The battles against the Six Horn Battle-Demons, including Kidoumaru, were fierce . They proved that the Kijin race’s image in human societies as ‘an inferior race of Majin with even their brains filled with muscle, incompetent in the use of magic’ was wrong .
The Second Horn Kidoumaru had been exactly as human society imagined Kijin, wielding the large metal club that was likely the source of his Title of ‘Great Metal Club,’ and wearing clothes made of fur . But he was an exceptional user of Club Technique; he had not merely been boasting of his strength .
The Third Horn was in stark contrast to Kidoumaru; he was a stout, plump, black-skinned Kijin wearing a loincloth, the ‘Thousand Hands’ Gasuke . He was an exceptional user of Unarmed Fighting Technique, his skill focused on the use of palm strikes and tackles .
The Fourth Horn was a thin, blue-skinned Kijin woman known as the ‘Starlight’ Shagara, a fearsome Kunoichi that used Light-Attribute Magic to conceal herself as she attacked .
The Fifth Horn was the ‘Fool Commander’ Zanjou, a famous commander who commanded five trained Ogres that he had tamed, manipulating them like his own limbs . And the Sixth Horn, Dowan ‘the Undefeated,’ was a fearsome shield-bearer, fully clad in a warrior’s armor .
“Even if I cannot defeat you, I shall at least land one strike!”
A spirited halberd swing closed in on Vandalieu . But he slashed at the halberd’s wielder with his tongue!
Upon being struck by the tongue, the halberd’s wielder lost his balance and fell onto the ground, and the halberd never reached Vandalieu .
“I-impossible… to think that you would really attack with your tongue…”
The halberd’s wielder was greatly surprised and shocked, but he seemed to have received little real damage . He tried to get up right away, but he was astonished to find that his body wouldn’t move as he wanted it to .
“That’s probably because my tongue’s paralyzing venom has taken effect, or because your head got shaken up . You should be able to stand again in a little while, Oniwaka-san,” Vandalieu said to Oniwaka, who was the leader of the Six Horn Battle-Demons and first child of Tenma, the current king of the Kijin nation .
The Kijin who had come to watch the battles began murmuring among themselves .
“So, Oniwaka-sama is too young after all…”
“But on his own? Well, yes, the child fought five of the Six Horn Battle-demons on his own and shows no sign of fatigue; how terrifying . ”
“Yes, to think that he would challenge the Six Horn Battle-Demons in a marathon match… I am amazed . ”
“That’s enough!” said King Tenma, his voice echoing across the plaza in front of the place where the matches were being held . “Vandalieu-dono is the victor of these battles! Here, us Kijin acknowledge Vandalieu-dono as the emperor, as the champion chosen through the trial! That is fine with everyone, is it not?!”
The consecutive battles that had begun with Kidoumaru had been a trial to acknowledge Vandalieu as the emperor .
The Kijin gathered here shouted in agreement and cheered . Meanwhile, Sam and the others breathed sighs of relief .
“I am glad that Bocchan was able to win without killing anyone,” said Sam .
“It is a relief that he did it not just without killing anyone, but also without causing anyone any injury,” said Saria .
“A fight to the death and a sparring match are difficult in different ways, after all,” said Rita .
What they had been worried about was not the possibility of Vandalieu being killed or injured at the hands of the Kijin . They had been worried that he might kill or injure the Kijin, and they had also been worried about the possibility that he would make some kind of mistake and lose .
The five members of the Six Horn Battle-Demons were indeed strong, but they had only displayed abilities that were a little inferior to those of the ‘Light-speed Sword’ Rickert .
Thus, even if it turned into a fight to the death… if it were a fight to the death, Vandalieu would certainly be victorious .
“Van-sama wouldn’t lose a fight to the death, but he might have lost any other kind of battle,” said Tarea .
“Yes, I thought it might have been fine since it’s not a board game, but I did worry a little,” said Darcia, who had been made visible through the Visualization spell .
“Danna-sama does not have a high rate of victory in matches in which there is no risk of death, such as board games and gambling,” said Bellmond .
Vandalieu’s strength was a little specialized in battles to the death . This was shown by his recently-invented Death Cannon and Flame Prison Death .
But this was a ‘custom,’ a crude trial . Thus, the Six Horn Battle-Demons had been filled with fighting intent, but they hadn’t possessed the intent to kill Vandalieu .
