Beings that served Alda, the God of Law and Fate, as well as familiar spirits sent by other gods, visited his Divine Realm one after another to report information.
Many of these reports were related to Vandalieu.
“From my master to Alda-sama. Vandalieu, the Demon King who defeated Fitun, and his companions, are holding an extravagant and luxurious festival in his capital, boosting morale.”
“My lord Zaress, God of Soldiers, believes that the festival was funded by money extorted from his citizens and wealth that was obtained illegally from taking over the criminal organization in the city of Morksi.”
“To still not be satisfied after forcing his people to construct an enormous statue of himself. What a vain, arrogant person he is. He is an embodiment of the first Demon King, Guduranis himself.”
Familiar spirits, who performed tasks such as delivering messages, were beings who had been created by the Mana of the gods that were their masters. Thus, their words and actions were those of the gods that had created them. This meant that the gods themselves, the ones watching over the region within the Boundary Mountain Range from the skies above, held a strong hostility for Vandalieu without knowing the true circumstances of the people living in Talosheim.
Even though it was a result of the god’s own rampaging and actions that were not befitting of a god, it was a fact that Fitun, a god of Lambda, had been destroyed not long ago. Perhaps the young gods could not be blamed for seething with animosity towards Vandalieu.
But Alda thought differently from them. “Familiar spirits, tell the young gods that you serve: ‘Maintain your composure. Do not forget that the troublesome thing about the Demon King Vandalieu is that he is compassionate towards others, a trait that the first Demon King, Guduranis, did not possess.’”
All of the familiar spirits were bewildered by Alda’s words of reprimand.
“It is certainly true that Vandalieu is evil. There is no doubt that he misleads the people with twisted teachings that oppose our teachings of the correct order of the world and the way that the people ought to live. He may be arrogant, and it is likely that he is vain as well. But he does not lack a heart of mercy,” Alda continued.
“Alda-sama, do you mean to say that he is not evil?!” one of the familiar spirits uttered in shock.
“That is not what I am saying. But even wicked people who break the law and commit sins have hearts of good. That is all.”
Even the wicked had parts of them that were good, just as virtuous people also had dark sides to their minds.
Many of the things Vandalieu had done in the city of Morksi had likely been done in order to bolster his own strength and the strength of Vida’s religion. But not everything had been done in Vandalieu’s own self-interest.
The Vida that Alda knew was the Goddess of Life and Love, even if she had lost her mind. She loved the races that she had given birth to, imperiling the principles of the world, as her own children. She preached to them the same teachings that she had taught before Guduranis’s appearance in this world.
That had likely not changed, even after she was impaled by Alda’s ‘Stakes of Law’ and then freed from them by Vandalieu.
With that being the case, she would have taught the same teachings to Vandalieu, and Vandalieu would be obeying those teachings.
And that was precisely why Vandalieu was so dangerous. If he possessed the same personality as Guduranis, he would be forced to speak and conduct himself in a way that was filled with arrogance and vanity. A ruler who reigned using only power and fear had a strong control over his subjects, but even small things could create cracks in that control.
Conducting himself in a way that ensured that he would not be looked down on would require Vandalieu to continuously display himself and his companions to be greater than would otherwise be necessary.
If Vandalieu were ruling in this way, Alda’s forces would have likely been able to make Vandalieu’s subordinates betray him even more easily than the champion Zakkart had done a hundred thousand years ago. Unlike the Demon King’s army, which was composed entirely of evil gods who were born in foreign worlds, many of Vandalieu’s subordinates were people of Lambda.
But Vandalieu was ruling over his subordinates with something that was not power or fear. But to Alda, this was something that was distorted and repulsive, something that contradicted the order that had existed in this world thus far, and something that could never be accepted.
“I am not defending Vandalieu. But if we mistakenly believe that he is full of only hatred simply because he is the second Demon King, we will have our feet knocked out from under us. Tell your masters that we must be cautious,” said Alda.
“V-very well,” said the familiar spirit that had spoken up.
With that, the familiar spirits returned to their masters to relay Alda’s words to them. After them came more familiar spirits with reports from the gods watching over the Demon Continent and the Alcrem Duchy, as well as those in the seas where the Demon King’s Continent was, protecting Botin and Peria.
Many of them reported that nothing was out of order, but some reports were not of this nature.
“My lord Arkum-sama, God of the Blue Sky, requests some time away from the task of monitoring Talosheim,” one familiar spirit said.
“Arkum? What is the matter? Has he been attacked?” Alda asked.
