Death Mage 206 – The starving wolf who visits the Demon King opening his food cart business
Generally speaking, humans were not considered to have any sub-races. However, there were slight differences in appearance and physique between humans depending on the region in which they were born.
There had apparently once been a time when those born in the north had skin as white as snow, while those born in the south had skin colors that ranged from dark brown to almost completely black, and many of those born in between had more yellow-looking skin. There had even been some differences in their musculature and internal organs.
According to one theory, the descendants of the humans who lived in the south with Zantark, the war-god of fire and destruction, and Botin, mother of the earth and goddess of craftsmanship, were dark-skinned. The descendants of the humans who lived to the north with Peria, the goddess of water and knowledge, and Shizarion, the god of wind and art, were white-skinned. The descendants of the humans living with the rest of the gods were yellow-skinned.
“But after the war against the Demon King Guduranis, the few humans that were left were all gathered in one place. In the process of the population growing to the size that it is now, their genes proceeded to mix. This caused their features to become more standard, to the point that the differences between them were too small to appear on their Statuses. As a result, it is said… or perhaps I should say that it was said, that there are no sub-races of humans,” Luciliano explained calmly.
“I see. This is a different world, so it has its own different history,” said Doug with a stiff look on his face. “So… why have you stripped and taken a pose?” he asked Luciliano. “Depending on your answer, I’m gonna have to punch you in the face.”
“Stripped? I have only taken the clothes off my upper body so far. And if you are going to punch me, I request that you do it with your fist rather than your telekinesis. Your telekinesis might kill me, after all,” said Luciliano.
“Since your race has changed, you’re checking if there has been any change to your body,” said Melissa. “Stuff that you can’t check on your Status, like your skeleton, your muscle structure, the position of your internal organs and how many organs you have.”
“Indeed. Melissa-kun’s insight is very helpful,” said Luciliano.
He had already recorded the changes to his Status, including the fact that he had become a Dark Human. He was now examining his own body to see if there had been any changes that were not displayed on his Status. He was not only palpating the surface of his body, but using spells to examine himself as well.
Luciliano seemed restless at the fact that his own race had changed, but… that seemed to be because of excitement and curiosity.
“I have acquired several Skills including ‘Status Effect Resistance,’ but I wish to see whether this is a racial characteristic of Dark Humans or whether that is due to my own individual qualities. But it would be difficult for you to answer my questions calmly, would it not? That is why I am examining my own body!” Luciliano explained.
The former slave girls were even more excited than he was; some of them had burst into tears of joy. Luciliano considered himself rather considerate for not forcefully investigating their bodies.
“And yet you’re half-naked and standing in a questionable pose in front of those very girls that you say would be unable to answer your questions calmly,” Doug pointed out.
Indeed, what Luciliano considered to be ‘being considerate’ was often meaningless in the eyes of others.
“It’s fine as long as he keeps it limited to just his upper body. There are plenty of Ghouls and Titans that dress that way, after all,” said Melissa, having more pressing matters on her mind. “More importantly, has your examination told you anything more about you guys? It would be troublesome if you’ve become weak to sunlight or your skin gets burned by silver.”
“There is no way to know just yet. For now, we know that our skeletons, our organ positions and organ counts have not changed,” said Luciliano. “I am not sure about sunlight, since we are underground, but… silver should not be a problem. After all, it seems that Doug-kun’s skin is not burning even while being embraced by you while you are wearing a silver pendant.”
Melissa half-closed her eyes, and Doug’s cheeks turned red.
“… Considering that you were on the verge of collapse yourself, you’re pretty observant,” Melissa remarked.
“Indeed. I am a researcher, after all,” said Luciliano. “It seems that the Dwarves and Beast-kin have become races other than Dark Humans, however –”
“I’ve changed from being a wolf-type Beast-kin to a Magic Wolf-type Dark Beast-kin! I’ve learned the ‘Beast Transformation’ Skill!” said a former Beast-kin girl, who had grown a little more fur on her ears and tail.
“We’ve become a race called ‘Dvergr!’ Some of us have turned completely black, and others have turned completely white!” said one of the former Dwarf girls.
As she said, the skin color of the former Dwarves had changed.
Luciliano nodded, then turned around to talk to the pseudo-main-body-type Demon King Familiar. “Well, I shall examine them, investigate what kinds of special characteristics their races have and then report to you later. Is that alright with you, Master?” he asked.
“I don’t mind. It seems that there isn’t anyone whose mutation has caused their Attribute Values to decrease or caused any health problems. I’ll take your report when Melissa returns to the city of Morksi. Also, could you please check on Knochen and Bone Man who are with Kanako and the others? … Those two have absorbed the bones of the Demon King, so there might be some effects on them as well,” said the Demon King Familiar, who had been conducting its own examinations using death-attribute magic. “But before that, please put some clothes on. And please make sure to not take the clothes off the bottom half of your body in front of everyone.”
