After a week of preparation, the participating members for dealing with the Noble Orc empire to the south beyond the marshlands were announced.
First was Vandalieu, along with the Ghosts that would help him with Dead Spirit Magic, and everyone he was equipping using Plant Binding Technique and Insect Binding Technique.
The Black Fang Knights’ Order led by Gorba, composed of the Orcuses who could mount monsters, a total of ten members and ten mounts.
The ‘Sword King’ Borkus, who had increased his Rank and become a Zombie Epic Hero.
Zadiris, Vigaro and Basdia, who had also succeeded in increasing their Ranks.
Bone Man, as well as Eleanora who had succeeded in becoming Rank 10.
It wasn’t certain that this would become a war, so there hadn’t been any particular departure ceremony… because it would be problematic if everyone got too excited and then charged in to attack.
“Come to think of it, this is the first time we’re invading another nation head-on! We’ve only ever been invaded, and we didn’t invade the Hartner Duchy from the front!” said Borkus, speaking dangerous words even without such a departure ceremony.
“We are not invading them, Borkus. We will see the situation first and talk with them,” said Princess Levia, scolding him.
Things would likely have turned out badly if there had been a ceremony.
“We’ll be working hard and getting stronger while His-Majesty-kun and everyone else is away, so help us out next time,” said Jeena.
“I don’t think there will be a next time, though,” said Zandia.
It seemed that the two of them intended to continue leveling even without Zadiris and Borkus. Zandia had regained much of the power that she had possessed while alive, but Jeena had apparently not been able to do so.
“Why must I join you?! I will die if I enter a B-class Dungeon!” shouted a pale-faced Luciliano, who was being held by Jeena by the scruff of his neck like a kitten.
“Umm, so that you can take responsibility for peeking? I’m not married yet, you know?” Jeena said.
“That was due to my insuppressible scientific interest, and are you not the one who ran out wearing only a single surgery gown, holding Master in one hand?!”
It seemed that Luciliano, who had suffered multiple broken ribs during that incident, was not satisfied with this reasoning.
“With Zadiris-san gone, we lack mages in our party,” Zandia continued. “We tried inviting Kachia-san, but when we mentioned B-class Dungeons, she said, ‘spare me, I’ll die.’”
“I’m telling you that I would die as well, am I not?!”
“Eh, aren’t you a former C-class adventurer, Luciliano-san? You’ll do better than Kachia-san, since she is a former D-class adventurer.”
“She is clearly stronger than I am now! Though I would indeed ‘do better’ than her!”
For a former C-class adventurer, especially one that was not well-suited to fighting like Luciliano, stepping into a B-class Dungeon was suicidal. It would be possible for him to return alive if he were to join an adventurer party made of B-class or A-class adventurers with previous experience of clearing B-class Dungeons, providing support and carrying luggage while staying out of the firing line as much as possible.
However, Jeena and Zandia still hadn’t regained the strength they had possessed when they were alive. Rita and Saria would join them as well, but Luciliano still seemed anxious.
“The shallow floors of B-class Dungeons are no different in difficulty from C-class Dungeons, so it’s fine. But you can’t go to the deeper floors until Luciliano gets used to it,” said Vandalieu.
“Okay,” said Jeena.
“No, Master, the problem at hand is that I would rather perform research than leveling –”
“You can watch Jeena and Zandia fight from close-up, so it’s fine, isn’t it?”
“Muh… If I consider it to be a place where I can gather precious data, then I suppose a little field work once in a while is not so bad.”
And so, Luciliano was persuaded.
“Look, Basdia. It’s our new rival,” said Vigaro, his two pairs of arms crossed as he looked at Jeena and Zandia. He had become a Rank 9 Ghoul Arch-tyrant with a third eye appearing on his forehead.
“I’m not quite sure you can call her your rival, Vigaro, but she’s definitely a rival for me,” said Basdia, who had become a Ghoul Amazoness Geronimo, as she glared at Jeena and Zandia as well.
“Why? Are you saying that my muscles are inferior to those biceps brachii, those ripped abdominal muscles and those powerful latissimus dorsi and trapezius muscles?” said Vigaro.
It seemed that Vigaro’s declaration was ignoring the sex of his rival.
