Death Mage 194 – Encroaching on the kingdom while humming a tune
Rodcorte, the god of reincarnation, let out a heavy sigh as he looked over the message from Alda, the god of law and fate.“So, the existence of the reincarnated individuals has been discovered far before I originally planned…” he muttered.Lambda was a world in Rodcorte’s circle of transmigration system that was failing to develop… or rather, the human population would not increase. Frustrated with this, Rodcorte had decided to send a hundred and one reincarnated individuals to Lambda.
With no notice or permission from Alda, the law of god and fate who was the chief god in Lambda.
Of course, he had been fully aware that the gods led by Alda opposed the use of knowledge and technology from foreign worlds. He had gone ahead with his plan anyway because he had been certain that once he executed his plan, things would work themselves out.
The reincarnated individuals who had been born on Earth and gained additional experience in Origin should have naturally utilized their knowledge and technology from foreign worlds in Lambda. They should have been able to display their abilities in all kinds of fields… Agriculture, fishing, cuisine, clothing, economics and more.
However, Rodcorte had predicted that Alda and the gods who served him would not notice for a while, as long as the reincarnated individuals were not unnaturally hasty and did not operate on a very large scale.
The reincarnated individuals should have been born to parents in Lambda as humans, Elves or Dwarves, and given Lambda-like names. Thus, Alda and his servants would have assumed that the inventions created by these reincarnated individuals had developed in Lambda independently, or even if they had noticed, they would have been unable to differentiate between knowledge and technologies from this world and those originating from other worlds.
Of course, the reincarnated individuals would draw attention to themselves if they developed technologies that would be unnatural for Lambda’s people to suddenly invent themselves, such as gunpowder and steam engines. But Rodcorte had envisioned all of this being long after the reincarnated individuals were brought to this world.
The methods for manufacturing gunpowder on Earth or in Origin would be ineffective if they were tried in Lambda. Thus, extensive trial-and-error would be required, and it was possible that the resulting gunpowder would have less explosive force than the average adventurer’s martial skill or spell.
On top of that, in order to create firearms and explosives, each part would need to be built from scratch. Thus, Rodcorte had determined that many of the reincarnated individuals would lose the desire to build these things.
As for steam engines, even if they were invented, it would take a considerable amount of funding and organization to make use of the invention. In order to make that a reality, it would take at least a few years after the reincarnated individuals reached adulthood.
And by then, the one hundred and one reincarnated individuals would have already planted their feet firmly in their places in society, becoming figures who could not easily be disposed of.
If Alda noticed them at this point, it would already be too late. Even if he were to give orders to his believers via Divine Messages, he was currently having problems with Popes that lacked the talent for receiving Divine Messages. If he was not careful, the Pope might release an order to indiscriminately slaughter any individuals deemed even a little unusual along with the reincarnated individuals
Rodcorte had taken action with the assumption that he could gain approval, little by little, after everything had already happened.
Of course, dangerous monsters and fanatical groups already existed in Lambda. But Rodcorte had already made the reincarnated individuals gain experience in Origin so that they would be able to cope with these threats.
With the use of their cheat-like abilities and talent for magic, they would all be able to demonstrate abilities on the level of Lambda’s B-class adventurers.
The exception was the reincarnated individual named Baker, who had been given the ‘Object Creation’ ability. But all Rodcorte needed to do was warn him to not create gunpowder and firearms right away.
And so, Rodcorte had predicted a positive outcome for himself. The population of Lambda would increase over a hundred years, and the evil races of Vida… At least races such as the Majin and Vampires, if not the Beast-people, Titans and Dark Elves that lived in urban areas as well, would be exterminated and decrease in number.
“But in reality, there have been great discrepancies in the timings of the reincarnated individuals’ deaths in Origin, partially due to an anomaly taking shape in the form of Vandalieu. And due to the betrayal of three of the reincarnated individuals I sent to Lambda in adult bodies to exterminate Vandalieu, Alda has taken notice of them, despite the fact that the majority of the reincarnated individuals have not yet been reborn in Lambda,” Rodcorte sighed.