Meanwhile, in the Commerce Guild in the city of Morksi, Vandalieu described what he had seen through the eyes of the pseudo-main-body-type Demon King Familiar to Darcia.
“I’m glad that everyone has mutated as they wanted and are still okay. I didn’t expect even the Beast-kin to transform as well as the humans and Dwarves, but since I can transform Elves into Chaos Elves as well, the whole world can become members of Vida’s races now,” Darcia said with a smile.
“The Dark Humans and the other new races mutated as a result of drinking my blood and the effects of my ‘Bestower’ Job, so I’m not sure you can call them Vida’s races,” said Vandalieu.
“That’s true. But when human or Dwarf reincarnated individuals want to join us in the future, you can mutate them without having to wait for them to be guided.”
“… That would probably be quite a mental obstacle for the reincarnated individuals in and of itself.”
“And Vandalieu, that Divine Protection’s whole name has finally been displayed! As expected, it’s ‘Vandalieu’s Divine Protection!’” Darcia exclaimed excitedly.
The Divine Protection whose letters had been concealed on people’s Statuses. Its title was clear now, and Darcia lifted Vandalieu into the air in joy.
Even though Vandalieu’s ‘Silence’ spell prevented the receptionist and other Guild employees from hearing their conversation, they were startled by Darcia’s attention-drawing actions. But Darcia didn’t seem to mind.
Vandalieu didn’t really mind either. After all, they were already drawing attention because they were a Dark Elf mother and Dhampir son. And even if they were a little eccentric, it was a small thing in the big scheme of things.
“Hmm, it’s finally been fully revealed… I can’t deny it anymore,” said Vandalieu.
The truth was out… though all of Vandalieu’s companions, including Darcia herself, had long since realized that it was probably Vandalieu’s Divine Protection.
However, Vandalieu hadn’t really wanted to acknowledge this.
“I’m sure it’s because you acquired the ‘Bestower’ Job. I don’t think you’ll be able to prevent a big statue of yourself from being built anymore,” said Darcia.
One of the reasons Vandalieu hadn’t wanted to acknowledge it was because he wanted to prevent Nuaza, who was essentially the leader of the Church of Vida, from erecting statues of him.
Nuaza was always spending his days telling Vandalieu that if he were a being equivalent to a god, capable of granting others a Divine Protection, then he shouldn’t mind having large stone statues of himself erected.
“… It’s not like I gave these Divine Protections on purpose. Of course, I’m glad that it’s of use to everyone,” Vandalieu added.
“Vandalieu-san, your paperwork has been completed. Please come to the front desk,” said the receptionist, calling out to him from the desk.
“Ah, yes,” said Vandalieu.
Still holding him up in the air, Darcia brought him to the front desk. The receptionist was waiting with a sad expression on her face.
“This is your Commerce Guild temporary registration card. Please take care of it, as a fee will be charged for the re-issuing of a new one if it is damaged or lost,” she said.
“Ah… I understand,” said Vandalieu.
“You did it, Vandalieu!” Darcia cheered happily.
Acquiring a Guild registration card in his hands, Vandalieu let out a small breath of wonder.
Temporary registration cards were normally made of the same material as Guild Cards, but it did not have Vandalieu’s name written on it, nor did it have the function of displaying his Status. However, once he had officially passed the trial, the temporary registration card would be processed into an official Guild Card.
And even temporary registration cards could be used as proof of one’s identity, just like official Guild Cards.
“And… I’m sorry, but the location designated for your food cart is the alley on 4th East Street, between the ‘Seven-colored Mist’ and the ‘Evening Mug,’” the receptionist said, looking down and apologizing as she notified Vandalieu of the location for his business.
But this location was a place that Vandalieu had heard of before.
“4th East Street?” Vandalieu repeated, setting his excitement aside, confirming the location.
The receptionist gave a sympathetic look and nodded, not at Vandalieu, but at Darcia. “Yes, 4th East Street. There will be a penalty imposed if we learn that you have set up your food cart in any other location. We do not ordinarily accept location change requests… The Guild Master is away for business; he will be absent from the middle of this month until the beginning of the month after next month. Even if you appealed directly to the Deputy Guild Masters other than Joseph-san…”
“From the sound of it, it seems that this 4th East Street is a very problematic location,” said Chipuras, keeping himself hidden and whispering in a voice that only Vandalieu and Darcia could hear. “Perhaps a slum quarter, or a place with poor public order that guards do not patrol… I did think that it was strange for that small man to back down so quietly after Vandalieu-sama refused his offer, but it seems that his harassment has already begun.”
