Chapter 22: During the aftermath of war, the number of followers increases
The woman lay on the bed like a living corpse, staring at the ceiling.
『I suppose it should be over now』
To say that she was like a living corpse is not merely a simile, but reality. This woman was something known as a Live-Dead, a freshly-deceased corpse that had vitality forcibly poured into it to restart its heartbeat and respiration.
It was the familiar of the【Degenerate*】adventurer Luciliano, who had made use of the Orcs strong urge to reproduce to keep an eye on the Noble Orcs movements.
The Live-Deads five senses were not very sensitive, so its sense of hearing was primarily used for gathering information. The sounds of swords clashing, war cries and dying screams coming from outside had stopped.
『The Ghouls put up more of a fight than I would have imagined. Doesnt this mean that we dont have to gather a large group to exterminate them』
There had been a group of over five hundred monsters living in this village. That was why Lucilianos employer, Viscount Balchesse, needed to put himself at the mercy of Earl Palpapek, a marshal of the Mirg nation, to gather a large-scale extermination force.
However, if the battle with the Ghouls reduced the Orcs numbers by a third, hiring ten Class adventurer parties would be enough. The Orc messenger had brought the news that all of Bugogans sons and most of the higher-ranked leaders like the Orc Generals and Orc Mages had been defeated, and his ridiculously loud voice had reached the ears of the Live-Dead.
If thats the case, the only enemy that would pose a threat to Class adventurers would be Bugogan, and even he was only Rank 7. That was the same Rank as an Earth Dragon, but he was still a foe that could be defeated if Class adventurers formed a party and fought him together.
Hiring those Class adventurers wouldnt be cheap, but far more affordable than gathering an extermination force of hundreds. Even if they suffered casualties, losing a few hired hands wouldnt be a problem, unlike losing soldiers and knights.
That was what Luciliano was thinking, but his thoughts were interrupted as something entered the house that had been destroyed by its owner in rage.
The footsteps were too quiet for it to be Bugogan returning after his victory, and there were multiple of them. Were they Goblins who had become lost in the confusion of the battle
「There it is, its a human.」
「… Is this thing alive」
But the creatures that appeared were the lion-headed Ghouls. Luciliano opened his eyes wide in surprise.
『It cant be, the Ghouls won against the Noble Orcs!』
Luciliano had heard that there were no superior Ghouls like Ghoul Tyrants or Ghoul Elder Mages in this Devils Nest. The Ghouls defeating the Noble Orcs was a result that he had never expected.
No, Luciliano wasnt the only one. Nobody would have thought it possible for a group of several hundred monsters ruled by a Noble Orc to be annihilated in an internal conflict within the Devils Nest.
However, no matter how hard it was to believe, the Ghouls did not disappear from Lucilianos sight.
「It moved a little just now. Its alive.」(Male Ghoul)
「Alright, lets take it to where the other humans are.」(Male Ghoul)
「Wait, at least cover her body before carrying her.」(Female Ghoul)
A Ghoul woman appeared from behind the two Ghoul men as well. She covered the body of the Live-Dead that was still naked after being abandoned by Bugogan mid-rape, using the furs from the bed.
Luciliano watched this act of consideration with cold eyes.
『Now that the Ghouls have won, rescuing the captive women is impossible.』
The fact that Ghouls ate human flesh was common knowledge for everyone, not just adventurers. There was no doubt that the Ghouls would now use the human women captured by the Orcs as food for a feast to celebrate their victory.
Or perhaps they would use the ritual to turn them into Ghouls, but either way, saving them was now impossible.
『Well, considering how things would go for them even if they were rescued, I am sure that they would be happier being killed here.』
They were victims who had been defiled by Orcs; Luciliano knew that there was a high chance that they would never be happy even after they were rescued.
After even a month of being held captive by the Orcs, they would have suffered deep scars not only in their bodies but also in their minds from the Orcs terrifying sexual desires and rough treatment. It would be difficult for them to recover on their own. In that state, it would probably be impossible for them to be adventurers again, and even if they wanted to, their equipment had all been taken by the Orcs.
It might not be so bad if they had funds saved at the Guild, but the captured female adventurers were all D-class. They were unlikely to have enough savings to buy new equipment.