He had gained a king-like personality after his Rank increased, but even after gaining such a robust, impressive body, it seemed that he viewed Jeena as a threat… he was inferior in volume, after all.
“I don’t think you are inferior, but if you’re going to ask why I said that, it’s because she’s a female warrior. If one had to say, it’s more reasonable to consider her my rival,” said Basdia.
Basdia’s appearance hadn’t changed since her Rank increased other than the patterns on her skin changing a little, but the air around her was impressive. It wasn’t as impressive as Vigaro’s, but it was worthy of the ‘Geronimo’ (Elder) race title that she had gained.
Her body had sturdy, powerful muscles that were not at all inferior to Jeena’s, while also possessing abundant feminine curves and appeal.
She would not be inferior to Jeena even if they were to both take side-chest and most-muscular poses.
“That’s true. Don’t lose to them,” said Vigaro.
“Of course. The father of Jadal’s younger brother or sister is going to be Van, after all.”
Vigaro and Basdia nodded together like comrades who respected one another. Though the two of them had likely forgotten, they were father and daughter. Basdia had been born during a time when children were raised by the entire village, so she had a weak awareness of her father, unlike the mother who had given birth to her.
Perhaps because of this, Vigaro and Basdia acknowledged each other with a relationship that was not that of a father and daughter, but one between a leader of warriors and a young warrior, and it seemed that they had no thoughts of changing this.
Also, though this was only natural, they did not consider Jeena and Zandia as rivals, but rather Jeena herself.
“Mother is doing her best to not lose to Zandia, too,” Basdia said.
“Zadiris, you’ve known Vandalieu for a long time and you’ve even performed artificial respiration on him, so you won’t lose to Zandia. I guarantee it,” said Vigaro.
“I do not view Zandia as a rival, how many times must I tell you!” Zadiris said indignantly.
Vigaro and Basdia believed that Zandia was Zadiris’s rival.
“It is true that her name is similar to mine! I also admit that my figure is young! I will not deny that Zandia has the advantage in magic as well, as she possesses an affinity for many attributes. However, there is no need for me to compete with her. Leaving aside our skill in magic… there is no future for us.” Zadiris had started speaking with vigor, but towards the end, her face fell.
As a Ghoul, she had stopped aging physically from the time she became pregnant with her first child, and Zandia was a Zombie, so their futures were shrouded in darkness in terms of physical development.
“No, umm, we might change if our Ranks increase, you know?” said Zandia herself. “As a Ghoul, I don’t know how you’ll look after increasing your Rank further than that, but it’s enough to make you grow extra eyes and arms, so won’t you develop physically as well? And once my Rank increases, my chest will go boing-boing –”
“I see, so there is a possibility through increasing our Ranks! Oh, Zandia, I must thank you. You are a true friend!” Zadiris exclaimed.
“I-I’m glad I made you happy.”
Zadiris was overjoyed, but she had been accompanying Zandia and the others in their leveling as well and become a Rank 9 Ghoul High Wizard, so her next Rank increase was likely far-off for now.
“In any case, this is the nation that exiled Bugogan. I’m sure Noble Orcs as strong as Bugogan aren’t unusual there. If they’re going to stand in our way, let’s hunt them down one by one,” said Vigaro.
“We’ve become stronger as well. Kachia and the others were saying, ‘Kill them if they don’t listen,’ too,” said Basdia.
Everyone had become unbelievably strong compared to when they fought the pack of Orcs led by the Noble Orc Bugogan about six years ago. Vigaro, Zadiris and Basdia as they were now would be able to defeat the Bugogan of back then with ease.
Meanwhile, away from Zadiris and the others, Vandalieu was saying farewell to everyone who was reluctant to part with him for this short while.
“Vandalieu, do you have a handkerchief? After drinking blood, you have to wipe your mouth with a handkerchief, not your sleeve. Also, don’t eat organs raw just because you have the Status Effect Resistance skill. Make sure to be careful to not leave your body behind and get up with just your spirit form when you’re half-asleep,” said Darcia.
“Yes, Mom. By the way, I’m intending to come back every few days,” Vandalieu said.
“Danna-sama, though it is arrogant of me to say this, we shall protect Darcia-sama in your absence,” said Bellmond.
Tarea was weeping a little. “We will be separate for a while, won’t we? I am very reluctant about this.”