Judging from the receptionist’s words, Joseph had used his authority as a Deputy Guild Master to harass Vandalieu, just to the extent where it would not yet be illegal.
Harassment that was not against the law was very troublesome. The guards would not respond to any pleas for help, after all.
“I understand how troublesome it is to be on the receiving side of it. Vandalieu-sama, let us brainwash him, make him our puppet and then silence him later,” suggested Chipuras.
“No, it’s not that bad. In fact, it’s rather convenient,” said Vandalieu, replying through telepathy that the living could not hear.
He nodded at the receptionist and turned to walk away from the desk.
“Umm… Please be careful,” said the receptionist. “You too, Ma’am… A man called the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael arrived recently and took control of the area… He’s apparently a dangerous person.”
“Thank you. I’ll be careful,” Darcia said with a smile.
It seemed that there were some faults in the quality of the Deputy Guild Master as a human, but the receptionist was a good person… though this could have just been because Joseph did terrible things on a daily basis.
“So, Vandalieu, what kind of a place is this 4th East Street?” Darcia asked.
“… It’s the red-light district, where the base of Eleanora and the others’ criminal organization is. I’m not sure where between the ‘Seven-colored Mist’ and the ‘Evening Mug’ is, though,” said Vandalieu.
Joseph’s harassment ended up being not much of a harassment for Vandalieu after all.
Heinz, the leader of the Five-colored Blades, learned through first-hand experience just what it was like to have one’s soul damaged.
I don’t understand. The state I’m in… I can’t tell whether the things I can’t remember are because of the damage, or because I’d already forgotten them. My emotions… Nothing comes out, not even guilt or sadness. Am I being crushed by my sense of defeat? Or is it because the part of my soul that rules over my emotions is damaged? he wondered.
“Your soul is different from your mind, Heinz,” said Mill, the goddess of slumber, explaining his current state in a gentle voice. “Memories and emotions function normally only when the soul is inside the body. Your soul is currently separated from your body. Your memories and emotions are unclear partially because of that reason.”
The maintenance of memories required the brain, which was a part of the body, and emotions were heavily influenced by the body as well. This was the reason that many Undead had parts of their memories missing and were overwhelmed by their negative emotions.
Then what kind of state am I in now that my soul is damaged? Heinz asked.
“Unfortunately, I do not know,” said Mill.
Heinz’s thoughts froze as he heard her gentle-sounding and yet unsettling answer.
“Heinz, there are things that even gods do not know. Ordinarily, those with souls as damaged as yours would not survive,” Mill continued.
Attacks from weapons made from magical metals such as Orichalcum or great spells cast by elite mages could harm the soul, which was otherwise untouchable.
But such an attack would be fatal to the body of the one who received it, and they would die soon afterwards. No soul had ever been separated from its physical body with only the soul in a damaged state like Heinz’s was now.
“And the souls whose lives have ended return to the circle of transmigration. A very small number of them are invited by the gods to ascend to become familiar spirits, heroic spirits or subordinate gods, but any damage to their souls are repaired before their ascendancy. We do not know exactly what kind of state a human would be in when their soul is damaged but they are still alive,” said Mill. “But we can make conjectures.”
Mill went on to describe these conjectures.
Decreased Attribute Values, lost Skills, lower Skill Levels. Mana not recovering to its maximum amount due to the damage to the soul. And once the soul was returned to the body, there would be times where the limbs and body would become paralyzed or suddenly begin to hurt.
And, as expected, the loss of memories, emotions and senses…
“However, Heinz, your soul is currently receiving treatment in my Divine Realm. Sleeping heals people… Once this treatment is finished and you are returned to your body, you should not be plagued by any heavy symptoms,” said Mill.
Though treatment would have been impossible if the soul had been broken and destroyed, Mill was a goddess whose authority was related to healing; her treatment would heal a wounded soul.
But Heinz was not worried about himself.
But what about my companions? he asked, worried for his allies.
“… Jennifer and Diana have not sustained any soul damage. It seems that the Demon King made no effort to harm their souls. Delizah is also fine. Her wounds are lighter than yours,” Mill replied, giving him a brief overview of their current states. “But Edgar is in a terrible state… It is uncertain what will become of him.”
Heinz was greatly agitated upon hearing the news about Edgar.
“His soul was on the verge of being broken, and in ordinary circumstances, it would have been impossible to prevent his memories and personality from eroding away, causing him to become completely disabled. It would have been impossible for me to treat him,” Mill continued, explaining Edgar’s state in more detail. “He is currently undergoing treatment performed by a god who rules over souls, but… even if the destruction of his soul is prevented, he may not return as the same person,” she said, speaking vaguely of Rodcorte.