At this rate, the world of Lambda, which belonged to his circle of transmigration system, would no longer be a world that acted as a source of power for him. In fact, it was very possible that Vandalieu’s empire would cause it to become a world ruled by Undead, Monsters and Vida’s races.
“More importantly, what are you going to do about Alda asking you to confirm things? These messages are coming every three days, you know?!” said Aran.
“It doesn’t seem that you can choose what to do while being so indecisive… Surely you’re not thinking of… selling out Asagi and the others, like how you abandoned Samejima and Tanaka – Sarua and Sieg – right?” asked Izumi.
“We don’t really care if you sell out Murakami and his group, though,” added Kouya.
“Should we go as messengers to explain the situation?” Aran suggested.
“No. You intend to escape and make contact with Vandalieu or Asagi the moment you arrive in Lambda, do you not?” said Rodcorte.
“… Tch, you knew.”
It was clear that Aran intended to try to do something outside Rodcorte’s Divine Realm, where not everything was in his sight – regardless of whether this was actually possible or not.
But Rodcorte looked down at Aran and murmured, “However, it is true that I must consider sending a messenger.”
In Earth’s terms, Rodcorte had clearly violated the stipulations of his professional duties, committed unjust acts and one-sidedly trespassed into Alda’s jurisdiction. Naturally, the excuse of “I did these with the good of the world in mind” would not work.
Before Rodcorte sent the reincarnated individuals to Lambda, it was indeed likely that Lambda would undergo a slow decline over a long period of time, but it was not as if the world was heading towards a foreseeable end.
Considering that, there had been no need for Rodcorte to send a hundred reincarnated individuals who were capable of creating the gunpowder and steam engines that Alda feared would harm this world.
Thus, the responses available to Rodcorte were either honestly confessing and apologizing, defiantly defending his actions or lying to trick Alda.
But there was not much point in lying… Rodcorte thought that it was possible to make Murakami’s group’s story match his own, as they were cooperating with him. But Asagi, Mao as well as Kaoru Gotouta, who had left Murakami’s group, did not trust Rodcorte, and he did not trust them either. They were likely to simply tell Alda’s servants everything they knew.
A young Pope with the qualities needed for receiving Divine Messages had been born on the Amid Empire side of the continent, and there were similar events unfolding in the Orbaume Kingdom as well. Now that Alda could influence the selection of his believers into certain positions, it would not be difficult for him to learn of the locations of the reincarnated individuals and ask them questions.
“I shall tell Alda the truth regarding what I have done and who Vandalieu is, and have them cooperate with me in defeating Vandalieu,” Rodcorte said.
And thus, he decided to tell the truth and be defiant. Firmly, with no apology.
“… Do you really think that’s going to work? Have you forgotten that angering the gods will put you at risk as well?” said Kouya.
“Endou Kouya, what you say is correct. However, you are wrong. No matter how much anger Alda and the other gods harbor, they cannot do anything to me. There is a reason for that,” said Rodcorte.
Rodcorte was in charge of reincarnation for Lambda’s humans and animals. If he were to be eliminated, reincarnation would no longer take place correctly in Lambda.
Even if Alda and the gods serving him were to try to manage reincarnation in Rodcorte’s place, they did not possess a single piece of the knowledge required to do so, as Rodcorte had operated Lambda’s reincarnation since immediately after the world was born.
The humans of Lambda would either be born without a soul, or as children with the hatred from their previous lives intact, while monsters and Vida’s races would flourish, as they were reincarnated through the Demon King’s and Vida’s circle of transmigration systems.
This was a scenario that Alda could not accept under any circumstances.
After explaining this, Rodcorte continued to give a summary of facts.
“Alda and his servants are afraid that I will cut Lambda away from my system. That is why they should not be able to punish me if I take a defiant stance. Unlike Vida, Ricklent and Zuruwarn, I am not a god of Lambda, which means that I can escape at any time. They have not forgotten this… Come to think of it, I suppose I should tell them that Ricklent and Zuruwarn are apparently allies of Vida. Once Alda realizes that gods that they believed were their allies are actually enemies, he should be more willing to cooperate with me.”
Izumi’s suspicious expression disappeared after hearing this explanation, and she gave a resigned sigh. “In other words, you’re concealing it. The fact that you’ve already become acknowledged as a god of Lambda so you can’t escape from this world anymore, no matter how much you try.”
