The Death Mage that doesn't want a fourth time
The Monstrosity's Expedition Preview

Chapter 100: Dungeon-clearing is effective against back pain

With rattling sounds, the people were doing training runs, swinging spears in practice and firing practice shots with bows and arrows while wearing plate armor made of metal.

This wouldn’t be an unusual sight if knights were training, but it was actually ordinary people who were receiving training, and the trainees were not only young people, but middle-aged men and women who were over thirty years old as well as white-haired elderly people.

Perhaps because they normally made their livings through physical labor such as working in the fields, stonemasonry or carpentry, they didn’t appear to be weak. Still, performing vigorous exercise while wearing metal armor that was dozens of kilograms in weight should have been tough on them.

“Phew, my body is so light! It’s like I’ve grown wings!”

“It’s like I’ve grown younger!”

“Training is pretty fun, isn’t it?”

However, these ordinary people were experiencing the pleasant sensation of sweating it out, as if they were enjoying some casual sports. Inexperienced knights would certainly lose their confidence if they saw these people.

Such inexperienced knights would likely regain their confidence once they heard the voices of the suits of armor that the people were wearing, however.

“You have excess tension in your body. Relax more.”

“We’ll work on your form from the beginning one more time. Ready stance, thrust, come back into ready stance, sweep.”

The people were training while wearing Living Armors, Undead consisting of suits of armor haunted by spirits.

“This training method is more effective than I’d expected,” remarked Vandalieu, the proposer of this idea. He gave a satisfied nod as he watched everyone enjoying themselves.

The Living Armors that now housed the spirits of the former knights of the Red Wolf Knights’ Order from the Hartner Duchy who had worn them while they were alive had mostly regained their Spear Technique and Archery skills. They were level 4 on average, better than most but not first-rate, but this was enough for them to be instructors for the ordinary people from the former cultivation villages.

Also, the Living Armors were essentially powered exoskeletons for the people wearing them, so they could train for long periods of time while retaining their stamina.

This also allowed the Living Armors that were teaching them to be sensitive to what kinds of tensions and muscles needed instructions, allowing them to demonstrate their leadership abilities.

And, of course, they were suits of armor, so they also protected people’s bodies.

“Living Armor training drills… let’s keep doing this from now on,” said Vandalieu.

“Can’t you make an exception for me?!” Lina begged with red cheeks. She was wearing a Living Armor as well, so it wasn’t that she was particularly tired.

“I don’t think that you need to be so embarrassed,” said Saria, the Magic High-leg Armor that Lina was wearing.

There hadn’t been enough Living Armors of the Red Wolf Knights’ Order, and there hadn’t been any that matched Lina’s size.

“It isn’t as if you’re wearing me over your bare skin,” Saria pointed out.

“That’s true, but it’s somehow still embarrassing,” said Lina.

Lina was wearing Saria over simple clothes that were easy to move in, but Saria’s design left Lina’s cleavage, navel and back exposed, which appeared to be the cause of her embarrassment.

“At least let me wear a cloak over the top,” Lina insisted.

“But that will make it hard to move, you know?” said Saria. “Unlike me, you aren’t used to this, Lina-san, so it would be dangerous if your arms and legs were to get caught in it.”

Saria couldn’t understand why Lina was so embarrassed. The problem was the shape of Saria’s own body. She had stopped being a human around seven years ago; the things she considered embarrassing had changed drastically from when she was alive.

But Saria’s words weren’t wrong. Wearing a cloak that covered the body could cause problems for an inexperienced beginner like Lina. Saria would do her best to try and prevent injury, but she wasn’t perfect, either.

“Aren’t you the one who chose Nee-san over me, saying that she’s better?” asked Rita.

“Indeed,” said Tarea, who was wearing Rita because of a lack of Living Armors of suitable size, just like Lina. “There is nothing to be so embarrassed about.”

And Tarea wasn’t even wearing Rita over her clothes like Lina; she was wearing Rita over the undergarments that Vandalieu had created in experiment.