Ordinarily, it would not have been a good idea to instill shock in someone who was undergoing treatment, but after the wounds on Heinz’s soul were repaired, he would have to fight against the Demon King… Vandalieu.
Mill could not keep his companions’ state a secret.
The Demon King… That Dhampir boy, Vandalieu. His hatred is directed only towards me, Delizah and Edgar. No, that’s not right. In a five-on-one situation, he possessed enough strength and clarity of will to spare Diana and Jennifer. That’s how it was, said Heinz, feeling a sense of defeat that was like a gaping hole in his chest.
During the battle, Heinz and his companions had been unaware that Vandalieu was capable of breaking and devouring souls, but they had fought with all of their strength. However, Vandalieu had the reasoning capability and, most likely, a conscience that made him narrow down the targets of his revenge. This was why Heinz felt defeated.
“Heinz, you are mistaken. The Demon King did indeed refrain from attacking your two companions’ souls, but that was almost certainly not because the Demon King made an effort to hold his strength back against them,” said Mill.
Even so, Mill, attacking their souls would not have been any burden to him, just as holding himself back wouldn’t have been any burden to him either. The fact that he did not attack their souls means… he really has narrowed down the targets of his revenge, said Heinz, denying Mill’s words.
He went through all of his own memories that he was able to recollect, trying to remember as much about Vandalieu as possible. The way he had fought was something that no ordinary human would be able to replicate.
But it was an undeniable fact that he had not attacked the souls of the two who were uninvolved with his mother’s death, and that he had immediately sacrificed himself to defend his mother even though he knew that it was a fake.
Compared to that, I’m… With this, I’m not sure which of us is the Demon King, said Heinz.
“Heinz, you are mistaken. It is true that he has some valid words and morals. However, there is no mistake that his acts will bring disorder upon the world, and that he will go on to become a calamity to all of humanity –”
That Demon King! The one who made him that Demon King is none other than me! … Because I sold his mother out… he has become so grotesque, and he has become a dreadful being who destroys gods! Heinz shouted, cutting Mill off.
The past incident in which Heinz had received a request at the Adventurers’ Guild in the Mirg shield-nation, captured Darcia and handed her over to High Priest Gordan. Up until his battle against Vandalieu, Heinz had found peace with it, that it was something that could not be helped… or at least, told himself that he had found peace with it.
But even for a Dhampir, Vandalieu’s appearance and the way he fought had been too grotesque, and he possessed enough strength to overwhelm Heinz and his companions. Heinz had witnessed it all. Learning from Mill that Vandalieu possessed a repulsive ability to devour souls that surpassed Guduranis, and having been defeated by Vandalieu in battle, his justifications for his actions in the past had broken down.
He and his companions were the ones who had created the circumstances that had given birth to a being that the gods referred to as the Demon King. He was painfully aware that everything he had said to Vandalieu during the battle had come back to haunt him.
The fate of the Mirg shield-nation’s expedition army and his former companion, the ‘Green Wind Spear’ Riley, and the events that had occurred in the Hartner and Sauron Duchies – Heinz bore responsibility for all of these.
But that was only true if everyone, including Heinz, could have predicted these outcomes.
“Heinz… You are mistaken,” said Mill for a third time. “Even if you had not accepted Earl Thomas Palpapek’s request through the Adventurers’ Guild, eventually, another adventurer or one of Saint Gordan’s apprentices would have captured the Dark Elf, and she would still have been executed.”
At the time of the incident, Darcia was a D-class adventurer at most. From the moment it was known that she was hiding near the town of Evbejia, it was inevitable that she would be captured whether Heinz had accepted the request to capture her or not.
And in the end, Vandalieu would have still aspired to take revenge. The only difference would have been that the Five-colored Blades would not be the target of that revenge.
Even so… If I had taken steps to save her and the baby Vandalieu – Heinz began, believing that this would have changed the outcome of events.
But this time, it was Mill who cut his words off. “That would have been impossible,” she said.
At the time, Heinz had reached B-class despite his youth, but that didn’t change the fact that he was nothing more than a mere adventurer. If he had tried to help Darcia and Vandalieu escape, it would have resulted in him crossing swords with High Priest Gordan, and there was a significant chance that he would have been defeated.
And would it be possible to decide to go against the law of the nation that one was raised in and the teachings of one’s god, throw away all of one’s own past achievements and bear the dishonor of being a criminal? It was doubtful that the Five-colored Blades – Heinz, Delizah, Edgar and the now-deceased Martina – would have been capable of doing that back then.