Even if they gave up and retired, they would be considered filthy and never receive marriage proposals if people found out that they had been defiled by Orcs, and even finding normal employment would be difficult.
If they were normal village girls, then they could still rely on aid from the government. From Lucilianos point of view, Viscount Balchesse was fair as a nobleman. He probably wouldnt look after them for their whole lives, but he would at least support them for a year or two. But these women had been adventurers. People chose to be adventurers at their own risk, and whatever happened to them was their own responsibility. The prospect of receiving aid from the government was dim. At best, they might receive a months worth of living expenses.
Heroes saving women captured by monsters and living happily ever after was something that only happened in fairy tales.
Of course, it was still better than it had been in the past where they might have been executed as『witches who let monsters use their wombs』or treated as『spoils of war』by the adventurers and sold to slave traders.
As Luciliano pondered the uncertainties of the world, the Ghouls began carrying his Live-Dead away. It would likely be eaten in the near future, but fortunately, the Live-Dead had no sense of pain so Luciliano wouldnt have to suffer.
That was why he intended to get as much information as possible before the Live-Dead was destroyed.
『The ground outside is covered in Orc, Kobold and Goblin corpses. But I dont see any Ghoul corpses.』
Luciliano, who hadnt been watching the battle, had little idea of what had happened outside. In order to compensate for that now, he moved the Live-Deads eyes around to investigate the surroundings, but all he saw was information that put him… information that would put his employer, Viscount Balchesse, and Earl Palpapek in a dark mood.
As far as he could see, the Ghouls hadnt sustained any significant losses, and there were over a hundred of them. And for some reason, every Ghoul was well-equipped and some were holding weapons that seemed to be Magic Items.
「This is all thanks to the King. The strongest King of all, the one who defeated the Noble Orc boss one-on-one!」
「Long live the Ghoul King! Long live Vandalieu!」
And then Luciliano heard the Ghouls shouting these words in excitement over their victory.
In summary, a Ghoul King possessing outstanding leadership and commanding skills had appeared, with a way of supplying the Ghouls with equipment far better than the average soldier, and he had even defeated a Rank 7 monster in one-on-one combat.
『… If this Live-Dead is destroyed, Im going to refuse doing any more of this work even if I have to get on my knees and beg.』
Luciliano would definitely refuse getting involved in a battle against over a hundred Ghouls led by such a King. No matter how many gold coins he was paid, he couldnt use them if he were to die.
He suddenly realized that the villages outer wall had disappeared, and its logs were now rolling around on the ground here and there. Was this the Ghoul Kings doing, too
『But I did hear that the Title of Ghoul King is only held when multiple Ghoul villages form an alliance…』
The Live-Dead was gently put down on the floor of a relatively undamaged building.
「Wait here. Vandalieu will be here soon.」
With those words, the Ghoul that had been carrying the Live-Dead left. The fact that he wasnt staying to keep an eye on the Live-Dead was likely because the Ghoul didnt even consider it an enemy.
『Well, for Ghouls, this Live-Dead is food rather than an enemy.』
Over a dozen women had been gathered here. They were all human; all of them had dead-looking eyes and bruises on their limbs and faces.
「Aah… Ah… Nnh… No…」
「Uu, uwah… Hic… Aah…」
「Kill me… Please… Kill me already…」
Even Luciliano who was sometimes referred to by his Title of【Degenerate】wanted to block his ears as he heard the sobbing and lifeless whispers. It seemed that these were indeed the female adventurers that had been held captive.
As adventurers, they should have been both mentally and physically tough compared to the average woman, but they had been utterly broken.
Luciliano didnt want to see them being eaten alive, so he hoped that they would be killed quickly first.
As he was thinking this, he was suddenly startled. He just noticed a child in his vision that was staring at him.
The odd-colored crimson and bluish-purple eyes gazed at him intently. The child was very young, not more than three years old. What was it doing in a place like this
『Is this thing a Dhampir What is a Dhampir child doing here Where are its parents There were no Vampires among the Noble Orcs subordinates; could it be on the Ghouls side』
These questions ran through Lucilianos mind, but the Dhampir childs words blew all of them away.
「Why are you inside there Thats someone elses body, isnt it」
『He can see that this is a Live-Dead! Thats impossible; my technique isnt something that can be seen through so easily!』
The Dhampir drew closer to the astonished Luciliano.
