Translators: Ghoststaker, CoCayn, cerulean33
Editor: Namorax, Mecani
The village chief had a house near the village square. Upon entering, one would be greeted by a large living room, with a kitchen off to one side. A rickety old table and several chairs occupied the center of the room.
Ainz surveyed the interior from where he was seated on one of the chairs.
The sunlight which shone through the windows illuminated every corner of the room, so he could see clearly inside even without darkvision.
He took a look at the woman in the corner of the kitchen, and the farming tools inside the house.
There were no manufactured products to be seen anywhere.
Just as Ainz thought that there would not be much in the way of technology here, Ainz realised that his thinking might be naive. Still, he was curious about what sort of science that a world with magic would develop.
Ainz shifted his hand across the old table to avoid the sunlight. His metal gauntlets were not heavy, but the shabbily-made table shook under its weight. The chair also creaked from Ainz sitting on it.
This was a textbook definition of the word “poverty”.
Ainz leaned the Staff on the table to keep it out of people’s way. The way the Staff reflected the sunlight in a brilliant display made the run-down old house appear to be some sort of fairytale wonderland. He recalled the surprised expressions on the villager’s faces, the way their eyes went wide and how they were lost for words.
A surge of pride came over Ainz as the villagers asked about the Staff which he and his guildmates had painstakingly crafted. However, his delight was immediately suppressed to normal levels, which made Ainz furrow his nonexistent brows.
Frankly speaking, Ainz disliked this forced calming effect. That said, it was also true that allowing his emotions to run wild would make it difficult to solve the challenges ahead of him. With that in mind, Ainz prepared himself for his upcoming task.
He had to negotiate payment for rescuing the village with the chief.
Of course, Ainz’s real objective was to obtain information, and not money. However, directly asking for information would be strange.
While it would be fine in a small village like this, once the local lords found out, they would begin making their way to him. When they discovered that he knew nothing about this world, there was a high chance that they would try to use him.
Was he being too cautious about this?
Ainz felt that this was like running across a busy road — a fatal accident could happen at any time. The fatal accident in this case meant encountering the mighty beings of this world.
Strength and weakness were two sides of the same coin.
For now, Ainz was stronger than everyone he had encountered in this village. However, that did not guarantee that he was stronger than everyone in this world. In addition, Ainz was now undead, and from the terrified reaction of the two girls, he could imagine that undead were not very well-received in this world. He had to be aware that since most humans would hate him, they might well attack him. Thus, he had to tread very carefully.
“Sorry to keep you waiting.”
—The chief sat opposite Ainz. His wife stood behind him.
His skin was dark and covered in wrinkles.
His body was very muscular, and it was obvious that those muscles had been honed through heavy labor. More than half of his hair was white.
Though his crudely made cotton shirt was stained by dirt, it did not stink.
The tired look on his face made Ainz think he was over 45 years old, but it was hard to tell, because he seemed to have grown older in the past half hour or so.
The chief’s wife was roughly the same age as her husband.
She had been slim and beautiful once, but after long years of working on the farm, that beauty was nowhere to be seen. All that was left were the wrinkles that covered her face.
Her shoulder-length black hair was mussed up, and she looked gloomy even under the direct sunlight.
“Please, help yourself.”
The village chief placed a crude-looking cup on the table. Albedo was not here because she was patrolling the village.
Ainz raised his hand, refusing the cup of hot, steaming water.
He did not feel thirsty, nor could he remove the mask. However, he felt that he should have refused earlier, given that she had gone to so much trouble for him.
The trouble in question concerned the boiled water.
First, there was the matter of creating sparks with a flint. Then, she had to light wood shavings — or tinder — with those sparks. Then, she had to fan the sparks into flames, and when they were big enough, she had to transfer them to the stove. Then, she had to boil the water, and by the time that was finished, a long time had passed.
This was the first time Ainz had seen water boiled by a hand-started fire, rather than through the use of an electric kettle. He found it quite interesting. Back in his world, he had boiled water on a gas stove, so it was hardly as time-consuming as this.