At the very least, it was certain that persuading Riley to do so would have failed.
I… know that. I am not conceited enough to believe that everything would have been possible for me. But I bear the responsibility for bringing about the events that caused Vandalieu to become the Demon King, said Heinz. I can no longer deny that… I can no longer keep fooling myself into thinking otherwise.
The story known to the public in the Orbaume Kingdom was that Heinz and his companions had gone as far as to sneak into the country in order to leave the Amid Empire after having a change of heart as a result of witnessing the mother of a Dhampir being burned at the stake. The fact that Heinz himself was the one who had captured the woman was not publicly known.
This was not something that Heinz had intended, but… it was a fact that he felt hesitant to make the truth public.
This truth was something that had been left in the records of the Adventurers’ Guild in the Mirg shield-nation, so although it was a secret, it was known in the Orbaume Kingdom among those who possessed information networks and those close to such individuals. However, Heinz was beginning to feel like he couldn’t bear that.
And what exactly is she… What exactly has she become? I thought that my memories were in disorder because of the damage to my soul. But no matter how many times I think back, I remember it clearly in the same way. The person who told me and Delizah that she will not forgive us… Darcia. It was Vandalieu’s mother, the one we captured, the one who was burned at the stake, said Heinz.
Heinz remembered that immediately after the battle against Vandalieu, when he was in a soul-only state, Darcia had appeared and scattered him and Delizah with a swing of her staff.
The dead could not be resurrected. This fact contradicted his memories, causing Heinz to question his memories, and then in the next moment, he began to wonder whether Vandalieu had turned even his own mother into an Undead, but…
That divine presence… I cannot believe that she was an Undead. It was as if she had become a goddess… Is she not a familiar spirit… no, a subordinate god of Vida? If she will not forgive me, then… that must also be Vida’s will. If that’s the case, then I…
Darcia’s appearance had not been that of an Undead; in fact, Heinz even believed that she had become a familiar spirit or subordinate god of Vida.
But if that was the case, Heinz’s actions in the name of Alda’s peaceful faction, with the thought of co-existence between Vida’s races and humans – What had it all been for?
Heinz’s mind suffered from his self-condemnation and self-denial.
Sensing this, Mill decided to remove his sense of self-condemnation by telling him a fact that would surprise Heinz. “Heinz, that Dark Elf Darcia has not become a familiar spirit or subordinate god of Vida. She has returned to life. It is most likely that her resurrection was Vandalieu’s doing,” she said.
Returned to life?! That’s… The resurrection of the dead that is impossible even for the gods, isn’t it?! Heinz exclaimed.
Even gods who possessed immense power could not turn the dead back into the living. They could allow the ascension of the dead to become familiar spirits, heroic spirits or subordinate gods, but that did not change the fact of their deaths in the sense that they would never return to the mortal world again.
This was what was widely known.
The fact that Vida had been unable to bring the champion Zakkart back to life made this clear.
“Yes, it is impossible for us gods. Even for my lord Alda, and even for Vida. However, it is possible with the relics of the champion Zakkart and Vandalieu’s power,” said Mill.
Alda, the god of law and fate, remembered the root of life that Zakkart had created; he knew that Vandalieu had likely acquired it and brought Darcia back to life.
“But she has not merely been resurrected. She has become an incarnation of Vida,” said Mill.
Vida’s Incarnation?! … Now that you mention it, before we entered the Dungeon, we heard that there are whispered rumors that Vida has been resurrected, but… to think that Darcia has become her incarnation…
Heinz had entered Alda’s Dungeon immediately after Vandalieu conquered the Trial of Zakkart, but around that time, a merchant visiting the base he had created in the Devil’s Nest had spoken of such rumors.
But… Doesn’t that mean that the situation is even more serious? Heinz asked.
“Indeed. My followers, Diana and Jennifer, are already aware of this – All of the Five-colored Blades have acquired the ‘Vida’s Mortal Enemy’ Title,” Mill told him.
Heinz was aghast upon learning that a goddess considered him her mortal enemy.
“Heinz, moving forward, you must continue to learn truths that will surprise you. These truths are knowledge that would ordinarily be too much for mortals to know, but you must know them, as you bear the task of stopping the Demon King Vandalieu and saving the world,” Mill continued. “To begin with, Vandalieu’s origins lie in the distant past, long before he became Vandalieu. Back when he was known as Zakkart, Ark, Solder and Hillwillow,” she said.
After leaving the Commerce Guild, Vandalieu and Darcia made preparations to open their food cart right away.
“Your Majesty, are you not going a little too far?” questioned Princess Levia.
“Yeah, you don’t need to go that far to blend in,” said Orbia.