「The spirit of that woman is right beside you. Shes telling you to give back her body and stop defiling her.」
『He can see spirits; hes a Spiritualist!』
Luciliano was an outstanding life-attribute mage, but as he didnt possess the Job of Spiritualist, he couldnt see spirits. That was why he had never noticed the spirit of the corpse that he had used to create this Live-Dead floating beside him.
Luciliano gave up on trying to keep himself hidden. But he still had some room to work with. He was using magic to borrow this Live-Deads senses; he wasnt in this place himself.
By bringing his consciousness back, Luciliano could escape from this Devils Nest. It was no concern to him at all what this Dhampir did with the Live-Dead after that.
「Please dont run away.」
However, the Dhampirs hand plunged into the Live-Deads body. That cold hand grabbed hold of Lucilianos consciousness.
「Gah! What did you do!」
Luciliano tried to return his consciousness back to his real body, but for some reason, he couldnt. He let out a scream at this feeling of pressure and discomfort.
「Could I ask you to answer my questions」
Luciliano tried to resist without responding, but since his consciousness was transferred to this Live-Dead right now instead of his original body, he couldnt use magic properly.
「I-I am an adventurer. I used this Live-Dead to investigate this Orc village.」
With the dangerous sense of not knowing what would happen to him, Luciliano decided to confess.
「… Please tell me all the details.」
Vandalieu learned a lot from Luciliano. The lord of this region, Viscount Balchesse, and Earl Palpapek who was a marshal of the Mirg nation had already discovered the existence of Bugogans large village and his ambition of attacking the town. There were already movements to organize a large-scale extermination force under Earl Palpapeks leadership. Hearing this, Vandalieu felt a headache coming on.
He had thought that the Ghouls could keep living in the Devils Nest without a problem once they eliminated the Noble Orcs. Once the Orcs were eliminated, the ones standing at the top of the food chain in this Devils Nest would, of course, be Zadiris and the other Ghouls.
However, the humans had learned of the threat that Bugogan posed and that information had even made its way to their upper echelons. Now that they were planning to send a large extermination force, Vandalieus hopes came crashing down.
「Would the marshal cancel that plan if he knew that the Noble Orcs village has been annihilated」
In response to this question, Luciliano hardened the Live-Deads face in silence for a moment, and then answered as if giving up.
「I-I am just an adventurer. I do not give orders or make decisions. But I do not think that the marshal would cancel his plans.」
Vandalieu sighed. It was just as he thought.
The Noble Orcs that had posed a direct threat to human society had been destroyed today. Their Orc subordinates that were mainly Orc Generals and Mages had all been killed, and even if a few Orcs or slave Goblins and Kobolds had escaped, they werent much of a threat.
However, from the perspective of the marshal and Viscount Balchesse who ruled this region, all that had changed was that the threat was now Ghouls instead of Orcs.
It was a large army of Ghouls that had destroyed a group of over five hundred monsters including multiple Rank 6 Noble Orcs, led by a Ghoul King. Who was to say that these Ghouls wouldnt be a menace to human society
Since Ghouls and Orcs were both monsters to humans, the mere existence of a group of hundreds of monsters in a Devils Nest only three days journey away from the town was a threat to them.
And if it became known that a Dhampir was among that group of Ghouls, there was a high chance that the Church of Alda would intervene. More specifically, a clergyman specialized in dealing with Vampires, like High Priest Goldan.
That might be a chance for Vandalieu to kill High Priest Goldan, the killer of his mother. But he still didnt have the confidence to say that he had the power needed to do so.
While he did burn Darcia at the stake, Goldan apparently had strength equivalent to a B-class adventurer. If that was true, then if he were to fight one-on-one against a Rank 7 monster like Bugogan, he would almost certainly win without having to use a clever scheme like Vandalieus one to allow his own flesh and organs to be cut.
So Vandalieu wouldnt be able to defeat him unless he got extremely lucky. And luck was the one thing that he lacked the most.
Thats why he didnt hesitate to let this chance slip by. In fact, he proactively wanted to avoid it.
(But I have no way of avoiding it.)
His face, including the odd-colored eyes that were the distinguishing characteristic of Dhampirs, had been clearly seen by Luciliano.
