“Hang on a second, will you?” said the adventurer, casually approaching the reception counter that Vandalieu had frozen stiff in front of. “It’s the first time I’ve heard of this rule change. Can you explain what you mean?”
“Y-you’re troubling me. I’m currently dealing with this child –” the receptionist began.
“I have something I want to say about how you’re dealing with him. Can you call the Guild Master for me?” said the adventurer.
“You’re troubling me,” the receptionist repeated. “If you want to make an appeal to the Guild, then, when it is your turn, please tell one of us staff members at the reception counters first.”
“I am the A-class adventurer Heinz. I’d like to request a face-to-face meeting with the Guild Master once more, under the authority of an A-class adventurer.”
Heinz. It was Heinz.
Vandalieu turned his head as if it was on a creaking hinge, looking at the adventurer standing next to him.
He was a well-featured, strong-willed young man with blonde hair and blue eyes. He was in his early-to-mid-twenties. It was clear from one look at his appearance and equipment that he wasn’t an ordinary person.
Though it had changed a little, he had the same voice that Vandalieu had heard in Evbejia, and he matched the physical description given by Riley.
Mom’s enemy, the Blue-flamed Sword Heinz!
He was one of the people whom Vandalieu absolutely needed to kill. Vandalieu had heard that Heinz had crossed over to the Orbaume Kingdom, but he hadn’t imagined that Heinz would be staying in the Hartner Duchy, nor had he imagined that he would encounter him at this moment.
The resurrection of Darcia was something that was absolutely needed for Vandalieu’s “pursuit of happiness.” And those who interfered with that needed to be eliminated. That was why he would kill Heinz.
Selling his mother to a fanatic worshipper of Alda had simply been another request for Heinz. It didn’t matter if his actions were completely normal and legal in that nation.
It didn’t matter what Heinz was thinking and doing now.
The problem was the future, what lay ahead. He had sold Darcia to a religious fanatic once. What reason did Vandalieu have to believe that he wouldn’t do the same again? If he had already changed his viewpoint once, who was to say that he wouldn’t change it again?
In order to reduce those possibilities to zero, Heinz needed to be killed and destroyed.
Now was a good opportunity to do that.
Of course, Vandalieu couldn’t do anything flashy in a place like this where people were watching. He knew that. He could simply poison him or infect him with a disease.
Should he turn his breath, a small amount of his saliva or the substances secreted by his skin into poison? Should he ‘accidentally’ touch Heinz and infect him with pathogens?
Vandalieu started coming up with these plans, but every time he thought about them, he heard the warnings of Danger Sense: Death in his head.
If he tried to poison Heinz, he would be killed. If he tried to infect Heinz with pathogens, he would be killed.
Either way, the one who would die was not Heinz, but Vandalieu.
Impossible, is this guy invincible or immortal or something?!
He was far too different compared to when he had worked for High Priest Gordan. Vandalieu was astonished at this change, but he couldn’t deny the reality in front of him or the death-attribute magic spell that had saved him up until now.
I see; this is an A-class adventurer worthy of becoming S-class like Mikhail, the one who was powerful enough to slay Borkus and the others in an instant.
Someone who would defeat A-class adventurers, who were supposed to be superhumans, with ease. A superhuman that transcended superhumans.
Heinz was far too different from Riley, whose soul had been broken by Vandalieu after his defeat at Borkus's hands. And it was even said that Heinz was far more blessed when it came to allies than Riley had ever been.
Vandalieu moved his eyes and looked far past Heinz to see that there were five more people standing there. Two of them matched the descriptions that he had heard from Riley.
The female Dwarf Shield-bearer with blue hair, Delizah. The male Scout with black hair and black eyes, Edgar. The other two were perhaps new party members, a female Elf with a mace and priest’s garb, and a young woman who appeared to be an unarmed fighter.
Heinz wouldn’t have chosen them just for their looks, so they were probably A-class and B-class as well, C-class at worst.
This must be the new ‘Five Colored Blades’ with two new members taking the place of Riley and the female Elf Spiritual Mage who apparently perished in a Dungeon.
The fifth additional member, a girl of Vandalieu’s age or even younger who was half-hiding behind Delizah, was probably not a party member. Was she someone’s younger sister?
Ah, how troublesome. They’re the worst kinds of enemies for me.