“Fuh, I have to save up my fill of Bocchan while I can,” said Rita.
“When you run out, you feel like you can’t calm down, don’t you?” said Saria.
“Ah, Bocchan, may I join in with my daughters?” said Sam.
“Van, you have to make sure you come back safely,” said Pauvina.
“Van-kun, even if you meet someone with a lot of legs over there, you can’t forget about me! My legs have suction cups!” said Privel.
“Calm… down,” groaned Rapiéçage.
“Bold~” said Yamata.
“Everyone, we can make a round trip with teleportation with the Undead… our lord, so he could even come back every day, you know? We explained this before, didn’t we?” said Legion, but it seemed that the fired-up atmosphere of farewell wouldn’t really change.
“See you later, Gorba. We’ll keep watch here. If the reincarnated individuals come here, we’ll defeat them all,” said Braga.
“I’m here, too,” said Zemedo. “Talosheim has no flaws.”
“Braga, Zemedo, Memediga, take care of my family,” said Gorba.
“Leave it to us!” said Memediga.
Gorba said his farewells to the Black Goblin Braga and the Anubises Zemedo and Memediga, who had been raised as if they were siblings ever since they were born.
“While you remain behind, I will serve Vandalieu-sama well, so rest assured. While you remain behind,” said Eleanora.
“Well, that is reassuring. I can be at ease knowing that my former superior will be with him. You have become freer now that you do not have any subordinates,” said Isla.
The two of them smiled as they exchanged a handshake. Smiles that looked as if they had been pasted onto their faces, unsmiling eyes, audible creaking sounds… it was not a heartwarming scene.
“Is this what is called a relationship of formidable enemies that are friends?” said Vandalieu.
“Ooohn?” Knochen, who had taken the form of a fort, gave a curious cry.
There were many heavyweight members, including the Black Fang Knights’ Order, so Vandalieu couldn’t carry them even if he were to fly by transforming his spirit form into that of a strange bird. And more importantly, the exact location of the Noble Orc empire wasn’t known, so the Knochen fort would act as their base of operations for now.
The Lizardmen and Noble Orcs had not interacted for many years, so nobody knew the exact location of the Noble Orc empire.
It was probably possible to find it within a few days if Vandalieu searched from the skies by using Lemures, which were flying, transparent, skull-shaped familiars, and Undead insects. In the southern region of the continent, which was sandwiched by the Boundary Mountain Range to the east and west, an empire of three-meter-tall Noble Orcs would stand out.
However, if this scouting was detected, it might immediately be taken as an act of hostility.
Monsters with sharp senses could detect Lemures and Undead insects. It was certainly possible that the Noble Orcs, who had maintained an empire in a continent rampant with such monsters for over a hundred thousand years, would be able to sense them.
It was uncertain as to what kinds of monsters would be inhabiting the areas around the Noble Orc empire, but it was possible that there were monsters that could make their bodies transparent. If there were, then it would be only natural for the Noble Orcs to have ways to keep those monsters from invading their territory.
It would be terrible if the relationship with the Orcs turned volatile and started a war, only to later realize that they were good Orcs all along.
That was why the plan was for Vandalieu and the others to go out to scout while the Dark Night Knights’ Order would remain in the Knochen fort to stay alert for monster invasions.
“But your amateur swordsmanship that relies on the Orichalcum weapon is worrying,” said Isla. “Have you trained properly, Eleanora-ojouchan?”
“It’s alright, I’ve done my leveling properly so that I won’t have to worry Isla-obasan, whose prided sword was blocked and her head cut off by amateur swordsmanship,” said Eleanora.
The insuppressible bloodthirst of the two spread around their surroundings. Vandalieu thought that at this point, it might be best for them to simply brawl and then start with a refreshed relationship, but for some reason, they were both maintaining a handshake and trying to crush each other’s hands while conducting psychological warfare.
Both of them had the Superhuman Strength skill, which gave them a grip powerful enough to crush the skulls of beasts, but they also both possessed the Rapid Regeneration skill, so even if one of their hands were completely crushed, it would recover several hours later.
But they knew that the dominant hand would become unusable for several hours, so they seemed to be avoiding this.
