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Chapter V: Sandora, Burning Kingdom of Slaves 

“This is bad, sir...!” Rosetta grumbled slightly as she looked over the Helmwige and Grimgerde chassis in the hangar. 
“The damage to both Frame Gears is serious, sir! The Brionac really does pack a punch!” 
“Should we, like... swap out the parts and stuff? And need I remind you that it was your idea to create that thing, Rosetta...” 
“Aw, c’mon, Monica! That giant cannon was the centerpiece of the battlefield, yessir it was! Even if it was overpowered, even if it was messy, and even if it was dangerous, it had passion and style!” Rosetta and Monica were about to start bickering, so I snuck away. 
Frankly, I was happy to have had the Brionac on our side. The tortoise Phrase would’ve been a huge hassle without it. 
We needed to think of more strategies for the Upper Constructs, though... Just using Brionac every time would be a little much. The fact was that it would damage itself and the bracing Frame Gears after each shot... Repairing that stuff wasn’t cheap, so I figured we’d be better leaving it as a last-resort option. 
The major issue was standard weapons couldn’t hit an Upper Construct’s core. Realistically, we’d need something like a spear, or a long and powerful weapon... The only issue then would be that only something like Sue’s Ortlinde Overlord could wield it. 
And honestly, I wanted Sue to remain on the defensive as far as battles went. It really did seem like we could only use something long-ranged like the Brionac. 
I had to think about stuff too. My Meteor Rain clearly wasn’t ideal... I didn’t want a repeat of what happened today, after all. 
Sue was all like “Get me a hammer! A hammer! A giant hammer!” or whatever, because apparently she saw a really cool one that obliterated enemies in an anime. But that was fiction, and completely unfeasible for us... 
I tried thinking it over for a little while. I fired up my smartphone, surfing sites focused on mecha anime. 
“Hm... Some kind of photonic disturbing gravity wave...?” 
I wonder if I can fashion something like that using [Gravity]... I’ll ask the Doctor about it, but still... she’ll probably end up making something horrific. 
I decided to save talking about that until later. In the end, we needed more versatility on the battlefield. It was the key to victory, after all. 
I also needed to get better at alternating attacks. 
I returned to the ground and found myself face-to-face with the three kunoichi recruits in my castle hall. If I recalled correctly, they were Sarutobi Homura, Kirigakure Shizuku, and Fuma Nagi. 
“Uhm, milord! We have a request!” Homura and the others suddenly knelt down and bowed toward me. 
What’s the big idea...? 

“Please grant us the same communications device that Lady Tsubaki has!” 
“We beg of you, milord!” Shizuku and Nagi began speaking after Homura. 
What were they asking for? I wondered. Then, I realized they must’ve meant her smartphone. 
“...I’ll ask to be sure, but why do you need one exactly?” 
“Ah, well. We will need to travel far and wide for the sake of our missions, and we will need to perform many infiltrations. That tool allows communication with allies regardless of distance, which is why we thought we could make use of it...” 
Hmm... I see. Well, it makes sense enough. Plus, it’d be handy for infiltrating. They could take photos and video evidence of stuff, come to think of it. 
“Where exactly are you headed this time?” 
“The Burning Kingdom, Sandora. We heard unusual rumors from that region, you see. The three of us will be headed there tomorrow.” 
Sandora... Now that Yulong was gone, Sandora was the only nation left that still employed slavery. 
They had a strict caste system, and it was a case where if someone was of a higher social order than you, then you couldn’t ignore their commands. They had an isolationist culture and didn’t generally interact with other nations. 
The country made widespread use of the magical artifacts known as the Submission Collars. That was how they created a labor force of slaves that couldn’t rebel against their masters. 
Sandora didn’t have a huge population compared to its landmass, and about a third of those people were enslaved. 
More interestingly, a lot of these slaves were people from all over the world. There was a saying in this world that went something along the lines of “If you can’t find your daughter, check Sandora first.” Elves and dwarves were sold there for a hefty profit, too. 
Sadly, slaves were seen as simple tools and were often worked until they broke. After that, another slave would be purchased to replace them. It was a trivial matter for the people of that nation, as they considered it the same as changing out a worn pair of shoes for some new ones. 
In all honesty, it was a country I didn’t want to deal with at all. Their Submission Collars also caused problems in other nations, though. Those guys who were trying to enslave people on my dungeon islands used them, too. 
“Hm... Well, I guess so. They’d be useful for intelligence officers... Please give me a little while.” I didn’t want those girls getting enslaved due to them slipping up or anything... And so, I contacted Tsubaki and had her come to the courtyard. 
I arrived there with the three girls, and Tsubaki was already there. Her speed was impressive, even by ninja standards... 
“Anyway, I’ll be giving smartphones to these three.” Tsubaki heard my explanation and shot a glare toward the trio behind me. She was probably mad they went over her head and asked me about it directly. They shrank back in absolute fear. 
“Hey, now. I was planning on giving phones to everyone in the knight order eventually. Plus, given the nature of their jobs, it makes sense the intel corps would get them first, right?” 
“...If you wish it, my liege. Thank you very much for your generosity.” I cast an enchantment on the smartphones that allowed them to return back to their owner’s hands if they ever dropped or lost them. In a worst-case scenario, if a knight ever tried to steal one, I could use the enchantment to bring the phone into my own hands as well. Nobody was stealing from me again. 
Each smartphone had its own serial number, too, so I knew which belonged to who. 
I opened up [Storage] and took out about ten smartphones. They were more rudimentary models than the ones Tsubaki and the world leaders had, and they were colored lime-green. 
“Alrighty. You can check your own numbers if you look in the phonebook.” I handed over smartphones to the girls. They were gazing at their smartphones with stars in their eyes, glee overcoming their faces. Tsubaki still ended up shooting them another death glare. 
“In addition to that, I’ll give you guys something to help with mobility.” 
I took out three magic carpets from [Storage]. I thought the intel corps could benefit from it, due to the fact that it rendered people invisible during flight. 
Hell, they could do a stereotypical ninja thing and back it up really close to a wall and hide behind it! Though they’d get found out if anyone walked too close to the wall. 
I’d send them to the outskirts of Sandora with [Gate], and they’d be able to make their own way back with the carpets. 
“Thank you so much. We owe you a great debt.” 
“No, I just want to be more prepared than I was when we dealt with Yulong. I’ve heard really bad rumors about Sandora. I think if anything happened, it’d be too late by the time I found out.” 
That Submission Collar they made use of just didn’t sit right with me. It was ultimately part of how their country fundamentally worked, though. 
The fact remained that I was capable of safely removing them from people, but I didn’t want that becoming public knowledge. That would’ve caused some serious trouble. 
Rumors could start spreading, stuff like “go to Brunhild to be freed from bondage.” That’d be troublesome. I could see Sandora sending assassins in response, much like Yulong did. 
That being said, if an attempt was made on my life, I’d respond without mercy. 
“If you had to sum it up... what kind of place is Sandora?” 
“Well, I can only give you my opinion, but... The king of Sandora stands at the top, and everyone else is just different levels of less valuable than him. The rich become richer, and the poor have no opportunities to rise up. Their place in life is determined the moment they are born. No matter how talented, one born to a slave will always be a slave. No matter how lazy or miserable, the child of a citizen will be a citizen. But if your social rank lowers, then there is no way back.” 
In the allied nations, it was true that nobles were often separated from commoners... Still, it was still possible for someone to reach their potential through hard work, natural talent, or simple perseverance. 
A person with nothing could become an adventurer, gain a reputation, and even end up becoming a knight or something beyond that. My own story was like that, even. 
“It might be possible for citizens to abandon their homeland and leave for other lands, but slaves cannot. They often die working, barely fed enough to keep going.” 
“That sounds horrid...” They seemed to be treated as completely disposable. 
“So what about the king of Sandora?” 
“There is very little to say about him. Few people speak openly or honestly about him, after all. The people of Sandora simply say stock sentences such as ‘He is wonderful,’ ‘We are thankful for his protection,’ or ‘He is the very sun in our sky.’ There is no honesty when it comes to him.” 
“Why, though?” 
“Who knows... It could be that the upper class of Sandora actually feel this way, but it’s likely that most citizens just don’t want to get socially penalized for speaking ill of him to the wrong person.” It seemed like the people of the upper class in Sandora were immune to criticism, too... Subordinates couldn’t speak out against their leaders, either... Sounded like a pretty sweet deal, when I considered how much I was bossed around. 
“We cannot forget to underestimate their military might, either. Their Magic Beast Knights are extremely dangerous.” 
“Oh, right! Those Submission Collars were originally made to tame magic beasts, right?” 
The Magic Beast Knights... It was the name given to a group of knights in Sandora that used Submission Collars to tame and mount magic beasts. Sandora didn’t border any other nation, so they didn’t ostensibly need a big defensive force... However, they were surrounded by dangerous territory, filled with monsters. The desert and the Sea of Trees all had their fair share of powerful creatures, and they often wandered close to Sandora. 
The Magic Beast Knights were charged with wiping out those threats. The only thing was, they were a knight order in name only. In truth, a great many of the riders were just as collared as the monsters they rode into battle. They were slaves. False knights forced to battle. 
Ultimately, Sandora left any dangerous legwork to slaves. National defense was no different. 
“I feel a little bad sending you girls over...” 
“Please do not worry. We will report in every day, and flee if things look bad. The purpose of intelligence operatives is to provide information, after all!” Homura puffed out her chest with pride. I couldn’t quite place it, but a wave of concern and anxiety washed over me when I wondered if they’d actually be alright... 
“Ah, Touya lad. You’ve been investigating Sandora lately, right?” 
“Oh, I heard the same!” 
“You two sure have keen ears...” I grumbled quietly as the king of Belfast and the emperor of Regulus spoke up. 
We’d had our regular alliance meeting, and now all the world leaders were chilling out in the playroom. 
The king of Belfast, the beastking of Mismede, the emperor of Regulus, and I were all playing mahjong. The knight king of Lestia and the king of Lihnea were both playing billiards. 
The doge of Roadmare and the emperor of Refreese were being serenaded by Kousuke and treated to various confections by Crea. In the other half of the room, Karen, Moroha, Sousuke, and Karina were quietly discussing matters of the gods with the pope of Ramissh. Suika was completely unconscious on the couch. She had a bottle of sake still clutched in hand. 
“Well, you aren’t the only one with an interest in Sandora. The beastking has been looking into them as well.” 
“There’s a lot about Sandora that worries all of us, frankly...” 
“Such as?” I picked up a tile as I spoke. 
Useless... I discarded it. 
“After Yulong was dissolved, more slavers have been making a home in Sandora. I’ve also been informed of Regulus citizens being taken into the slave trade.” 
“Same here! A buncha bandits have been attacking our village, making off with men, women, and children alike. It must be slavers, you know? Beastmen like us are prized as fighting slaves due to our sturdiness! And the only one that deals with slaves these days is Sandora, so it’s gotta be them...” 
