Death Mage 234 – The battle begins, and a fight between a god’s servant and a subordinate of the Demon King
Alarm bells rang across the city of Morksi, and flags rose at the earl’s residence and at the watchtowers to signal that a large monster rampage was occurring. People ran about frantically in panic.
Grim expressions were worn both by the people evacuating, and the people staying behind to defend the city – the soldiers, knights and adventurers.
When news of the monster rampage first reached the city, nobody had thought that the situation would be this serious.
After all, Morksi was a city of commerce with thirty thousand permanent residents. Its walls were sturdy, and it was defended by many guards. And most importantly, the constant presence of large numbers of adventurers in the city meant that the people didn’t worry much for their own safety.
Indeed, if the monster rampage had occurred from a D-class Dungeon, the city of Morksi would have withstood it with ease. Several merchants and adventurers unfortunate enough to be outside the city’s walls at the time may have lost their lives, but there would have been no casualties inside the city.
If it had been a C-class Dungeon, there would have been considerable damage, but even so, the city would have avoided being destroyed.
The Adventurers’ Guild would send out an emergency commission to mobilize adventurers who would repel the monsters and protect the city. Since it was winter, there were plenty of adventurers capable of earning their keep currently staying in the city. There would be enough fighting forces to keep the city safe – that was what everyone had thought.
But such notions had been deeply cracked the moment the reports of Dragons came from the watchtowers… Not Wyverns, but multiple actual Dragons measuring more than ten meters in length, flying through the sky.
And each time they received detailed information regarding the monsters approaching the city, the people’s faces grew paler and paler.
When it became known that the Dragons were Thunder Dragons, emergency commissions were put up not only at the Adventurers’ Guild, but at the Mages’ Guild and Tamers’ Guild as well. All of the knights serving the house of the earl had been summoned, and the soldiers had begun moving to evacuate the people.
And then there had been a report that even the weakest monsters were a horde of dozens of Rank 5 Ogre Soldiers, led by a Rank 7 Ogre High General. Upon hearing this news, Earl Morksi had steeled his resolve, knowing that today was the day he would die.
There wasn’t a single B-class adventurer – an adventurer capable of defeating a Rank 7 monster alone – in this city.
The Dungeons around the city of Morksi were C-class or lower. Thus, most adventurers who ascended to B-class would move to other cities in search of places where they could make greater use of their skills.
Until today, that would have been fine. There were no monsters near the city that would require a B-class adventurer to exterminate.
But today was different.
Most of the city’s people hadn’t been told the details, but… even from this distance, they could hear the roars of the Dragons and Giants. They could see adventurers and knights running about with grim expressions, and the soldiers were telling the people to evacuate. Everyone knew how serious the situation was.
A group of teenage boys and girls who appeared to be adventurers ran towards the gate.
“L-let us inside the gate!” one of them shouted desperately.
“This way! Use the gate over here!” said the city guard Kest, waving the adventurers over to a gate that was ordinarily only used to welcome messengers from nobles in other cities. “Once you’re inside, don’t stop and keep going!”
“The old lady, the old lady used herself as bait so that we could escape…!” one of the girls gasped, out of breath.
Kest couldn’t tell her, ‘Alright, we’ll go and help her.’
“For that old lady’s sake, you have to focus on yourself and those who are important to you!” he said instead.
Those were the only words he could manage as he gave her a push on the back into the gate. Perhaps his diligent training had paid off; his physical abilities had improved remarkably. But in the end, he was just a single city guard. He wasn’t capable of any heroic feats that bards wrote songs about.
“… He’s still not back?” said a senior guard.
“No, though he should be near the city,” Kest replied, trying to suppress his sense of powerlessness.
He was waiting for Vandalieu, who was outside the city somewhere nearby.
The Beast-kin Kest had been acquainted with Vandalieu since Vandalieu first arrived in the city, but… that wasn’t the only reason he was waiting for him. Vandalieu had already become a very important person in the city of Morksi… and in the near future, he would become a very important person in the entire Alcrem Duchy.
“His apprentices and familiars have apparently already joined our forces, so… he should be coming back. I don’t know what he’s doing, staying out on his own,” said Kest, but he had a worried look on his face and his ears were twitching in all directions.