This was also a good opportunity to gather some information on the technological level of this world. With that in mind, Ainz spoke to the chief again:
“I do apologize, especially since you went to all this trouble to prepare water for me.”
“You are too kind. There is no need to apologize.”
The fact that Ainz lowered his head to them (however slightly) filled the village chief and his wife with dread. They could not imagine the Death Knight’s summoner bowing his head to anyone.
However, it was hardly strange to Ainz. It was always a good idea to have a friendly attitude when negotiating with someone else.
Of course, he could simply have used [Charm Person] to make them talk, followed by high-tier memory alteration spells, much like he had done with the sisters. However, that was a last resort, because it took far too much MP.
Ainz recalled the feeling of spending MP; it felt like a strange fatigue, like he had lost something.
Just altering the tens of seconds of their memories — until he had put on his mask and his gauntlets — had taken a considerable amount of MP.
“Then, let us cut to the chase and begin the negotiations.”
“Yes. But before that… thank you very much!”
The chief bowed to Ainz, his head so low that it nearly touched the table. After that, his wife bowed as well.
“Without your help, we would all be dead by now. You have our deepest thanks!”
Ainz was quite surprised to receive such unreserved gratitude.
When he looked back on his past life, he had never been thanked like this before. No, the sisters he rescued earlier had acted that way too. Well, had never rescued someone before, so he thought that their reaction was only natural.
That was a relic from his time as a human being — as Suzuki Satoru. Although he was somewhat embarrassed by this earnest appreciation, he certainly did not dislike it.
“Please, raise your heads. Like I said earlier, I did not help you for free.”
“We know that, but still, we wish to thank you for rescuing us and many of the other villagers.”
“...Then, paying me more will be good enough. Come, let us discuss it. You must have many things to do, village chief-dono.”
“Nothing could be more important than spending time with our savior, but I understand.”
The chief slowly raised his head, and Ainz racked his nonexistent brains.
His goal here was to obtain information through conversation, rather than through magic.
—What a pain.
He still remembered the tricks he had used as an office worker. How effective would they be here? Hopefully, at least half of them would be useful. After steeling himself against the possibility of failure, Ainz asked:
“...Let us get to the point. How much can you pay me?”
“We would not dare deceive our savior. I do not know how many silver and copper pieces we can gather if we do not collect them from everyone, but I believe we can muster up at least 3000 copper pieces.”
I have no idea what that means, Ainz thought.
Asking them directly was a mistake. I should have tried a different approach. Besides, I was a lousy worker to begin with, and my job skills were pretty bad.
It sounded like a large amount, but without knowing the value of money, he could not tell if it was an appropriate sum or not. He had to avoid accepting too high or too low a sum, lest he reveal his ignorance.
No, he should have been relieved that they did not offer him “four heads of cattle” or something.
Just as he was about to sink into depression, his mental state immediately settled down. Ainz silently praised his undead body, and then he realized one more thing.
First, copper and silver pieces were the basic units of currency in this village. Second, there should be other forms of currency which were more or less valuable, but he was not confident that he could draw this information out of them.
He needed to learn the monetary value of these copper pieces. Without that knowledge, things would be troublesome in the future. However, not knowing the value of money was quite suspicious, and he wanted to keep a low profile while he learned more about this world.
That was why he was thinking as hard as he could to avoid making a bigger mistake.
“These small coins are hard to carry in large amounts. I’d like something in a bigger denomination, if you can manage it.”
“Our sincerest apologies. If we could pay in gold pieces, we would. However… the fact is that our village does not use gold pieces…”
Ainz fought back the urge to sigh in relief.
The chief’s answer went in the direction that he was hoping for. Therefore, Momonga thought heavily about how he would continue steering the conversation, until it seemed like smoke would start coming out of his head.
“How about this: I plan to buy the produce of this village for a reasonable price, so all you need to do is pay me in currency used for trading.”