In Mismede’s case, it was a fairly easy country to attack due to its proximity to the Sea of Trees. The unique qualities of beastmen made them valuable items, too. 
“It sure would be nice if someone took care of that troublesome country, you know? Ahaha...” 
“Haha, I know, right? I bet someone like Touya could do it in under a day... Maybe we could help him, haha...” 
“Hahaha... I bet if we used Frame Gears we could totally gain control of their capital city in less than a day, hahaha... Haha... Imagine that.” 
“...You guys are so easy to see through right now that you may as well be windows. You’re trying to joke about it, but you actually want me to take down an entire country for your own convenience, don’t you?!” 
All three men went silent, and they turned away from me. 
Look at me, you bastards! 
“As far as destroying Sandora goes, we weren’t serious. Though, we do want something done about the rampant slavery.” 
I could understand that at least. It seemed more like the slavers intruding on foreign territory was more of an issue than the actual country. That being said, the slavers might have just been obeying what higher-ups in Sandora’s government told them. 
Sandora had no diplomatic relations with any country, Yulong aside. There certainly wouldn’t be any country troubled if we destroyed the place, but... No, that’d cause a problem. Refugees would start flooding into the Kingdom of Ryle, and nobody wanted that. 
“In the end, the trouble boils down to the collars...” I wondered where they were even producing those Submission Collars. Perhaps they had some kind of enchanter working for the government. 
Null Magic wasn’t hereditary, though... Assuming the collars had been around for more than one generation, how could Sandora have kept producing them? 
Then again, the collars still existed even if their wearers died, so it might have just been a matter of smart recycling. But who was the mastermind behind the slavery to begin with? The king, or someone else? 
“Ohohoho... Too bad, Touya. That’s my win.” 
“Gah!” The beastking slapped down his tiles, revealing a winning hand. 
Damn it! How could I have lost so easily...? I sighed slightly as we started a new game. My starting hand was terrible... 
“...Wait, wasn’t Sandora originally founded by someone known as the Slave King?” 
“Yes, that’s right. Back in the old days, Sandora was a fragmented land of squabbling tribes. It was said that a man appeared one day, and led one of the tribes, the Flari Tribe, to unify the others. It was through his efforts that Sandora was created.” 
The story was similar to the founding of Elfrau... A lone man founding a kingdom with people important to him... It reminded me of my own experience, in a way. 
“They say the man was a gladiator slave from a distant land, and that he always walked with the shackles that once imprisoned him on his legs.” 
So that’s why he’s called the Slave King... Did he desert his home country and head to the sands? I shouldn’t have been so surprised that there were slaves back then too. 
“That’s only one side to it. Other stories say he enslaved the tribes that served him.” 
“Mhm... They say he created the Submission Collars himself, even if the mass-produced version was created by another later on.” The beastking and the emperor’s words made me raise my brow. That was another angle, I supposed. I wondered if he actually used the collars to force the tribes to follow and fight for him. Still, I felt like there had to be another side to all of this. I wondered if he found an artifact somewhere that made him strong enough to dominate them, though the truth didn’t really matter. 
Rescuing the current slaves in Sandora from captivity wouldn’t be a big deal... but I wondered what they’d do afterward. Would they run, or would they rise up? 
They probably wouldn’t forgive the people who had shackled them. Even the nobles were products of their circumstances, as they’d have just been brought up to see slaves as less than human. But there was no way the slaves would care about that. 
There was always the possibility of going up to the king and demanding he free the slaves taken from other nations. Though, there was no guarantee he’d actually listen to a demand like that. He had no reason to, after all. 
We could’ve put on some economic pressure, but that was also a no-go situation. They had no diplomatic ties to speak of. 
Slaves weren’t fed well, slaves weren’t treated well, and they didn’t need to rely on outside aid for crops. Two-thirds of Sandora was desert, and the remaining farmland was just used to feed the small elite. 
They didn’t interact with other nations at all. Sandora was completely isolated. I wondered if I should just pull a Commodore Perry, and build a bunch of black ships... 
Hmph... This sucks. 
Destroying Sandora on a whole was a bad idea, but it was beginning to sound a lot easier than just nixing the slave trade. 
“Oh, Touya. That’s my win, now. Read them and weep, ahaha!” 
Goddammit, I can’t keep getting lost in thought! I’m gonna keep losing if I keep on thinking about Sandora... Er, I mean... it’s just not good for me to get so anxious about Sandora! Obviously, politics is more important than a silly a game... 
I decided that the best course of action for the time being was to wait to hear back from the three kunoichi. 
The next day, rain began to fall in Brunhild. The knights decided to take a break from training, instead taking time to study, read, or maintain their weapons. 
I was sitting on a chair and reading a book atop my balcony. It was shielded by a little outcrop of a roof. Suddenly, I heard music coming from the distance. It must have been Sousuke. 
He was playing quite the appropriate melody for a rainy day, but I had the feeling nobody would start singing in it or dancing with his umbrella. 
The rain was pretty strong, though... I wondered how long it’d last. I didn’t want the river to end up overflowing... 
It’d be summer before long, either way. There wasn’t a beach at Brunhild, but we’d be able to enjoy the sea along the dungeon islands. 
People would probably be happy if I hurried along with opening a fishery and public access beach over there. It’d be fairly easy to keep dangerous sea creatures away if I summoned a Leviathan to keep them at bay. That wouldn’t be enough to chase the jellyfish away, though. 
It could be fun if I set it all up with beach houses and food stalls. It’d be like a summer festival... That reminded me, Brunhild didn’t really have any festivals or holidays. Then again, it hadn’t even been a year since the country was founded, so we hadn’t needed an anniversary celebration or anything. New Year’s had come and gone, though. 
There weren’t any Shinto shrines, either... Still, it wasn’t like the festival had to be Japanese-style. I’d kind of need a god to focus on if I was gonna make a shrine, too... Well, not that there’s much to worry about on that front. There was only one god that I truly revered. And I didn’t want to launch a religion about him. 
He probably wouldn’t get mad if I made a little shrine to him, but I felt like I should probably ask permission. 
Hell, there were a lot of gods hanging around the area. Although really they were just lazing around, like that good-for-nothing god of alcohol! I grumbled as I remembered Suika’s nonsense, but then my smartphone started ringing. 
The screen said Sarutobi Homura. That was one of the ninjas. It must’ve meant she’d already made it to Sandora. 
“A-Ah! Y-Your Highness, is that you?! I-Is it?! P-Please... h-help! The p-people in town, they’re... Th-They’re...!” 
“Calm down. I don’t know what you’re saying.” She sounded like she was panicked. That had me concerned immediately. 
“Th-The people! They... They sparkle, a-and then die! Th-Their b-bodies... Ah... Forgive me, Your Highness. This is Shizuku, I’ve taken the phone.” 
Shizuku’s voice was much more composed than Homura’s. That was a good thing. Homura was so mortified that she was clearly in no position to talk. 
Tsubaki had turned off her smartphone, so that explained why they called me directly. It wasn’t her fault, since she had a meeting. 
“Where are you? What’s going on?” 
“We are in the city of Astal, east of Sandora’s royal capital. We stopped here to stay overnight in an inn before moving on to the capital, but... something unusual has happened.” 
“What’s that?” 
Astal was the second largest city in Sandora, so it would’ve been a huge deal if something bad happened there. 
“The citizens of this city are all dead. Every last one.” 
“What?!” I stood up from my chair in shock. 
All dead? But that’s a massive city! How can they all be dead?! 
“Crystals started sprouting from the bodies of the citizens. It was as though all the moisture in their bodies was sucked up... They dropped dead not long after the crystals appeared on their bodies. The condition has affected everyone in this city...” 
Crystals...? Like... the Phrase? But I’ve never heard of this happening before... 
It had to be some kind of virus. That meant the girls were in danger. 
“Are you guys okay?! Any abnormalities?” 
“We are fine. For now, at least... Nagi has reported feeling unwell...” 
“Get out of the city! Go anywhere but there! Just leave immediately, do you understand? I’ll come to you in an hour or less.” 
I closed the call. After that, I opened up a map of Astal, projected it into the air, and ran a search for living people. Three dots appeared, heading toward the city’s outskirts. That must’ve been the three girls. 
But it was true... Then there wasn’t a single living soul in that city other than them. 
How... How could they all be dead? Just what the hell happened? 
“No point freaking out about it now, I guess... I better go meet them.” 
I called up Flora in the alchemy lab and had her prepare quarantine procedures. No need to take any chances. I also asked the good-for-nothing child-lover, Tica, to head there on standby as well. 
After all that, I headed through a [Gate] into the sunny sands of Sandora. I was in the part of Sandora I’d traveled to when looking for Babylon. 
The skies were far clearer in the desert than they were in Brunhild. And it was damn hot, too... 
I opened up my map and then invoked [Fly], heading toward the girls. 
Eventually, I passed over the city, and everyone below me was clearly dead. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were all shriveled and dry, their skin cracked. 
After taking in the sickening sight, I flew faster and faster, attempting to clear the horrific image of malnourished corpses from my mind. 
I located the kunoichi trio a little bit out of Astal. 
Right away I made sure to cast [Recovery] on them, then I opened a [Gate] and sent them to the quarantine zone. I asked Flora and Tica to take care of it from there. 
If it turned out to be a viral contagion, then the situation would become far worse. I felt like they’d be alright. 
Moroha and Karina were passing by, so I asked them to come along with me. If it was a virus, it wouldn’t matter to people like us with divinity in our souls. 
I didn’t want to waste any more time, so the three of us set off to Astal on the magic carpet immediately. 
En route, we passed a roving caravan of traders heading in the opposite direction. 
Magic had rendered us invisible, so we didn’t have to worry. They seemed like roving merchants. The map had signified no survivors in the vicinity, so it was likely that these had made a pit stop in Astal before seeing the atrocity and fleeing. 
We carried on until we saw a walled fortress of a city. We’d finally reached Astal, the second largest city of Sandora. 
It had a large wall surrounding it, made out of red mud-brick. But it wouldn’t serve in any defensive measure, as the gates to the city had been left wide open. 
The people in front of the gates were dead. From the look of their armor, they must have been the guardsmen. 
“Good lord...” Their faces were warped in nightmarish anguish and also dried up as if mummified. I could see small protrusions in their skin, bizarre crystalline outcroppings that jutted out from the inside of their bodies. 
I used Brunhild to poke at the crystals, and they dropped off the corpse along with their roots. Then, I picked up one of the crystals to take a look at it and immediately concluded that it was far too fragile for it to be Phrasium. It crumbled away under the slightest bit of pressure. 
“Just what the hell happened here?” 
I muttered to myself as my sisters looked over the corpses with worried expressions on their faces. 
“There’s no way...” 
“This is terrible...” 
The two of them glanced at one another and exchanged a silent affirmation. 
“Do you know something about this?” 
“Yes, we do. I don’t know how it happened, but the souls of these people have been consumed.” 