Rodcorte’s plan would only have worked in the past, before he became known as a god of Lambda.
He could not escape from Lambda… and if he could not cut Lambda away from his circle of transmigration system, Alda would be able to punish Rodcorte as he would any other god.
Naturally, he would be able to use the Stakes of Law to seal away Rodcorte’s ability to think and act, leaving him able to do nothing other than maintain the circle of transmigration system. It would even be possible to have his familiar spirits and subordinate gods steal knowledge regarding reincarnation, then rob Rodcorte of his authority.
However, Alda did not know that Rodcorte had become a god of Lambda. Rodcorte’s existence was known mostly to the region inside the Boundary Mountain Range, which was controlled by Vida’s faction, where the eyes of Alda’s forces could not see.
As for Vida’s faction… Even Vandalieu should have been unaware of the consequences on Rodcorte that spreading the news that he was a detestable god would have on him, so there was no way that Alda could learn of it from him.
“It is helpful that you are quick to understand. But just in case, I will silence you,” said Rodcorte, forcibly binding his familiar spirits to silence them with his authority as their master.
Once he had done this, he headed for a place in the depths of his Divine Realm, a place that he rarely visited himself.
His familiar spirits watched him leave in silence, deliberately ignoring the faint presence that they could feel behind them, choosing to focus on their discontent towards Rodcorte instead.
They had taken anti-interrogation training in Origin; it was simple for them to divert their attention away and forget about small things.
“Even if I take a defiant stance, it is still likely that there will be consequences,” Rodcorte muttered to himself. “Regarding the one hundred reincarnated individuals, there is nothing I can do about them as they are set to be reincarnated in Lambda regardless of my actions, but… I suppose that it is reasonable for me to keep watch over them to ensure that they do not create gunpowder or steam engines, and swear that I will never do such a thing again.”
A sworn promise from one god to another was equivalent to a binding force, like a curse. Rodcorte was far above Alda in stature as a god, but this was something that fell into the authority of Alda, the god of law and fate. It could not be easily avoided.
But Rodcorte did not mind this. Leaving Vandalieu alone would bring risk upon himself; the situation was becoming worse and heading in that direction.
Rodcorte had already tried to abandon Lambda once; whether the world developed or not was a very small problem to him now.
“The problem is whether he will demand for me to hand these over… but even Alda would likely hesitate to do that,” Rodcorte murmured.
The problem for Rodcorte now was whether he could keep the object that was sealed away here – the object that could become the key to defeating Vandalieu – at hand.
The Demon King Guduranis’s soul, which had been torn into five pieces – his reason, emotion, instinct, memory and power.
After the Demon King was defeated by Bellwood and two other champions, it was none other than Alda who had forced this upon Rodcorte.
At the time, Rodcorte had wanted to refuse, as it was nothing but a dangerous object. But Alda had said to him, “If the Demon King were to be resurrected, he would not stop at this world… he might extend his invasion to other worlds, worlds whose circles of transmigration you rule over.” Having been told this, Rodcorte had been left with no choice but to cooperate.
The soul had remained in the depths of Rodcorte’s Divine Realm for over a hundred thousand years, with so many seals that they could be considered excessive, and nobody other than Rodcorte could approach it.
Rodcorte had been thinking that it could be used as a trump card against Vandalieu. Of course, he would not do something like resurrect Guduranis and try to bargain with him to make him defeat Vandalieu… Rodcorte could not put himself at risk of having his own soul destroyed by a resurrected Guduranis.
No matter how high his stature was as a god, Rodcorte was nothing more than the god of reincarnation. He was not skilled at combat. To Guduranis, Rodcorte would be nothing more than a slow-moving dummy with a large frame.
“If I could place the memories and power of Guduranis, which do not contain his will, inside reincarnated individuals that are compatible… But they are likely to be compatible with Murakami, Anderson or Akira. Using Vandalieu as reference, someone with similar Mana properties to those of Guduranis should be able to use them,” Rodcorte muttered to himself.