They hadn’t explained this, but there was a tacit understanding that things would not escalate beyond a test of Vandalieu’s strength during the battles .
Their equipment was Obsidian, but genuine . They had fought seriously . But they couldn’t use martial skills . They could use magic, but spells that would cause large damage to structures were forbidden . They wouldn’t attack the opponent on the ground, and if it seemed that the opponent would not be able to stand up, that would be the end of the match .
Oniwaka and the five members of the Six Horn Battle-Demons had always faced challengers in these matches with this tacit understanding .
Vandalieu had followed this tacit agreement without any large doubts . No, it seemed that he had imposed even stricter rules on himself .
Martial skills were a given, but he had fought without using any spells other than Danger Sense: Death, Flight and Out-of-body Experience, and without using any of the Demon King fragments .
“… Why didn’t you use your spells or the fragments of the Demon King?” the defeated Oniwaka asked, still lying on the ground . “I heard that you can use them in the same way that you extend your tongue . ”
“Because I thought it would be better not to use them,” Vandalieu replied . “The city would be damaged if I made a mistake; I’m not good at holding back when using my spells . ”
Vandalieu’s Mana was vast . Thus, a direct hit even from a Mana Bullet made with what he considered ‘just a little bit’ of Mana would turn the average monster into lumps of meat .
There was no need to even consider what would happen if he used Dead Spirit Magic with Princess Levia and the other Ghosts .
There was the option of creating poison and illnesses, but Vandalieu had had the feeling that this wouldn’t be suitable for a trial . Of course, there were also races like Ghouls within the Boundary Mountain Range that possessed the ability to produce venom from birth, so he had used his Skill to do the same .
“As for the fragments, everyone was using genuine weapons but they were made of Obsidian . I decided to match those weapons,” said Vandalieu .
Even if he had held back while using the Demon King’s fragments, an equal exchange of blows would be impossible without equipment of at least Mythril or Adamantite quality .
Vandalieu would likely not have been able to use the fragments in the city even if the Six Horn Battle-Demons and Oniwaka had been equipped with more powerful equipment than Obsidian . Magic Items made of Mythril contained more powerful Mana than poorly-cast offensive spells, and Adamantite swords could cut through boulders like tofu .
That was why Vandalieu had matched their equipment .
One might think it impressive that he still won the battles after matching them so much, but he had defeated Kidoumaru and the others by using Out-of-body Experience to create spirit clones, the Materialization Skill to create physical clones and then coordinated them in battle to win .
Thus, he had turned what was supposed to have been one-on-one battles into many-on-one, with only the battle against the Ogre Tamer, the ‘Fool Commander’ Zanjou, being many-on-many .
No matter how exceptional Kidoumaru and the others were as warriors, there were limits to their stamina . On the other hand, there was no limit to Vandalieu’s clones .
Battles were indeed decided by numbers .
“Also, it’s beneficial for me to gain experience in fighting against a variety of opponents . I have gained valuable experience thanks to you . Let me give you a hand,” said Vandalieu, extending a hand to Oniwaka .
But Oniwaka simply glared at the hand with a frustrated look, then looked away without taking it .
“Oniwaka-sama, I did tell you . He is not an opponent that you can defeat,” said Gankaku, the First Horn of the Six Horn Battle-Demons, who had been dispatched as the Kijin nation’s representative in the battle against Bugitas’s army . He helped Oniwaka onto his feet . “Sorry about that,” he said with a small bow of his head to Vandalieu, who was still holding his hand out . “You have shown your strength to Tenma-sama and everyone else here, but my words are not enough to convince Oniwaka-sama . And when Oniwaka-sama tells me that I have not seen your strength with my own eyes, I have nothing to say . ”
“… What do you mean?” Vandalieu asked, restoring his posture as if nothing had happened .
But it was not Gankaku, but King Tenma who answered . “It is customary in this land for the nations’ kings to be chosen by gods, but the gods look at things more deeply than we do . Therefore, there are often times when the gods make decisions that go beyond our understanding . Thus, there is a rule that one who is discontent with the one who is to become king may challenge him, just once . This whole business came about because Oniwaka insisted that this rule should be applied to the emperor . ”
Gankaku hadn’t stood in Vandalieu’s way apparently because he didn’t have any feelings of discontent… or rather, because he had clearly known that he would be defeated .