“Isla-dono, please take care of my Leo. I would be most pleased if you could polish his scales every once in a while. However, he will bite and tear your hand if you put it in his mouth, so please be careful,” said Bone Man, who would be leaving his mount Leo behind as it wasn’t well-suited for moving other than in marshlands and other waterside areas.
But it seemed that his words didn’t reach Isla, who was busy with her battle against Eleanora.
Vandalieu spoke up to stop the quarreling. “No magic, no martial skills, no flying. The first to down the other wins. Fight.”
Eleanora and Isla immediately began grappling each other in earnest with both arms. They began attempting to trip each other with their legs to make the other lose their balance.
A judo-like battle between two beautiful women began, with enough power in their moves to beat even a dinosaur to death, never mind a bear.
“Jyuuh? My lord, would you not normally stop them?” asked Bone Man.
“Once things are settled, I think both of them will calm down for a while,” said Vandalieu.
Knochen seemed to be a little troubled due to having become the stage for this battle, but the bones that he was made of were stronger than stone, so there wouldn’t be any problems.
Vandalieu and the others watched the fight between the two unfold for a while, but then they suddenly smelled the scent of blood on the wind.
“I can smell a little blood,” said Vandalieu.
“Perhaps a skirmish between monsters or Goblins eating each other,” said Bone Man.
Very few monsters entered the marshlands, as the environment was very different, but it wasn’t unusual for monsters living near each other to kill each other.
Roars and dying screams on such occasions reached the Knochen fort on a daily basis. Each time this happened, Knochen’s Skeletons or the Vampire Zombies of the Dark Night Knights’ Order would go to investigate, but only found monsters unrelated to the empire hunting, so almost no information had been gained.
Vandalieu had gathered a number of spirits as well, but they were not very intelligent and had only lived in a small area, so they hadn’t given any hints regarding the Noble Orc empire.
Normally, Vandalieu would have left Knochen and the Dark Night Knights’ Order to check on things as usual.
“… I have a strange feeling about this,” said Vandalieu. He had felt unnaturally restless after smelling the blood. He was uneasy, feeling a sense of danger for a reason he couldn’t explain.
Even though he didn’t have the Intuition skill, nor was this a reaction from Danger Sense: Death.
“I’ll go and have a look,” he said.
“Jyuuh?! You will go yourself, my lord?!” Bone Man said, flustered.
Having realized what was going on, Eleanora and Isla turned around while still grappling with each other.
“W-wait, Vandalieu-sama, it’s dangerous!” said Eleanora.
“Yes! Please leave it to us!” shouted Isla.
But Vandalieu rose into the air with Flight. “It’s alright,” he said. “I’m never alone.”
With those words, Princess Levia, Orbia and Kimberley appeared around him.
“Now that you mention it, that’s true. Please come back if anything happens,” Eleanora said.
“Jyuuh, I will contact Vigaro and the others,” said Bone Man.
Eleanora, Bone Man and Isla calmed down when they realized that Vandalieu wasn’t alone.
“Okay,” Vandalieu said as he flew away from the fort.
“But Your Majesty, we still do not know what’s there, so would it not be best to keep Death-Attribute Magic, including Dead Spirit Magic, concealed?” said Princess Levia.
“Unlike Orcs, Noble Orcs are monsters that are about as intelligent as humans. I think it’s best to hide as much as information as we can, just in case,” said Kimberley.
“Eh? Isn’t that a pain? Is that how it is?” said Orbia.
“Apparently so, Orbia,” said Vandalieu. “Well then, heeding Princess Levia and Kimberley’s advice… Pete, Kühl, Eisen, I’m counting on you.”
Gizania gave a bitter smile as she looked at her remaining ten enemies, who were letting out coarse laughter, through her two regular eyes as well as her compound eyes.
“Bukeh, bugoh…” The enemy’s commander, one of the Noble Orcs, cleared his throat and called out to Gizania not in the Noble Orc language, but with human words. “We have been bested by you quite thoroughly,” he said. “Through the instructions of our god Ravovifard, we noticed that you and your ilk were trying to involve us in war with the lizards of the marshlands, so we hastily attacked you, but… to think that we would lose two thirds of our troops and let Princess Kurnelia escape… We underestimated the secret medicine that is said to be passed on in your tribe.”
The Noble Orc was provoking Gizania, but at the same time, he couldn’t conceal his excitement.
