Naturally, criminal syndicates exist in the nations and cities of Lambda.
Exchanging stolen goods, smuggling of contraband products such as drugs and cursed items, illegal slave trading, contracts for murder. They are far more villainous than the Thieves’ Guilds that appear in the fantasy works of Earth, and there are those that could never be called a necessary evil.
Such a criminal syndicate existed in the city of Niarki as well.
An organization with several dozen members, the ‘Fangs of Dark Nights.’ It was a criminal syndicate that had recently taken advantage of the economic slump in the Hartner Duchy to profit through slave trading and dealing drugs.
Its leader was a feared man, known as ‘Torn Ear’ Zagi. When he was young, he had been subjected to torture by an opposing organization, during which his ears had been torn to pieces, but he hadn’t let out a single scream.
Zagi was currently glaring at a beautiful woman with red hair and red eyes.
“You bitch… What are you after?”
He had been forced to sit on a sofa inside his base, which was filled with the lingering scent of blood. In front of him was a white-haired child sitting on the opposite sofa and the beautiful woman standing beside him.
Zagi’s nearby henchmen were either lying on the floor bleeding or cowering and trembling in the corners of the room along with the women who poured his drinks.
“What I’m after is –” the child began.
“I’m not asking you. Shut the hell up, you shitty brat,” said Zagi, interrupting him, still talking with the tone of an important person. “Oi, Nee-chan, I don’t know what kind of joke this is supposed to be, but if you thought you could trick me into thinking that this kid is your master, you’ve failed. There’s no way that a woman who could dispose of my men in the blink of an eye would be serving a brat like this –?!”
The beautiful, red-haired woman grabbed Zagi’s collar and raised him into the air with one hand.
I’m being lifted up by a woman’s thin arm?!
In the next moment, the woman who had lifted the astonished Zagi into the air slammed his back into the floor.
The floor made a noise of destruction. Zagi was winded from the impact and began writhing in pain on the ground. The woman added a kick to his abdomen.
Zagi gave a scream, as if the precious little air in his lungs had been squeezed out. As the woman moved to deliver yet another attack, she was stopped.
“Eleanora, calm down,” said the child.
“But Vandalieu-sama, such inferior creatures who dare speak careless remarks about you do not have the right to breathe,” the woman protested. “He must be tormented and killed as soon as possible.”
“Your words are contradicting themselves,” the child pointed out. “It would be problematic if he dies, so let’s calm down.”
“… Yes.” The woman turned back to Zagi. “You should be grateful for Vandalieu-sama’s kindness, human.”
“Ah, it’s not good to use the word ‘human’ like that,” said the child. “Me, Eleanora, Zran, we’re all ‘humans*,’ after all. Everyone is human, you know.”
“Th-that’s right. Everyone is human, everyone is human…” The woman turned to Zagi again. “Be grateful, you scum.”
“Yes, yes, like that,” said the child.
From the conversation between the two individuals who were holding hands somewhere over his head, Zagi, who was still unable to breathe, realized that the child really was the superior one in their relationship. And on the inside, he felt relief at the fact that the child seemed to have no intention of killing him.
Considering the ability that Eleanora had demonstrated a moment ago, Zagi knew that even the members and bodyguards of the Fangs of Dark Nights who weren’t present wouldn’t be able to cross swords with her. In fact, within his field of vision, he could see the organization’s most competent bodyguard, a former C-class adventurer, defeated with a sword piercing his stomach.
Now that it comes to this, I have no choice but to buy time until the Master comes.
Zagi’s only hope was for the true ‘Master’ of Niarki’s underworld, the one who supported the organization, to come running to the scene of this bizarre occurrence. Zagi could feel the presence of the Master’s familiar, so he firmly believed that the Master would come to this place.
The question was whether that would be while Zagi was still alive or after he had already died.
“Guh… So… what is your objective?” he asked the child. “Did someone pay you to do this? Or do you want drugs? Surely you’re not going to tell me that this is someone’s plan for vengeance.”
“It's the last option, vengeance,” the child replied. “I’m just acting as an agent, though.”
Though Zagi’s heart almost fell upon hearing that this really was an act of vengeance, he smiled to himself, realizing there was a chance if the child was an agent.
Those after revenge often have a broken sense of benefits and losses. An avenger who would stumble over money and women wouldn’t have done things to this extent against the boss of a criminal syndicate.
However, if he was merely an agent of revenge, then it was a different story.
“Then what did you ask for? If it’s money, I’ll pay as much as you want. Won’t you turn to our side?” Zagi asked.
