the Lamia, Scylla, Arachne, Centaurs and Merfolk. Dalton had said, “How’s that for a man?” and Schneider had only been able to retort with, “I was young back then!”
There were funny stories like this, but Schneider finally calmed down, having interpreted the Divine Message as being intended to have him undo Zod’s seal.
However, from the request brought to him by the messengers from Duke Marme, Schneider realized that he had failed.
Schneider shook his head. “No, the meaning of that Divine Message was, ‘Save the mother in the Mirg shield-nation and rescue the half-blood child.’”
“That’s…” Dalton looked doubtful. “But then, what about the second part about the peak and the sea?”
“That meant, ‘If you fail to save the mother, don’t go near for a while.’ Actually, if I’d participated in the expedition, things might not have gone well for me, either,” said Schneider.
“Are you trying to say that the Dhampir is able to kill you?” asked Zod.
“He somehow killed six thousand men; he’s not a normal kid. Well, speaking as an S-class adventurer, Vida probably wanted to stop me from becoming an enemy for that Dhampir, didn’t she?”
“If that’s true, then at least he has no relation to the Demon King,” said Merdin. “There’s no way that Vida would help the Demon King, after all.”
“That’s how it is… I feel bad that I couldn’t save his mother, but I’m not all-powerful, either. I’ll apologize when I meet him one day, but until then, I’ll just have to do everything I can.”
There was no time to be worried over it.
Having finished speaking, Schneider set about making preparations for tomorrow’s work – exterminating a group of Krakens to help a clan of Merfolk.
“Hey, do you think it’s true that seaweed is good for your hair –”
“Zakkart said so, but I’m telling you, it’s a superstition.”
“But you know, lately, my hairline has –”
“It’s just your imagination; it hasn’t receded at all.”
“Is that so? But I get the feeling that my hair has become thinner recently –”