AN: Here you go, the chapter focusing on minor characters only. Specifically, this focuses on characters who've never even been mentioned before, but have nevertheless been affected by Adam and Lilith's actions.


In a small workshop within the town of Valeria, Arnold sat up in bed and stretched out his arms. Based on the amount of light tricking in through the window, the sun had only just risen. Still, it was time for him to get up and begin the day's work.

While dressing himself, Arnold reviewed what he had to do for the day.

Let's see… I need to finish off that door I've been working on for the past few days, and deliver it to Steve before lunchtime. Shouldn't take too long, I just need to sand the rest of the surface. Then I need to cut the remaining legs for that table Merry wants. And I also need to fix up that broken oak chair that Lord Serrick sent in yesterday. I don't have any oak here at the moment, so I'll need to head out to buy more…

Arnold picked up some dried beef and put it into his mouth. He chewed while continuing to review his work.

And if today's anything like the past few days, I'm likely to get three or four more requests that I'll need to start on as well… But if I can't finish my current requests soon, I'm going to get yelled at again.

To wash down the dried beef, Arnold poured himself a mug of cheap ale and gulped it down quickly. A drink like this was definitely an acquired taste, but Arnold had long since gotten used to it. Now he needed it each morning to make his body function properly.

Now… time to get to work.

Arnold picked up a sanding block, walked over to the unfinished door and began scouring away the rough patches.

-ooo-

A few hours later, after finishing some of his requests but receiving even more, Arnold slumped down into a chair.

Ugh… I need to pick up an apprentice soon… There's just too much to do on my own… But I can't just pick up an apprentice as easily as buying a new tool. For now, I need to make sure I keep on top of things.

Next… I need to buy the oak I need for fixing Lord Serrick's chair. The actual fixing won't take too long, but it's a request I need to finish today. Can't keep the lord waiting, after all.

Arnold forced himself to stand up. He wolfed down his lunch—bread, cheese and dried fruit—and stepped out of his workshop, pulling a hand cart behind him.

His next destination was a sawmill on the edge of the town of Valeria. This wasn't the closest sawmill to Arnold's workshop, but it offered better prices and had friendlier workers compared to the closer sawmills. Arnold thus made a point of coming here for his wood.

On arrival, Arnold noticed that the sawmill workers were oddly cranky. They had looks of annoyance on their faces, moved around with slightly less skill than usual and, every now and then, snapped at each other for minor mistakes.

Arnold walked up to the nearest worker, a young man by the name of Ren who normally had a smile on his face. "Hey, what's the matter here?" Arnold asked.

"Here for more wood, Arnold?" Ren said. "Sorry, we'll get that to you in a moment. It's just… well, it's nothing much, really. Normally, all of us would have had lunch by now, but we haven't had a single bite yet."

"Why's that?"

"Today, it was Matt's turn to pick up our lunches from the nearby bakery," Ren answered, gesturing over towards his left. "But it's been nearly an hour since he was supposed to come back. And all of us are too busy to check up on him."

"He must be getting first crack at our food!" one of the other sawmill workers shouted.

"That can't be happening," Arnold said. "Hold on, I'll check out what's going on with Matt."

Arnold walked over to the bakery, leaving his hand cart behind. He knocked on the door, but there was no response.

That's odd… it's the middle of the day. There should be someone on duty…

Arnold pushed the door open and looked inside. The interior was dimly lit and, furthermore, had a strange foul stench. There wasn't a single person in sight.

"Matt?" Arnold called out, a trace of nervousness in his voice. "Are you there?"

There was no response. Arnold took a few steps inside.

"Is anyone here?"

There was a chittering sound, like that of crawling insects but much louder. Arnold immediately turned and ran for the door with all his might.

Arnold burst out from the bakery and was soon knocked to the ground by an immense weight. Claws dug into his flesh, drawing blood.

No—it can't end like this!

Mustering up all the strength in his body, Arnold threw away the weight on him. This allowed him to get a good look at his attacker. It was an insect of horrifying proportions, as large as Arnold himself and covered in spiky black armour. Its six legs were each tipped with fearsome claws, some covered in blood. A pair of long antennae grew out from its head, whipping around to sense its surroundings.