Even excluding the girl, he could tell by looking at the other four. It was because of these people that Vandalieu didn’t even have a fraction of a percent of a chance of killing Heinz.
They were watching Heinz with wry smiles and exasperated expressions, muttering words like, “Good grief,” and “Here we go again.” But if anything were to happen to Heinz, they would back him up with swift speed and precision.
If Heinz were to fight Vandalieu with these party members with him, there was no doubt that he would utilize his ability to coordinate with them and deliver a blow capable of piercing Vandalieu’s barriers.
Poisoning them or infecting them with pathogens would be futile. Unlike the soldiers of the Mirg shield-nation’s expedition army, they were equipped to deal with high-Rank monsters that inflicted status effects with their attacks. They were different even from the self-conceited Riley.
They were ridiculously strong. Their Mana pools were irrelevant. If Vandalieu was an enormous elephant, they were ants capable of killing such an elephant.
I have no choice. I have to endure this humiliation for now. I mustn’t die; there are things I need to do. I’ll be satisfied with being able to see these guys’ faces directly. I’ll regroup with Eleanora and the others, and… Huh? What are these guys… What is Heinz doing?
Vandalieu, who had even been using his High-speed Thought Processing skill to immerse himself in his thoughts in an attempt to endure the feeling of powerlessness and humiliation that tormented his entire body, was suddenly startled as he began processing the information from his ears.
“Please wait, the Guild Master is currently out of his office –”
“Then a Sub-Master should be here. The rules state that when the Guild Master is absent, one of the two Sub-Masters will always remain inside the Guild. Or was that rule changed as well?”
Heinz was currently arguing not with the receptionist, but a male staff member who appeared to be her senior. But the situation was looking worse for the staff member.
“I know that there’s no point in saying this to you,” said Heinz. “The same goes for the Guild Master of the Guild’s Niarki branch. But there’s something I want the Guild Master to write. I want him to write a letter of introduction to meet the Guild Master of the Adventurers’ Guild headquarters of the Hartner Duchy.”
“I-if our Guild Master writes something like that, doesn’t that mean that he is endorsing you?!” said the staff member.
Heinz pressed the staff member further. “So, he can’t do it? Even though he can approve of such a meaningless rule change?”
“Th-this isn’t something that can be decided by a mere staff member!” the staff member protested.
“Any Guild employee would know that this meaningless rule change is a non-committal decision made by Lord Belton in order to gain the support of the churches, including the Church of Alda, because he can’t gain the support of the duchy’s army in his familial dispute,” said Heinz. “It’s something that even I could figure out right away, after all.”
Apparently, many of the current important figures in the Hartner Duchy’s Church of Alda were fundamentalists rather than members of the peaceful faction.
“Children with monster blood are dangerous, so they can’t be judged through a single examination. They could lose their self-control at any moment, so letting them into the adventurers’ school is also dangerous. Do you guys really believe these things?” Heinz asked.
The more Heinz spoke, the paler the male staff member’s face grew and the more he struggled to maintain eye contact. It was likely that he secretly agreed with Heinz’s words. It seemed that the same went for the other staff members and receptionists.
The other adventurers present voiced their agreement.
“What’s the problem? You just have to deliver a message!”
“That’s right, that’s right! The doors of the Adventurers’ Guild are wide open, aren’t they?!”
“You’re not planning to keep us Beast-people out soon, are you?”
And then the male staff member seemed to come to a decision. “I understand,” he said. “But the only thing I can do is pass the message onto the Guild Master.”
“I know,” said Heinz. “That’ll be enough.”
“I will warn you… As an A-class adventurer, you already possess more influence than a lower nobleman,” the staff member told him. “Your intentions will be known to the lords. But please do not forget that it is up to the lords as to how to interpret your intentions.”
“I know that, too,” said Heinz. “Not as a member of Alda’s peaceful faction, but as an adventurer, I believe that the Guild shouldn’t obey the will of politicians. That’s all I wanted to say. ‘The doors to adventure are open to members of all races’… We shouldn’t ignore the words of the founder, should we?”
“I like those words too,” said the staff member. “Now then, I will send a messenger the Guild Master, so excuse me. You’re lucky, aren’t you?” he said, smiling at Vandalieu.
With the staff member’s words, Vandalieu’s brain finally started functioning again.