“No, I intend to take all of your money after I kill you,” said Vandalieu.
“Wha –?! W-wait a second, didn’t you say that your objective was vengeance?!”
“That’s right. And I’m planning to take your money and organization while I’m at it.”
The way Vandalieu spoke these words with such a casual tone caused Zagi to shudder. And if what Vandalieu said was true, the fact that Zagi would be killed had already been decided. Zagi couldn’t understand this at all.
“Wait, whose vengeance did you come for?” he asked, now desperate. “Hasn’t there been some kind of misunderstanding? I’m definitely a bad person, but I don’t kill people without reason. I have no other choice but to do it to survive. Plenty of the people I killed were real scoundrels, too. In the underworld, there’s a thing called the underworld’s virtues –”
“If those words are lies, you’re going to see hell, you know?” said Vandalieu, though he was almost certain that Zagi’s words were indeed lies. He had already heard various things from Zagi’s recently-deceased subordinates. “And as for whose vengeance I came for… Do you remember a bar by the name of, ‘Scarlet Dreams?’”
“… What are you talking about?” Zagi asked, bewildered. He had no recollection whatsoever of a bar named Scarlet Dreams.
“I’ve come for the vengeance of a woman who was deceived by a swindling, traveling bard who was singing at that bar fifteen years ago,” said Vandalieu.
“H-huh?! What the hell is that?!” Zagi shouted, eyes wide open in disbelief. “Fifteen years ago?! A swindler’s prostitute?! Why the hell have you come for such a worthless vengeance?! How stupid do you – GEGOH?!”
Eleanora delivered yet another kick into the side of his body.
“Please refrain from making further careless remarks, scum,” Eleanora warned him.
As Zagi rolled on the floor, throwing up a mixture of blood and vomit, Vandalieu spoke once more.
“As for why, actually, this afternoon –”
Something big was going to happen.
Old Lady Milan, a Spiritualist who had made a living in divination for a long time in the city of Niarki, had been certain of this since the previous night.
It was a clear omen that anyone would notice if they had the basic powers granted by the Spiritualist Job that she possessed.
“So, you have come,” she said, addressing the customer who had opened the door to her small store. “Business has been terrible because of you.”
“What do you mean?” asked Vandalieu, the white-haired child who had come through the door.
The expression on Old Lady Milan’s wrinkled face changed as she laughed. “Are you questioning how I knew that you would come? Or why business being terrible for me is your fault? You would know the answer to both of these if you gave it some careful thought,” she told him. “Now that every spirit in the city has been taken away, even the spirits of the mice and insects, what is a Spiritualist like me supposed to do? And if you’re taking such a large number of spirits around with you, it would be noticeable even from outside the city.”
The eyes of Old Lady Milan, the eyes of a Spiritualist, could see the countless spirits surrounding Vandalieu. Their numbers were far beyond the hundreds or thousands; they swarmed around him like insects.
She was honestly unable to comprehend how the boy in front of her had managed to maintain his sanity.
“Some of the spirits told me that you were knowledgeable regarding the past,” said Vandalieu.
“I suppose I am. I am an Elf, so I really am as old as I look,” said Old Lady Milan, lowering her hood to reveal her long, pointed ears. “I’m not really trying to hide it. It’s just that a mysterious old woman who has been here for decades attracts more customers than a simple old Elf, you see.”
It seemed that the atmosphere and impressions left on the customers were important for fortunetellers, even in fantasy worlds.
“So, what did you want to ask me? I’m not an information broker, but if it’s just stories from the past, I’ll make it cheap for you,” she said.
Those with the Spiritualist Job are capable of a little fortune-telling, hearing the voices of the dead and seeing spirits. Other than being able to learn who committed a murder or hear from people of secret intelligence organizations who had been silenced in crude manners, it is nothing outstanding.
This is because the memories and personalities of spirits become unstable over time. Their memories of everything other than fixations they had in life or people they hate collapse as if dissolving, eventually disappearing completely.
This can happen in the space of anywhere between a few days to several decades.
And even if they do possess the memories and personalities that they had in life, there is no guarantee that they will not lie. There have been tragic occurrences in the past where criminal investigations based on the words of Spiritualists resulted in innocent people being executed. It is not uncommon for the victim to protect their murderer when the victim is the murderer’s relative.
But as Old Lady Milan was an Elf with a lifespan of five hundred years, she remembered many things about the past herself, and she remembered stories told by spirits right after they died, even though they had died long ago.
“Please tell me what happened to Princess Levia of Talosheim and those who were with her, around two hundred years ago,” said Vandalieu.