Arkum, the God of the Blue Sky, was the light-attribute god who ruled over the weather. He was one of Alda’s younger subordinate gods, and carried out his duties with passion, but…
“No, he has not been attacked. However, there are repulsive patterns that are so blasphemous that they cannot be described with words, painted on the roofs of Talosheim’s buildings, and they are tormenting my lord Arkum’s mind,” the familiar spirit replied. “He is currently having his duty mostly carried out by another in his place, and it would cause more trouble if this were to continue, so he would like to excuse himself from this role.”
“I see. I knew that the Demon King had created monoliths and images that eat into the minds of humans, but to think that they can also eat into the minds of gods. It is likely that Arkum is simply not suited to this task. Instruct Arkum to step away from this task for a while and carry out the nurturing of his heroes,” Alda told the familiar spirit. “Incidentally, who is the god who is watching over Talosheim in Arkum’s place?” he asked, thinking that perhaps this god was relatively resistant to Vandalieu’s attacks on the mind.
“It is one of Nineroad-sama’s subordinate gods – Bashas-sama, the Goddess of Rain Clouds.”
If he were to be honest, Alda was not particularly familiar with that name. He did recall that she had been a woman who was a foreteller of the weather, and she had ascended to become a goddess after dying young.
Unlike Fitun, she was obedient and in no way wicked. Alda did not have much of an impression of her because she did not really cause or get involved in any problems.
But because of those qualities, and the fact that she was a goddess of ill omens, she was not very publicly worshipped by the people. Most statues of her were fearsome and eerie rather than portraying an image of purity.
And she was not thought of as a goddess with mental fortitude or valiance.
Perhaps it is a matter of compatibility with the task rather than mental fortitude? Alda wondered. Even the God of Sunlight and the God of Evil-Crushing, whom Bellwood left in my care, have reported dizziness and headaches from the attacks on their minds. But the Goddess of Dark Nights and the God of Shadows have been unaffected.
The Goddess of Dark Nights and the God of Shadows had ominous-sounding titles, but both were gods of the light attribute. In this world, darkness was not an attribute of its own. Rather, it represented a state or a space in which there was no light, so it was considered to be a part of the light attribute.
There was even a light-attribute spell called ‘Darkness,’ which manipulated light to create darkness –a space where light did not shine.
In the same way, nights of pitch-black darkness and shadows, which could be created as long as light were present, were ruled over by light-attribute gods.
Having thought up to this point, a thought suddenly occurred to Alda. “… Wait, is this situation alright?”
There were some among guiders who could influence not only mortals, but gods as well – Just like the champion Bellwood, who had spoken of the correct state that the world should exist in, and the ‘Fallen Champion’ Zakkart, who had convinced numerous evil gods to betray the Demon King’s army and corrupted Vida to insanity.
Was Vandalieu not one such individual? The second Demon King’s guidance had misled not only Vida and the evil gods corrupted by Zakkart, but Ricklent and Zuruwarn as well. Would this guidance not affect other gods?
Basha, the Goddess of Dark Nights and the God of Shadows looked like they were not under mental attack, but could it be that they were actually being affected by his guidance?
Am I overthinking things? In reality, they are showing no signs of making moves to betray us. And as for whether they are being affected by his guidance, I may be able to read the minds of mortals, but I am unable to peer into the hearts of gods. I would not be able to tell unless they were to show concrete signs, Alda thought to himself. But just in case, I suppose I shall investigate the state of their heroes. As they are gods, if they were to try and make contact with Vandalieu, they would use their believers rather than do so themselves.
With these thoughts in mind, Alda inquired as to whether anyone knew of the whereabouts of the heroes of Bashas as well as the other two gods in question, but there was not a single familiar spirit who knew of the heroes being nurtured by these gods.
The reason for that was, Bashas knew that she was feared as a goddess of ill omens, so she had told her potential heroes to keep the divine protection she had given them a secret for a while.
As for the Goddess of Dark Nights and the God of Shadows, it wasn’t clear if they were even nurturing heroes or not. Nobody knew, as they avoided contact with other gods even more than Bashas did.
While the heroes of other gods were performing glorious deeds under their watch, Bashas’s heroes were out there somewhere, acting in secret.
“… I must quickly choose gods to send out in order to replace them. And I suppose it would be best to hear what they have to say,” Alda muttered to himself.
Carelessly suspecting his allies would bring about the downfall of his faction, but he could not simply leave them be.
Talosheim would be renamed. Or to be precise, the name ‘Talosheim’ would continue to be used, but only to refer to the city rather than the entire nation.
The new name would be used not only for Talosheim – it would be used to refer to the nation comprising all lands ruled by Vandalieu, including the Demon Continent, the former Scylla territory and the entire area inside the Boundary Mountain Range.