Lucky? Why? Because he had been able to see how his enemy’s appearance and a part of his power? No, that wasn’t it…
Could it be… Heinz is helping me? Impossible!
As Vandalieu directed his gaze towards Heinz to see him giving Vandalieu a nod with a reassuring, reliable smile. As if to say, “Leave it to me.”
However, rather than being reassured, Vandalieu was going mad.
Why do I have to be helped?! Don’t mess with me!
Is it some kind of trap?! There’s another side to this, there’s another side to this, there has to be!
There’s something fishy about this, it’s strange, I’m not convinced!
Feeling an unpleasant sensation that felt like his brain, spirit and even his soul were turning into mush, Vandalieu was unable to gather his thoughts. The Parallel Thought Processing and High-speed Thought Processing skills served only to further increase his confusion; he couldn’t calm down.
“Good grief. Who was it that said he’s not interested in politics? The moment we finish our escort request and arrive in the city, this happens. And now you’re planning to complain to the next duke and the Guild Master of the duchy’s Guild headquarters,” said Heinz’s male party member.
“But Edgar, he’s been saying it all along, hasn’t he?” said another. “That Alda’s teachings should be changed to be more peaceful. And even going as far as to split up with Riley to come to this country was Heinz’s –”
“But I remember hearing that this party’s objective was to completely clear the wandering Dungeon, the Trial of Zakkart,” said a third party member, a woman.
“Please don’t say that,” said yet another party member. “Or do you mean to say that you think that Heinz’s words are mistaken, Jennifer?”
“… That’s not what I meant,” said the woman called Jennifer.
Vandalieu could hear Heinz’s companions conversing as if these things couldn’t be helped, though none of them showed any signs of opposing Heinz’s words.
“Hey, is Heinz the one who belongs to Alda’s peaceful faction?”
“That’s right. I heard that in the Mirg shield-nation, he witnessed the tragedy of a certain Dhampir and his mother, and that’s why he came to this country.”
“Huh. So that’s why he’s helping a Dhampir now. A-class adventurer-samas really are something else.”
Vandalieu could hear the voices of other adventurers.
In summary, Heinz and his companions changed their views when they saw Mom burned at the stake after they captured her and handed her over. Now they’re part of Alda’s peaceful faction and work in the Orbaume Kingdom. So that’s why they’re helping a Dhampir? Helping…
“It’s alright,” said the little girl who was with Heinz’s companions. She was right in front of Vandalieu, who, despite his inner thoughts, appeared to simply be standing there motionlessly.
She took his hand as she continued speaking.
“Heinz-oniichan is going to help you. Just like he helped me!” she said, laughing. One of her eyes was a blood-red color that didn’t match her other eye.
Vandalieu’s hand trembled.
Nausea, a headache and a sense of discomfort, the likes of which he had never experienced in his third lifetime, ran through his body.
“Kyah?!” the little girl cried in surprise.
Unable to stand it anymore, Vandalieu had shaken her hand off. In doing so, he had kept his claws withdrawn and controlled his strength so that he didn’t injure her.
That was the limit of how much he could hold back.
“Hey, you?!” Startled, Heinz reached out towards Vandalieu.
But Vandalieu put all of his effort into putting as much distance between himself and Heinz as possible. He used all four limbs to propel himself along the floor and used Flight in a way that excessive force was exerted on his internal organs.
“O-oi! Wait a second!”
Ignoring the surprised voices of Heinz’s companions and other adventurers, Vandalieu used his shoulder to smash through the door to the Guild and fled!
Vandalieu was sitting on the ground, staring at his trembling hands.
He was already outside the city of Niarki; probably inside a nearby forest or thicket. It was unlikely that he had traveled very far.
He had no memory whatsoever of how he exited the city after leaving the Guild. It was possible that he had created a hole in the outer wall to escape.
“Ah… Guh… oh…”
Vandalieu’s mind was in so much chaos that he didn’t have time to worry about such things. He felt as if his entire body would rot away with the anger, humiliation and powerlessness that he felt.
He had been completely unable to defeat his enemy. He knew without even challenging him that it would end in utter defeat. He had previously imagined that this would be the ultimate humiliation.
But an even greater humiliation existed. Being pitied by his enemy, by Heinz. Vandalieu was almost helped by him.
It was an action that trampled over Vandalieu’s pride.