To the majority of the city’s residents, Vandalieu was nothing more than an extremely talented Tamer. He was certainly not an ‘Elder Dragon Emperor’ that Dragons cowered before, a master of ‘Unarmed Fighting Technique’ who was capable of crushing the spines of Pure-breed Vampires beneath his feet, or a Demon King who devoured evil gods.
Kest, who was nothing more than a city guard, was no exception to this; it wasn’t surprising for him to be worried about Vandalieu.
“He might actually be taming the Dragons and Giants. For some reason, it seems that several of the Dragons and Giants killed each other before they could reach the city,” said the senior guard.
“No, that’s… that might actually be possible,” said Kest.
The news of the mysterious group attacking Vandalieu and his companions, witnessed at the watchtowers, hadn’t reached Kest and his senior yet.
“More importantly, Kest, you’re still a rookie. You can go and join the guys guarding the evacuating civilians,” said the senior guard. “I’m not married, so I’m fine to stay here, but you… Your family is evacuating, aren’t they? Why don’t you go with them?”
Earl Morksi had resigned to the fact that the city of Morksi would not be able to escape destruction, but that didn’t mean that he had given up on the lives of its residents. He was planning to gather all the forces he could to fight off the monster horde, and use the time they bought to evacuate the civilians under the guard of the younger guards and adventurers.
If the civilians were evacuated too quickly, it was possible that the monster horde’s attention would be drawn towards them, so their escape would happen after the battle broke out inside the city.
The senior guard was urging Kest to join them.
“No, I’ll stay behind. Even if we escape from the city, we won’t get away unharmed with Thunder Dragons and Wyverns flying around,” said Kest.
“Well, that’s true, but… you’ll have better chances of surviving than staying here,” said the senior guard.
“It’s alright. My family is being protected by the people of Starving Wolf Security,” said Kest.
The Starving Wolf Security was the security company started by the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael (Miles Rouge) with the thugs of the red-light district and slums.
Not much time had passed since it was created, but the former thugs now wore uniforms with heart symbols and were surprisingly well-organized. Though they still had rough tones of speech and less-than-ideal manners, the people considered them to be dependable.
But fighting monsters would be too much for them, so it had been decided that they would join the evacuating civilians. They had already done as much work as the city guards, guiding and directing people from the slums and red-light district to be evacuated.
… Having lost much of the people’s trust with the incident involving Aggar, the city guards had to admire their work.
“I know that, but you won’t make much of a difference joining us here,” said the senior guard.
“So you say, but you lost to me in our sparring match the other day, didn’t you?” said Kest.
“You’ve gone and said it, huh,” the senior guard chuckled. “We’re shutting this gate now! We’re going to the guardroom to get our crossbows and climbing onto the walls! Kest, come with me!”
As they shut the gate, forces were gathering outside the main gate to meet the monsters in battle. Not inside the gate, but outside it.
If the monster horde consisted of Goblins and Kobolds, or even Huge Boars, Hellhounds and Ogres, the sturdy walls would have withstood the monsters’ attacks.
But the soldiers’ foes were flying Dragons and Mountain Giants that stood taller than the walls. If they tried to hold the city while relying on the walls, the Dragons would simply fly over, and the Giants would easily knock the walls down by throwing their bodies at them.
With that being the case, it was better to gather forces outside the gate, with the walls put to better use by lining them with those who were skilled in long-range attacks – archers and mages.
“Just yesterday, these walls built by our ancestors seemed so sturdy and reliable. To think that I would be dying with the walls to my back today… Life is full of unpredictable things,” Earl Isaac Morksi murmured to himself.
He was wearing a hastily-procured suit of armor and a helmet, with a sword that he wasn’t accustomed to using hanging at his waist.
The Morksi house of earls ruled over an inland city of commerce; Isaac had no experience in leading an army in battle. He was just a decoration; the real commanders would be the leader of the Knights’ Order and Berard, the Guild Master of the Adventurers’ Guild.
Even so, the fact that the lord of the city was remaining behind rather than evacuating would raise the troops’ morale considerably.
“Please retreat to the basement of the Guild at some point during the battle, my lord. Monsters become less adept at detecting hiding humans during rampages, so you may be able to survive,” said Berard.