No, it was possible that the other members of the Six Horn Battle-Demons didn’t really feel any considerable amount of discontent towards Vandalieu becoming emperor .
“Muh, I apologize . What Gankaku said was so difficult to believe that… no, I thought that perhaps only a tenth of it could be true,” said Kidoumaru as he scratched his head, having become able to move because he was the first to have been defeated .
“Nobody would blame you,” muttered Princess Levia and the others as they nodded .
Meanwhile, King Tenma apologized . “Leaving aside Gankaku’s tales, I intended to acknowledge you if Budarion and even Godwin-dono acknowledged you, but… my child has acted insolently . Please think of it as a youthful indiscretion and forgive these actions,” he said .
It seemed that Godwin was popular among the people of the Kijin nation, even more so than Budarion .
But Oniwaka was still not satisfied . “Chichi-ue! I cannot acknowledge someone like this taking the seat of emperor!” he shouted, his discontent expressed clearly on his well-featured face as he stood with Gankaku’s support .
His face was red to begin with as he was a red Kijin, but it had become even redder .
“Oniwaka! What are you saying after having been defeated in the challenge! What is it that you refuse to acknowledge?!” King Tenma shouted angrily at his child, his fangs bared .
Vandalieu flinched and instinctively took a defensive stance in response to King Tenma’s enraged shouting .
But Oniwaka gave an immediate reply . “I cannot acknowledge someone with no muscles such as this one as emperor!” he declared, glaring straight back at Tenma as he pointed a finger at Vandalieu .
Vandalieu silently collapsed onto the ground .
“Tch! You have always thought of nothing but that! Muscle this, muscle that, only ever being attached to Gankaku and Kidoumaru instead of me!” shouted King Tenma, who had a well-trained but thin and lean body .
“I have always loved Godwin-dono’s muscles!”
“Hmm, Godwin-dono I can understand!”
As the parent and child shouted at each other, Darcia and the others were hastily waking Vandalieu up .
“Oniwaka-san, please don’t mention that anymore! It’s the one thing that Vandalieu is concerned about the most!” Darcia pleaded .
“Oh, Bocchan has collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut, and now he is squirming at Darcia-sama’s words,” Sam remarked .
“Father, he is just spasming!” said Rita .
“Kid, don’t feel so down . It’d be unnatural if you were all brawny at your age,” said Borkus .
“That is right, my lord . Bones are the essential parts of people,” said Bone Man .
“Kuooohn,” Knochen groaned in agreement .
“I’m kinda sorry about Tenma-sama and Oniwaka-sama,” said Kidoumaru .
“Oniwaka-sama has always looked up to macho people,” said another Kijin . “That is the reason Oniwaka-sama participated in this trial despite being so young…”
Even as everyone tried to comfort Vandalieu, the argument between parent and child continued .
“This is not even an era in which things can be resolved through muscle alone! Powers that are possessed by none other, such as the ability to use magic and strange abilities and freely wield the fragments of the Demon King, are necessary!” shouted King Tenma . “In fact, our nation was so preoccupied during the previous battle that we could only send out Gankaku on his own!”
The Kijin nation was built into a cliff face on the west side of the Boundary Mountain Range . From ages past, its duty had been to hold believers of Alda back if they were to cross the mountain range, as well as to defend the other nations from the monsters of the five B-class Dungeons in its surroundings and the Devil’s Skies above .
Thus, the Kijin of the Kijin nation valued fighting and strength . That was their natural disposition, and they also had the influence of their guardian deity Garess, the god of warriors . They had prided themselves in their fulfillment of their task using their strength .
To begin with, the Kijin were a race of warriors with exceptional physical strength . There were some with magic-related qualities, but they were few in number overall .
Thus, in the Kijin nation, individuals were initially trained as warriors, then the ones with the qualities for using magic were selected and trained as mages as well . That was the policy that had been in place .
And then the recent battle had occurred . In order to suppress the tenacious Kijin nation, Ravovifard, the evil god of release, had released the instincts to fight, kill and feed in the monsters living in the surrounding Dungeons, forcibly causing a monster rampage… from all of the Dungeons at the same time .
The Kijin nation was constantly well-armed enough to deal with monsters overflowing from up to three of the Dungeons, but they didn’t have the numbers to deal with monsters overflowing from all of them .