Gizania responded in a matter-of-fact manner. “That is because you underestimate our tribe. With only a single Noble Orc and a handful of Orcs and Kobolds that are barely skilled enough to be used as familiars, this is the natural result. Though you take pride in your strength, in the end, you are just usurpers. It appears that you do not have any soldiers with resolve.”
“You bastard! You dare ridicule Bugitas, the new Emperor BUGIIIIH?!”
The Noble Orc was immediately enraged, to the point of humor. It wouldn’t have been strange for his mushroom-shaped blonde hair to stand on end.
“FUGOOOOH! I thought that we would at least grant you an honorable death, but it seems that you wish to be tormented first! We will cut off all of your arms and legs and then violate you until you die!” the Noble Orc shouted with Orc language words mixed into his speech, saliva flying from his mouth.
The surviving Orcs around him let out a cheer. Their eyes were bloodshot with greed.
Even for the secret medicine, it’s working too well, Gizania whispered to herself in her mind as she tried to give a provocative smile… her mouth was stiff, so she couldn’t do so properly.
By using the secret medicine, she had succeeded in drawing the Noble Orcs to herself, away from Princess Kurnelia. Not only that, but she had been setting traps for them as she ran, killing her enemies as they approached her one at a time, reducing their numbers considerably.
But in return, she had lost all of the legs on the right side of her body and her left arm was broken as well. Now that she couldn’t fight any longer, she had no choice but to use her remaining secret medicine and buy time using her body.
No matter what cruel fate she met, her tribe would praise her devotion. They would certainly remember her end as a proud one.
But… she couldn’t completely deny that she was frustrated and scared.
Considering what was going to happen to her body now, she would rather end her own life, but even Orcs were unlikely to lust after a corpse.
“If it was going to end this way, perhaps I should have chosen my partner as my mother told me to. But I will not go down without a fight!” Gizania exclaimed.
“You have courage! If you survive, you will make a good breeding mother! Do –”
The moment the Noble Orc was about to give the order for the Orcs to attack, the head of an enormous centipede with enormous black horns appeared from the thicket right between him and Gizania.
“Excuse me,” the centipede said.
Gizania and the Noble Orc looked at each other, completely bewildered. The other Orcs opened their bloodshot eyes wide and blinked blankly.
Not taking any notice of this, the giant centipede… or rather, Vandalieu, who was clinging to Pete’s stomach, asked a question.
“I’ll ask just to be sure, but is the wounded person over there an Arachne and you a Noble Orc?”
Vandalieu looked at the Noble Orc who could speak human words, and at the Arachne Gizania, a member of the Vida-created Arachne race that possessed the lower bodies of spiders, who was resting her weight against an enormous sword.
“I don’t know what the situation is, but based on what I overheard of the conversation, I’m thinking of helping the Arachne… there’s no problem with this, is there?”
Vandalieu was asking just in case Gizania was actually an evil criminal and the Noble Orc was a diligent pig-like official.
One might have expected that there would be no response to this question.
Unexpectedly, there was one.
“W-who is this guy?! A monster tamed by one of the guys worshipping the gods on Vida’s side?!” shouted the Noble Orc.
“Leaving aside who is good or evil, I’ve now figured out who I need to defeat,” Vandalieu said.
Vandalieu was the ‘Holy Son of Vida,’ so there was no problem in fighting monsters that opposed her believers.
Pete bared his fangs and let out a roar as lightning covered his horns.
A monster whose name does not remain in the Adventurers’ Guild’s records, of whom there are only a few descriptions in ancient documents held by the Mages’ Guild.
It has been recorded that when numerous great individuals are acknowledged among Ghoul Tyrants, the most exceptional among them undergoes a ritual to place tattoos on his body with an eye on his forehead as the motif.
The above description is that of the concept of a Ghoul Arch-tyrant; it is thought that such previously sighted beings are simply Ghoul Tyrants that are more powerful than the rest that have been mistaken for something greater.
Of course, there are no previous actual sightings of this monster.
【Great Axe Master】
The Job that exists at the top of all axe-wielding Jobs. It is said that all individuals who have previously acquired this Job have left their names in history.
If noble, those with this Job would be known for their prowess both within and beyond their nations, and if they are an adventurer, they are naturally at least A-class.