Isaac smiled bitterly and shook his head. “Even if I were to survive, if I’m unlucky, the building will collapse and I’ll be trapped inside the basement and left to wait until I starve to death. And I have made a great error. If I survived, I would be too ashamed to meet His Excellency the Duke.”
“A great error… With all due respect, nobody would have expected that something like this would happen,” said Berard.
“That is correct. It is true that this situation can only be described as a monster rampage, but it exceeds all common sense,” agreed the Guild Master of the Mages’ Guild.
Indeed, monster rampages from Dungeons were considered to be disasters, but they were also considered to be disasters that occurred due to rulers who were negligent in making adequate preparations.
However, in this case, a B-class Dungeon had appeared in a Devil’s Nest that didn’t contain very strong monsters, and a monster rampage had occurred from that Dungeon almost immediately afterwards – like some kind of cruel joke.
With that being the case, no number of adventurers reducing monster populations inside the Devil’s Nest would have made any difference.
However, it was also true that Duke Alcrem would look for someone to take responsibility for the loss of Morksi, a center of commerce in the duchy, to a monster rampage.
“It matters not. After all, it is the duty of those born to nobility to offer their own lives when the time calls for it. And I will have my own family evacuate with the rest of the citizens under the protection of some knights. If I fulfill my responsibility as a noble here, His Excellency the Duke may spare the house of Morksi, leaving it as a house of honorary nobles, or merely lower our court rank to a house of viscounts,” said Isaac, laughing out loud.
Though he was giving up his life, he was doing so out of self-interest. If he were to die, the duke was unlikely to punish his children who were still young.
“More importantly, how many forces have we managed to gather?” Isaac asked.
“The Adventurers’ Guild has posted an emergency commission for adventurers of C-class and above. We let the adventurers of D-class and below decide their own fates,” said Berard. “We have gathered twenty C-class adventurers and fifty D-class adventurers.”
Each C-class adventurer was capable of defeating Rank 5 and Rank 6 monsters. But it would be difficult for them to defeat a Rank 7 monster. For D-class adventurers, it was out of the question.
However, it was possible that even C-class adventurers could defeat monsters of Rank 7 and higher if they formed a party.
“The Mages’ Guild also recruited volunteers. Users of offensive magic have been positioned on the city’s walls, and those capable of using healing magic and enchantments have been positioned in the rear,” said the Guild Master of the Mages’ Guild. “And Bachem, the Guild Master of the Tamers’ Guild, is on standby with his familiar.
The Mages’ Guild had recruited volunteers as well, and the head of the Morksi branch of the Tamers’ Guild was already on his Huge Wyvern, on standby to take down the enemies in the sky.
Incidentally, the children of the orphanage were naturally among the citizens to be evacuated. It was perhaps strange to others that the orphans were so calm while the adults around them were so restless.
“There was also one volunteer sent by a merchant,” added the Guild Master of the Mages’ Guild.
“Yes, the ‘Strong Sword’ Rodriguez, isn’t it? I have heard of his name. Though he is no longer an adventurer, we are fortuitous to have someone with the skills of a B-class adventurer on our side,” said Isaac.
Rodriguez was the man hired as a bodyguard by the merchant who had made a business offer of establishing a Ghoul brothel in disguise to Darcia. He was standing at the forefront of the ranks of adventurers, staring calmly at the monster horde that was gradually approaching.
Ordinarily, Rodriguez joining the battle would not improve the situation much.
A B-class adventurer was capable of defeating a Dragon or a Mountain Giant alone. But against two or more Dragons and Giants, the odds of victory dropped drastically.
Rodriguez was not a currently-active adventurer; he was a former B-class adventurer. He sometimes disposed of bandits and monsters appearing on the highway in order to protect his employer. But he rarely fought against powerful monsters these days.
Rodriguez himself was aware that his skills had dulled compared to when he was actively working as an adventurer. Perhaps he would only be able to move as well as a C-class adventurer.
But Rodriguez didn’t think for a single moment that he would die here, and this belief was no delusion or escape from reality.
He saw Darcia, along with the Ghouls… Basdia and Zadiris, emerge from within the gate to join Simon and the others.
They’re here. The real fighters with the strength of a B-class adventurer, or even higher, Rodriguez thought to himself, now absolutely certain that he would survive.