It was the kind of undergarments that clung tightly to the body like a second skin, allowing for unobstructed movement, and while it didn’t expose anything, the shape of her chest and waist were clearly visible.

“Just like me, you are not exposing your skin,” said Tarea. She showed no signs of embarrassment despite wearing clothes that, in some ways, were more arousing to members of the opposite sex than having her skin completely exposed.

Despite being formerly human, she had completely absorbed the Ghouls’ preference for wearing highly-revealing clothes.

“Ah… Mhmm, I’ve started to feel that it’s not really something to be embarrassed about,” Lina said.

It seemed that she had changed her mind after seeing Tarea showing no signs of embarrassment despite her deep cleavage drawing the eyes of men other than Vandalieu.

Perhaps it was similar to feeling more calm after seeing others in a more panicked state.

Of course, Tarea had tied a ribbon from the top of her undergarments so that her thick, muscular arms didn’t stand out. It seemed that she was embarrassed not by her chest or waist, but by her upper arms.

Feeling slightly disappointed about this, Vandalieu began producing strings from his mouth.

“Should I add some decorations to make it harder to see your body?” he suggested.

Since Tarea wouldn’t always be by Lina’s side, he quickly knitted something with Thread-reeling.

He also felt apologetic towards Fester for making his girlfriend so embarrassed.

Incidentally, Rita, whom Tarea was wearing, was in a bad mood. This had begun when Tarea had said, “It is a little tight around my chest, can you not adjust it a little?”

“Kuh, as to be expected of you, Tarea-san. It seems that I cannot defeat you in size just yet,” Rita said.

“Rita, Tarea-san’s abdomen is just as large to make up for it –”

“But Nee-san, those are abdominal muscles, not fat!”

“… You two, I can hear you clearly,” said Tarea.

***

Lina and the others became accustomed to moving while wearing the Living Armors after around an hour of warm-up exercises. Now they were going into the E-class Dungeon that Vandalieu had created to test his Labyrinth Construction skill, named the ‘Ghoul King’s Experimental Grounds.’

Of course, they weren’t being told to polish their skills in real battles right away.

“Now then, begin,” Vandalieu ordered.

“A-alright!” said Ivan, thrust his spear towards a Kobold despite feeling a little scared. The tip of his spear pierced the chest of the Kobold that was standing as still as a wooden dummy, emerging from its back.

The others were also thrusting their spears and firing their crossbows at unmoving monsters. The monsters made no attempts to avoid the attacks and simply fell to the ground.

“W-we defeated them…”

“My arrow hit?”

“I’ve exterminated Goblins before, but now I’ve beaten an agile Kobold…”

“Ugh, it feels more unpleasant than I’d expected.”

There were those who felt exhilarated by the sensation of gaining Experience Points and the sense of accomplishment, and others who grimaced at the feeling of killing living creatures made of flesh and blood… humanoid creatures, even if they were monsters.

“It seems that having them get accustomed to combat by attacking dummies first was the correct choice,” said the Living Armor of the former squad leader of the Red Wolf Knights’ Order.

Vandalieu nodded.

The monsters that Ivan and the others had just defeated were soulless dummy monsters created by Vandalieu’s Dungeon.

They were normally set to attack detected intruders, just like normal Dungeons. However, Vandalieu had set restrictions such as that they would not finish enemies that were unable to fight and would not chase fleeing enemies.

But now they were complete dummies for the purpose of training… just like real wooden training dummies, they wouldn’t move no matter what was done to them.

For those with a certain level of combat abilities, defeating monsters in this state would be like harvesting plants; their skill levels wouldn’t increase much.

But for amateurs with no skills, this was physical training to polish their skills.

The most efficient way of acquiring combat-oriented skills was in real battle. This was because defeating enemies while using weapons would grant large amounts of Experience Points.

The Labyrinth Construction skill was convenient because it allowed this to be done without any risk.

And the people could become used to not letting their guard down due to the exhilarating post-battle feeling or the feeling of disgust that beginners experienced, and get rid of their hesitation, risk-free.