“Why would you want to know about something like that?” Old Lady Milan asked. “Do you have some relationship with that nation of Titans? … No, I suppose I won’t ask.”
“I don’t mind telling you, though?” Vandalieu offered.
“Never mind; those spirits around you are giving me frightening looks,” said Old Lady Milan. “Now then… I think this will be unpleasant to hear for you, but listen, and don’t get angry.”
When the tunnel through the Boundary Mountain Range was discovered two centuries and a few decades ago, the head of the Hartner family of dukes at the time was a war-obsessed, zealous believer of Vida. As Talosheim was a nation of Titans that believed in Vida, he conducted trade with Talosheim in a proactive manner.
This trade brought wealth to the Hartner Duchy, leading it to having a favorable reputation and people praising it for having outstanding economic policies despite having an image of being an unrefined duchy before that.
However, the new head of the family after that was a zealous believer of Alda. He believed that the one who would bestow their divine protection in harsh battles was not Vida, who had been defeated, but Alda, the victor.
Even so, there would have been no problems for Talosheim if the duke was part of the peaceful faction, but he was actually a fundamentalist pretending to be part of the peaceful faction.
But he was not simply a fanatic and as ruler, he had the power of judgment. He maintained the trade with Talosheim for as long as it remained profitable, despite his unpleasant feelings about it.
That was when the Mirg shield-nation’s expedition to Talosheim happened. The head of the Hartner family utilized that expedition. When Talosheim sent requests for reinforcements, he made excuses, delayed his responses and left the Titans to die. When the First Princess Levia led fifty refugees to the Hartner Duchy, seeking aid, he tricked them into thinking that he would accept them.
He had her bodyguards poisoned and had the princess executed after falsely accusing her of trying to kill him and instigate a coup d’état to take the Hartner Duchy for herself. He acquired the national treasures of Talosheim that the Titans had brought to ensure that they didn’t fell into the hands of the Mirg shield-nation… precious Magic Items such as a box that generated endless products.
He sent the remaining Titans, which were only children and elderly individuals, to the slave-run mines as criminal slaves.
He had the city of people who were knowledgeable about Talosheim, the city that was the contact point for the trade with Talosheim, abandoned. Since the trade was now impossible, it was unable to sustain itself as a trading city anymore, so this was convenient for him.
As the tunnel had been sealed, there was no need to worry that the Mirg shield-nation would give pursuit, either.
As a result, the Hartner Duchy acquired national treasures of Talosheim and a labor force of Titans equivalent to several hundred workers without losing a single soldier to the Mirg shield-nation.
Considering the alternative of sending reinforcements to help fight the Mirg shield-nation and losing the battle, this was an extraordinary profit.
“But two hundred years ago, wasn’t Talosheim supposed to be considered on the side of justice in the war between the Orbaume Kingdom and the Amid Empire?” asked Vandalieu.
If Old Lady Milan’s story was true, there were some inconsistencies. At the very least, with her version of events, there would have been problems in considering Talosheim to be on the side of justice.
But Old Lady Milan simply gave a shrug. “I am simply a Spiritualist, boy,” she said. “I only speak the words of the dead; investigating and making conclusions is not my specialty, nor is it my job. But you are right…” She paused. “The only ones who know the truth would be the duke’s family and their close aides, as well as a very small number of the Kingdom’s rulers at the time. They likely tricked the world with a substitute for the princess. A short while after the war, they would have announced that she had died of illness. It is a method that even an old woman like myself could think of.”
There were fewer Titans than humans, but there were quite a number of them living in the Orbaume Kingdom. Though it would have taken some effort, it wouldn’t have been particularly difficult to prepare a substitute.
And though Princess Levia was known by everyone in Talosheim, the number of people who knew what her face looked like in the Orbaume Kingdom was limited.
The people would be informed of a magnificent war and where it was occurring, told that the pitiful refugees had been ‘taken under protection.’ Everyone would be satisfied with this and not think to find out what was really happening. A few years later, the people would be tricked in the same way in regards to the princess’s whereabouts.
This was a conspiracy made possible if several influential people joined forces.
“… So, are Talosheim’s refugees still in the mines?” Vandalieu asked.
Old Lady Milan nodded. “Most likely. Titans are sturdy, and though they are criminal slaves, they are actually more like illegal slaves, so they should be still being made to work without being allowed to live or be killed,” she said. “Perhaps not the elderly, but those who were children back then should be still alive, though probably not all of them. Apparently, it is something like a village of slaves managed by the army. It is something that I heard from one of the spirits near you.”