“I understand what you’re trying to say, but I need to blend in to some extent,” said Vandalieu.
He was carrying a bundle of charcoal – the fuel that would be used to grill his skewers.
“Firewood is cheaper, but the food cart’s structure is not suited to using large pieces of firewood for fire, so I suppose it cannot be helped,” Princess Levia said sadly.
“That’s not what I’m talking about… If you’re going to cook with fire, you can just use Levia and the other fire-attribute dead spirits! How can you go out of your way to buy charcoal? You should consider Levia’s feelings!” Orbia said angrily.
“It’s fine, Orbia,” said Princess Levia in a pained voice with tears in her eyes. “If His Majesty insists that charcoal flames are better than me, then I…”
Vandalieu felt as if he’d cheated on her.
Even though he was simply trying to disguise his food cart.
“You know, when I actually cook the meat at my food cart, I’m going to ask Princess Levia to do it,” Vandalieu said.
“What? Really?” said Princess Levia.
“Yes. Controlling the heat of charcoal fire is difficult, after all. If I ask Princess Levia to do it, the fire can be controlled freely.”
Princess Levia was a Satan Prometheus Ghost, a fire-attribute dead spirit. She was capable of controlling the heat of her flames, from temperatures that could melt iron to the temperature of lukewarm water.
On top of that, the only cost of using her flames was Vandalieu’s Mana, unlike charcoal which was more expensive than firewood.
Vandalieu wasn’t obsessed enough with charcoal to choose it over Princess Levia’s flames.
“So why did you buy charcoal, then?” Princess Levia asked.
“For camouflage, of course,” said Vandalieu. “If I don’t buy charcoal or firewood, people will look at me suspiciously and wonder what I’m using for fuel, and the Commerce Guild might think that I’ve forged my ledger,” said Vandalieu.
Many food cart owners in the city used firewood or charcoal as fuel. There were some who had introduced Magic Items such as magical stoves that used Mana as fuel to emit heat, but these were in the minority.
Though magical stoves were considered to be low-class, they were still Magical Items. It required courage for a food cart business to make such a purchase. And the Magic Stones that the magical stoves used as fuel were even more expensive than firewood and charcoal.
“That’s why I’m buying charcoal, but I’m hoping to ask Princess Levia to provide the actual fire,” said Vandalieu.
“I-Is that so…! Oh my, I was certain that… If that’s the case, then you should have said so to begin with,” said Princess Levia, her mood improving again instantly.
Invisible to anyone but Vandalieu and Darcia, she wrapped herself around him as if embracing him.
The other Ghosts seemed to be a little jealous after seeing this.
“… Cooking needs water, right?” said Orbia.
“… I wonder when you’re going to use lightning,” Kimberley sighed.
“… Well, I’m an advisor,” said Chipuras.
“Vandalieu, you should have explained things to Levia-san before buying the charcoal. Let’s do better next time,” said Darcia.
“Yes, Mom,” said Vandalieu. “By the way, what about the real estate agent?”
“There’s no problem with that. There’s just one single-family home with a basement on 4th East Street that can be moved into right away,” said Darcia.
She had met with a real estate agent introduced to her by the Commerce Guild to investigate whether there were any houses that met Vandalieu’s requirements.
“There’s a second floor, and we can move in as long as we clean it. If we’re renting, it’s five hundred Baums a month, and it’s ten thousand to buy it,” Darcia said.
“… It’s strangely cheap. Even considering that it’s cheap for the red-light district and slum quarter, that’s less than a third of the market value that I was told,” said Vandalieu.
“Hmm, perhaps the previous tenants were murdered? Or perhaps the real estate agent is in desperate need of immediate funds,” Chipuras speculated. “Or perhaps he has an ulterior motive related to Darcia-sama…”
“Chipuras-san, the real-estate agent is a woman, so it’s alright. There’s nothing strange about her,” said Darcia. “But it has a history of tenants dying of disease within a year after moving in.”
“Oh, I see. I apologize for my impolite words,” said Chipuras.
“Well then, let’s go and buy it,” said Vandalieu.
The red-light district was largely the same as usual that day.
Despite having been a ghost town in the early hours of the morning, people came to life as the sun set. Men and women called out to customers on the streets, visitors wandered about looking for something to catch their interest, and food carts filled people’s stomachs.
Of course, even in the red-light district, there were stores that offered food and fancy bars. But these were generally expensive, and the food carts’ customer base was largely made up of the many people who worked there and the customers who wanted to enjoy themselves but did not have many spare funds.
Food cart owners using relatively high-class ingredients were enthusiastically calling out to customers at the entrance to the red-light district.
“We have Orc-meat skewers! Hey Mister, how about getting some energy before you go out to play?”