The people who knew of Darcia began murmuring amongst themselves. She was famous as the person who gave regular sermons at the Communal Church, as the worker who sold food on Vida Street in the red-light district, and as the mother of Vandalieu.
“Well, if it isn’t Darcia-dono. You are not an adventurer, so there is no need for you to risk your life here…” said Isaac.
“I have many friends in this city, and my son has not returned yet. And I was quite proficient in disposing of monsters in my home village,” said Darcia. “These girls will be helping me as well,” she said, gesturing towards Basdia and Zadiris.
“We’re Van’s familiars, after all,” said Basdia.
“Well, the Tamer himself isn’t here, but… there should be no problems. We are outside the city, in any case,” said Zadiris.
The staff and axe that Zadiris and Basdia were currently holding had never been shown to anyone in the city before.
“And the battle may not be as hopeless as it appears, my lord,” said Darcia.
Isaac looked back towards the horde of monsters to see that the number of Dragons heading towards the city had decreased considerably. He could not relax his sense of caution, as some of the Dragons were heading into the grassy plains, but… it was certainly good news that the city’s defenses would have to fight against less Dragons at the same time.
“This battle… may be winnable,” said Isaac. “Incidentally, Darcia-dono, why has your son not returned? And where is the ‘Starving Wolf?’”
Some already knew that the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael was as capable as a B-class adventurer; he would become a significant addition to the fighting forces. And although Vandalieu was only known as a capable Tamer, the earl had placed some hopes in him and his mysterious nature.
“My lord, that is a little…” murmured one of the knights, disapproving of the earl’s reliance on a boy who was just over ten years of age.
There were some who thought like him, but it was commonly known that familiars did not perform to their potential without their Tamers’ commands, and the situation was dire. There were not many who disagreed with the earl’s words.
“Umm, Michael-san has a little business to attend to… and my son remains in the fields with his friends,” said Darcia.
“W-what! That is… Could it be that he is the reason that some of the Dragons and Giants are heading towards the fields and others have killed each other?!” Isaac gasped.
“Yes. I think he knows how to mix poisons that confuse Dragons and Giants. He’s good at alchemy, after all,” said Darcia.
Simon’s eyes opened wide as he took in Darcia’s lies, while Natania looked away.
“Such a poison exists?!” exclaimed the Guild Master of the Mages’ Guild. “And to think that he can administer the poison to flying Dragons and Giants…!”
He was the one trying to use his Guild to pressure Vandalieu in order to prevent him from distributing artificial limbs at a cheap price like he had done with Simon and Natania, as this would decrease the prices of Magic Item artificial limbs.
Indeed, there were some in the slums who suffered from disabilities and did not have full freedom of movement, and some of these people were missing limbs. Considering the things that Vandalieu had done in this city, it was certainly easy to imagine Vandalieu distributing artificial limbs to such individuals.
The truth, however, was that the artificial limbs created by Vandalieu and Tarea were different from the Magic Items created by the alchemists of the Mages’ Guild. There was almost no meaning in the pressure that the Mages’ Guild was trying to apply on Vandalieu.
“Yes, it is a poison made with an old, secret recipe. My son has been crushing Magic Stones with a mortar and pestle, training in the ‘Alchemy’ Skill, since he was three years old. And he learned the ‘Throwing’ Skill from a warrior in the village before he turned seven,” Darcia said.
The truth was that such a poison did not exist, and it was not some village elder or warrior of a Dark Elf village that had trained Vandalieu, but the Ghoul leader and her daughter whom she could currently see in the corner of her vision, wearing proud expressions.
But she could not simply say, ‘My son turned them into Undead and is controlling them,’ so she didn’t have a choice but to lie.
“My word… What kind of poison is it?!” the Guild Master of the Mages’ Guild asked.
“I’m sorry, but the poison is very difficult to handle, and I have never touched it myself. My son is the one who handles it. But nobody expected Dragons and Giants to appear, so he likely doesn’t have much of it on him,” said Darcia, panicking a little on the inside as she continued to lie.
She was not particularly skilled at lying; even now, she was desperately struggling to maintain an expression that wasn’t stiff.
“If such a poison was available, it could turn the tides of battle, but…” the Guild Master of the Mages’ Guild muttered in dissatisfaction.