Ivan and his companions had experienced killing Goblins once or twice in order to create Gobu-gobu. They had killed rats, hares, fish and birds for food countless times.

However, this wasn’t enough to be able to ignore the Experience Points gained from defeating monsters of Rank 2 and above or ignore the unpleasant sensation of killing humanoid monsters in order to deal with the next threat without letting their guards down.

“Well, against Rank 2 monsters, even if you let your guards down, the Living Armors can just punch the monsters to death,” said Saria. “Ah, Lina-san. There is too much tension in your back. Please relax.”

“L-like this?”

“Yes. Now please pull the trigger.”

Lina, who was wearing Saria whose armor Vandalieu had attached frills and laces to, made of his strings that wouldn’t obstruct movement so that she could feel less embarrassed, pulled the trigger of a small crossbow. The arrow flew straight ahead of her into the chest of a Kobold.

“I-it hit…” she murmured.

“Please load the next arrow,” said Saria.

“O-okay.”

Incidentally, Tarea was next to them, wearing Rita who was also now covered in frills and laces, firing a crossbow at a Huge Bone Rabbit in the same way.

“Incidentally, is it alright to only train in using spears and crossbows?” Tarea asked. “If we are preparing for emergency situations, would it not be better to train with short swords and throwing weapons?”

“It’s true that nobody is going to be walking around with spears on their backs or crossbows in their hands,” Rita agreed.

Neither the spears as long as people’s heights that Ivan and the others were swinging nor the crossbow that Tarea was currently using could be called exceptionally portable weapons. They were too large and heavy for ordinary people to carry around.

Making them collapsible would increase their portability, but as the weapons were supposed to be used in emergency situations, it would defeat the purpose.

But according to the former squad leader of the Red Wolf Knights’ Order, it wasn’t really a problem.

“No, once you have acquired skills, that problem will be solved,” he said. “The gods are generous. After you have acquired the Spear Technique skill, you can switch from a long spear to a short one and still use them as long as you remember your form. The crossbows can also be replaced by easy-to-carry short bows once you have acquired the Archery skill.』

Lambda’s skill system was quite broad in terms of martial skills.

For example, both a spear as long as a person’s height and a short spear of less than a meter in length could be used for the Spear Technique skill. There was no such thing as Long Spear Technique or Short Spear Technique.

There was no Crossbow Technique; crossbows used the Archery skill.

Both clubs and hammers used Club Technique. Bladed weapons were separated into Swordsmanship and Short Sword Technique depending on the length of the blade, but both a one-handed, thin rapier and a two-handed claymore used Swordsmanship.

Of course, the martial skills that could be used were different between weapons even if they used the same skill; in fact, even the ways they were used were different depending on the most appropriate time to use them and the weight and shape of the weapons.

For instance, a warrior who was skilled in the use of Triple Slash to unleash consecutive attacks with a claymore couldn’t suddenly become a master of the rapier, which wasn’t suited to making slashing attacks.

That was why it was considered best for those who were soldiers and knights by occupation to learn to start off using the same weapons as the ones they would be using in the future.

However, the ones being trained were ordinary people. Though this was a little inconvenient, they were not professionals that lived in battle.

“Thus, we will first have you learn skills and then have you learn how to use weapons suited for carrying around. This will allow you to receive the benefits of the skills and learn to use them in a short period of time,” the former squad leader explained.

It seemed that this was the standard way to prepare ordinary people for battle in a limited period of time.

Lambda was a world considered inferior by the gods, but because monsters and nations had fought each other throughout its history, training exercises had been thought about considerably.

“I see,” said Tarea. “But I believe a light short spear will be easier to use than a long, heavy one, am I wrong?”

“That is true, but in this case, we are providing everyone with physical strength and stamina, so even the long spears do not cause any problems. And though they are not moving, we are training everyone with live monsters rather than dummies, so… we thought that it would be best for you to be far away from them.”

“Ah, indeed, that is true.”

Short spears were easier to use, but that would mean having to kill monsters from a closer distance. That would mean being sprayed by the monster’s blood and witnessing its dying moment up-close.