King Tenma and the Six Horn Battle-Demons, Oniwaka and the other warriors and dauntless fighters had fought, barely able to protect their nation… if it were an ordinary human nation outside the Boundary Mountain Range, it would not have been strange for such a monster rampage to wipe out the entire nation, every citizen becoming food for the monsters . Defending their nation from such a dangerous situation was a great enough feat to be left in history .
But King Tenma regretted the fact that he had only been able to dispatch a single warrior to the battle against Ravovifard, the source of the evil in the land, and his priest Bugitas .
And the one who had defeated the evil god while the Kijin were unable to make a move was not Budarion, the one expected to become the next emperor, nor the highly-respected Godwin . It was an unidentified Dhampir .
Naturally, they had been quite shocked, but King Tenma had taken the opportunity to reflect upon his nation’s policies rather than feel doubt or anger .
“Oniwaka, as young as you are, you should already know . You should know that the coming era is one of magic and knowledge . Our nation must train more mages of better quality . That is how we will fulfill our duty of protecting this land… and you are something of a mage yourself,” said King Tenma .
“That’s… It’s true that it was a mage who defeated the evil god . But that doesn’t lower the value of muscles!” said Vandalieu .
“That’s right, that’s right!” Oniwaka agreed .
“Curses, you stubborn… Vandalieu-dono?! Why are you agreeing with Oniwaka?!” King Tenma exclaimed .
“Wow, Bocchan crawled towards Oniwaka-san so excitedly!” Rita exclaimed .
“He used the Demon King’s jointed legs, which he didn’t even use in the battles,” said Tarea .
Oniwaka let out a small scream and flinched as Vandalieu crawled towards him, but Vandalieu took no notice of it and spoke to the wide-eyed King Tenma as if remonstrating him .
“The wonder of muscles, as well as their value, are not decided by the era . Magic is indeed important, but if you value combat, I think that muscles should not be neglected,” Vandalieu said, his praise for muscles evident even with his flat tone of voice .
Indeed, muscles were wonderful . Magic was powerful, but it was cast by living creatures, and they could not ignore muscles, stamina and physical strength .
Whether in Dungeons to defeat monsters or on the battlefield, even the most exceptional mages would be of no use if they could not see the battles through to the end due to a lack of stamina .
Vandalieu had never believed in the phrase, “A healthy mind resides in a healthy body,” but he had never doubted that it would always be a good thing to have physical strength and stamina in a battle to the death .
“H-have you understood how wonderful muscles are, too?” Oniwaka asked .
“Of course, my comrade,” Vandalieu said with a nod .
Oniwaka’s eyes became moist with emotion . “Kuh… I only looked at your exterior aspect, not what is inside . And yet you call me a comrade!”
He grabbed and squeezed Vandalieu’s shoulders . It seemed that he had managed to make amends with the leading candidate to be the next king of the Kijin nation .
“Well, it’s your first time meeting me, so it can’t be –” Vandalieu began, but Oniwaka pulled him into a passionate embrace .
“Forgive me! My kindred-spirit!”
Oniwaka was thinner than Kidoumaru and the others . But he was certainly far burlier than a human .
The air was squeezed out of Vandalieu’s lungs by this embrace . As there was no air in his lungs, he used Out-of-body Experience and Materialization to produce a clone to speak to King Tenma .
“And as for a policy to improve magic… fighting like me is impossible,” the clone said .
He was not just praising muscles; he hadn’t forgotten to be realistic .
“Indeed,” King Tenma muttered, taken aback . “You are entirely correct . No matter how much we perfect our magic, things like producing countless clones, controlling them like parts of one’s own body, attacking by extending the tongue are impossible… never mind controlling fragments of the Demon King . It seems that I lost my mind after hearing Gankaku’s stories . How could I have possibly thought that such strange techniques and spells could be learned?”
“Th-that’s right! That’s exactly right, Chichi-ue!” Oniwaka exclaimed .
The parent and child came to a mutual understanding . Meanwhile, in the arms of the child, Vandalieu silently felt depressed .
“Many of us Kijin are not well-suited for magic, but we are a physically superior race . Developing that characteristic is what will allow us to fulfill our duty, Chichi-ue,” said Oniwaka .