“In other words, someone with death-attribute Mana or someone who actually possessed the power to oppose and control death-attribute Mana would be able to utilize the fragments of the Demon King’s soul. The reason, emotion and instinct were dangerous, but it should be possible to use Guduranis’s memories and power, which did not contain his will, just like the fragments of his body.
However, none of the three members of Murakami’s group had either of these. If he were to give the fragments to any of them, they would likely rampage out of control very quickly.
Rodcorte had granted ‘Mage Masher’ Asagi the power to erase Mana with an attribute, but… it was unlikely to work. He would resist for longer than Murakami, but the fragments would certainly rampage out of control in the end.
“I suppose I shall give this to Murakami’s group instead. It is far inferior to the Demon King’s soul, but… there is no use in giving them a power that they cannot wield.”
Rodcorte turned his gaze away from the fragments of the Demon King’s soul and looked instead towards some distorted orbs. They were objects that looked as if the fragments of broken orbs had been forcibly gathered and joined together again.
Two of them, one large and one small, floated in front of Rodcorte.
“Some fragments of their previous owners’ souls may still be left inside them, but given Murakami’s strong will, he should be able to suppress them. And in the end, it is his decision as to whether or not to use them.”
And with that, Rodcorte took the Orbs and returned to the center of his Divine Realm in order to approve a reply to Alda.
Ricklent, the genie of time and magic, was in the form of an old man, a young man and a boy, who sat in a temporarily-created Divine Realm and ‘observed’ his believers.
They were very odd; the old man was frowning with a complicated expression, while the young man was smiling bitterly and the boy had a joyful smile on his face.
Suddenly, Zuruwarn, the god of space and creation, who took the form of a four-headed lion, appeared.
“How strange are the actions of your believers?” Zuruwarn asked.
Ricklent grimaced. “There is nothing strange about them. My believers are doing well in listening to my words,” he replied.
“Then have they understood our instructions to place distance between the Church of Alda and cooperate with Vida’s races and Vida’s true believers?”
Naturally, Ricklent and Zuruwarn were aware that the gods of Alda’s forces had made active movements, trying to create hastily-made heroes. They were also aware that this was all to defeat Vida’s faction, which was recovering strength under Vandalieu’s lead.
That was why they had made moves of their own to press their own believers to separate themselves from the Church of Alda and join Vida’s faction.
There were few believers who could receive their Divine Messages, but many of those who could were in positions to lead other believers, so this should not be an impossible task.
“I gave instructions to over ten individuals excluding Legion, and I have been observing the movements of the followers who received the Divine Message after that, but… if I were to put their response into words, it would be something like, ‘We cannot respond immediately. We shall consider our options,’” said Ricklent.
“… Ricklent, is that not a rather unfavorable response?” said Zuruwarn.
“You are right, my brother.”
Those who had received Ricklent’s Divine Message had reacted with varying degrees of surprise, and then decided to keep quiet while scrutinizing the meaning of the Divine Message, gathering information and analyzing the situation.
It was uncertain as to whether the Divine Message they received was correct… Whether the god who had sent it to them was right, and whether there was value in obeying it.
Ricklent felt tremendous love and pride for his believers who doubted even the words of gods.
“I do not preach what is good, nor do I indicate what is evil. I am a great god who rules over time and magic. Thus, those who worship me are all investigators and students,” he said. “To them, I am a guide and a leader, and at the same time, I am a subject of their research. It is necessary for them to see things this way. It is only by observing the actions of their research subject, by doubting and by thoroughly examining everything until they are satisfied, that humans can reach gods.”
“You seem so happy again… Don’t you enjoy suffering a little too much?” said Zuruwarn, his tone no longer sounding like the speech of a god. “Well, your believers are mostly researchers or scholars of the Mages’ Guild, or secluded philosophers, so they might not be of any help even if they do join Vida’s believers, though.”
“Then how are your beloved followers?” Ricklent asked in turn.
“Do you wish to know? Then you should ask them yourself. I have sent a Divine Message to all of my followers who seem as if they can receive them. I have not looked at them since, so I do not know!” Zuruwarn replied proudly.
This time, it was Ricklent’s turn to sigh as Zuruwarn’s four heads laughed.
“… So, you simply sent the Divine Message and then left them be,” said Ricklent.