“Their souls?” Just what was that supposed to mean? I’d heard of souls exiting the body during comatose states, but I had no idea what they meant. 
“To put it simply, when someone dies their soul will leave their body and come up to our realm. The soul will be cleansed up in the heavenly realm and sent back down to a lower realm where it’ll be housed in a new body. That’s how the cycle of transmigration and rebirth has always gone.” 
“The souls of those that were wicked and cruel require extra purification, and typically their souls are only fit for the bodies of beasts by the time the work is done, but...” 
“The souls of the people here will never rise up to heaven at all. Touya, try to focus your God’s Eye. Invoke your divinity and spread it across your eyes.” I followed Karina’s instructions, focusing my divinity upon my eyes and staring down at the bodies. 
I could see something inside each of the corpses, a tiny little shining orb. I could recognize at a glance that it must’ve been their souls. But as I looked closer, I noticed that these little orbs had holes in them here and there. The light inside was slowly leaking out through the damaged, bitten exterior. 
“Can you see it? They’re just soul food now. Their souls will leak out and disappear forever. They’ll never be born again, they’ll never go anywhere else again. They’ll simply be lost to the cycle of reincarnation. They’ve been completely obliterated on the base level.” 
Completely obliterated...? Gone from this world, and all others... forever? Just thinking about the notion made my heart ache. 
“Couldn’t we find a way to save the souls...?” 
“We could. But it’d take a miracle even for us. We couldn’t do something so leisurely while we’re in this realm. And you can’t either, understand? The burden on your body would be far too great at this point.” My hopes were crushed in an instant. But it wasn’t like I had any to begin with, I had no idea how to bring them back. 
“We need to raze the city. Burn it all to ash. If a soul doesn’t ascend to heaven, it’ll simply leak out in the body and infuse with it. They’ll rise again as the undead, suffering forever. If that happens then they’ll just be shambling Zombies, seeking out the living.” According to Moroha, undead creatures were created when the souls of creatures didn’t move on and instead rooted themselves inside a dead body. Some undead were created by deep-seated feelings of lingering grudge or attachment, but undead with damaged souls had no purpose at all. 
After being killed or purified, an undead creature’s soul would be released up to heaven... But those with damaged souls would simply cease to exist. They had nowhere to go but the void of death. 
It was sad to think about, but they’d be entirely removed from the reincarnation cycle. 
I entered the city and glanced around, and found that it wasn’t only people who had died. I saw horses, dogs, and even little birds with crystals jutting from their disheveled corpses. Their souls were devoured, too. ...No, this has to be the work of the Phrase. 
I took various factors into consideration before concluding that the entire place needed to be burned down. 
There would still be money and commodities inside the stores and houses, but I didn’t think it would be morally right to pilfer what was essentially a mass grave. 
If I left the city as it was, I was sure that bad people would end up coming by and looting the place, anyway. It was better to allow the stuff to burn to ash along with their former owners. 
I considered passing on the stuff left behind to the Sandora authorities, but it was still possible that there was a virus causing all of this. Plus I didn’t want them using any proceeds from the salvage to create more Submission Collars. 
I searched the map to confirm that there was no longer anything alive in the area, and then I prepared to purge the city in purifying flame. 
The buildings, the people, their souls, and the city itself. All would be gone. 
“Rage forth, Fire. Purgatorial Flame: [Prominence].” The magical flames I called forth wrapped the entire settlement in a blaze. Blazing hellfire screamed and danced, burning the very heavens above as it clashed against the dark night. The city fell to ruin in its all-encompassing scorch. 
Houses began to collapse, roofs began to cave in, everything melded into the savage lick of flame. 
I gazed at the city as it simply faded from existence, and felt nothing but utter helplessness. 
“...Do souls get eaten like this often?” 
“Sometimes, but not frequently. Wraiths, Phantoms, and Specters are all monsters that we’d classify as Soul Eaters. They’re attracted by negative thoughts. They like to feast on people who are mired in despair.” 
“They specifically target fearful people. Those with anxieties, concerns, or depression plaguing them... They corner their targets, intensifying the dread. It’s like seasoning their meal. In the end, fear of the unknown is one of the most unsettling things to experience.” I remembered hearing that the fear of the dark was inherent to all humans. It’s easy to imagine that something exists in the dark, and that serves to intensify the feelings of fear. The fear of the unknown, ultimately, is born from the power of the human imagination. 
I was aware of the evil spirit kinds of monsters that could eat souls, but I didn’t believe this was their work at all. 
Those crystals were far too suspicious and didn’t feel like the work of a natural creature from this world. It was possible that thousands of Wraiths came down to the city, but it’d be an unprecedented incident and wouldn’t account for the crystal formations. 
I looked out in the dark, certain that something horrible was making its move out there. 
“There is one thing, though...” Moroha muttered quietly as she watched the city burn. 
“Something that eats souls and grows from them... It could be that a wicked god is attempting to rise.” 
“Ah, I see... That could be it, then... There’s no sacred treasure in this world, aside from Touya’s smoffo... Uh... smarphone...? Smartphone. So this could be the work of that servile god.” I wondered if that was true. Traditionally such spirits were born from the divinity of sacred objects after they accumulated dark thoughts and grudges. Something like that would be weaker than a servile god, but it’d still be a major threat to humanity. 
Even if it was called a god, a wicked god or evil god wasn’t actually one. Gods typically didn’t interfere either since they were a product of the lower realms. Though it was certainly true that they were only able to be born because of divinity, so the gods would often give a hero or someone important something special to deal with it on his own time. 
I wondered if the servile god was trying to create a sacred treasure and a wicked god alongside it. “Well, even if there is one it’ll be fine. This world has Touya looking after it.” 
“It’s not a real god in the end, anyway. Plus, this’ll just be a creation of a lowly servile god. It won’t even be a fair fight if it faces off against you, Touya. You’re favored by God Almighty, after all.” 
“...Then I guess it’s fine...” I didn’t really like that they were already counting on me to take care of it. But if it was lower than that NEET god, then I was sure I’d be fine. 
I was more worried about the crystals, though. If the servile god had joined forces with the Phrase, that’d be a nightmare scenario. The idea sounded stupid, but I couldn’t shake the feeling... 
If the Phrase were experimenting with divinity, that could actually be a threat. I only had intuition to go off, however.” 
“...What? Something’s not right... There’s something moving in the fire.” I looked over to Moroha, who was muttering something at the blaze. I wondered what she meant. Then, I saw it. Shadowy figures swaying in the hellfire. It was impossible. Those flames were enough to melt steel. Before I could even think any further, a Crystal Skeleton burst out of the ravaged city and attempted to charge me. 
“Augh!” Karina shot a Phrasium arrow at its head. 
The head splintered to pieces and the Skeleton fell to the ground, but it immediately stood up and regenerated the lost material. 
What?! Th-That’s just like the Phrase! The Crystal Skeleton began shambling toward me once more. Inside its ribcage was a small, golf ball-sized sphere. It was glowing red. 
“That...!” I took out Brunhild and pulled the trigger, aiming for the sphere. It burst on impact, and the Skeleton shattered into pieces right away. It didn’t get back up. 
It was the same regeneration ability. The core was maintaining the function, just like the Phrase Constructs. That meant magic was ineffective as well, which explained how they managed to resist the flames. 
Is this because of those crystals growing out of their bodies?! 
“They’re coming... All the human bodies in the city have been turned into Phrase lifeforms.” 
“Fall back to the desert! They’ll follow!” The others retreated on my order. The Crystal Skeletons all began to shamble out through the gates of the ruined city. As they came toward us, Karina and I took shots at their cores, one after the other. 
There were Skeletons of all shapes and sizes, including little ones... and tiny ones crawling on all fours. Children and toddlers, reduced to soulless, mindless drones. It was a fate worse than death. 
I swallowed down the misery the sight inspired in me, and I kept on taking my shots. Their souls were done for. The best thing I could do for them was let them die and never come back to this hell. 
Moroha moved forward and cut out several cores with her blade. They weren’t unified, but there was a massive amount of them. If there were less I could’ve just used [Apport] to pluck out their cores. 
Still, Moroha’s swordplay showed me that they were fragile enough to take out with blades. Which meant I could call in backup... 
“Come forth, Dark! I Seek an Armored Warrior of Bone: [Skeleton Warrior]!” Ivory white Skeletons rose from the ground one after another. They each wielded a sword and shield. 
Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth... Skeleton for a Skeleton. 
“Kill the Crystal Skeletons that are coming out of the city! Aim for the cores in their chests!” The Skeletons were different from the other Phrase in that they had their cores fully exposed. You could easily hit them through the gaps in the ribs. 
I called out more Skeleton Warriors in quick succession. Thousands of them. I really owed this feat to my vast magical reservoir. 
A battle then erupted between the Crystal Skeletons and the regular Skeletons, amidst a sea of flames. It seemed like the Skeleton Phrase were drawn to humans out of instinct like the rest of them. There were other exits to the city, but they’d all converged on the one closest to us. 
My Skeleton army swiftly and efficiently blocked the blows from their crystalline foes, while biting back without mercy. They were truly good at following orders. 
One thing I found interesting was that only the human bodies had become Phrase Constructs. There was probably some method to it, but I had no idea. 
“Skeletons tearing apart Skeletons... It’s like a vision straight out of hell.” The burning city behind them just made the imagery worse. This was one of the most disturbing things I’d seen in recent memory. 
Two hours passed, and finally the last of the Crystal Skeletons fell to my army. The flames also began to die down, finally. I looked on my smartphone map to see if there were any stragglers, but found none. 
Thus, Astal, the second largest city in the Kingdom of Sandora... was wiped from the annals of history. 
The next day, I called an emergency meeting with the representatives of the alliance. I informed them all about the situation in Astal. It was a little awkward to explain that I had to obliterate the entire city, but the more troubling aspect was the cause. 
Flora couldn’t detect any pathogens or unusual qualities within the three kunoichi, so it was hard to tell what had actually triggered the reaction that turned the townspeople into Skeleton Phrase. 
The other world leaders responded to the news with pale faces and fearful glances. That was only natural, of course. They were clearly afraid it could happen in their own territories. 
This world was familiar with humans becoming undead, so they didn’t particularly take that news badly, but... Well, the problem came with just how big of an incident this was, and the fact that we couldn’t be certain if this was some scheme by the Phrase or some coincidental attack from ghostly monsters. 
I was of the resolute opinion that the Phrase had to be behind this. After all, how else could the Skeletons be explained? 
The only good news out of all of this, if you could call anything that had happened good, was that the Skeletons were so weak they could be killed by even the most novice of adventurers. 
Still, I felt like the Skeletons themselves were a simple byproduct, and the actual goal of the attack was the consumption of human souls. 
I was fairly convinced that the servile god had a part to play in all of this, as well. 
I couldn’t exactly tell the other kings about that, though. Even if Her Holiness the Pope would understand, it’d be too complicated to explain to the others. 
There was nothing we could do but wait and see, but we had to keep a vigilant eye out for anything suspicious. 