“We have meat, fish and vegetables! Come and get your hearty sandwiches here!”
Inside the red-light district, past the entrance, there were food carts scattered in rows, selling low-cost food catered for the district’s workers.
“Three servings of meatballs, here you are. As always, come and return your bowls afterwards.”
“Here’s your sandwich, sorry for the wait!”
And in the alley that connected the red-light district to the slum quarter, away from the roads, were the food carts that the inhabitants of the slums came to – the ones that had terrible food, but were dirt cheap.
Hard bread was among the higher-quality of the food sold at these food carts, and there was also soup containing mysterious meatballs… ones containing Goblin and Kobold ears, acquired almost for free from the Adventurers’ Guild that had them stockpiled from adventurers bringing them in as proof of exterminating monsters, and unsold meat left over from other food carts.
If someone ever came up with the idea of adding egg or breadcrumbs to the meatballs, they would become patties, however. Perhaps patties in this world would originate from meatball soups sold at food carts in a slum quarter.
… Though they were unlikely to become popular as long as they contained Goblin and Kobold ears.
The owners of such food carts did not promote their businesses; they did their business in whispers with their gloomy customers that came from the slum quarter.
Being amongst these food carts, Vandalieu’s food cart, which was located in an alley between the pub-brothel ‘Seven-colored Mist’ and the ‘Evening Mug’ that offered dancing women, stood out.
“Would you like some grilled skewers?” said Vandalieu, calling out to potential customers.
Not only was he calling out to customers, but the food cart itself was clean, and it was decorated with a heart that was the symbol of Vida, the goddess of life and love.
The entire food cart seemed to be floating above the somewhat gloomy atmosphere of the back alley.
“They’re very delicious, you know,” said Darcia.
She herself was also floating above the back alley’s atmosphere. Her expression and her voice were simply too bright.
Even hoodlums that would normally be pickpocketing or mugging people wandering into the alley were surrounding the food cart at a distance.
Chipuras’s face was twisted in anger at these circumstances that were clearly unfavorable for sales. “… Vandalieu-sama, I believe it is not too late to go and throttle that man named Joseph,” he said.
His anger was understandable. The customers of food carts in this place were largely inhabitants of the slum quarter; people going to enjoy themselves in the red-light district would not wander here even by accident.
And those who lived in the slum quarter did not have any spare money. In other words, one would not sell anything to them unless they offered very low prices.
But the meat that Vandalieu had acquired from a butcher for the grilled skewers sold at his food cart was cheap, but ordinary meat… the meat of Rank 1 monsters such as Giant Rats and Horn Rabbits, which could be harvested in large quantities. Naturally, this meat was far more expensive than Goblin and Kobold ears that could be acquired almost for free.
“At this rate, our skewers will not sell, and we will be considered to have failed in three months’ time! As the Guild Master and other Deputy Guild Masters are not present, we must have him change our location even if it means strangling him,” Chipuras insisted. “Even if we are in the red-light district, we must at least be on the main street!”
“It’s alright. It gives me time to prepare mentally, so it’s actually perfect. I’m experienced at cooking, but it’s my first time running a food cart, after all,” said Vandalieu as he grilled his skewers skillfully, causing a hunger-stimulating aroma to spread.
“Chipuras-san, you don’t need to worry so much. The skewers smell very good, so hungry people will come to buy them soon enough,” said Darcia. “It is true that we are more expensive than other food carts, though.”
The slum-quarter-style meatball soup was five Baums per bowl (The food carts refunded three Baums with the return of the bowl that the soup was provided in, so essentially only two Baums). The slum-quarter-style sandwiches, consisting of leftover meat and vegetable scraps stir-fried and put between two pieces of hard brown bread, cost two Baums each. Both options were quite filling; they were enough for all but the biggest eaters.
But the skewers of Vandalieu’s food cart were five Baums each. Each regular barbecue-sized skewer had four or five pieces of appropriately-sized, grilled meat. But one skewer might be a little lacking to be considered a meal.
“The sauce is hand-made, after all. We definitely don’t lose when it comes to flavor,” said Darcia.
Vandalieu did not use particularly high-quality meat, but he was very particular about the sauce that he applied to the meat before grilling it.
The minced herbs and fruits used, combined with Vandalieu’s advanced ‘Cooking’ Skill, resulted in quite the high-quality sauce. It was likely to be popular even in restaurants on the main street, never mind a food cart in a back alley.
“And I’m using herbs and fruits grown inside my own body with the effects of the ‘Plant Binding Technique’ Skill that I gained with the ‘Tree Caster’ Job, so I don’t have to write any cost for the sauce’s ingredients on the ledger,” said Vandalieu.