This large project was taking place behind the scenes, unknown to Vandalieu, the emperor of the nation.
It was also kept a secret from Chezare, the general and prime minister, as well as his aide Kurt Legston, the military officers and civil officials that served them such as Cuoco Ragdew, the people who were once leaders in the separated territory that was the Demon Continent, and the gods and leaders of the nations within the Boundary Mountain Range.
As if it were some kind of bullying by exclusion, all possible efforts had been made to ensure that Vandalieu never learned of it.
The construction of the enormous statue of Vandalieu was, by coincidence, the perfect cover to distract Vandalieu’s attention away from the project.
“But you know, I don’t think ‘Great Vandalieu Demon Empire’ is going to work. There’s gotta be other options,” said Matthew, having heard this suggested name that was suggested by Talos.
Incidentally, Matthew and the others from the orphanage would immigrate to Talosheim in the future, so they had come to Talosheim to see it before it actually happened – and also to have them participate in the parades and festivals, and to make preliminary preparations for Seris and Vestra’s surgeries.
“I agree,” said Vandalieu in response to Matthew’s opinion, nodding more quickly and more enthusiastically than usual.
Seeing Vandalieu’s reaction, Matthew suddenly gave a forced smile. “So, how many people did you talk to before you came to me?” he asked.
“… More than ten. Half of them already knew about the changing of the nation’s name, and the other half were unaware but gave unexpected responses,” said Vandalieu.
Gufadgarn, who had been present when Talos suggested changing the nation’s name to him, could not understand what Vandalieu thought was problematic at all. This was likely because she was the Evil God of Labyrinths, and there was already a nation that was named after its guardian deity in the Boundary Mountain Region, Zanalpadna.
“Someone as lowly as myself cannot understand, but I am always the servant of the great Vandalieu,” she had said comfortingly, but Vandalieu had the feeling that something was off.
Darcia had said, “Yes, they should play around with it a little more,” recommending that the name be adjusted a little, but seeming to agree with renaming itself.
Most people other than those who had been taken to the city of Morksi were aware of the renaming. However, Luciliano, who was permanently holed up in the underground workshop other than for meals, and Kasim, Fester and Zeno, who were Vandalieu’s friends but ordinary explorers otherwise, had been unaware.
Luciliano had casually brushed the matter aside, saying: “More importantly, Master, I believe that we should move that experiment to the human experiment stage.”
Kasim, Fester and Zeno, on the other hand, had been happy for Vandalieu and congratulated him.
Vandalieu was grateful for everyone’s support, but all of them had given different reactions from the one he had been hoping for.
Thus, he had begun to wonder whether it was him that was strange for detesting the idea of having the nation named after himself, and that was why he had come to hear the opinions of Matthew and the others who had been secretly brought here from Morksi from the parade.
“You’ve come at the perfect time! Vandalieu-dono, I mean, Vandalieu-sama! Please do something about these impertinent brats!” shouted Luvesfol’s voice.
A hands-on ‘interaction with a familiar’ session was being held in the plaza for the children, using Luvesfol as the subject with Pauvina’s supervision.
But Vandalieu and Matthew ignored his pleas and continued their conversation.
“But why are you asking me? Wouldn’t it have been better to ask your disciples, old man Simon or Natania nee-chan?” Matthew asked.
“Simon and Natania are currently very tired, and are asleep. Borkus and Vigaro got a little too excited while training them,” said Vandalieu.
Wanting to train the newcomers effectively, Borkus and Vigaro had used training weapons to have fights against Simon and Natania going all-out, providing a kind of training that was quite close to a real battle.
The two of them possessed strength and vigor that was not at all inferior to physical incarnations of heroic spirits, and Vigaro had been particularly into it, as Simon and Natania were both users of ‘Spirit Form’ like him. Thus, Simon and Natania seemed to have been provided with an enriched training environment… and as a result, they were now dead tired and sleeping like logs.
“I see… But you’re this country’s first king, right? So wouldn’t it be normal to name it ‘Zakkart Empire’ rather than Vandalieu?” said Matthew.
Indeed, most nations in the human societies of this world were derived from their founders’ surnames.
This was true for the Amid Empire as well as the Mirg shield-nation, one of its vassal states. It was a little different in the case of the Orbaume Kingdom. It was named after the Free City of Orbaume, where the nation’s founder united twelve independent nations and devised the system of having an elected monarch. This city was at the center of what was now the capital realm.
However, even the Free City of Orbaume had originally been named by taking one character from each of the surnames of its five founders.
TLN: ‘Orbaume’ is five characters in Japanese: オルバウム
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Considering this convention, there would be nothing strange about using Vandalieu’s surname as the name of the nation.
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