He had only temporarily transferred his consciousness to this Live-Dead to borrow its five senses. His real body was in a distant town. Vandalieu had no way of preventing him from talking.
Luciliano had earnestly spat out the information that Vandalieu wanted to know out of fear of being unable to escape and not knowing what could happen to him, but the most Vandalieu could do was prevent his consciousness from returning from the Live-Dead to his real body. And even that required Vandalieu to constantly have his arms under【Spirit Form Transformation】plunged into the Live-Dead, so he couldnt keep this up for hours.
It was completely impossible for him to continue holding Luciliano inside the Live-Dead without sleep or rest until Lucilianos real body died of starvation.
With that being the case, the remaining options were to appeal to Lucilianos emotions, bribe him or threaten him into silence… Vandalieu dismissed the option of appealing to his emotions. He didnt know what kind of human Luciliano was, but even if he was a kind-hearted person, he had been doing this because he had accepted a request for it. If he were to keep quiet about Vandalieu and the Ghouls and then they were discovered later, the Adventurers Guild would do more than simply punish him; he would likely have a bounty put on his head.
He probably wouldnt agree to put himself in that danger.
Vandalieu also dismissed the option of bribery. No matter what Vandalieu promised Luciliano, he would find the legitimate payment that he received from the nobleman who was hiring him to be more desirable.
The last option was to threaten him, but this wasnt effective, either. Luciliano was afraid of Vandalieu for now, but once he returned to his own body, Vandalieu wouldnt be able to lay a hand on him.
Threatening him with only words was possible, but Vandalieu was convinced that this would only have the opposite effect.
(What kind of adult would be scared by the threats of a child whos less than three years old)
He was actually quite scary due to his appearance and the aura around him, however.
Having decided that preventing his existence being known to the humans would be impossible, Vandalieu returned to his first question.
「I understand why youre inside this human. So, did you kill this person」
This person… This Live-Dead looked young, and quite healthy considering that it had been held captive by the Orcs. There were no signs of a fatal wound having been treated, either.
Vandalieu could only imagine that she had been deliberately killed.
Did you kill this woman for the purpose of creating this Live-Dead Realizing that this was the question being asked, Luciliano shook his head.
「No, I… only transformed a corpse prepared by the viscount into a Live-Dead! This woman, I dont… know how she died!」
『What this guy is saying, is it true』
Vandalieu asked this question to the original owner of this Live-Deads body, but she only replied with,『My body was stolen!』and,『Give my body back! Dont defile it anymore!』He couldnt get a definitive answer.
It seemed that over a month had passed since she died, and during that time, she had watched her own body being raped by Bugogan over and over. Vandalieu couldnt blame her for being in this broken state.
「… I understand. I will let you go for now. But the next time I see you, I will kill you.」
As Vandalieu released the grip of his hand, Lucilianos consciousness quickly left the Live-Dead. The terrified expression disappeared from the Live-Deads face and it became completely motionless.
Vandalieu thought that it had returned to being a corpse, but it was still breathing and its heart was still beating. It would likely stay as a Live-Dead until the Mana that had been put into it ran out, even after its owner left the body.
『Thank you, I was able to get my body back.』
「Youre welcome. What will you do from now」
『From now I… Im already dead, so from now…』
「Dont you want to be reborn」
『Eh What do you mean by that Everyone who dies will one day be granted a new life by a god and be reborn.』
It seemed that the concept of the circle of transmigration existed in Lambda. Rodcortes name wasnt known, but everyone knew about the idea that the souls of the dead would one day be born anew.
So of course, she considered it common sense that if she left this world and entered the afterlife, she would be reborn one day. She was wondering why Vandalieu felt the need to even ask her this question.
「What Im trying to say is, do you not want to be reborn and have a new life right now」
『Right now Is something like that possible』
「Yes. I cant bring you back to life. But fortunately, there is a new life inside you.」
Vandalieu had noticed the presence of a tiny life that couldnt even be called a fetus yet inside the Live-Dead lying limp on the floor.
He was asking her if she was willing to reside inside that and be reborn.
『Youre telling me to become an Orc!』
The womans spirit was friendly towards Vandalieu because of the effects of the【Death-Attribute Charm】and the fact that he had recovered her body, but she still had to refuse Vandalieus suggestion.