That was why I compiled several key points of information and decided to pass them on to Relisha and the other guildmasters. 
Point One: There is a creature, or creatures, designated as a Soul Eater. 
Point Two: The humans that it consumes will transform into the Skeleton Phrase. 
Point Three: This is just unconfirmed speculation on my part, but they are likely to appear in places with a high density of negative emotions. 
Creatures like Wraiths and Specters often fell into the Soul Eater category, and they consumed souls just like the wicked god did. There was a common feature between the two, and couldn’t be overlooked. 
Astal was known as the Slaving City due to its high concentration of slave trade activity. 
If any city was going to be mired in negative emotion, it’d be that one. The wanton desires of the slave traders, the overwhelming despair of the slaves, the anguish of the oppressed workers, and the arrogance of the oppressors. 
It was ultimately just a theory, but I didn’t think I was far off from the truth. 
I wondered if the fragmented parts of Yulong would get affected like Astal did, but those places were way too spread out to create a concentrated source of misery. I still couldn’t be certain, however, so I decided to remain vigilant. 
As I said, it was just a hypothesis. I didn’t even know who had started this mess. It could’ve just been a single strike against the city for all I knew. 
I decided to put the Sandora recon mission on hold for a little bit while I got my bearings. It was possible that Sandora, as full of negativity as it was, would end up being a buffet for whoever was orchestrating this. I might have managed to save the three girls this time, but they just got incredibly lucky, so I didn’t want to run the risk again. 
That being said, I really didn’t want a wicked god to be born from all of this... It wasn’t a complete god, but my sisters wouldn’t be able to interfere at all with their full power. Which, basically, meant that in the end... I’d be the one who’d have to fight it. 
Man... This is a pain in the ass... Can’t a legendary hero pop outta nowhere and save me? 
“...I never expected them to appear in Lestia of all places...” Ten days after the attack on Sandora, the Skeleton Phrase emerged in Lestia, out of a small town named ’Merica. 
The local lord in charge of the town had been imposing severe taxes on the citizens, relying on his distance from the capital to keep people from finding out. As a result, the elite of the town were getting fat from the spoils and suffering of the poor. The misery wasn’t as great as it was in Astal, but it was certainly enough to manifest negative emotions en masse. 
The souls of everyone in ’Merica were devoured, and its inhabitants became Skeleton Phrase. Or rather, they became crystal-boned Zombies. As it turned out, the fire I’d set had simply burned away the flesh in Astal. 
The Zombies were quickly dispatched by a team of adventurers who were in the area, along with a small unit of Lestian knights. 
The Skeleton Phrase weren’t threats individually, but it was important to remember that if an entire town became a Zombie horde, they could be a big danger. If they weren’t killed quickly, they surely would’ve filed into the wilderness and attacked innocent people. 
I managed to successfully conclude that the transformations weren’t caused by anything viral. The knights and adventurers were completely fine. 
That meant there was something directly consuming the souls of the living. It was probably the wicked god’s premature form, which I’d taken to calling the Seed of Evil. 
It probably came through the dimensional tear and then swiftly exited back through, just like the Phrase. It was possible that the recoil affected it like the Dominant Constructs, but frankly, I found this creature to be a lot more troublesome to deal with. 
To make matters worse, our technology could only detect Lesser, Intermediate, and Upper Phrase Constructs. It was likely traveling alone, as we had no readings in the regions that were attacked. 
Honestly, it was a real pain in the ass. I resolved to beat the crap out of that thing the moment I set eyes on it. 
“Touya... Your eye’s twitching, are you quite alright?” 
“Ah, sorry, Hilde. I was just a little bit annoyed.” Hilde was sitting with me in the castle drawing room, smiling across at me as she usually did. 
I was too annoyed by my thoughts, so I quickly downed the lukewarm tea in front of me. 
“Oh my, oh my... It seems like the king is getting pretty riled up. Perhaps you could... Relieve his tension by... mumblemumble... Ohoho.” 
“Wh-What? What are you talking about...?!” 

“Shut it, you dumb pervy maid. Don’t whisper nonsense into people’s ears.” Hilde’s face turned a shade of red as Cesca indiscriminately muttered in her direction. I pretty much understood the nature of what she said, so I chastised her immediately. 
Hilde was gullible and easy to get to listen to you, so she was pretty ignorant of the way the world worked. She was plain simple to deceive. Even if her swordplay was exemplary, she was the kind of person who would fall for lies that even a child wouldn’t buy. 
She was a sheltered princess, trained in the way of the sword, and was completely unaware of the world around her. She was completely pure of heart, unlike her perverted grandfather... 
She was quite similar to Elze and Yae in that regard. The three of them, despite being rough and tumble fighters, were quite delicate in matters of the heart. Still, that was a boon to me, as they weren’t pushy and always trying to kiss me. 
I wondered if it had something to do with the fact that they excelled in physical disciplines. A healthy body led to a healthy mind, after all. Plus, Leen, Linze, and Yumina, our magic specialists, were often surprisingly bold in their approaches now and then. 
I turned my face toward Hilde and gave her a small smile. 
“Don’t worry, I was just thinking about the general situation in Lestia.” 
“Ah... My elder brother was disappointed as well. He thought that perhaps if he had noticed the corruption in ’Merica, this disaster could’ve been averted...” 
“He shouldn’t think like that. No matter how great a king he may be, he could never see everything that goes on in his land. It was simply inevitable.” Even though I said that to comfort her, I was kind of hoping larger nations like Lestia would take a leaf out of Brunhild’s book and keep a closer eye on the smaller areas they governed. 
A country exists to protect its citizens, not the other way around. 
That’s why in Brunhild, I had spies, knights on patrol, and even Mr. Mittens’ cat knights report any unusual activity directly to me. 
“So, what will happen to ’Merica?” 
“I called my elder brother and asked him about it, but... they’re going to focus on rebuilding for the time being. They’re inviting people to come and repopulate it... The only issue is that not many people are interested in living there, due to the Zombie outbreak that destroyed it and all...” That made sense enough to me. People would naturally be reluctant to live in a town that had been infested with Zombies. It would likely rouse superstition and fear about the land itself. 
Hallowed grounds, graveyards, and toxic bogs... All these places were associated with Zombies. It was just part of the aesthetic. 
Apparently, souls that died in places like that found it harder to reach heaven, which meant they were likely to infest corpses and become Zombies. 
Zombies and Skeletons belonged to the same general undead category. The only difference was whether or not flesh remained on the bones. Skeletons also tended to move faster than Zombies. I wondered if that was because there was no meat to weigh them down. 
“I guess I can get why they’d be scared to live there.” 
“It’s entirely possible that if the people living here become afraid, the negativity could rise again and attract whatever’s eating them up.” 
Hmph... That’s true enough. Cesca raised a fair enough point. 
Fear was one of the most basic negative emotions a human could possess. If repeated incidents occurred, they would pile up and intensify a person’s anxiety. That anxiety would ultimately invite more fear, creating a vicious cycle that traps people. That accumulated fear would then summon whatever was feeding on it, which would, in turn, leave a wake of more fear. 
I needed to destroy the root of the issue before a cycle of anxiety and fear took over the people in this place. Ultimately, I needed to catch the Seed of Evil and crush it before it could germinate. 
“Touya, your eyes are twitching again...” 
“Ah, sorry.” I’d been getting more irritable lately for some reason. It was frustrating that we kept on showing up late to these disasters and that so many innocent lives were lost. I felt like I was being bullied by the universe. 
“Geez... I could really do with a change of pace around here...” 
“Heheh... So you’ve finally decided to do naughty things with us, hm?” 
“H-He has?!” 
“If she speaks, there’s a ninety percent chance she’s speaking nonsense. Ignore her.” 
Goddammit... I’m gonna go bald due to stress one of these days... 
“Terrible news!” The dining room door flung open loudly, and Tsubaki charged into the room. 
Gah! Knock next time! Linze almost choked on her tea. Tsubaki’s cheeks flushed red with embarrassment as she realized her rudeness. 
“Calm down, calm down. What’s the problem, here?” 
“We received a message through the Gate Mirror! It’s from Pam in the Sea of Trees. The tribes of the region are under attack by Sandora, they’ve sent in their Magic Beast Knights!” 
“What did you say?!” Why the hell would Sandora be invading the Sea of Trees? Didn’t they have an unspoken peace arrangement going on...? 
“The invading army has been capturing tribespeople alive and dragging them back to the capital city one by one. They intend to enslave the general population and have them serve Sandora. Pam and her tribe are currently preventing the other tribes from angrily charging into Sandora territory, but the situation is dire...” I was disgusted by what I was hearing. 
This isn’t just a goddamn slaver run, this is an organized assault on a group of people with the express purpose of enslaving them... What the hell is this?! If Sandora kept this up, it’d be an all-out war between the regions. 
“Then I guess those rumors of Sandora producing more Submission Collars was true...” 
“It seems so...” I tried sending the three kunoichi there with the intent of discovering credibility, but this was clear proof enough. 
It would be meaningless to have more collars without necks to put them on. They needed a good source of fresh slaves to subjugate. It seemed like Sandora was aiming to get as much out of the Sea of Trees as they could. The more warriors they enslaved, the bigger their army could grow. No matter how talented the tribesmen were, they’d have a major problem facing off against tamed magical beasts. 
I wondered if they intended to bolster their numbers, and then take over the whole region. “It wouldn’t be good if Sandora and the Sea of Trees get into a scuffle. It could erupt into all-out war.” 
“So, what are you gonna do?” Elze muttered in my general direction. 
“Fortunately for us, Brunhild has a good relationship with the Rauli tribe, the tribe in charge of the Sea of Trees. We will negotiate between the two sides, and demand that Sandora return the captured people.” 
“Do you think they’ll return the slaves?” 
“They better... And then we’ll make them pay reparations for their damages, too. It will definitely have negative political repercussions, but it might be the only way we can avoid war. We don’t want the tribesmen launching their own guerrilla attacks, either.” Their goal was to obtain slaves, so I doubted there’d be mass murder... But if they’d already killed any of the captives Pam told us about, then war could be inevitable. 
The tribespeople in that region put their familial pride above anything else. It was doubtful they’d forgive Sandora for so brutally wounding it. 
“This might be a good chance for us to learn more about Sandora... Send a message to Pam, and send a message to Sandora. We’ll have their king and his men talk to us directly.” 

“We can send a messenger, but... Who? We cannot send Commander Lain... Nikola, perhaps? Or me...?” 
“Nope.” I shook my head toward Tsubaki’s words, and then grinned broadly. 
“I’ll be going.” 
“Won’t be a problem, right? I’ll change my appearance and go in as Brunhild’s messenger.” I didn’t want to send the important people of Brunhild to such a dangerous and horrid place. It was a country with nothing redeeming about it, as far as I understood. Hell, a lot of people started calling it ‘kidnap country’ because of how many visitors ended up going missing. 