Vandalieu thought for a moment before asking another question. “… The Titans that were Princess Levia’s bodyguards, where were they buried?”
“Let’s see. It would be unusual indeed for a spirit that would know such classified information to wander into a city in a remote place like this,” said Old Lady Milan. “But there is an underground cemetery that would be ideal for burying such a dark history. There is a legend that one of the champions sealed away a part of the Demon King there. It is said that thanks to him, evil cannot escape that place, even now.”
“Where is that?” Vandalieu asked.
“Somewhere beneath the duke’s castle,” Old Lady Milan replied. “Be careful.”
“Be careful?” Vandalieu repeated. “You’re saying that as if you know that I’m going to go there.”
Old Lady Milan gave an exasperated sigh. “As you can see, I have been in this business for a long time,” she said. “By looking at the spirits around you, I can see that you are struggling to contain your anger.”
Exactly as Old Lady Milan was pointing out, Vandalieu was on the verge of exploding in rage. The nearby spirits were trembling in fear of his wrath.
If Old Lady Milan’s story was true, how could he possibly remain calm? How could he not curse the events of the past?
He even felt a murderous impulse to go outside and begin indiscriminately tearing apart every living thing that entered his sight.
But Vandalieu’s logical side persuaded him that that wouldn’t make him happy, nor would there be any meaning to doing so.
It was true that the people of the Hartner Duchy had abandoned the refugees of Talosheim who were exploited. Nobody, not even the old Elf woman in front of him, had tried to advocate that they should be helped.
But the Orbaume Kingdom was a feudalistic nation as well. The average citizen wouldn’t think of starting political movements. There was almost nobody left who knew about the circumstances of two hundred years ago, anyway. There was no internet and no journalists in Lambda. There were few ways information could spread, and the methods people could use to travel were limited as well.
And with regards to punishment, the mindset of Talosheim, the mindset of Nuaza, Borkus, Zran and the other Titans, was that “the sins of the father are not the sins of the child.” Vandalieu agreed with this as well.
It would be wrong to punish the people who were currently alive for the sins committed in the events of two hundred years ago.
Indeed, at least for the sins of ‘two hundred years ago.’
Vandalieu exhaled. “… Another question. If someone were to attack the slave-run mine and all of the slaves were to disappear somewhere, someone would investigate. Can you sell me information on the people who would investigate such an incident?”
The thing that needed to be done right now was not accusations or retribution, but the freeing of the Titans who had been turned into slaves. Vandalieu didn’t care about the laws of this land.
But he wouldn’t merely free them. He had to appeal to them and have them come to Talosheim. He needed to gain power and support, attack with enough force to be considered excess and deceive Duke Hartner and those serving him into thinking that it was some kind of accident.
“… No. I value my life more than a few coins,” said Old Lady Milan. “Out of concern, I will tell you that revenge is… No, never mind. These words are nothing more than an unrealistic ideal. I learned that soon after I became able to see spirits, too.”
The idea that the dead don’t wish for anything, or that they only want the living to be happy is nothing more than a terribly foolish delusion.
There were spirits following this unrealistic ideal, but if those they hated while alive fell to ruin, they would laugh and feel truly happy from the bottom of their hearts. Old Lady Milan knew that such spirits existed.
The idea of speaking of this unrealistic ideal, to Vandalieu of all people, was laughable.
“I’m leaving the city tomorrow. Is there any kind of reward that you want?” Vandalieu asked, as if nothing had happened. He had managed to suppress his anger.
“Payment for the information? Despite the appearance of my store, I do have savings,” said Old Lady Milan. “I have plenty to retire and live out the rest of my years, but… Let’s see, can I ask one favor of you?”
As long as all of the spirits in the city were following Vandalieu, her business as a Spiritualist was doomed. As such, Old Lady Milan had intended to close her store for a while. She had even considered moving to another city, depending on how things went.
That was why she decided to voice the one regret that remained in the corner of her memories.
“Actually, you know, this was about fifteen years ago. One of my customers got involved with a bard who was singing at a bar called ‘Scarlet Dreams.’ I told her that he was a swindler and warned her to give up on him, and she said that she would break up with him, but –”
“Three days later, the woman’s spirit apparently came back with a sad expression, and disappeared soon after. The old lady told me that she wanted to know the truth about this woman. And then I heard from a reliable source that you’re the one responsible,” Vandalieu explained.
Zagi’s body couldn’t stop sweating in terror.
In other words, this brat that I don’t know anything about is about to do something crazy in this duchy. And he just decided to kill us all while he’s at it?!