“Darcia-dono did say that it is difficult to handle, isn’t it? Be more considerate to Darcia-dono’s feelings, will you? I am sure that she is desperate to run to her son’s side, but she is remaining here to fight at our side!” Earl Morksi said, reprimanding the Mages’ Guild’s Guild Master.
Darcia let out a sigh of relief. “No, it’s fine. More importantly, we should prepare ourselves.”
She turned her gaze towards the approaching horde of Dragons, Giants, Ogres and Trolls.
Their numbers had decreased considerably from the original estimates, and many of the Dragons and Giants were wounded from having fought against the ones that Vandalieu had turned into Zombies… In fact, although there had been more than ten Thunder Dragons, there were now only three.
The faces of Simon and the soldiers became a little less pale as they began to see hope. But on the other hand, Darcia was a little troubled.
The monsters were the kind that she could clean up with ease if she went all-out.
Of course, she wouldn’t be able to use her ‘Chaos’ Skill that transformed her body, but even so, she would not struggle whatsoever in defeating monsters the likes of Thunder Dragons and Mountain Giants.
But if she were to defeat them too quickly, it would cause trouble for the confrontation between Vandalieu and the reincarnated individuals.
“What shall we do? Will we be able to prolong the battle without causing any casualties and exterminate the monsters over a long time? I’m not so confident that we can,” said Darcia.
“Well, neither am I, but… let’s think of it as supervising the others’ Leveling. Things should work out if we focus on defending and wounding the monsters to toy around with them rather than defeating them, even though it’s a little rude to the others who have decided to defend the city with their lives,” said Basdia.
“Of course, being able to do so will look unnatural without some acting, and protecting this many people will be impossible unless we put in some effort. Darcia, you should use ‘Familiar Spirit Descent’ and we will transform with our equipment… Be careful to not say a word about magical girls,” Zadiris warned. “If the idea spreads into human society, things will be hopeless.”
“If you defeat all of the monsters, I will add some more monsters from my own labyrinth. They are all Golems, so some may think it strange, but it is unlikely that they will discern the truth,” said Gufadgarn.
Thanks to these reassuring words, Darcia felt a little uneasiness leaving her and raised her staff into the air, facing the approaching horde of monsters. “… ‘Familiar Spirit Descent!’”
Though Darcia was capable of summoning Vida herself, she requested a familiar spirit instead. The familiar spirit, understanding her situation, descended onto her body with a brighter pillar of light than usual.
The heroic spirits working under Hajime Fitun began moving in order to destroy the city of Morksi as they had planned.
They cautiously moved towards the city, surrounding it from all directions.
“Hey, don’t pass under that tree. It’s making an arch shape.”
“How troublesome. This is why I hate space-attribute mages… though I love having them on our side.”
“Legion, the evil god of labyrinths and the other, unknown space-attribute mages from within the Boundary Mountain Range… How nice it must be for our enemies, not having any shortages.”
The heroic spirits were very wary of space-attribute magic. Unlike fire-attribute and wind-attribute magic, space-attribute magic lacked offensive spells. However, it had different strengths from other attributes.
One of those strengths was traps using ‘gates’ that connected two different points in space. Those who became trapped in these were helpless.
The heroic spirits were confident that they would not die even if they were struck by fireballs or lightning attacks unless they had tremendous power behind them. But if they were sent to a physically distant place by space-attribute magic, they were instantly out of the fight.
“It’s fine to enjoy yourselves, but don’t let your guard down. We’re the outnumbered ones here; we lose a lot of our fighting strength if even one member gets sent away somewhere,” one of the heroic spirits said.
As the heroic spirits proceeded forward, there was a corpse that had been torn into pieces and scattered across one of the trees of the forest.
“A victim of the monsters, huh.”
“Hey, don’t touch it.”
“Wait, something is strange. Why has it just been left here? If it was killed by the monster horde, it should have been eaten.”
The corpse was indeed in pieces, and the organs that were supposed to be packed inside the torso were missing, but the limbs and head looked undamaged. If it was the corpse of someone who had been killed by the horde of monsters, it was relatively intact.
Enormous Dragons and Giants might have left such fragments of their prey alone. But the hordes contained Trolls which were known to eat foul things, Ogres and other meat-eating beast-type monsters.