I could’ve sent my sisters or cousins... They definitely wouldn’t die or anything... But they weren’t exactly fit for negotiations. Kousuke could probably do it, but he didn’t exactly look the part. 
Mostly, I just wanted to find out just what the hell was going on in Sandora. 
Plus, the new secret weapon that had been developed in collaboration with the research laboratory and the library was finally complete, so I had that as a backup. 
If Sandora ended up speaking cruelly to my demands, then I’d ensure that the kingdom never collared anyone ever again. 
I had a personal problem after Sandora infiltrated our dungeons and tried to pick away at newbie adventurers. 
Sure they were independent, but Sandora was the buyer. It meant that they had information about my country, too. They probably thought they could take people covertly without dirtying their name directly. 
I talked to the other world leaders and discovered that slavers in their respective territories all reported to a higher authority, one linked to Sandora on the administrative level. 
The slavers were effectively employees of the state. They were government workers. They, working for Sandora, kidnapped people from other places. In my eyes, that made the country accountable. 
I couldn’t tell whether Sandora’s king was actively in charge of all this slavery nonsense, or if he was just being manipulated by the people around him. Regardless of the situation, I felt only negative things about the nation. 
I wanted to get to the bottom of it all. Depending on what I found, I was prepared to come down on them with a vengeance. 
The carriage rattled through the streets of Kyuray, the Sandy Capital of Sandora. The roads weren’t exactly of the best design. Luckily for us, Rosetta had designed a shock-absorbent carriage, so it wasn’t as bad. 
I looked out at the old, worn streets from outside the window. There were various collapsed walls around the place and sunken roofs. There were wooden huts mixed in amongst ruined houses of red mud-brick. 
This was a place where the lower-classes lived. The second-class citizens. 
“The people here aren’t exactly cheery...” 
“Are you surprised? They don’t exactly lead the happiest lives.” Lanz, the newbie knight who sat next to me, muttered quietly as he looked out the window. 
I told Kousaka that I intended to go to Sandora and talk to the king, so he had Lanz come with me as an escort. He didn’t believe I was just trying to talk it out... I found that a little unpleasant given that I typically had a non-violent policy so long as they didn’t attack me first. 
He actually wanted Vice-Commander Nikola to come along with me, but I didn’t want someone with such a high status coming along on a mission like this, so Lanz was a good fit. 
There were four other soldiers with us aside from him, but they were in another carriage following behind us. 
I wanted to immediately shoot off to Sandora by using [Fly] or something like that, but right now I wasn’t being Mochizuki Touya, I was being an envoy from Brunhild on behalf of the united tribes of The Sea of Trees. I did end up using a [Gate] to get to the outskirts, though. 
When Pam handed over the written list of demands, she had a fierce expression on her face. She didn’t even have to say it, but I knew she wanted me to smack the king hard in the face if I actually got to meet him. 
Her tribe and the other tribes of The Sea of Trees would go to war with the Kingdom of Sandora if we weren’t careful, so it remained to be seen if I’d actually do any punching. She wanted to come with us, but couldn’t due to her status in keeping the tribes tentatively at peace. 
“There are about as many slaves as I expected. Many of them look malnourished, too... It seems you were right, Your Highness. They’re not being fed well at all. That being said... the fighting slaves do look like they’ve been eating well.” 
“That’s because they’re fighters, Lanz. You can’t have someone fight on an empty stomach, or they’ll just be meat shields.” I saw slaves dotted around as we passed by, which meant that even second-class citizens could own them. There were strong-looking slaves standing by the entrances of stores, likely keeping guard for their shopkeep masters. 
There were beastmen and other demi-humans amongst the slaves, too. They’d likely been brought to Sandora from other parts of the world. The ones I saw wore crude, ragged clothing, and their arms and legs were fully exposed. 
“Oh, that’s another thing. You can’t address me as if I’m the grand duke, Lanz. I don’t want anyone overhearing you, or you could blow our cover.” 
“A-Ah... Please forgive me. What... What should I call you instead?” Lanz looked at me with a mortified expression, and I realized I hadn’t given much thought to my fake name. Hmm... 
“How about Dolan? That’s Micah’s dad’s name, right? You should have met him by now.” 
“Wh— Ah! Y-Your Highness...! M-Miss Micah and I a-aren’t like that, I assure you!” 
Lanz squirmed in place as his cheeks reddened. You fool... You fool! I know all about your visits to the Silver Moon! You can’t stop my all-seeing gaze! Or er... Karen’s all-seeing gaze! 
I decided to stop teasing him, though. I’d thought of a name idea. 
“Robin Hood... Or, er, no. Robin Loxley. That’ll do.” 
“Robin... Loxley? Then I should call you Ambassador Loxley, sir?” 
“Yep. I’m not really good at using bows, though.” 
“Hm?” I was wearing light green clothes, so the name just sprang to mind. 
I hadn’t changed my whole body using [Mirage] this time. All I’d done was change my hairstyle, my eye color, and my hair color. That was enough to trick anyone who’d only seen me at a glance. I didn’t really expect there to be anyone in Sandora that knew me well enough anyway. 
The coach went on through the second-class district, and finally reached the gates to the first. 
A couple of armor-clad soldiers suddenly walked over and blocked our path with crossed blades. 
“Identify yourselves! This area of the city is for authorized individuals only!” 
“Goodness me... We’re an envoy from the Duchy of Brunhild. Did you not receive a notice about our arrival in advance?” 
“Brunhild...? Tsk... Wait there and shut up. We’ll ask our superiors.” The soldier peeked through the window, sneered at us, and grumbled off into the gates. 
“To act so rudely to a foreign envoy... Just what kind of training did they have? If this were Lestia, he’d have been stripped of his rank immediately.” 
“Sandora doesn’t really do foreign relations, so these crappy manners are probably just a result of inexperience.” I still got a little annoyed, though. Sometimes you have to do a little extra work as part of the job, no reason to get upset about it. 
They kept us waiting for a while, but we were finally allowed inside. 
“Go on. But don’t you dare cause a fuss.” He was still being rude despite confirming who I was. I got the feeling he didn’t think too highly of us. Sandora was geographically isolated, which meant it had pretty much been free of outside invasions in the past... It was possible that he was simply smug and satisfied knowing that outsiders could do nothing in his nation, but it could also just be the fault of his upbringing. He didn’t know any other way, after all. 
The coach started to move again, and I was immediately surprised by how smooth the roads were compared to the ones we’d been on before. The second-class road was bumpy, coarse, and uneven. This one was smooth, flat, and perfectly maintained. The houses around were all pristine and white, too. Everyone in this district looked extremely gaudy and well fed, as they walked around with their slaves. 
The slaves in this area looked extremely well-dressed as well, but their faces were just as miserable as the faces I’d seen in the second-class district. 
“I’d heard living conditions between the classes of Sandora were stark in contrast, but this... this is extreme...” Lanz shook his head in disbelief as he looked outside. There was an absolute world of difference in terms of quality of life. 
The end of the road took us to a magnificent castle, constructed of smoothed-out stone. It was largely an angular, square castle, with four cylindrical towers that rose up out of the ramparts; it certainly inspired awe and majesty. 
However, I also knew that this castle was also the product of slavery. 
We arrived at the gates and were let through with little issue at all. Seemed like the news had already gotten this far in, but we were still met by the same disdainful scowl from the gatekeepers. 
We were let out of our carriage before meeting up with a grumpy-looking robed man who came out of the castle. He was clearly not happy to see us. We followed after him into the gaudy halls of the castle. 
Lanz and I had all our weapons stripped after a thorough search. They were exercising caution, but that wasn’t unreasonable. We were meeting with their king, after all. 
We were brought into the meeting hall and forced to kneel down. There were other men in the vicinity, generals and retainers. Naturally, they were accompanied by their warrior slaves. There were a lot of them, too. They wouldn’t go down with just a couple of weapons, so I wondered why they even bothered stripping us. Then again, it was better to be safe than sorry. 
“So... this is the envoy sent by Brunhild? I’ve heard it said that he carries with him a request from the tribes in the Sea of Trees. My, my... What an interesting situation.” A bald man wearing a red-and-black robe spoke up in a sardonic tone. He seemed to be the country’s prime minister. 
In the middle of the room sat a plump little man, smoking a long pipe. He looked like he was dozing off on his glimmering throne, half-lidded eyes surveying me lazily. At a glance, he honestly resembled a pigman orc, the kind of fat monster you’d see in certain anime. 
Next to the throne sat a girl wearing a Submission Collar. She wore clothing so thin she might as well have been completely nude. She was kneeling by his side, her body completely still. I realized she was holding up an ashtray. 
The pigman was wearing a golden crown, which meant that he was the king, Abdul Djerba Sandora III. He certainly didn’t look like a good guy. Though I was trying not to judge people at a glance. It was entirely possible that this disgusting, crude-looking man was completely fine, and not at all like the several disgusting, crude-looking villains I’d taken out in the past. 
His throne was accentuated by a beautiful golden armor on one side, and a gaudy golden blade on the other. The sword had way too many gemstones encrusted into it, but I got the feeling that it might actually be usable. As for the armor... I didn’t think the pigman would be able to use it at all... He was the wrong size entirely. 
I looked directly at the King of Sandora, careful not to say any of the rude things I was thinking. 
“My name is Robin Loxley, my liege. I am here today on behalf of the Sea of Trees, to request that you release the tribespeople captured from—” 
“Denied.” He completely cut me off mid-sentence, using his chubby fingers to flick ash from his long pipe. Then, he made his slave girl refill the leaves and light his pipe back up. Then he began smoking again without a care in the world. 
He ran his fat, greasy palm over the slave girl’s cheek, licking his lips in a disgusting manner as a grin crept over his face. He continued this motion, but then began to speak, tracing her skin inappropriately without even looking at us. 
“We don’t have enough slaves yet. Why would we return the few we caught?” 
“...Then you expressly launched an assault on The Sea of Tress with the intention of capturing the people there as slaves?” 
“Is that a problem? You have no authority over us, little man. Brunhild is a little country, it is barely even worth a second thought. You would do well to mind your own manners.” The king of Sandora turned his face in my direction, grinning madly as he spat out vitriol. 
That was all the proof I needed. The country itself was responsible for the cruelty of the slavers. 
“...Then you wish to wage war in the Sea of Trees?” 
“War? What part of this is war? This is fun. It is sport. They’re just a small gathering of tribal savages. Do you think my Magic Beast Knights would fall to creatures like them?” 
“The reigning tribe of the region has a friendly relationship with Brunhild. Do you wish to wage war on us as well?” The king’s brow twitched slightly, he stopped caressing the slave and leaned forward in his chair. 
“Don’t speak so confidently, boy. Your little grand duke seems to have a big head, but we won’t buckle so easily. Those giant warriors of yours mean nothing to us, you hear? You had best not rouse the sleeping serpent, understand? Sandora is no country that will lay back, chest heaving as you violate it. There are many superb assassins in our service, understand? Should I wish it, the grand duke’s head will roll around on the ground, and I will kick it like a ball.” Everyone in the vicinity laughed heartily at his words. These guys were really hopeless... 