Indeed, the ingredients for the sauces were free.
In the event that the Commerce Guild were to ask Vandalieu about the sauce, he intended to assert that he had made it by gathering the herbs and blending them himself.
… There were no easily-identifiable spices in the sauce, and even if they investigated the entirety of Morksi, they wouldn’t find any evidence of Vandalieu purchasing ingredients for his sauce, so they would not be able to deny this claim.
“… I see. Things may become troublesome afterwards if we threatened Joseph, so if you insist…” Chipuras mumbled with a nod, falling silent.
Through Chipuras’s transparent form, Vandalieu and Darcia saw a man with a wild-looking face and his hair swept back, leading a group of undesirable-looking men, approaching.
The thugs formed a threatening half-circle around the food cart.
“Is this the new food cart? Hey, who gave you permission to set up shop here?!” one of them demanded.
“This city’s controlled by the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael-aniki! If you wanna do business here, you gotta pay up!” said another.
It seemed that they had come to demand what was known as a ‘space rent.’
Not wanting to get involved, the slum quarter people who had been watching the food cart from a distance stepped even further away.
“I see. Give me a moment, please. My hands are busy right now,” said Vandalieu.
Naturally, he wasn’t scared by such threats… the thugs were incapable of harming him or Darcia no matter how hard they tried, after all.
“The hell did you say, brat?!” one of the thugs spat.
“You cheeky shit… You know, we don’t mind taking that nee-chan over there in place of your space rent!” said another.
“We’d definitely like to do that!” said a third thug, giving a lecherous gaze towards Darcia, unable to hide his inner desires.
“Well, I wonder what I should do?” said Darcia.
She looked up at the man with the swept-back hair, who was standing in silence with his arms crossed… the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael.
Michael’s mouth twitched a little, and he unfolded his arms. “Get back to your patrols, you lot. I have something to discuss with this brat,” he said to the thugs.
“Huh? N-no way, Michael-aniki,” one of the thugs pleaded.
“You’re going to have a nice woman like this all to yourself?” another complained.
“If you have the time to be saying such stupid shit, hurry up and get back to your patrols! Or do you want me to kill you with my bare hands?” he shouted, sounding far more menacing than the thugs’ earlier threats to Vandalieu and Darcia.
The thugs gave small, terrified screams and ran away back towards the main road.
Everyone else in the back alley trembled in fear and fled, and the only ones left were the owners of the food carts.
Seeing the now-empty alley, Vandalieu let out a sigh. “You’re disturbing the other food carts’ business, Miles,” he said.
“Oh darn… Sorry about that. I panicked and thought you’d massacre them all, so I went too far, Boss,” said Michael.
This was the man who had become the boss of Morksi’s underworld less than a month after making an appearance in it, the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael… or rather, the Abyssal Noble-born Vampire Miles who had infiltrated the underworld under that alias.
Name: Miles Rouge
Age: Several hundred years old
Title: Kisser, Starving Wolf
Race: Abyssal Noble-Born Vampire Marquis
Job: Dark Night Fighter
Job level: 91
Job history: Apprentice Thief, Thief, Mage, Fire-Attribute Mage, Unarmed Fighter, Magic Fighter, Clawed Fanged Warrior, Assassin, Dark Fighter
Monstrous Strength: Level 2 (Awakened from Superhuman Strength!)
Rapid Regeneration: Level 9
Status Effect Resistance: Level 5
Mental Corruption: Level 1
Enhanced Physical Ability (Claws, Fangs): Level 10 (LEVEL UP!)
Strengthened Attack Power while Unarmed: Very Large (LEVEL UP!)
Detect Presence: Level 3 (LEVEL UP!)
Mana Enlargement: Level 2 (LEVEL UP!)
Self-Enhancement: Guidance: Level 3 (NEW!)
Bloodwork: Level 3 (LEVEL UP!)
High-speed Flight: Level 9 (LEVEL UP!)
Transcend Limits: Level 3 (LEVEL UP!)
Trap: Level 4
Silent Steps: Level 6
Dagger Technique: Level 4 (LEVEL UP!)
Unarmed Fighting Technique: Level 10 (LEVEL UP!)
No-Attribute Magic: Level 1
Fire-Attribute Magic: Level 6
Mana Control: Level 3 (LEVEL UP!)
Magic Fighting Technique: Level 4 (LEVEL UP!)
Chant Revocation: Level 2 (LEVEL UP!)
Assassination Technique: Level 4 (LEVEL UP!)
Armor Technique: Level 1 (NEW!)
Beast Transformation: Level 1 (NEW!)
■■■ダルー’s Divine Protection (NEW!) [dalieu]