“If humans were pitiful creatures that would believe that gods would look after them in every aspect of their existence, they would not go out of their way to worship us in the first place. My words are nothing more than opinions for them to refer to,” said Zuruwarn. “How they act after hearing them is up to each individual. If I have nothing to do, then I will do my best to watch them, but they must bear the responsibility for their own choices. Humans are not puppets, after all.”
Zuruwarn had always been a trickster… even more indifferent to the concepts of good and evil than Ricklent, and he believed that it was his duty to destroy past preconceptions and traditions to bring about chaos. He maintained a considerable distance between himself and his believers. It was not that he did not love them, but he knew that due to his nature, he would disrupt the daily lives of humans too much if he were too close to them.
“Are we not the same in this regard? As our believers cannot ever become the majority, even if they do not join Vida’s faction soon, it is unlikely to affect the masses, but… leaving aside the issue of our believers, what of Rodcorte’s movements?” asked Ricklent.
“I know. It seems that he is attempting to tell Alda everything in order to establish a cooperative relationship,” said Zuruwarn. “He intends to tell him that we are Vida’s allies, too.”
Zuruwarn had recently been testing whether he could peer into Rodcorte’s Divine Realm by twisting space. He had begun these tests with the assumption that they would fail. Indeed, he had been unable to completely conceal his presence and was detected by Rodcorte’s familiar spirits as a result.
However, Rodcorte seemed to be unpopular even among his own familiar spirits; they had allowed Zuruwarn to observe events with no request from Zuruwarn to do so.
Still, Rodcorte would likely have noticed Zuruwarn if he paid attention to his surroundings, but… he was a god who had existed since long before the world of Lambda was born, while being the only god that did not belong to any world. It would have been unreasonable to expect him to constantly pay attention to his surroundings.
“So, the information that he is hiding… The fact that he has become a god of Lambda, shall we tell Alda?” Ricklent suggested.
“That is unclear,” said Zuruwarn. “It is true that we are allies of Vida, so we cannot be sure that Alda will believe what we have to say… and even if we do tell him, it is difficult to imagine that Alda currently possesses the spare power necessary to punish Rodcorte.”
“Indeed… He has used a significant amount of power in creating that Dungeon, too. Knowing Alda, he will likely join forces with Rodcorte to defeat Vandalieu and his allies, then punish Rodcorte afterwards. With that being the case, there is no point in telling Alda the truth.”
From Ricklent and Zuruwarn’s perspective, Alda could only be seen as having lost his mind, but they did believe that he was prioritizing the continuation of Lambda in his own way. That was why he was focusing his power into defeating Vandalieu, and not trying to take Rodcorte’s authority.
… To him, Vandalieu appeared to threaten greater harm to the world than Rodcorte.
“Then let us go to the Dark Continent for now. You will not be able to peer into Rodcorte’s Divine Realm if we enter the barrier around the Boundary Mountain Range, after all,” said Ricklent.
“It cannot be helped,” said Zuruwarn. “However, simply running away is irritating to me, so I shall play a little trick. After that, I shall express my desire to bestow a divine protection upon Vandalieu as a parting gift.”
《The Demon King’s fins, venom glands, stomach, bones, skeleton, skin, treasure orb, Demon Eyes, nerves, membranes and wings have merged!》
《The Demon King’s skeleton has joined the already-merged skeleton!》
《The Levels of the Thread Refining, Increased Mana Recovery Rate, Mana Control, Super High-speed Thought Processing, Armor Technique, Shield Technique and Demon King Skills have increased!》
《You have acquired the Demon King’s Demon Eyes Skill!》
《Venom Secretion (Claws, Fangs, Tongue) has awakened into Deadly Venom Secretion (Claws, Fangs, Tongue), and Superhuman Strength has awakened into Monstrous Strength!》
January came, bringing the new year with it. A row of covered wagons traveled through the cold winter air, away from the highway.
Around the middle of the row, the coachman of one of the wagons and the men guarding the convoy were complaining about the problems of the previous year.
“We got a big hunt this time. This will be more than enough to last all the way until next year’s winter.”