The heroic spirits were well aware of how fierce their appetites were, having trained in a Dungeon full of them. One of the heroic spirits felt uneasy at the fact that such monsters had left meat that was in their path alone.
But it seemed that the other heroic spirits did not agree.
“You’re being overly nervous. I’m sure they didn’t want to eat the tough meat of an old woman, or they were satisfied with just eating the organs.”
“I, on the other hand, am actually relieved to see a corpse. It’s been bothering me that we haven’t seen a single corpse yet.”
The other heroic spirits continued moving without stopping, but the uneasy heroic spirit stopped walking, his uneasiness growing even greater.
“… Now that you mention it, why are there so few corpses?” he wondered.
There were simply too few corpses.
It was winter with snow covering the ground, so it was natural for there to be fewer adventurers hunting in the Devil’s Nests. But considering Morksi’s size, there should have been several dozens of adventurers with no other work to do. It was especially strange considering that the heroic spirits had begun executing their plan in the morning – the time during which adventurers would be heading off to hunt and gather in order to complete the commissions they had accepted at the start of the day.
Thus, there were strangely few adventurer corpses. It was as if someone had evacuated them all.
No, corpses weren’t the only thing that was missing!
“There’s not even a single drop of blood? None scattered around, and none on the clothes that the corpse is wearing… Wait! This is a trap! Get back!” the heroic spirit warned his companions.
But before they could react, they vanished.
The old woman’s severed head suddenly laughed out loud. “So, you have noticed! Even though I was being quiet, which is unusual for me!”
The one heroic spirit remaining was now sure of what he had initially suspected.
“You… Legion! Judging from that boisterous tone of speech, you must be ‘Valkyrie’ that the Commander mentioned!” he muttered.
“So, you possess information regarding us!” the severed head said in an annoyed tone. “It was a good choice to borrow the appearance of the old woman that we fused with!”
The old woman’s severed head transformed into the severed head of a beautiful woman with white hair and skin… Valkyrie. The pieces of flesh around her crawled towards her and began to fuse with her.
“With Jack’s power, we have sent your companions to a place that isn’t the city! Now then, what will you do? Will you fight us on your own?! Or will you go and help your companions?!” Valkyrie asked tauntingly.
“… The answer to that is obvious,” the heroic spirit muttered as he began running with great speed… towards the city, avoiding Valkyrie. “I’ll ignore you and continue to execute the plan!”
The loss of his companions was great, but something that was always possible during battle. The heroic spirit believed that what he chose to do after his party fell into the trap was more important to focus on.
Even on his own, if he could reach the city… he could cause a great fuss just by opening a hole in the wall. There was no doubt that the Demon King would send even more forces to the city in order to defend it.
But as the heroic spirit abandoned all pretense of stealth and broke into a sprint, a large man stood in his way.
“You, you’re Miles Rouge!” he muttered, stopping in his tracks.
“Oh my. You know my real name, I see,” said Miles.
Vandalieu had not expected that Legion alone would be able to prevent the heroic spirits from approaching the city.
That was why he had positioned Miles and others outside the city as well.
The heroic spirit clicked his tongue in frustration. “… I wanted to use this closer to the city, but I have no choice now.”
He put some distance between himself and Miles.
“‘Heroic Spirit Transformation,’ activate!” he shouted.
His entire body shone brightly, and an intimidating air rose around him.
“With the power of this body alone, I wouldn’t be able to keep up even with a mere Noble-born Vampire, but with my original power… the power of the ‘Rapid Wind Demon Cutter’ Kizelbyne, I will not fall behind!” he declared, drawing two daggers from his belt and facing Miles.
But Miles’ lipstick-covered lips gave a bold smile. “A mere Noble-born Vampire, you say… But it does seem that it would be difficult for me to fight you just like this so I suppose I’ll use my trump card as well. ‘Familiar Spirit Demonfall!’”
A dark-colored light rose from beneath Miles’s feet and enveloped him, causing the heroic spirit to gasp in shock.
“Now then, let’s begin this battle between a servant of a god and the subordinate of the Demon King!” said Miles.
“… You make me sound so terrible,” muttered Vandalieu’s clone, whose voice could only be heard by Miles.