A devil bug! It must have killed Matt and the others inside! Wait—but they never come alone!

Arnold didn't have time to worry about that, because the devil bug here pounced on him again. He desperately pushed it away to avoid being decapitated by its mandibles, but the devil bug's legs still raked at his body, causing him to scream in pain.

"Hold on! We're coming!"

For a few more desperate seconds, Arnold continued to hold the devil bug away. He was about to succumb when Ren came to the rescue, hacking off the devil bug's head with an axe. Yellowish-green blood spurted out from the wound, coating Arnold and causing him to gag. Yet despite being decapitated, the devil bug's head and body both continued to twitch.

"Th-Thanks!" Arnold said.

"Fuck! I can't believe monsters got into Valeria!" Ren said, looking at the entrance to the bakery. "That means Matt must have been…"

"There's more in there, be careful!" Arnold warned as he staggered to his feet.

More of the sawmill workers hurried over, also carrying axes in their hands. But although they watched the open door of the bakery for several moments, no more devil bugs emerged. They could still hear a faint chittering from inside, however.

"Why aren't the rest coming out?" Arnold wondered.

"They don't like the light," one of the workers, the same one who'd complained about Matt, explained. "They like dark and damp places. The one that followed you out must have been the bravest."

"So they'll stay in there?" another worker asked. "Could we just burn down the place and kill them all?"

"We could try, but they'd run out the moment the fire started," the previous worker said. "I've seen it happen, back when I was part of the town guard and helped fight monsters. We'd all just… end up like Matt."

"Then we'd better get the current town guard in to help," Arnold said. "We can't let these things multiply anymore."

-ooo-

An hour later, the town guard of Valeria had assembled outside the infested bakery, blocking off all the streets leading away from it. Their numbers were supplemented by volunteers so they numbered over fifty in all. They wielded a range of weapons—spears, axes, clubs, bows—but were united in the single purpose of protecting Valeria.

Arnold watched over the events from more than fifty paces down the street. His wounds from earlier had been cleaned and bandaged up, but they still meant he couldn't join in the battle… not that he'd want to in the first place. The memory of that devil bug snapping at his neck still haunted him.

The operation began with several guards setting down torches next to the walls of the bakery, then hurrying away to a safe distance. The torches continued burning for several minutes.

Then a flood of chittering black horrors rushed out from every exit of the bakery, including some small cracks that Arnold hadn't even realised existed.

The archers let loose a barrage of arrows. Some of the devil bugs fell, but others continued moving even with arrows piercing their bodies.

Finally, the swarm of devil bugs slammed into the town guard and there was absolute chaos.

Arnold, like many others, had been raised on stories of heroic battles against monsters. But the reality was nothing like the legends. Men flailed wildly at any part of the devil bugs within reach, severing limbs and heads, crushing bodies into bloody pulp. Devil bugs lashed out with their claws and mandibles, tearing through the weak armour of the guards and eviscerating flesh. Blood, both red and green, watered the ground.

When it was all over, the bakery was a burning wreck and all around it were the corpses of over forty devil bugs… along with ten human corpses. There were also dozens of humans who'd been injured, and these were now being patched up.

And even then, it's a miracle we found this infestation so early, Arnold thought. If it went on any longer, they would have multiplied, spread to other buildings, eaten more people…

Arnold imagined himself in bed, being forcibly woken up by devil bugs biting into his flesh. The devil bugs didn't try to kill him quickly, instead trying to savour his taste for as long as possible… The thought caused him to shudder.

It's lucky that we stopped them. But that won't help the families of those they already ate.

If only there was a way to get rid of monsters, once and for all…

-ooo-

Beneath the surface of the south sea, Jetstream moved his fin-tipped legs rapidly, propelling his body through the water. He spotted a school of fish—haddock, to be specific—in the distance, so he swam up to it and threw his trident. The trident pierced through the school and each of its prongs impaled multiple fish.

That should make a decent lunch… Now I just need to find something that goes well with haddock…

The merman continued exploring for ten more minutes. He eventually found a bed of red seaweed that lent a spicy taste to food, so he pulled up several handfuls of it from the seabed. He stored the seaweed in a bag attached to a belt around his hips.

That's all I need. Time to head back.