“The year before was pretty terrible because of the heroes, after all. There were rumors that others in our business were being attacked and massacred by some strange people, too.”
“It’s my first time hearing this rumor. What kind of ‘strange people’ are you talking about?”
“According to the rumors, some guys had their hideout raided by a bunch of completely nude people and had all their stuff taken.”
“… Huh?! What the hell is that? They were stark naked? Nobody would have any trouble dealing with people like that. Or are you telling me these strange people were all sexy ladies who killed them while they were all ogling?”
“I mean, I didn’t see them myself, but there were apparently both men and women. According to the rumors, they were all masters of magic, and the acquaintance of my acquaintance that I heard the story from was fortunate enough to escape, but the others were apparently slaughtered.”
“… Then isn’t it likely that either they were monsters camouflaged as humans, or that your acquaintance’s acquaintance is full of shit?”
“But apparently there really are groups of bandits that were wiped out like that. There are some differences in the descriptions of the attackers, like some saying they were fully naked while others say they were wearing only rags. I wouldn’t want to be targeted by people like that. It was enough that we were attacked by monsters last year and had to use our newly-acquired stock as bait to get away.”
Despite the topic of conversation, the men’s voices were not grim; they seemed to be talking loosely because they knew that their pockets would become significantly fuller soon.
Meanwhile, there was only a sense of emptiness among the goods inside the carriages… the slaves.
“Don’t you worry; you lot are precious goods to us. We’ll keep you fed until a slave trader buys you,” one of the men told them with a cackle.
These men were criminals who made a living by gathering slaves through illegal means. Tricking women and children living in slums by telling them that there was work for them and then kidnapping them was among the tamer methods they used; they sometimes attacked villages and then took the supplies and surviving villagers.
Every person inside the wagons was a slave who had been acquired through illegal means, except for one.
The future of illegally-traded slaves was dark in most cases. Most of their buyers were managers of mines or plantations that needed a source of disposable labor, or mages that wanted to conduct illegal human experiments, or those who felt desires that could not be made public and wanted an outlet to live out those desires.
Slaves that were traded legally still at least had some hope as long as they were not sent to a mine, and if they were lucky, they could be purchased and released by kind souls.
But illegally-traded slaves had no such hope, nor did they have any rights. The only way they could be released was through death.
The slaves in the wagons likely either knew this, or at least had a strong hunch that this was the case… Most of them were children, but there was not even a glimpse of life in their eyes.
But the sound of someone quietly humming was coming from inside one of the wagons.
Vandalieu, wearing a rag as an eyepatch to conceal one of his odd-colored eyes, had slipped in among the slaves, and he was humming. Even with one eye concealed, his white hair and wax-like skin should have been conspicuous, but he had suppressed his presence immensely with the Dark King Magic spell ‘Blind Spot.’ Naturally, the men outside and even the slaves sitting next to and opposite him hadn’t noticed an extra slave enter the wagon, nor did they take any notice of his humming despite the fact that they could certainly hear it.
In the time leading up to the new year, Vandalieu had made various preparations, such as acquiring the fragments under the protection of the Pure-breed Vampires slumbering in Vida’s Resting Grounds and continuing to improve the structure of Talosheim using his Demon King Familiars. But what was he doing in a place like this?
This was a part of his preparatory work to begin his activity in the Orbaume Kingdom.
As for why his activity was needed in the Orbaume Kingdom, it had something to do with the fact that Alda’s forces had begun acting in very visible ways.
Their stance of hostility against Vida’s faction had been strengthened, and if the plans of Alda’s forces continued as they were now, radical events would inevitably begin to take place in the Orbaume Kingdom.
For instance, people might falsely claim that Vida, who resided inside the Boundary Mountain Range, was a false goddess, an evil deity who misled people. Or perhaps people would begin to persecute those who could be guided by Vandalieu, such as Vida’s races who originated from monsters, and attack their settlements.
Unfortunately, Familiar Spirit Descent could also be used by believers of evil gods, and third parties could not tell whether those who claimed to have received a Divine Message really had received one or whether they were just talking nonsense.
If trusted politicians and famous figures inside the Orbaume Kingdom were to make such claims, wouldn’t people believe them regardless of what Vida’s believers said?