But the thing that Vandalieu found most unforgivable was the reason that Heinz had tried to help him.
Heinz had tried to help him because he was a Dhampir.
Heinz had changed his way of thinking and become part of Alda’s peaceful faction after seeing Vandalieu’s mother, whom he had captured and handed over to a fanatic as part of a request, tortured and burned alive in public.
“Don’t… fuck… with me!”
Logically, it made sense why things had turned out like that. Heinz was probably unaware that Vandalieu had survived. He was under the assumption that Vandalieu had died long ago.
Vandalieu’s existence was known only to very few – some individuals in the Mirg shield-nation and Amid Empire, as well as the Pure-breed Vampires. It wasn’t strange to think that Heinz didn’t know that he was alive.
That was why he was atoning for his past deeds. It was a common story that could be found in both fiction and non-fiction books on Earth.
In order to apologize to the people they had killed, they would live on and atone for their sins.
They would save as many people as they had killed.
Feeling guilt over the innocent civilians of enemy nations they had killed in war, they would spend the rest of their days atoning.
It wasn’t unusual or anything.
The examples that Vandalieu remembered best were indeed from works of fiction.
Someone’s mistake would cause the death of another without it being punishable by law. Despite remaining free, the person would feel tormented over it, and then the protagonist of the drama or manga would tell that person, “Keep helping others until the day comes where you can forgive yourself.”
Protagonists would tell former villains, “Atone for your mistakes with your future deeds.”
Heinz was atoning for the wrongs he had done to Darcia and Vandalieu. He was putting the peaceful teachings he believed were correct into practice, and he had saved that little girl, the Dhampir.
Nobody had asked him to atone, and yet he was atoning in a way that was completely unrelated to Darcia and Vandalieu.
“Don’t mess with me…!”
So, was Vandalieu supposed to forgive him? Was he supposed to stop blaming him? Was he supposed to stop trying to kill him?
It was out of the question. There was no way that Vandalieu would even consider accepting something so unreasonable.
Imagine if there was a foreign serial killer who killed numerous people in a certain country and then saved a number of people in his own country equal to the number of people he had killed. If Vandalieu was supposed to forgive Heinz in this situation, then the bereaved families of the people killed by the serial killer would have to forgive him as well, wouldn’t they?
If Vandalieu saved as many people in the Orbaume Kingdom as people he had killed in the Mirg shield-nation, would the bereaved families in the Mirg shield-nation forgive him? Certainly not. There was no way that they would.
There wouldn’t be thousands of unusual people who would forgive him.
But if everything was made clear, every single person in the Orbaume Kingdom would tell Vandalieu that he should forgive Heinz.
They would tell him to forgive Heinz because he had saved many people, because he had achieved great things. Because he was a hero.
Because from now on, he would save many more people, ease the unhappiness of thousands, of tens of thousands. He would make the people happier.
Heinz’s existence was beneficial for the nation.
They would tell this single Dhampir who hated him for killing a single person, his mother, to forgive him.
This would be considered normal and undeniably correct in any world.
The fact that Darcia was killed, the hatred boiling up within Vandalieu, everything would become details in the moving tale of Heinz. Forgiving him was the correct thing to do.
Forgiving Heinz, who went around saving Dhampirs like that little girl without being asked, was for the sake of everyone’s happiness.
And even that would become another detail to be added to Heinz’s story.
… How could Vandalieu forgive him!
『The level of the Grotesque Mind skill has increased!』
『You have acquired the ■ab■■■st■■on】skill!』
But Vandalieu would endure for now.
Heinz believed that his deeds were done in atonement, but even those were achievements that he used to gather more popularity. However, Vandalieu was currently unable to defeat him.
Even if he used death-attribute magic and all kinds of skills, even if he asked Eleanora and the others to work with him, no matter what he did, he couldn’t win.
This was vengeance. For Vandalieu, this vengeance was a process necessary for accomplishing his own happiness. It wasn’t the result.
『The level of the Grotesque Mind skill has increased!』
『The level of the ■ab■th■str■on】skill has increased!』
But this hatred couldn’t be suppressed. The fire of hatred couldn’t be extinguished; Vandalieu felt as if his heart would freeze in place with the chill of fear!
“Oi, there! It’s this one!”
“Hurry up and capture it! That brat had silver coins; there should still be some left!”