Jetstream turned towards the west and swam home with his cargo of food. He soon arrived at a coral reef that looked no different from any others, but on closer inspection had doorways cut into the coral.

After a bit of searching, Jetstream found his friends gathered in a small alcove. They were playing a game that involved rolling dice—made from the densest stone available, to better sink in water—and advancing along a board with numerous tiles. It was one of various games played down in the sea to pass the time.

Jetstream stopped in the alcove and passed around the haddock and seaweed he'd gathered. Everyone spread the seaweed over the fish and, with no further preparation, bit into their meal.

"Mmm… nothing beats the taste of spiced haddock," said Meron, a merman with red scales covering most of his body.

"Oh, I can think of one way this could be even better," said Arshan, a blue-scaled merman. "We could try out this 'cooking' that the humans like to do."

"How would we cook our food?" Jetstream asked in between bites. "Don't the humans use fire to do that?"

"They usually use fire for that, but there's this interesting idea I heard a couple days ago," Arshan explained. "There are humans who live in places where hot water springs from the ground, and they use that for cooking. We could try that with the hot water from the volcano!"

Jetstream paused to consider this idea. It could work in theory… but that volcano was now completely deserted. None of the sea monsters wanted anything to do with it after its eruption. The dark history of that place didn't help.

"Maybe… but there might be safer ways to pull that off," Jetstream said. "For example, I've been hearing rumours of some people trying to figure out how to use fire magic underwater. If that works, it could be used to make hot water anywhere, without needing to depend on… that place."

"That could work as well," Arshan said. "Anyway, it doesn't matter how it's pulled off. If I could be the first to cook food in the sea, I'd be famous! Mermaids would beg me to fertilise their eggs!"

Meron scoffed at this. "The only mermaids' eggs you'll be fertilising are in your dreams—"

"How dare you!"

Arshan and Meron got into a brief scuffle that left them both with cuts and scrapes, which would heal by tomorrow. This was an everyday occurrence for them.

"Anyway, we can't cook anything yet, so let's just focus on this food we've got in front of us," Jetstream said.

The group of mermen thus continued their meal in peace. When the others finished their current game, Jetstream joined in as a player for the next one.

"The humans do have a lot of good ideas," Jetstream said, after one roll of the dice. "If we had better ideas, we could learn a lot from them."

"Definitely," Meron agreed. "We've also got a lot to offer them in exchange. For example, they have a hard time diving to collect pearls from oysters, while we can collect those easily."

"It would be interesting to taste human foods, too," Arshan said. "They grow so many kinds of crops up there, and have so many kinds of animals to hunt."

Jetstream looked at the fourth member of the group, a purple-scaled merman by the name of Sanor. He hadn't said a word since Jetstream had returned with the food, though this was hardly abnormal for him.

"Is there anything you'd like to get from the humans?" Jetstream asked.

After a moment's hesitation, Sanor replied, "I'd just like to know them… to talk to them. To know what it's like living up on the surface."

The other three mermen looked a little embarrassed at these words. Sanor's suggestion was much more achievable than any of theirs—in fact, it was a prerequisite for their own suggestions to come true.

"But that's stupid, I know," Sanor continued, looking down at his hands. "I have trouble even talking to other merfolk, there's no way I could—"

"No, Sanor, it's a good suggestion," Jetstream said. "In fact, how about we try that out tomorrow?"

"Wait, what?"

"I was planning to go to the surface to look at the humans again tomorrow," Jetstream said. "I think you should come with me. If we're able to approach any humans, we could try talking to them."

Now Sanor was visibly panicking. He looked like he was on the verge of swimming away at any moment.

"Of course, you don't have to do it if you don't want to," Jetstream continued. "There's obviously danger in approaching humans, no matter how we do it."

"That… That…" Sanor said. His expression became serious. "I'll do it. We'll never get anywhere if we're not willing to brave danger."

-ooo-

The next day, Jetstream and Sanor swam up to the surface near the coast. It was just the two of them as the other two members of their group had other issues to deal with. Then two mermen began swimming parallel to the coast. For reasons of comfort, they swam just below the actual surface, but kept their eyes and ears open for any signs of human activity.

It wasn't long before they came across a large human boat—and this one was clearly in trouble. It was tilted at an unnatural angle and the people inside were shouting in panic. And on closer inspection, Jetstream could sense water flowing into the boat.