Even though she had already died, it would be torture for her to be reborn as the child of the one who had raped her body, an Orc, no less. In fact, if Vandalieu had simply asked her,「Would you like to go to the afterlife or be reborn as an Orc right now」her immediate choice would have been to go to the afterlife.
「Its alright, I will remove as many of the Orc genes as I can. You wont become an Orc.」
『You can do something like that If theres any Orc blood in a child, that child will definitely become an Orc, you know』
「I can do it. I have a little experience with this.」
However, Vandalieu had experience in the selective breeding of animals, plants and humans. To be more accurate, he knew that he could do this with death-attribute magic.
Among the experiments in Origin, there had been research to see whether it was possible to use death-attribute magic to kill off certain parts of certain genes, resulting in selective breeding. And these experiments had succeeded.
He had killed the horse genes in a half-donkey, half-horse mule fetus to produce a foal that was purely a donkey.
Seeds that were resistant to disease and cold but weak to heat and seeds that were resistant to heat but weak to disease were bred together, and then Vandalieu had cut the unnecessary parts out of the genes of the resulting offspring to produce seeds that were resistant to disease, cold and heat.
He had performed the same thing in domestic animals and human zygotes that had been produced by the sperm and eggs of people of different races, with a success rate of over ninety percent.
Thanks to these experiments, the military nation that owned the laboratory that Vandalieu was held captive in developed its agriculture and animal breeding and overcame a large number of hereditary diseases, becoming renowned as a great country for medical care.
(Im not sure that things went so well for them after I died, though.)
Holding back this dark thought in his chest, Vandalieu continued to explain the process to the womans spirit to ease her mind about it.
「The perfect time is just before or just after the egg cell has been fertilized, but it has already been some time since it attached itself to the womb, so I cant make you completely human. But I should be able to make you close enough to a human that you would never be considered an Orc.」
『So that means Id become like a beast-person』
「… Ive never seen a beast-person, so I cant say for sure.」
The womans spirit fell silent. She seemed to be deep in thought.
Vandalieu simply waited until she came to an answer. He wasnt helping her purely out of his own goodwill. It would be convenient for him if she chose this「rebirth.」
Vandalieus goal was revenge, to survive against the cheaters who would be reincarnated in this world, and to revive his mother, Darcia.
One of the methods he had thought of for that last goal was to have Darcia possess a fertilized egg, as they had a high affinity for spirits, to have her undergo a pseudo-reincarnation. But it was best to have as many cards in his hand as possible.
There was no guarantee that the process would go well in Lambda as it had in Origin. He didnt know whether creatures in this world even had genes and DNA, and even if they did, they might not have the same structure as the creatures in Origin.
He was intending to use this woman as an experimental subject to find out.
That was why Vandalieu simply waited as she contemplated the choice. If he told her his circumstances, the【Death-Attribute Charm】skills effect would force her to nod her head. But that didnt mean that he wanted to lie to her, either.
How hypocritical. Vandalieu himself was aware that it was hypocritical. That was why he thought that if she agreed to do this, no matter what the result, it would still be true that he had helped her with her new life.
『I have made my decision. Please allow me to be reborn.』
「I understand. I will do everything I can.」
He used【Spirit Form Transformation】on his arms once more and buried them in the Live-Deads abdomen. And then he poured Mana into the fetus smaller than the tip of his pinky finger that was living inside the womb, determining its current state.
He could sense almost no human genes in the fetus. The genes were mostly those of an Orc, and if the child was born now, it would certainly be a Noble Orc.
As Vandalieu had guessed before, the reproduction of Orcs and Noble Orcs was different from normal creatures; the Orcs genes absorbed the mothers genes as the child developed.
With that being the case, he simply had to reverse that relationship. He weakened the Noble Orcs genes with death-attribute Mana and stopped the weakening of the human genes, stimulating them to become stronger. If he just stopped the fetus from dying now, it would grow into a mostly-human child.
『… Im glad I learned the Mana Control skill.』
Doing this without any kind of scientific equipment was very difficult. This wasnt something that could be done by simply pushing his Mana through by force.
If he did that, this fragile fetus would be destroyed. He had to delicately sort through the genes and apply the treatment to each cell, one by one.