“That is exactly right, Oniwaka . I was wrong . However, as we are now, I do not know what we should do if something like before were to happen again…” King Tenma grimaced, even as he nodded in agreement to Oniwaka’s words .
He had believed in the strength of his nation’s warriors . That was likely why he had received such a great shock from being forced into a one-sided, defensive battle .
Perhaps that was why he had thought that things were no good as they were now .
Oniwaka, Gankaku and Kidoumaru were all unable to provide an answer to King Tenma’s worries . Everyone knew that beings like Ravovifard did not appear frequently .
However, the Kijin nation had fulfilled their duty for about a hundred thousand years . And they had to continue fulfilling their duty for tens of thousands of years more, until Vida and Zantark recovered .
Kijin were not immortal like Majin and Vampires, but they were a race with long lifespans . Thus, it was probably alright to postpone making a decision now .
“Umm, if that is the case, could you not invite members of races more proficient in the use of magic to live here? This nation is not isolated like Talosheim once was in the past,” Princess Levia suggested, raising her hand as she floated about in this heavy atmosphere .
“No, it is true that races such as Elves have more individuals with exceptional qualities for magic than us Kijin, but…” King Tenma murmured .
“But there are no citizens in our nation,” said Oniwaka .
As the Kijin nation was a nation of defenders, there were no citizens that would need protecting in a time of emergency . All of the nation’s inhabitants were Kijin, and the system was such that every single individual would be able to fight when needed .
That was why training Elves, humans and Dwarves as mages would be difficult .
“That’s not what I meant,” said Princess Levia . “I was thinking that it would be good if you made international exchanges and invited Majin, Lamia, Noble Orcs and Ghouls from other nations… Not with marriages, but just for limited time periods of perhaps a year or several months . Of course, in exchange, you would send warriors to the nations from which you invite people . ”
Tenma, Oniwaka and the other Kijin froze for a moment…
“We never thought of that…!” they muttered .
Why hadn’t Tenma, Oniwaka and the others not thought of what Princess Levia had come up with very quickly? That was because of their old preconceived notions .
Each race within the Boundary Mountain Range had its own nation . There were various reasons for this, such as maintaining a stable population of believers for the gods and ensuring that each race could continue existing on equal terms . This was all needed to protect the inside of the Boundary Mountain Range from the forces of Alda .
Also, the gods had created a system where children born between parents of different races would be born as a member of the main race of the nation in which the child was conceived .
For example, if the Noble Orc Budarion and the Arachne Princess Kurnelia were to mate in the Noble Orc Kingdom, all of their children would be Noble Orcs . If they were to mate in Zanalpadna, the children would all be Arachne .
Incidentally, when neither parent belonged to the main race of a nation in which they conceived their children, the children would be born of both races in equal ratios .
But as Budarion was a Noble Orc, creating children with Princess Kurnelia in a third nation would result in all of the children being born as Noble Orcs .
Leaving that aside, due to this system, each nation had avoided migrations on a scale greater than individuals studying abroad or marrying into other nations’ families . This was because a decrease in the population of a nation’s main race was equivalent to a decrease in that nation’s fighting strength .
And the fighting strength that each nation possessed had been sufficient up until now .
That was why nobody had ever thought of this idea . Despite thinking that things were no good as they were now, King Tenma had never thought of it . While one could attribute that to a lack of flexibility, it was likely due to the strong sense of responsibility he felt for his own nation to fulfill its duty alone .
But as Princess Levia said, with a system of exchanging fighters between nations for limited periods of time, no nation would lose fighting strength . In fact, the overall strength of each nation would increase .
Of course, there would be more quarrels due to differences between the races, and it would take time for them to start operating effectively . But it wouldn’t take more than a hundred years for every race to become accustomed to this .
“Thank you . We will implement that brilliant idea immediately . That is fine, isn’t it, everyone?!” King Tenma asked the other Kijin .
The Kijin shouted in approval of King Tenma’s decision and raised their fists into the air .
“I am glad that I could be of use,” Princess Levia said with a smile, her flames shining brighter than usual .
With the nation surrounded by multiple Dungeons, they could gain great profits, but there was a great danger as well . As the First Princess of the old Talosheim, Princess Levia likely understood how the Kijin felt .
And so began Vandalieu and his companions’ visit to the first of the nations in the Boundary Mountain Range .