"They're in trouble!" Sanor cried out. "We have to help them!"

Sanor hurried towards the boat as fast as his fins could propel him. Jetstream couldn't help but be impressed.

He was so nervous before, and now he's like this. I don't think he'll need too much help from me to talk to humans.

Anyway, I can't let myself be left behind! It's weird to save humans after a lifetime of hunting them, but it also feels good!

Jetstream and Sanor reached the human boat. In the next instant, both of them were pulled bodily out of the water and onto the deck of the boat. Before either of them could react, blades pierced their legs, pinning them to the deck. Humans with weapons and armour surrounded them.

This was a trap!? Jetstream realised. Shit! I have to—at least get Sanor out of here!

Jetstream lashed out with one clawed hand. On its own, this would be meaningless against armed and alert opponents, but it was merely a distraction. With his other hand, Jetstream attempted to cast a water spell to blast these humans away.

We should have known this might happen! But—argh!

One of the humans struck Jetstream in the head with the pommel of a sword. This disrupted the merman's consciousness and prevented him from casting any spells. But even with an overwhelming dizziness filling his mind, Jetstream could still hear Sanor's cries of fear and pain.

Shit… this all happened because of me! Because of me, both of us are going to—

Suddenly, one of the humans approached. This one didn't have a sword or any other weapon in hand. She instead gave off the mysterious atmosphere of a mage.

"Are—ready for this?" one of the other humans asked, though it sounded faint to Jetstream's ears. "To—a monster's mind—"

"—no other choice," the first human said.

Then a series of memories flashed through Jetstream's mind: memories of him swimming through the sea, messing around with his friends, attacking humans, being told by Poseidon to stop attacking humans, and finally his efforts to help humans who were lost at sea—

No—get out of my head!

Then Jetstream stopped seeing all these memories—though he suspected that this wasn't because he'd managed to stop the human with his willpower, but because the human had learned all that she wanted to know. And this was confirmed by her next words.

"I found it. I know where the sea monster lairs are. And…"

"What is it, Nina?" asked one of the other humans.

"It's nothing—just some monster trick," Nina replied. "Now… let us finish this."

The last thing Jetstream ever saw were steel blades dropping towards his head.

The last thing Jetstream ever felt was regret at dragging Sanor into all this.

-ooo-

Sitting in a mansion within the great city of Lescatie was a young woman with pale skin, light blue hair and dark blue eyes. She was dressed in a fine dress of white silk with golden trim, paired with matching elbow-length gloves and thigh-length boots. She could be mistaken for an ordinary noblewoman were it not for the slim sword lying against her chair. This was Magdalene Noscrim, a member of the proud House of Noscrim that had supported Lescatie since its earliest days.

But at the moment, both the Noscrim family and Lescatie were facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions. Both of Magdalene's parents had perished during the earlier attack by a baphomet's army, and while she had two siblings, both of them were still children. It fell to Magdalene to keep her family together and ensure it continued to do its part for Lescatie.

And on that topic, the person Magdalene was supposed to meet finally arrived. An elderly man in a pristine white robe entered the room and bowed.

"Greetings, Lady Noscrim," the man said. "Thank you for allowing me some of your time."

"It's nothing, I'm simply doing my duty, Priest Hadrian," Magdalene said, her face a perfect mask of courtesy. "Now, what would you like to discuss with me?"

Priest Hadrian sat down on a chair opposite Magdalene and began his proposal.

"Lescatie, as I'm sure you're aware, is in a horrid state. Our beloved first prince was killed, as were many others, and even our supposedly impassable wall was breached. Due to the devastation of that battle, our citizens are now starving in the streets and crime is at an all-time high. To ensure that Lescatie remains a beacon for all of humanity, it is essential that order be restored."

"That makes sense," Magdalene said. "And how do you think this should be accomplished, Priest Hadrian?"

"The key element is strong leadership," Hadrian replied. He leaned forward slightly. "With a leader who is strong, capable and above all else, just, the citizens of Lescatie will be reassured. We could finish repairing the damage to the wall, heal the wounds inflicted on our economy, train more brave warriors to replace our losses—in short, we could bring Lescatie back to its former glory."