「Well then, lets meet again.」
And then he had the spirit of the woman whose name he didnt know possess the fetus. That suddenly reminded him, there had been controversy on earth over when someone possessed a soul - did a person have a soul right at the moment of fertilization, from some point during the pregnancy as a fetus or from the moment that he or she was born
In Lambda, in this particular case, this person possessed a soul starting right now, Vandalieu thought. It wasnt a particularly meaningful thought.
And then he transferred additional Mana to the Living Dead. Because he didnt know how much Mana Luciliano had given to it, he had to prevent its heart from stopping before the woman was reborn.
Now he had to decide what to do with the rest of the female adventurers, but…
「King, why are you so popular with women」
「… Maybe its the influence of my skills.」
From even before Vandalieu conducted his all-out cross-examination on Luciliano, the female adventurers had been clinging onto Vandalieu.
With the half-naked women clinging onto him, the Ghouls who were just passing by assumed that Vandalieu was simply popular with the women, but the reality was quite different.
The female adventurers were in a state where their minds had been broken and they were simply like living corpses with death as their only hope. To them, the death-Attribute Mana around Vandalieu looked like a Shinigamis scythe that had come to grant them salvation.
The【Death-Attribute Charm】was supposed to have no effect on the living, but it seemed that it did affect humans who truly desired death, even if they were still alive.
As the women who were clearly not sane surrounded Vandalieu and silently begged him to kill them, he felt his own sanity being scraped away.
His ability to concentrate had probably increased from not looking at the women clinging onto him as he talked to the womans spirit and performed the genetic therapy earlier.
However, no matter how much he averted his eyes from them, they wouldnt simply disappear. There were those waiting for the Ghoul King Vandalieus decision on what to do.
「First, lets say that killing them is out of the question.」
For Vandalieu, the women were his enemies as they were adventurers of the Mirg nation, but he couldnt bring himself to kill them when they were in this state.
「Releasing them near the city would -」
「Dont, just kill me, please kill me!」
「… Not be a good idea, I see.」
Vandalieu wasnt familiar with how this world worked like Luciliano was, but he did understand that releasing the women in this state wouldnt be an act of salvation for them.
He had thought that perhaps they would have families or lovers waiting for them in the town, but that didnt seem to be the case. They either didnt have special people, were on bad terms with their families or perhaps their companions had been in their party when they came here and were killed by the Orcs.
Even so, caring for them in the Ghoul village wasnt an option, either.
They were currently under Vandalieus charm, but there was no telling whether they would stay under it if they regained the will to live. In fact, it was likely that Vandalieus skill would be rendered ineffective if that happened. They could regain their sanity and become enemy adventurers once more.
Vandalieu pitied the female adventurers, but the safety of the Ghouls still took priority.
「Well then, will you become Ghouls」
That was why it was only natural for Vandalieu to suggest this option. He had heard from Zadiris before that a ritual could be performed to transform human women into Ghouls.
Tarea was a living example of that.
「Yes, and become my followers -」
Before Vandalieu finished speaking, light returned to the female adventurers lifeless eyes.
「Ill become one, Ill become a Ghoul…」
Like carnivores with prey right in front of them, the piercing light in their pupils, pupils, pupils, pupils, pupils - all of them were smiling, but rather than looking as if they had found some new hope that would save them, they looked as if they had been broken beyond all recognition and transformed into completely different people.
「Me too, turn me into a Ghoul…」
「Ill become one, Ill become one too, make me your follower…」
And so all of the female adventurers chose to become Ghouls and the number of Vandalieus followers increased by thirteen.
「It seems that the boy has successfully convinced those adventurers to become Ghouls. Since we cannot return them to human society, the only other thing we can do is welcome them as our brethren.」
「Thats true, but there was one woman that he was unusually deep in conversation with. It looked like he was using magic, too.」
Zadiris and Basdia had come to tell Vandalieu that there was the option of transforming the female adventurers into Ghouls, but they had ended up watching him from a short distance away.
「You are right. And that woman stopped moving right after their conversation, as if she had died. I suppose we should go and ask the boy to explain the situation once things have settled down.」
Zadiris watched the female adventurers jostling around and extending their hands out towards Vandalieu like the dead gathering around the spiders thread that descended from Paradise* as she waited for them to calm down.