“No, quite a lot of you are alive,” said Vandalieu. “Other than your bodyguards, only a few people were killed. The others are bleeding a little, but their hearts are still beating.”
Did this guy just read my mind?!
Zagi was too astonished to speak, but actually, the spirit of one of his bodyguards had cheerfully told Vandalieu, “He’s probably thinking something like that. What an idiot, right?”
“So, do you remember her?” Vandalieu asked.
Though Zagi didn’t respond, he did indeed have some idea of what Vandalieu was referring to. To be more specific, he had remembered while Vandalieu was talking.
It was fifteen years ago, when Zagi was at the bottom of the organization. Back then, he had already been blessed with villainous qualities, skill in committing crimes and good luck. Even the boss of the organization at the time remembered him.
One of the jobs that he had been entrusted with was punishing a traveling bard who had been cheating people out of their money without making any offerings to the organization.
However, Zagi allowed the swindler to make a narrow escape. In order to cover up his failure, he kidnapped the woman that the swindler had marked as his target, killed her in an unimaginably gruesome way and dumped her corpse in the room that the swindler had been using.
He killed the woman and made it appear as if the swindler had fled in fear.
He bribed his companions as well. He took the money of the woman that the swindler had failed to escape with, gave it to the boss and told him that it was the money that the swindler had offered in apology. That was supposed to be the end of this incident.
I-if I tell the truth here, I’ll be killed! Damn it, as if I’m going to die because of that woman that nobody gives a shit about!
“I don’t know, it was someone else… Probably the dead bodyguard over there,” said Zagi. “He was a crazy bastard who loved killing women, you know?”
“He’s lying! I killed about five people, but they were all men!” shouted the bodyguard’s spirit.
Though Zagi was making various efforts in order to survive, they were futile and rather humorous attempts for Vandalieu, who could see spirits.
Damn it, isn’t the Master here yet?! Ah!
The door was opened from the outside with a bang. A man with red eyes and white skin entered, along with a Titan with his face hidden by a black mask and several small-looking people.
“Master! Thank you for coming!”
The male Vampire leading the group was a spy who had been stationed here by the Pure-breed Vampires who worshipped Hihiryushukaka, the Evil God of Joyful Life. He was the one who had been supporting Zagi.
By becoming this Vampire’s hound, Zagi had been able to act like an important figure in the underworld of this city of ten thousand, without any other organizations rising to power.
Zagi had never seen the Titan or the small men following the Vampire before, but he assumed that they were probably his Subordinate Vampires.
“Now then, Master, kill this shitty brat and his bitch! I’ll definitely repay the favor!” shouted Zagi.
“Zagiii… You are a loyal man who served me well. I valued you highly…”
The Vampire stepped towards Zagi, as if responding to his request. But then, he walked straight past Vandalieu and Eleanora and looked down at Zagi.
“YOU FUCKING MONGREEEEL!” he roared. “DON’T YOU DAAAARE SPEAK BADLY OF THESE PEOPLE!” He drove the hard sole of his boot into Zagi’s chest.
“GUAAAAH!” Zagi screamed as he heard his ribs cracking. “M-Master, what are you –?!” Suddenly, he noticed that the clothes of the man he called ‘Master’ were stained dark red.
“I still have plans for him, so leave it at that,” Vandalieu instructed.
“Yes… Goshujin-sama.” The Vampire lowered his head respectfully towards Vandalieu and kissed his feet.
Seeing this, Zagi understood everything now. The ‘reliable source’ that Vandalieu had mentioned earlier was this Undead Vampire.
Zagi’s last hope had been disposed of even before the attack on his organization had begun.
“Th-this, this can’t be happening… Just because I killed that woman that nobody cares about, the kind of woman you could find anywhere, my organization is… I’m…” With his hope extinguished, Zagi began whispering to himself with a face looking more like a dead man’s than that of an actual dead man.
Vandalieu gave him a perplexed look. “Just like how she was the kind of woman that you could find anywhere, someone you didn’t really mind killing, you’re the kind of villain that I could find anywhere, and I don’t really mind killing you,” he told Zagi. “Isn’t that just how it is?”
And so, Zagi, the boss of the ‘Fangs of Dark Nights,’ died. The next day, however, he was found in perfect health, still giving orders to his subordinates.
Zagi, whose personality had become strangely cheerful, began ruling the underworld much more reliably than he had before. It would be some time before a certain adventurer’s actions revealed that he was, in fact, an Undead.
“King, I finally got a lover!” Braga announced.
“Eh, when did that happen?”