That would likely weaken the willpower of Ivan and the others, who were inexperienced in battle.

“Is that true?” asked Saria. It seemed that this had never occurred to her and Rita, who had been Undead for a long time, because they only felt hunger in response to the smell of blood.

“Apparently so,” said Vandalieu.

Incidentally, the reason they weren’t training in Throwing Technique was simply because few of the Living Armor instructors possessed the Throwing Technique skill.

“Killing enemies with throwing weapons needs knives, short spears and axes, but we didn’t have the budget for providing enough of these to be discarded with each use,” the former squad leader explained. “And bows and arrows are easier to carry many of.”

“Oh my, could we not simply throw stones if we have no arrows? If we gather appropriately-sized stones beforehand, we will have no inconveniences regarding ammunition. Isn’t that right, Van-sama?” said Tarea.

“You’re right,” Vandalieu agreed.

“My apologies, Your Majesty,” said the former squad leader. “We did not possess the Superhuman Strength skill when we were alive, so throwing stones was impossible for us in various ways.”

Stone-throwing was an effective method of fighting for ordinary people on Earth, but it apparently wasn’t very effective in Lambda without the Superhuman Strength skill.

This could be compensated for by high Attribute Values, but… those with such high Attribute Values would be able to defeat enemies without having to resort to stone-throwing.

And so, in just one day, Ivan, Lina and the others acquired the Spear Technique and Archery skills.

On the next day, they switched to short spears and short bows for fundamental training. After that, they trained in real battles against Rank 1 monsters in the Ghoul King’s Experimental Grounds. Once they became accustomed to this, they engaged in real battles against Rank 2 monsters.

Within ten days, everyone had acquired level 2 skills.

“I feel kind of refreshed around my stomach!”

“My level increased as well. I will be able to undergo a Job-change soon.”

“At this rate, I could aim to become an explorer and… Ouch!”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself! You’ll just end up getting injured and causing trouble for everyone!”

Ivan and the others went back home, taking the short spears, bows and arrows that they had used for training with them as well as ten days’ worth of average pay.

“To think that ordinary people who are not even young would be able to gain level 2 skills in just ten days, without any bonuses to skills from Jobs…” Because he was an empty suit of armor, it was difficult to tell that the former squad leader was surprised, but he probably was.

“Is it something that’s never happened before?” asked Vandalieu.

The former squad leader’s helmet clattered as it moved up and down in a nod. “Something that has never happened before, or rather… if it had, regular soldiers would not be able to afford to feed themselves.”

There would be no reason to pay high wages to those with skills that could be attained by amateurs in the space of ten days.

It was generally expected that the average soldier would have combat-oriented skills at level 2. It wasn’t that this was a standard that had been decided upon for regular soldiers. It was simply that level 2 was where their skills settled at as a result of various circumstances.

Those circumstances were the quality and amount of their daily training and experience in real battles. Even soldiers didn’t spend every day fighting. Their jobs included policing, escorting, patrolling and deskwork as well. Soldier quality was important for those who hired them as well, but they couldn’t spend money and time endlessly to improve the quality of those soldiers.

As a result, the skill level of the average soldier was level 2.

Thus, if it was common for ordinary people to acquire these skills in just ten days, statesmen would be forced to pay large amounts of money to have soldiers train their skills to level 3.

“Well, they trained using a method that has never been used before, so I suppose that’s how it is,” said Vandalieu.

The Living Armor instructors, monster targets that allowed Experience Points to be gained safely and real battle experience with the instructors’ support.

Vandalieu was likely the first in history to go this far to train ordinary people in combat.

“I think you being a Guider has something to do with it as well, Bocchan,” said Saria.

“That might be the case, but… I don’t get a feeling that I’m using the Guidance: Demon Path skill other than the constantly-applied bonus to everyone’s Attribute Values,” said Vandalieu.

He wasn’t aware of the effects of the Guidance skill… In fact, he wasn’t even aware that he was walking on a demon path. It was a skill that Vandalieu couldn’t sense.