Everyone in this court was rotten to the core. They clearly never had any benign intentions to begin with. I honestly envied their ignorant self-confidence. They clearly had no idea what was going on in the outside world. 
The king of Sandora snapped his fingers, and all the slaves in the vicinity drew their weapons. 
Lanz and I stood up, and the guardsmen that brought us in also drew their weapons. 
“Just what is the meaning of this?” 
“Hm? As far as I know, no envoy ever came to Sandora. We don’t have enough slaves after Astal was destroyed, understand? We can get uninitiated slaves from other nations, and train them hard for about a month. We’ll take you, and simply claim you never arrived. We have the best trainers available, after all. We’ll break everyone under us.” I stared, dumbfounded, at the obnoxious laughing king. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing here, or how readily he was admitting it. 
So they really had been kidnapping people from other nations. It was exactly as the other world leaders had told me. This country was messed up, and it was my mistake to even expect anything from them... 
I hadn’t lost my temper or anything, but no way in hell was I going to keep treating someone like this with respect. I decided that their behavior meant I really had no reason to hold back. 
I was a bit annoyed, since I just came to Sandora for information and didn’t really expect this kind of treatment. 
“...You really are a dumbass.” 
“Huh?!” I used [Storage] to produce a finely-crafted armchair that matched the king of Sandora’s throne in terms of quality. Then, I parked my ass on it and crossed one of my legs over the other, then I rested both arms on the rests. 
“I said, you really are a dumbass. You know? What a joke. Alright, everyone. Guess it’s a war, huh? Let’s wrap it up, then. If they want a fight, we can give them a fight.” 
“You bastard... Don’t you understand your situation?” The king stood up and glared down at me. 
Heheh... Getting angry, lardass? Your face is all red. 
“I have a full grasp of the situation, buddy. I have a full grasp of you, and your country. I can see a dumbass king and his dumbass advisers. The fish in the sea know not the land, get it? There’s a whole world that you bubble-living idiots are clearly unaware of.” 
“Kill them!” 
“Not even gonna listen to me talk? Wow.” The warrior slaves charged toward us, but were hastily stopped by an invisible barrier. Obviously, I’d erected a [Shield] in advance. Idiots. 
“Wh—?! You wretch, Robin! Just who are you?!” 
“That’s just an alias, friendo. You can call me Mochizuki Touya, grand duke of Brunhild. Nice to meet you, lard— Uh... Lord Abdul of Sandora. Now, what was that you were saying about taking my head?” I dispelled my [Mirage], reverting my hairstyle, hair color, and eye color. There was no need to hide it after they tried to kill us. 
“Wh— Th— What?! Grand Duke?! Impossible, why would... Why would a world leader venture this far...?!” 
“I started out as an adventurer, you know? I’m the type of guy who likes to roam around. You could take a leaf out of my book, fatty.” The pigman king started grinding his teeth together as his brow furrowed. The pipe in his mouth almost snapped. The warrior slaves looked at him, then me, then slowly started backing off. 
“Idiots! If he’s really the grand duke, then this is a prime chance! Bring me his head!” The warrior slaves and his soldiers came at me again, only to be repelled by my defensive spell. 
“Tsk... Then how about this?!” A mage in the backline attempted to channel a [Fire Arrow] spell at me, after wisely noting that physical attacks were ineffective. 
“[Reflection].” I nonchalantly bounced it back at him. The Fire spell hit both the mage and two retainers at his side, taking them out for the count. 
“You’d attack me even after knowing who I am? Then, this really is a declaration of war, eh?” 
“Idiot. Once we kill you here, we’ll cover it up and do what we want!” The king of Sandora started jeering at me. He was a complete moron. All I had to do was summon a [Gate] and I could be gone before another roll of belly fat jiggled on his wobbly gut. I wasn’t going to, though. 
“I’ll ask you once more. Is this a declaration of war?” 
“My magnificent country has both war slaves and the magical beast knights! They are my magnificent soldiers, who will fight to their last breath! With Sandora as your enemy, you’ll never recover! Never!” 
Christ... This guy really is a moron. 
“Sorry, but Brunhild has no need to make Sandora its enemy. I’ll just take care of you, instead.” 
“Excuse me?” He glared at me in confusion. 
I leaned back in my chair and waved my hand in his general direction. 
“[Apport].” A Submission Collar appeared in my hand all of a sudden. The slave girl, who was now hiding behind the throne, suddenly brought her hands up to her neck in disbelief. I was holding the collar she was just wearing. The king looked as if he couldn’t believe his eyes. 
“These Submission Collars... I’ve done my research. I see that they read the magic wavelength of a high authority and respond to it. In other words, all the Submission Collars are tuned to your magical wavelength, right?” I calmly explained the situation as the warrior slaves tried to break the barrier again. I was staring the king down directly as I spoke. 
It was pretty obvious, in the end. The slaves obeyed their masters, but if someone gathered a large number of slaves, they could’ve always tried to stage a coup or a revolution. 
That was why the king of Sandora had the contingency plan in place. His magical wavelength was in all of the Submission Collars, allowing him to control anyone wearing them. 
He probably did this through use of a magical artifact that was handed down the Sandora royal family, or something. 
After all, if the power couldn’t be inherited, then the new ruler of the country couldn’t rule over the slaves when the old king died. It couldn’t just be blood-related, either, or else anyone with royal lineage would have control. 
What it amounted to was an ability composed of two parts. An artifact that allowed someone to exercise control, and a biorhythmic wavelength that belonged to the royal family. 
“In other words, you’re the slave master that rules over this country. Right?” 
“...Correct. What of it? On my command, all the lowly slaves in this nation will bare their fangs and rip you to shreds. Surrender now, and I may yet let you live.” The ability was definitely terrifying. It was a good thing that the mass production of the Submission Collars was only a recent development, or it could’ve ended with him having control of many people all over the world. 
People would enslave other people for profit, without realizing that they were simply adding more numbers to the king of Sandora’s army. A new world order, composed entirely of slaves... That was likely his lazy plan the entire time. 
But I wasn’t going to allow it. 
“So what happens when your control gets overridden, hm?” 
“Excuse me?” I’d been fiddling with my smartphone for a bit, targeting every collared person in Sandora with the [Multiple] spell. There were so many that it took a long time to sort out, but my preparations were finally complete. I had no reason to waste any more time with his words. 
The Null spell known as [Cracking] was a spell that completely overwrote elements related to artifacts and their primary configurations. 
For example, think of someone that had an artifact that looked like a bathroom faucet. If they turned the handle, water came out by magical means. I could use this spell to either prevent the flow of water entirely, cause a massive gush of water to come out of the faucet, or just make it a miserable trickle. 
It was a magic that I discovered in Babylon’s library. If I used it in conjunction with my [Analyze] spell, I could easily pinpoint the exact functions of an object, and modify them to my will. 
This did, however, exclude things I couldn’t comprehend due to lack of knowledge. I had to take care not to tweak anything unnecessarily complex, lest I cause a major issue. 
Even the Submission Collar was a bit much for me. I couldn’t nullify the effects it had like absolute obedience, or forcing people to move. 
What I did manage to do, though, was delete the magical wavelength and replace it with my own. I’d experimented using the collars I’d gotten from the slavers back when they were on my island. 
In layman’s terms, I changed the owner of all the slaves in Sandora. 
More specifically, I transferred ownership of all the slaves in Sandora from the king... to me. Which meant... 
“What are you fools doing?! Off with his head!” The battle slaves turned their blades to me on his order, and then stopped in their tracks. They suddenly glanced at one another, somewhat confused. 
That was only natural. They weren’t moving by force, after all. Their lurch toward me was just their own muscle memory reflex. They realized they didn’t have to do it at all. 
“Come on! Cut them to ribbons!” The king of Sandora started screaming and shouting at them, snarling even. But the slaves didn’t respond at all. They merely brought their hands up to their necks, as if to check for their collars. They were still there, but they no longer restrained them. 
“What... What is this...?” 
“Filthy pissants! Obey me!” The retainers in the area also began looking around uneasily. 
“They won’t obey you, fatty. Slaves with those Submission Collars won’t accept orders from anyone other than the one designated as their master. And, as of a few moments ago, that master is me.” 
“About two-thirds of Sandora’s population are slaves, right? That means I have control of the oppressed majority. Do you want me to put it into simpler terms, you idiot? I own your country now.” 
“Wh... What...?!” The king of Sandora sat there, stupefied. But then he began attempting to channel magical power into a golden bracelet on his wrist. I got the feeling that the bracelet was the artifact he used to register ownership. 
It would be no use for him, though. Try as he might, I was the one with all the control. His orders would reach slaves further away, but I saw no reason to tell him that. 
“Nonsense...! The Slave King’s Bangle can access every Submission Collar in the world! I-It can’t be overwritten... U-Unless... Unless you’re part of my family line...?” 
“Don’t be so damn disgusting, you bastard.” The thought of being related to this slimy lardass sent shivers up my spine. No way in hell would I be related to a pigman like this. 
The warrior slaves glanced between me and the king, seemingly unable to grasp their situation. 
“Now, slave ladies and slave gentlemen. I won’t be giving you any orders today. I promise to release all of you from your captive bonds, provided you aren’t criminals. If you were brought from outside of Sandora, you’ll also be free to return to your homes.” I stood up from my chair and addressed the armed men around me. They’d already dropped their weapons. Some of them were crying. 
“W-We... We’re really free...?” 
“I promise you, yes. You’re really free. I won’t let this nation keep you bound anymore.” I spoke to the slaves around me with an understanding smile on my face. One by one, they began to murmur amongst themselves. Pretty much all of them were crying at this point. 
“F-Freedom... a-at last...?” 
“We’re slaves no more...” 
“...A-A normal life... for all of us...?” 
“Back to my home... to my family...” 
The trembling men began to wipe at their eyes. They probably had a massive buildup of emotions welling inside them. 
“My slaves... No... How...?!” 
“Huh?” The gaudy ornament on the Sandora king’s wrist suddenly vanished and found its way into my hand. 
Nice, got me a Slave King’s Bangle. 
“G-Give me that back!” 
“Nope, you don’t need it anymore.” I grinned at the wobbling bastard as I dropped it to the ground and sliced it to bits. 
It fell into two clean pieces. The slaves didn’t need to obey the bearer of it anymore. It was true that there were still many slaves with individual owners out there, but I planned on releasing them one by one anyway. 
“You wretch! How could you?! Who gave you the right to come in here and judge my culture! Who gave you the right to impose your morality upon my people!” 
“Look who’s talking, pig. Who gave you the right to impose your slavery upon the people of this land, and others’ lands?” 
“Ughgh...!” The slaves around me suddenly turned their attention to the king, and the tears in their eyes gave way to unbridled fury. Their lives were stolen away, their dignity as people were robbed from them. Their anger was a natural outcome. 