The effect would be particularly large if Heinz and those around him were the ones making those claims, Vandalieu thought.
The Heinz who had appeared in Vandalieu’s dreams late last summer had seemed to be in the peaceful faction, but Vandalieu couldn’t trust him. He believed it was possible that Heinz would come out of Alda’s trial that he was currently facing as a puppet incapable of saying anything other than, “As my master wills.”
Vandalieu wanted to try attacking the Dungeon that was apparently a trial created by Alda… He wanted to test if he would be able to wipe out Heinz and his companions along with the whole Dungeon by firing Hollow Cannon at it repeatedly from the outside. But this idea had been rejected after discussion, with the reason that it would be dangerous as the gods of Alda’s forces would make every possible desperate effort to stop him.
If it was just a single god descending upon the world, one about as powerful as Gyubarzo, Vandalieu was confident that he would emerge victorious. However, if it was multiple gods descending, and they were to coordinate their efforts without letting down their guard, Vandalieu was less sure that he would be able to win.
He might be able to defeat one or two gods, but three or more would be difficult. Even if he brought his companions and fought an all-out war, if the enemy gods and heroic spirits descended one after another with the resolve to sacrifice themselves to defeat Vandalieu, the end result would be the same.
In any case, there were more enemies than just Heinz. The hasty hero-making that Alda’s forces had started last year was happening in the Orbaume Kingdom as well. There were fewer of them there than the Amid Empire, as there were fewer believers of Alda to begin with, but it seemed that each of them was individually receiving more attention as a result.
They weren’t as famous as Heinz, but if anything were to happen to him, one of these hastily-made heroes could become a new leader.
Of course, the believers of Vida in the Orbaume Kingdom would likely oppose them, and many believers of Alda in the nation were supposed to belong to the peaceful faction that tolerated Vida’s races, but… it was the opinion of all of Talosheim’s key figures, including Vandalieu, that they could not be relied upon.
In the past, Princess Levia and a number of other Titans had fled from Talosheim to the Hartner Duchy. The newly-appointed head of the Hartner family at the time had charged Princess Levia with false crimes and executed her, then sent the remaining Titans, including Borkus’s daughter Gopher, to a slave mine where they performed slave labor for two hundred years.
Though the Sauron family had been supposed to be believers of Vida, after the second generation, they had isolated the Scylla race and confined them to their own territory.
And then there was Raymond and Rick, the Paris brothers who had murdered many Scylla, including Orbia, in order to make use of the Scylla race for their own objectives despite being believers of Vida themselves.
These were all real examples of why people could not be trusted just because they were believers of Vida. Unfortunately, their connection to Vida had been so weak that it was wrong to call them believers. That was why they had never received any Divine Messages.
And even if the dukes of the other ten duchies were virtuous leaders, that did not necessarily mean that they would distance themselves from Alda’s forces and be tolerant of Vida’s races.
There would surely be some who chose to obey the wishes of the majority of the population under their rule and oppress the members of Vida’s races that were in the minority.
It was possible that the reincarnated individuals like Murakami and Asagi, or the Pure-breed Vampire Birkyne who worshipped an evil god, would directly or indirectly begin a propaganda campaign against Vida. This would be a truly unpleasant thing to see happen.
Birkyne was particularly capable of taking large-scale actions like this, as he controlled numerous criminal organizations.
Thus, Vandalieu and his allies had decided to leave the Boundary Mountain Range to deal with these potential problems.
They needed to secure an intelligence base to gather information, build up their influence by making allies out of Vida’s believers and members of Vida’s races, acquire political and societal power in the Orbaume Kingdom, and widely preach their own beliefs to the people.
During this process, if Murakami’s group were successfully lured out to target Vandalieu now that he was outside the Boundary Mountain Range, he would kill them, then grab a hold of Birkyne’s tail and dispose of him as well. Murakami’s group might have changed their way of thinking now that some time had passed since their reincarnation, and if this was the case, Vandalieu intended to release them after making them swear (brainwashing them) to not get involved with Alda’s forces.
In order to do these things, I need to first slip into… take over, a criminal organization, don’t I?