As Vandalieu watched Ivan and the others leave, Fester, who had come to pick Lina up, called out to him.

“Hey, Vandalieu, I wanted to ask you… could you make clothes for Lina in the same shape as Saria? With the laces and frills.”

“… If it’s clothes rather than armor, I can, but has Lina agreed to this?” Vandalieu asked.

“No, I mean, it’s hard to talk to her about it –”

Smack.

“Stop asking for stupid things and hurry up! You’re the one who came to pick me up, right?!”

Lina dragged Fester back home. It seemed that the training had placed her even more firmly in her position above Fester in their relationship.

“Muh, why Nee-san?” Rita wondered. “I’m sexy, too.”

“Bocchan, when you do make such clothes, please make it possible to tell them apart from me, like making them a different color!” said Saria.

“You really are young, aren’t you?” Tarea remarked.

Incidentally, in the days to come, Lina would send a request for Vandalieu to estimate some costs through Zadiris, who visited the trading post regularly as an explorer.

It was possible that the time for her wedding ceremony was close.

In the Bahn Gaia continent, there were apparently no rules against premarital sexual relations as long as both individuals were adults.

The working Ghoul women had also raised their skill levels to 2 within ten days. They hadn’t particularly tried to learn these skills up until now, but they had possessed the qualities to do so, so it wasn’t particularly surprising.

“Umm, Van-sama, my Archery skill has also become level 2,” said Tarea. “I would love to always be by your side, but I must return to my work –”

She possessed incredible skill as a craftsman but had been level 0 as a Ghoul, but she had acquired Experience Points for the first time during this ten-day training, increasing her level dramatically.

It wasn’t enough for her Rank to increase, but her Attribute Points had increased considerably. It didn’t have any direct effect on her Arms Smith skill, but her increased physical strength would be useful for her work.

Most importantly, it was good for her back.

“You should continue with this to get rid of your back pain,” said Vandalieu. “I was just planning to clear the two Dungeons in the marshlands, too.”

“Wha–?! I will die if I enter a high-difficulty Dungeon where Earth Dragons begin appearing from the first floor!” Tarea exclaimed.

“That’s true for the one called the ‘Scaled King’s Nest.’ I’m not talking about that one, I’m talking about the ‘Lizardmen’s Nest.’”

“A D-class Dungeon is only one class above the Ghoul King’s Experiment Grounds, so it will be fine for you as you are now, Tarea-san,” said Saria.

“We’ll support you as well,” said Rita.

The two of them had decided that Tarea would be able to follow Vandalieu in his conquest of a D-class Dungeon as long as she was just staying behind and firing arrows.

In fact, the boss fight would be difficult with a skill level of two, but it would be enough to deal with the monsters they would encounter in the upper floors. And Tarea’s Attribute Values alone were equivalent to a D-class adventurer’s.

“But that Dungeon is not one that you created, is it, Van-sama?! The monsters will attack us normally!” Tarea protested.

It seemed that a different level of determination was needed to go from practicing real battles to actually fighting them.

“It will be fine,” Vandalieu reassured her. “We’ll protect you. Do your best so that your Rank can increase.”

Tarea seemed dissatisfied, but finally agreed. “Very well. Very well… so please say it one more time. Say ‘I’ instead of ‘we.’”

“It will be fine because I’ll protect you,” Vandalieu said.

“Yes, Van-sama~♪”

The reality, however, was that Vandalieu could solo-clear a D-class Dungeon with ease.

“Ghouls act like maidens despite their age, don’t they?” Rita remarked.

“But Rita, wouldn’t you like him to say it to you as well?” said Saria.

“Hmm, it’s not like I’m not interested, but we’re suits of armor, aren’t we? I feel like suits of armor being protected is quite a contradiction.”

“That is true… The conflict between a suit of armor’s heart and a maiden’s heart. A difficult problem.”

“Is it really difficult?” Vandalieu asked, confused. He was willing to say it as many times as they wanted if it would make them happy.