At the same time, a large amount of noise came from the outside. I heard the roaring of wild animals, and a series of thuds as various things fell to the ground. It was about time for that to begin. 
“What was that... What’s that sound?!” The retainers flew into a panic, unable to understand what was going on. The robe-clad man who had brought us to the room charged in through the door, clearly in a panic. 
“Your brilliance, it’s awful! The magical beasts under the control of our knights have gone on a rampage! They’re not obeying at all!” 
“Wh-What did you say?!” That was only obvious, too. Enslaved people would still have their wits about them. They had their collars around their necks so they’d still know to be cautious. Animals were a different matter entirely. They were released, so they were just doing what was instinctive. It made me wonder if they could ever be tamed in a non-forcible way. 
“Didn’t I tell you? The Submission Collars are mine now. They only obey me, and I’ve given no command.” 
“Hgngh...!” I did issue one silent command, though. I told the creatures not to harm anyone, and to get out of the city. Nobody else knew that, hence the frenzied panic. 
“You bastard... You... You bastard! Silence, silence damn you!” 
“I asked you over and over, didn’t I? I asked you if you wanted to start a war. I’m a pacifist, but that doesn’t make me foolish or naive. If you hit me, I will hit back. You declared war on us, fatso. When will you learn? When will you learn that your actions have consequences?” 
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” The king of Sandora glared at me, fire in his eyes. All I had to do now was arrest him and find out where the collars were being made. 
I took a step forward to begin doing that, when... The slave girl, who had still been hiding behind the throne, unsheathed the gaudy blade by its side and drove it deep into the side of the fat man’s neck. 
“Whhh...” I heard a squelch, and then a stupid sounding wheeze. And then, I watched a fat pigman-like head soar through the air in an arc. 
I blinked and it had happened, it was all over in a few seconds. I could’ve perhaps intervened with [Teleport], but I barely had a chance to register what she was doing. Even at the last moment, my body refused to move. I didn’t have any will to save him. In the end, I might have just allowed him to die. 
I shrugged my shoulders slightly and watched as his head flew over and landed by my feet. 
“Augh, gross!” I reflexively kicked the head away from me. 
Ah, crap! I didn’t mean to disrespect the dead or anything, it was just a gross head! I was surprised! Anyone that gets a head thrown at them would be surprised, right?! The flying head rolled to a slow bounce and hopped on the ground, landing by the prime minister. 
“Eeek!” He was overcome by horror and collapsed on the spot. The king’s body then slumped forward as blood gushed from its neck stump. 
A whole body’s worth of blood made a glopping sound as it flowed out of the king’s neck. 
I was just looking down at my shoes, which were now completely ruined by the sticky red liquid coating them. 
Aw maaan... I didn’t even get to use [Slip]... This time the guy I would’ve used it on ended up dying without me doing anything. I wanted to hit him at least once, but I figured a kick on his severed head was good enough as a middle ground. 
“Alright, now that’s over with... [Paralyze].” 
“Gwaugh!” I used a paralyzing spell on the retainers and the prime minister, preventing them from moving. Then, I asked the former slaves to help me tie them up with rope. 
The slave girl, who had already fallen to her knees as if exhausted, slowly turned toward me. 
“...Thank you. Thank you so much... I... I finally managed to avenge my sisters...” I wondered what she meant, so I asked her. It seemed that she and her sisters were adventurers, but during a mission in Regulus they were attacked by slavers and captured. 
She and her sisters were extremely beautiful, so they were brought to the king as pleasure slaves. They were brutally treated as his playthings, but both of her sisters somehow managed to upset the king. He had them slowly tortured until they mentally broke and then died. She went on to say that she had gone on living, waiting for the opportunity to take vengeance on the one responsible for something so heinous. 
In the end, that man was garbage. He had many sins to atone for, and I was glad she’d been the one to stick him like a pig. 
I didn’t know what to do with her, though. From an objective standpoint, she was a criminal who had murdered her monarch. But the monarch was an enemy, and frankly, from Brunhild’s perspective, she was probably a hero. 
I figured there’d probably be no issue if we had her emigrate to Brunhild. Ultimately, what had happened was that a war had broken out between Brunhild and Sandora. Within fifteen minutes, Sandora’s war potential was massively reduced, and then the king of Sandora was killed in action, kind of... Then, the war ended. That was it. 
That was what would have basically happened if a formal war was declared, so it was close enough to me. 
They started the fight, anyway... I wasn’t really looking forward to explaining that to Kousaka, though. 
I just decided not to do that for the time being. That was the best thing for it. Yep, you couldn’t convince me otherwise. The best way to deal with problems you don’t want to address was to just bury them down. 
I removed the prime minister’s paralysis and had him guide me to the place where the Submission Collars were created. 
It was located beneath one of the spires on the western side of the castle. 
The country produced the collars, which were then sold to the slavers, bandits then captured people for the slavers, and the slavers bought them as slaves. The enslaved people were then brought back to Sandora and sold to the citizens... A horrid cycle indeed. 
There were a lot of slaves at work in the facility, but that work had since stopped. 
An artifact that vaguely resembled a microwave sat at the center of the facility. Apparently, by feeding regular collars into it, the configuration of the device enchanted it with the properties that made them into Submission Collars. 
Next to this one sat two artifacts that looked similar. They looked a lot newer. Apparently, they were exact replicas that had only been recently created. The replicas were the result of decades of research into the original one. 
The mages that created it were apparently incredible magitechnicians from Felsen, who were promptly enslaved in a tactical operation and whisked away to Sandora. 
They all died due to the severe exhaustion brought on by hours of constant research and no rest. And because of that, nobody left alive could replicate the device. From what I heard, Sandora planned on doing another raiding run into Felsen, but that wasn’t happening now. 
“With this, the well should be cut off at the source.” I used [Gravity] on all three devices, crushing them under their own weight and destroying them entirely. 
With that, no more Submission Collars could ever be created again. That wasn’t actually true, as both I and Doctor Babylon could use [Analyze] to reconstruct them, but we weren’t going to do that. 
Now all that was left was the freeing of the slaves. The only issue was there’d probably be a rebellion all across Sandora if I did that. The formerly oppressed would be free to get their revenge. That being said, they could still be forced into indentured servitude if they committed a severe crime, so part of me hoped that they’d be a little more rational. 
I didn’t want to free the slaves who had been enslaved for committing crimes in the first place. It was better to leave them as they were in order to set an example. I didn’t know how many there were, though. 
Sandora was largely desert, so thankfully it didn’t have a massive population... 
I wondered just how many days I’d end up spending on carting slaves back and forth. 
“Guess there’s nothing for it... Gonna need to ask the alliance for help.” I didn’t really want to deal with Sandora any longer, but a war was a war no matter how small. I would make the government cough up and pay for their deeds. At the very least, they’d pay reparations to the people they enslaved. 
If the country collapsed as a result, then that wasn’t my concern. They were free to rebuild Sandora again, just without slaves. 
They’d have to do it all themselves, though. No more free labor. Well, except for criminal slaves. I figured they could still use those. 
I wondered if it’d be another Yulong situation where a bunch of self-proclaimed rulers ended up appearing. I wondered if it’d break into city-states or just be a bunch of people vying for full control. 
I doubted it’d happen, though. Anyone with any kind of claim like that had relied on slaves all their lives. They wouldn’t know hard work if it slapped them in the face. I was fairly sure that Sandora was on the path to extinction... That did make me wonder, though... If the king of Sandora had kids or not. 
It had nothing to do with me, either way. The country lost its grip over slaves, so I wondered if anyone left around would even respect a birthright claim at this point. 
I was a little bummed out, since ultimately I ended up doing what the other world leaders wanted me to do. I didn’t intend to crush Sandora at all, I just didn’t expect the king to be this much of a dumbass. I’d have had a better job of negotiating with a chimp, seriously. 
Man... War... war never changes... 
Several days had passed since the Sandora situation, and I’d just about dealt with the aftermath. 
I gathered all the slaves in the capital, criminals aside, and gave each of them a sum of money from Sandora’s treasury. Then, I sent all those with a place to return to through individual [Gate] destinations. I used my magic to look into the memories of those from places I’d never been to before. I readily informed members of the alliance so that they’d be prepared for an influx of people returning home. 
I also returned the people from the Sea of Trees back to Pam. I made sure not to miss any of them. 
“Form an orderly line, please. From here to here.” Before sending them through the portals, I used the secret weapon that Doctor Babylon had developed along with Tica in the research laboratory. It was capable of de-powering their collars around their neck. 
Tica brought an object that resembled a syringe without a needle and zapped the collars with it, one by one. It was an artifact we called the Initializer. 
In short, it was an artifact that eliminated magic effects from anything it was used on. 
After that, I used [Apport] to pull the collars off safely. [Apport] was a magic I could use to call any item in my sight into my hands. It was limited to items the size of a softball, but collars were the right size for that. I didn’t really mind, even though it was a little time-consuming. 
The Initializer was a pretty terrifying artifact in terms of strength. Artifacts from the old days were incredible, and we could even make amazing ones now. The Frame Gears were just big devices in comparison to the complex tools that could be developed. 
To be more specific, the Initializer was a magical device that overwrote any magical device with a command of “do nothing,” so to speak. Obviously, I was the one who had to charge it up, too. It’d take a full year for an ordinary mage to charge this device up. It was basically that extreme in terms of effect and power necessity. The Babylon Gynoids all helped with disabling the collars, and then the slaves went through the portals back home. 
There were many people who didn’t want to give up their slaves, but we had our knights suppress them, arrest them, and throw them into the very cages they had their slaves live in. I thought perhaps some of that treatment would make them think a bit about their attitudes. 
We even had some people who didn’t want to be liberated from slavery, but those people were few and far between. Some of them seemed to be fine with the lives they had, and the people they served, so... even if it was weird, I didn’t want to judge that. I did make sure to confirm they weren’t being forced to say anything against their wills, though. 
We disabled their collars just in case, though. Didn’t want to leave any stragglers. Everything after that depended on their feelings. If a person legitimately wanted to live in servitude... It was a weird lifestyle choice, but not one I felt like shaming. 
Several days after liberating the capital city, we continued making our efforts in other Sandora settlements. 
A lot of the people who ruled over those towns ended up resisting us, but they typically relented after we surrounded their settlements with a few Frame Gears. 
We ended up spreading the rumor that the king of Sandora declared war on Brunhild and promptly lost his head, which wasn’t technically incorrect. We simply threatened anyone who resisted with the same fate as their king. 
I didn’t really want to threaten people like that, but it helped smooth things over as far as freeing the slaves went. 
The slave girl that decapitated the king of Sandora didn’t have a home to return to, so I asked her to come to Brunhild. She was a former adventurer, so she’d fit in just fine. 
People who had no places to return to were given their choice of nations to live in. Some people went off to new lands, while others said they’d prefer to remain in Sandora. 
There were some who wanted to come to Brunhild, and I invited them with open arms. There was still land to tame and other jobs that needed to be filled, so they’d be able to scrape by just fine. 