“Leave it to me, Oba-san.”
That was why Vandalieu had run away from that place. That was why he had left the city and come out to a place like this.
He had made sure that nobody would get involved.
“To think we’d find it this quickly. We’ve finally run into some luck!”
“I’m sure it’s because we’ve been behaving well every day. Don’t think badly of us. Because of the economic slump, selling fruit isn’t enough to feed myself and get by. You don’t need to worry; with your looks, I’m sure whoever we sell you do will take good care of you.”
“Is this brat a boy or a girl? If it’s a girl, she’s not old enough to sell for much, you know?”
“No, she has odd-colored eyes. If we tell the buyer it’s a Dhampir, won’t we get paid more?”
“Don’t even bother. What are we going to do if that problematic A-class adventurer-sama gets involved?
“Now that you mention it, the Savior has come to this city. His name was ‘Heinz’ or something, was it?”
Heinz, the one Vandalieu hated so much was Heinz!
“Cut the chatter. Quick, tie the kid up and take him back to the city!”
The middle-aged woman who had been selling apples in the marketplace approached Vandalieu, who was kneeling in the dirt, completely motionless.
『You have acquired the Scream skill!』
Surprised by the unintelligible noise that Vandalieu was making and thinking that it was some kind of incantation, the woman and the men who were with her hastily tried to grab him.
At this moment, if they had done everything they possibly could to escape, they might have been able to survive.
A fearsome scream was released from Vandalieu’s mouth.
『The levels of the Scream, Mental Encroachment and Labyrinth Construction skills have increased!』
The woman and the men screamed, as if in response to Vandalieu’s ‘Scream.’
The color drained from their hair and the light of consciousness faded from their eyes.
But the middle-aged woman and the thugs led by her nephew weren’t dead. They were moving vigorously. They were driving their fingers into their ears to try to escape the scream, biting their tongues into pieces and gouging their eyes out.
But as if still unsatisfied with this, they used their eyes that should have been unable to see to find and seize each other and begin killing each other.
“HATE! HATE! WHAT DO I HATE?!”
“KILL ME! KILL HIM! KILL WHO?! KILL EVERYONE AND HIM?!”
“MY EARS, MY EYES, MY TONGUE, MY HANDS, MY FLESH, MY ORGANS, THEY DISGUST ME!”
As Vandalieu felt a sense of liberation, as if the darkness gathered in his heart had been released into his surroundings, he lost consciousness.
Feeling good, Vandalieu opened his eyes.
He looked up at the sky to see that it was still the early afternoon. He had gone to the Adventurers’ Guild before noon, so only an hour or two should have passed, but he was in a bright mood, as if he had woken up in the morning after a sound sleep.
“But I feel really tired? A pleasant sense of fatigue?” Confused, Vandalieu checked his Status to find that he had almost zero Mana remaining. What had he done while he was asleep? Although there were bloodstains around him, there were no Undead.
“Vandalieu-sama, are you alright?!”
At that moment, Eleanora descended from the sky and forcefully lifted Vandalieu up into her arms.
“Ah, yes. I don’t have much Mana remaining, though. By the way, what exactly happened here?” Vandalieu asked.
“That is what I want to ask!” she told him. “You said that you would be finished quickly so we hid and waited only to see you rush out of the Guild, fly over the outer walls and disappear somewhere! We couldn’t even get in contact with you! Do you have any idea how worried we were?!”
“I’m sorry… for making you worry,” said Vandalieu, letting his body weight rest on Eleanora, who was holding onto him tightly.
After using the Goblin head communication device to contact Braga and the others who had been searching elsewhere, Vandalieu explained everything in chronological order.
“Vandalieu-sama, let us conquer and destroy this realm.” These were Eleanora’s first words when he finished. Her eyes had taken on a glassy appearance; she didn’t appear to be joking.
“No, we can’t win against Heinz right now,” said Vandalieu. “And even if we could, we can’t conquer and destroy the realm.”
Zran, as well as Nuaza and Borkus who were talking through the communication devices, were in agreement with Eleanora’s suggestion. It was unlikely that Sam or Zadiris would object, either.
“Why not?! Let’s slaughter them!” said Zran.
“Holy Son! They are not humans! They are mere piles of excrement in the shape of people! Living incarnations of evil!” Nuaza exclaimed.