Vandalieu and his allies had decided to take over an existing criminal organization, as it would be too much work to gather information from scratch. The fact that Vandalieu was currently among these slaves was one part of that.
In any case, things were going well… or at least, they had been, up until now.
A particularly large man with a scar on his face walked over, looking angry.
“Oi, you lot! When did your lips become so loose?! There’s a limit to how careless you can be!” he shouted at the other men.
The men stood up straight and their faces stiffened with fear.
“G-Girabat-san, w-we’re sorry!” one of them squeaked.
“Have you been drinking? If you mess up, I’ll sell you lot to the mines as well –” The man named Girabat stopped his reprimanding mid-sentence, frowning. “What is that weird noise?!” he demanded, looking around and then peering underneath the canopy of one of the wagons.
He had noticed Vandalieu’s humming.
Girabat was a failed mercenary, and due to various sorrowful events in his life, he possessed a Level 3 Mental Resistance Skill.
I’ve failed this practice… It seems that loosening the effects of the Mental Encroachment Skill reduces its power, too. It’s pretty difficult to use it in a way that it won’t have any lasting effects, Vandalieu thought to himself with a sigh as he stopped humming.
Perhaps as a reactionary effect from having resisted the Mental Encroachment Skill, Girabat seemed to become even more infuriated as he peered into the wagon, looking for the source of the humming.
At the worst moment possible, one of the slaves, a very young girl, began having a severe coughing fit. Girabat glared at her with bloodshot eyes.
“It was you…!” he growled.
“P-please, wait! My sister’s body is frail, and…!” began a young boy who appeared to be the girl’s older brother.
“Her body is frail?! I can’t sell her then, can I! She can’t even be used as a whore at that age and she wouldn’t last long in a mine, so it’d be killing two birds with one stone if I put her out of her misery so I can enjoy some peace and quiet!” Girabat shouted, climbing into the carriage and reaching for the girl.
Despite having his hands bound by wooden shackles, the older brother stood in Girabat’s way, but he was easily thrust aside.
“You don’t have time to be worrying about your little sister!” Girabat shouted at the boy as he lifted the little girl into the air by her collar. “You better pray hard that you don’t get sent to a mine –”
Suddenly, Girabat stopped mid-sentence and let out a strange noise.
Thin, black, slippery tubes had entered both of his ears.
Frozen in astonishment, the boy and the other slaves ran their eyes along the tubes to see that they were connected to Vandalieu’s tongue.
“… I suppose just the nerves and sub-brain will do for now,” Vandalieu said, speaking surprisingly clearly despite the fact that his tongue had extended and transformed into the Demon King’s proboscises from halfway down.
The tubes swelled, and something began pouring into Girabat.
“Stop… it…” Girabat begged desperately, with cold sweat oozing from every pore in his trembling body, tears and saliva dripping from his face. But in the next instant, he became expressionless and began speaking quietly and clearly. “Testing, testing, my name is Girabat, err, I’m Girabat, y’know? I suppose that’s close enough?”
As Vandalieu’s proboscises were removed from his ears, Girabat wiped the small amount of red-grey liquid dripping from them with a sleeve and gently put the little girl back down into her seat.
“Girabat-san! What’s the matter?!” one of the men outside shouted.
“It’s nothing! Hurry up and get back to work!” Girabat shouted back in a slightly flat-toned voice, and then he climbed back out of the carriage.
“W-what was that…?” the boy murmured, shielding his dazed sister from Vandalieu.
“W-who on earth… No, when the hell did you get in here?” asked another dumbfounded slave.
“I’m sorry. I swear to you that I mean no harm to any of you, so please stay quiet and patient for the next short while. Actually, that’s probably an unreasonable and impossible request, so please go to sleep,” Vandalieu said to them.
And in the next instant, the wagon was filled with a sweet scent… a sleeping drug that he had produced with Deadly Poison Secretion (Claws, Fangs, Tongue) and vaporized. The slaves all fell into a deep slumber.
Vandalieu began murmuring to himself.
“With this, I can concentrate on controlling Girabat… my infested Demon King Familiar. It would be simple if I just needed to move him around, but to actually take his place seems like it would be difficult to do in a short period of time. Mostly because of my acting ability…”