Kousaka ended up chewing me out big-time for what happened, but the influx of immigration was an unexpected boon in terms of new labor forces. He didn’t say a word about that, though... He told me I should’ve squeezed more reparation money out of Sandora, but that was my mistake. 
All in all, it took over a month to settle all affairs in Sandora. A lot of the Sandoran government associates attempted to hide their slaves from us, some even pretending to help us in the search. They were mostly slave traders, and we sorted them out with little issue. 
The slave traders were stripped of their property and, ironically, enslaved themselves for their crimes. They’d been going from country to country, hurting people and taking people, so it was only natural they’d get their just desserts. We decided they’d work in the mines for the rest of their lives. I was the one with the authority over their collars, too. 
There were... more proper slave traders, I guess if you could call them that. They didn’t dirty their hands by raiding other nations, and they operated within Sandoran law at the time. I overlooked their crimes, but I was still on the fence about whether or not to make them do some forced labor in the mines. 
To be honest, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the liberated slaves went back to Sandora in order to exact revenge on their oppressors. 
I wasn’t about to stop them, either. Vengeance was a personal choice at the end of the day. If they had the resolve to be killed, arrested, or enslaved again, then I believed they should just go for it. I did kind of hope they wouldn’t be hasty, though. They’d just gotten their freedom, after all. 
It was also possible that some of the criminal slaves had been imprisoned on false charges, so I decided to give them all individual polygraph tests to determine whether or not they were innocent. I did try asking them all as a crowd to raise their hands if they were innocent, but they all ended up raising their hands shamelessly. 
There were many crimes that one could be arrested for in Sandora, but I wasn’t really in a position to judge. Honestly, it was kind of a complicated situation, judging all their lives and the circumstances that might have forced them into leading a life of crime. 
In the end, I asked Yumina to use her Mystic Eye to determine the innocent from their personalities. 
I didn’t really have to go that far, but I wanted to obliterate slavery as much as was reasonably possible. 
Frankly, I wanted to eliminate slavery being used as punishment, too... But that’d take more work down the line. 
Still, what mattered was that my hard work was finally over. I was basically done, and I could finally head home. In all honesty, I was almost a slave... A slave to work! 
Freedom, sweet freedom...! 
“Sweet freedom... Wasn’t I supposed to be done with this crap?” It seemed that I had celebrated too soon. 
Alas, I was standing in the Sandora royal castle once more, sighing to myself. 
I was looking over at a man sitting on the throne. It was the king of Sandora, Abdul Djerba Sandora III. Or rather, the former king. 
“Guhuhuhu... Wretched Grand Duke... I see you’ve come again! Ohoho!” 
“Geez...” His rotten, severed head started chatting to me. The pigman king sat atop his gaudy throne, head literally in his hands. His entire body looked pale, and his once-beautiful clothes were all worn and dirty. 
Basically, he was a Zombie. He was buried in a Sandoran graveyard, and apparently he just up and rose right out of it. I thought maybe it was the work of the wicked god, but no. He seriously just came back as a Zombie. He just straight-up had so much of an attachment to the material world that he rose right up out of the dead. 
The Zombie king attacked the prime minister first and turned him into one as well. As is the typical rule, those bitten by a Zombie would typically rise as a Zombie themselves. 
Apparently, the Zombies started multiplying like rabbits after that. We were just so busy dealing with the slaves in the other settlements that none of us noticed the capital city becoming a Zombie settlement. 
The king wasn’t the only one here. There was a line of Zombie generals and Zombie retainers, too. They all stood there, staring at me with vacant eyes. Their mouths drooped open. 
Gross, gross... Something’s coming outta your mouths... 
“Guhuhuhu... I have a new power... I have new slaves... I’ll enslave you too...! Oink, oink, squeee!” 
Did he seriously just oink? He’s transitioned entirely into a Pigman Orc, holy crap. 
I sighed slightly as three men and one... What looked like a woman... appeared from behind the throne. They all had pig-like faces. 
“Oink, oink... Father’s goal is our goal! Father’s grudges are our grudges!” 
“Snort, snort... Let’s eat him!” 
“B-B-Brains... L-L-Let me e-eat b-braiiiiiins...” 
“Oink, oiiink! Let’s kill him...!” 
Goddamn. Pigmen princes and a princess, huh...? He seriously zombified his own kids? They’re the spitting image of him... Were they ever even human to begin with? Well, whatever. They’re Zombies now. 
“Oink, oink, oiiink! See, fool? How can you defeat us now? We’re immortal! We’ll use this new power to enslave those foolish runaways!” 
You’re really saying that again? Well, as the saying goes... Once a fool, always a fool. I guess even death can’t cure stupidity. I can see that pretty clearly in front of me. 
“I guess I’ll have to put you down for good, huh.” 
“Silence! Kill him, Zombies!” I sliced at one of the Zombie generals with Brunhild, severing his arm, but he just came charging at me again. Then, I shrugged, realizing I didn’t need to hold back. Zombies were rotten... Though, these people were rotten even when they were alive. 
“Oink oink oiiink! Fool! We have immortal bodies! Bodies that know no pain! Any attack you launch at us is futi—” 
“Come forth, Light! Soothing Comfort: [Cure Heal].” 
“Hnghuh! O-Ow! I-I-It hurts! I-It burns!” 
“Looks like you were wrong.” 
Damn, that really worked. Nice. The Zombie general started screaming and writhing in pain after I cast Healing magic on him. For the undead, restoration magic was a natural ward. 
I took a small bottle out of [Storage] and sprinkled it over the Zombie. It was the perfect finishing move. 
“Auuugh! My body! I’m melting! I’m meeelting! What was that?!” 
“Holy water, duh. I boiled the hell out of it.” 
“H— Ugaaah!” The Zombie general writhed in pain as he melted and vanished into nothingness. 
Pass on in peace... Man, the holy water from Ramissh is some crazy strong stuff... Crazy strong... 
“Bastard... Where did you get that?!” 
“Huh? Are you stupid? I heard I’d be fighting Zombies, why wouldn’t I bring holy stuff? Also, I’m adept at purifying magic.” 
“Wh-What’d you say?! Gwaugh!” The pigman rose from his throne and tried to run away. The other Zombies ran after him, too. They were surprisingly fast, given their state... 
“Hngh?!” Their feet all gave way below them, and the Zombies went tumbling down. Blood, guts, and gore splattered everywhere as their rotting bodies burst open on impact. Zombies couldn’t regenerate, but they could go on living for as long as their brains weren’t destroyed. 
“Alright, enough of this crap. Come forth, Light! Shining Exile: [Banish]!” The Zombie retainers standing by turned to particles of light and vanished. They were done. 
“I don’t wanna die agaiiin! Guyahaaah!” 
“I’m meltiiing!” They all screamed out in agony as they vanished. The only ones left were the pigman king and his family. 
The princes and princess all left their father’s side and shambled over to me. They leaped up into the air before crumpling down at my feet in a haphazard bow. I’d never seen a jump turn into a bow before... It was kind of gross because they broke their legs on impact. 
“O-Oink! We were only following orders!” 
“We’re not even his real children, honest!” 
“Just forget you saw us...!” 
“Y-You brats! How dare you disregard your father!” The pig king screamed, his head rolling around on the ground. The four of them looked back at him and tilted their heads. 
“Oink... Who were you again?” 
“You little shiiiiiits!” The pigman clenched his teeth to the point where I thought his blood vessels would explode. I took advantage of the situation and poured a bucket of holy water over the heads of those little oinkers. 
“Gyaaaaaauuugh!!!” The four piglets screamed as smoke rose from their bodies and they vanished into nothingness. The pigman king looked on, his expression of fury transforming into a full-fledged grin. 
“Oinkahahaha! Serves you right, traitors! Little shits!” 
You and your whole damn family are disgusting... There’s no way the slaves you’ve all killed could rest in peace while you’re still chattering. 
“Strike true, Light! Sparkling Holy Lance: [Shining Javelin]!” I fired a lance of light into the king’s chest. His entire body caught fire and burned away to ashes in a matter of seconds. 
“M-My bodyyy!” He squealed in shock as his rolling head looked at what was going on. I was tired of his nonsense, so I decided to put an end to it all. 
I took out a tank of water from [Storage]. Unlike the previous containers I’d taken out, this one didn’t contain holy water. It was just plain old river water. 
I invoked [Gate] and summoned several living creatures from the Great Gau River. They appeared inside the tank. They were long and thin, around ten centimeters in length. I enchanted them with Light magic. 
“What... What is that thing?” 
“Fish native to the Great Gau River. They’re called the candira. They exclusively eat meat, and have a particular preference for rotten meat.” 
“W-Wait, then you...?” 
“[Gate].” I created a portal beneath the pig of a man, and his head fell into the tank with the fish. All the fish in the tank immediately began nibbling at his face. 
“Hiagaugh!! N-No! No! My e-eyes! My eyes! They’re e-eating... Nghn!!!” 
“Oh man, they sure are hungry...” The candira were a funny type of fish. They greatly resembled the candiru fish from my former world. 
The candiru fish lived in the Amazon rainforest, and they were fierce. They were a parasitic species that burrowed inside larger fish and ate them from the inside. 
They were supposedly related to catfish, but they were more deadly than piranhas. They also attacked larger creatures in groups. Humans weren’t even an exception to this creature’s horrific menu. They were even known as the vampire fish to some people. 
I was pleased to see that the candira fish were just as horrible. 
“S-Save me!” 
“Hell no. If I spared you now, the people you’ve hurt would never forgive me. I guess if I did let you out, I’d just put you back in your grave as a head.” I watched him writhe in torment as I recalled the faces of the slaves we’d recovered from the castle dungeons. Most of them were dead and bound. Tortured, and abused. Not just the men, but the women and children too. 
My only regret was that he couldn’t feel more than the disgusting sensation of his own death creeping toward him. In a sense, I was glad he came back. He didn’t deserve a regular, clean death. I wondered if he came back to the world of the living so the dead would find peace knowing he truly regretted his deeds. 
“Ohhh god! Please, please! It’s horrible, m-make them stop! They’re... They’re burrowing, oh, oh god!” The fish had been enchanted with light, so once they entered his body they created a burning sensation. He was a Zombie, so he wouldn’t suffocate. It would probably take a full day for the fish to pick the flesh from his face entirely. 
“Think about the vile deeds you’ve done up until now. Think about it, and know nobody will ever forgive you.” 
“O-Oink! Auuuuuugh!” He’d die after losing part of his brain, since he was a Zombie. I was happy to wait for it to happen. 
I used [Banish] on every Zombie in the capital city... except the king, and called it a day. 
The royal capital, much like Astal before it, became a city of the dead. There was no way Sandora would recover. I used Earth magic to weaken the city’s foundations, hoping that the sands would reclaim that cursed place. 
The dead slaves might find peace now, I hope... I left the desert capital with those feelings in mind. 

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