"Though at the moment, there are two aiming to become this leader you speak of," Magdalene pointed out. "Prince Phillip and Princess Myra. Both command great authority and influence, and neither seems willing to yield…"

The atmosphere in the room shifted imperceptibly. The conversation had now arrived at the main topic, something that both Magdalene and Hadrian had been aware of since the beginning.

"True, they could both be strong leaders," Hadrian said. "But for Lescatie to be restored, it must have one clear heir to the throne. That is something that everyone, from the highest noble to the lowest beggar, can agree upon. And… I believe that Prince Phillip would be the appropriate choice. He is the elder, so by the basic laws of succession, he ought to be heir. He was raised by the finest tutors in Lescatie, giving him a good knowledge of how to manage a country. He is well-liked by the people. He is capable with a sword, allowing him to lead Lescatie in times of war."

"Hmm… all good points," Magdalene conceded. "But if Prince Phillip is such an ideal candidate, surely the king will soon select him as heir?"

Hadrian froze for the briefest of moments. He quickly recovered, but not quickly enough to evade Magdalene's notice.

"I am sure King Rahm will make the right decision eventually," Hadrian said. "But for the good of Lescatie, it would be best for him to make that decision as soon as possible. And the support of the House of Noscrim would be very valuable for Prince Phillip's prospects—"

Magdalene began casually toying with the hilt of her sword. "That's true," she said. "You have given me much to think about. I need time to make the proper decision."

Recognising this dismissal, Hadrian stood up and bowed. "I am sure Prince Phillip would deeply appreciate your support."

Then Hadrian left the room, leaving Magdalene alone to her thoughts.

Magdalene silently stood up and drew her sword from its sheath. It was a masterpiece by one of Lescatie's finest blacksmiths, an unequalled weapon that had taken the lives of many monsters… yet it hadn't allowed her to stop Prince Noctis' death, and it didn't allow her to cut through the petty politicking that was now consuming Lescatie.

Magdalene began performing a series of practice slashes and thrusts against imaginary targets. She moved her body on instinct alone, leaving her mind free to consider the situation.

Prince Phillip is… well, everything that Priest Hadrian said about him is true. But knowledge from tutors is not the same as knowledge of how the world truly functions, beneath the facades of honour and justice. And more importantly, he has a known weakness for women, both chamber maids and even the occasional noblewoman. That will get him into trouble one day, if it hasn't already. We cannot afford a prince who angers his own nobles or is vulnerable to succubi.

As for Princess Myra… she seems to be more familiar with how the world functions, and lacks the obvious vice of her brother. But there are those persistent rumours of her involvement in criminal activity… some even claim that her support is what allows Lescatie's underworld to continue thriving, despite attempts to stamp it out. I wouldn't normally give credence to rumours, but when there's so many being whispered, and for so long…

It was truly regrettable that Prince Noctis had fallen to the baphomet. He had none of the flaws of his siblings, being the perfect crown prince who was beloved by all. Though in hindsight, his presence might have allowed his siblings to think they didn't need to put in as much effort.

But there's no point thinking about that now. Now, I can only worry about how the two royals are fighting over who becomes the next heir, and so all the nobles and heroes are trying to align themselves with the eventual winner. No matter the cost to Lescatie… oh?

Magdalene heard footsteps outside the room and instantly recognised their source. In the next moment, two rambunctious children burst into the room.

"Hey, are you finished with that boring meeting?" asked Nolan, Magdalene's younger brother.

"Can you play with us now?" asked Miria, Magdalene's younger sister.

Magdalene smiled and ruffled the hair of her younger siblings, causing them to shriek and try to get away.

At least my own siblings won't turn out like the prince and princess… hopefully.

With no more work for the day, Magdalene allowed her siblings to drag her along to their own games. Still, in the back of her mind she had an idea.

I could just leave… take these two with me, and go to somewhere far away, far from the intrigues of Lescatie. With my skills, I'm sure I could carve out a comfortable life for the three of us…

But I could never do that. I am still a Noscrim, and as a Noscrim, I cannot let Lescatie down.


AN: I originally planned to have a POV of a Zipangu character as well. I eventually decided to leave it out so I could release this chapter earlier.