Borkus roared. “Let’s butcher all of them, kid!”
Borkus and the other Undead Titans had learned of the Hartner Duchy’s betrayal of two hundred years ago. It would be an understatement to say that their previously favorable opinions of the duchy had plummeted into the ground. It seemed to have pierced the heavens* in the negative direction.
“I’m happy that you’re all willing to get angry on my behalf. But there are about as many good people as there are bad ones in the Hartner Duchy,” said Vandalieu. “Right, Braga?”
Taken aback, Eleanora and Zran looked at the Black Goblins and their partners that were with them.
“W-we have already abandoned our homeland,” said Marie.
“Please do not be concerned about it,” said another girl.
Vandalieu had explained to them that he would release them with enough money to live for several months as long as they kept his secrets, but they had decided to follow Braga and the other Black Goblins.
They felt grateful to Vandalieu from the bottom of their hearts, as he had cured them of their drug addiction and removed their slaves’ collars and tattoos with magic.
Of course, they had their own interests in mind, and perhaps they simply couldn’t believe that Vandalieu would really release them.
But they had chosen to come to Talosheim, and unlike those of the Mirg shield-nation’s expedition army, it was definitely possible to make peace with them.
As such, these girls who had been born in the Hartner Duchy were now citizens of Talosheim… Well, a third of the girls who had been working in the brothel were actually former refugees from the Sauron Duchy, but that wasn’t something to be concerned about.
Saying that everyone in the Hartner Duchy should be killed and that they were all incarnations of evil in front of these girls would cause them to feel uneasy.
“… My bad,” said Zran. “I lost my cool there.”
“Indeed, I’m sorry,” Eleanora said to the girls. “It is not like I was unaware that many of your circumstances are out of your control, either.”
“No, I couldn’t say anything, either. Thanks, King,” said Braga.
“It’s nothing,” said Vandalieu. “After all, I made a mistake after losing my cool just a short while earlier, too.” Seeing that everyone seemed to have cooled off for now, he stood up. “But if we simply keep allowing ourselves to be treated like this, we’ll be nothing more than prey to be eaten by beasts. We will have our flesh picked at, our organs gouged out and our bones sucked clean. We must take back what has been stolen from us and make them think it was an accident. As for Heinz…” He paused. “We’ll leave him be for now. We’ll gather strength and wait for an opportunity. Ah, and I’ll give up on the Hartner Duchy,” he added.
Everyone stared at Vandalieu blankly in response to his last sentence.
“I’ll give up on registering as an adventurer in the Hartner Duchy, working here and conducting trade with it in the future,” he said, elaborating.
That was how much the Hartner Duchy had rejected the Titans. If they were going to reject Vandalieu and Talosheim so strongly, then he would return the favor and abandon them.
“Ah, excluding the cultivation villages,” Vandalieu added.
Everyone other than the Goblins’ partners laughed, muttering, “I knew it.”
“By the way, Vandalieu-sama, what is this?” Eleanora asked. “Has this boulder always been here?”
“It’s… certain that this is no natural boulder,” said Zran.
They were looking at an enormous boulder that towered upwards behind Vandalieu. It was far larger than a tree in a forest.
But its shape was stranger than its size.
It was shaped like a huge skull, and its gaping mouth was large enough to fit a carriage inside.
The inside of that mouth seemed to be connected to something. Warm air was flowing out from inside, as if the skull was breathing.
“… At the very least, it’s something that’s harmless to us,” said Vandalieu.
『The levels of the Labyrinth Construction, Scream, Automatic Mana Recovery, Death-Attribute Charm and Surpass Limits skills have increased!』
A skill that produces effects through an emitted sound. Bats’ ability to see things through their cries and special sense of hearing (or at least, this is how it is commonly interpreted in Lambda, though it is actually sonar), the effects of Mandragoras’ cries and Banshees’ screams come from this skill.
Because Vandalieu uses this skill simultaneously alongside the Soul Break and Mental Encroachment skills, in addition to dealing damage to Mana and the sense of hearing in a wide radius, he is also able to perform an attack that causes its victims to die a most terrible death in insanity if they lose the mental battle with themselves.
It can also simply be used to make one’s voice travel further, without losing any clarity. This allows the user to perform a speech (without the need for a megaphone or microphone).