***

As the weather became colder, Vandalieu visited the marshlands once more in order to clear the Dungeons. The first thing he did was have Bone Man and Shashuja take him around so that he could inspect each area of the marshlands.

He wanted to see whether the training of the Lizardmen to work on the Capricorn farm was going well and whether the Lizardmen had any requests or problems with their lives here.

Of course, the Lizardmen were genuine monsters rather than members of Vida’s races. Many of them were astounded that the one who had conquered them was even taking the effort of coming and asking such things.

“Monsters are quite easy to rule over, aren’t they?” Vandalieu muttered.

Monsters’ ways of thinking were quite different to those of people. They thoroughly believed that the strong were always right.

For instance, if their friends, parents, siblings and children were killed or eaten for stupid reasons, people would hate rulers and plot betrayal no matter how strong the rulers were.

But monsters wouldn’t consider it unless they were pressed or forced to betray rulers by someone who seemed even stronger. They would only think of betraying rulers if the rulers showed signs of weakness.

For them, their friends being killed by rulers for pointless reasons and their friends being killed by other monsters or people were completely different things.

“Shuu?” Shashuja, who seemed uncertain as to whether Vandalieu was dissatisfied with something, licked his own eyes with his tongue.

“My lord, as monsters, we are the more peculiar ones,” said Bone Man.

As he said, the Undead who possessed their personalities from their previous lives as well as the members of the new races created through the influence of the death attribute, who could understand the values of people, were more peculiar as far as monsters went.

In fact, the Demon King Guduranis, the ancestor of monsters, had created them to use as an army. There would be no value in an army that would betray him and his servants, who were more powerful than the monsters.

It was better than hearing complaints from the Lizardmen for years over how their companions had been killed, so Vandalieu didn’t particularly mind. He didn’t intend to do anything unreasonable to them just because he ruled over them now, but it was nice and simple that they would obey him just because he was strong.

Though it was unusual, the Lizardmen did report one thing that was troubling them. Vandalieu went to look at it and found himself looking confusedly at the sight of Lizardmen children who had emerged from their eggs only a few days ago.

“They look healthy to me?” he said.

Gyuu, kugyuu, kugyuu.

Lizardmen children were adorable. But the children that were crying energetically seemed perfectly healthy to Vandalieu. They were eating plenty, eating frogs and fish by biting their heads to begin with.

But Shashuja pointed at the children’s heads.

“Now that I look carefully… their heads are shaped differently?”

Shashuja nodded. The children’s heads weren’t same shape as ordinary Lizardmen.

To put it simply, they were crocodile-shaped.

There was no mistake that their parents were Lizardmen, but all of the children hatched after the Scaled King’s defeat had apparently been born shaped like crocodiles rather than like lizards.

“That is how it is, my lord… Do you have any memories of secretly immersing them in death-attribute Mana?” asked Bone Man.

“None at all, but… Considering the timing, this should be the effect of Guidance: Demon Path,” said Vandalieu.

It seemed that a new race had been born yet again.

“Let’s name them Armans for now,” said Vandalieu.


『The level of the Guidance: Demon Path skill has increased!』


Job explanation:

【Tree Caster】

A Job that can be acquired by having a certain amount of knowledge regarding plants and taming many (over a hundred) plant-type monsters.

This Job makes it easy to increase the Vitality Attribute Value.

Also, this Job allows the acquisition of the Plant Binding skill, which grants the ability to equip plant-type monsters inside the body.

This Job has an effect of allowing plants to be cultivated inside the body. This includes fungi, molds and phytoplankton.

Those who acquire this Job are likely to be able to produce exceptional results in farming, the making of bread and certain pastries, fermented food, forestry and fishing involving the use of seaweed, aquatic plants and phytoplankton.

However, it would normally be considered impossible to tame over a hundred plant-type monsters, and even those praised as wise men in Lambda do not possess the required amount of knowledge (There is not enough known about fungi, molds and fermentation), so it would be difficult for anyone other than Vandalieu to acquire this Job unless he were to directly teach them the required knowledge.

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5: The Monstrosity's Expedition