Ainz secretly opened his inventory under his robe, and withdrew a pair of gold coins from YGGDRASIL. One of the coins was decorated by the face of a woman, while the other coin had the face of a man. The former was a coin from after the huge update “Valkyrie’s Downfall”, while the latter was a coin from before the update.
Their values were the same, but they meant different things to Ainz.
The old coin was one that had followed Ainz ever since he had started playing YGGDRASIL until he had formed the guild Ainz Ooal Gown. The new coins had been released with the update, when Ainz Ooal Gown had been in its golden age. His equipment was almost complete at that point, so those coins simply went into his inventory’s coffers.
Ever since he had started out as a skeleton mage, he used his spells to defeat monsters roaming the world and gained gold coins which floated in the air. He soloed dungeons, defeated the vicious monsters within, and earned a huge pile of gold with great effort. After the members of Ainz Ooal Gown completed a dungeon, they sold the data crystals they collected and in exchange, they received these gold pieces, which glowed so brightly...
But Ainz waved that topic aside.
He put the old coin away, and held up the new coin.
“...If I used this gold piece to buy something, what could I get for it?”
He placed the gold coin on the table. As one, the village chief and his wife stared, their eyes wide.
“This, this is!”
“This is currency used in a land far, far away. Can it be used here?”
“I should think so… please wait a little.”
Relief came over Ainz as he heard that the coin could be used. Then, he watched as the chief left his seat, went to his room, and came back with something he had once seen during his history lessons.
That object was called a balance scale.
After that, it was his wife’s turn. She took the gold coin and put it next to a circular object, as though she were comparing their sizes. After she was satisfied, she placed the gold coin on one pan of the balance, and on the other pan went a counterweight.
He seemed to recall that this sort of thing was called a “standardized mass”.
As Ainz went through his memories, he compared them to the wife’s actions and tried to figure out what she was trying to do. The first part should have been comparing his coin to the gold pieces of this country, and next she was trying to confirm its gold content.
It would seem the gold coin was heavier, and the standardized mass rose up. The chief’s wife put another mass on it, and both sides balanced out.
“It seems to be about twice as heavy as a regular gold piece… perhaps, perhaps if we could scratch the surface…”
“O-oi! You’re being rude! Please accept my sincerest apologies on behalf of my wife, for saying such foolish things…”
No wonder. She must have thought it was gold-plated. Ainz was not completely unoffended, but he was not angry.
“It’s fine… although, if you scratch it and find that it’s pure gold, you’ll take it, no?”
“Ah, no… we are truly sorry for this.”
The chief’s wife bowed in apology, and returned the gold coin.
“Think nothing of it. After all, it’s only sensible to verify the bona fides of any money you’re given. Still, what do you think of this gold piece? Don’t you think it looks like a work of art?’
“Indeed, it is very beautiful. May I ask the name of the country from which it came?”
“It’s no longer — yes, that country no longer exists.”
“...Well, you’ve confirmed for yourselves that it weighs twice as much as a regular gold piece, but considering its artistic value, this gold piece should be worth more as a result. What do you think?”
“That may be so… but we are not merchants, and we do not know the value of art…”
“Hahaha… well, that’s not wrong. So, if I were to use this to buy something, it would be worth two normal gold pieces?”
“Of, of course.”
“Actually, I have a few more gold pieces like this. What can you sell me for them? Of course, I wish to pay the usual market rate for them. I don’t mind if it’s the same as what a street vendor would charge. By all means, go ahead and inspect these coins. Please—”
“Ainz Ooal Gown-sama!”
The village chief’s sudden shout made Ainz’s nonexistent heart lurch. The chief’s determined expression seemed harder and more forceful than before.
“...Ainz will do.”
“Ainz-sama, then?” The chief seemed a little surprised at this, but he soon nodded and continued speaking:
“I fully understand what you want to say, Ainz-sama.”
For a moment, Ainz wondered if a giant question mark icon had appeared over his head. There seemed to be a misunderstanding of some sort, but he had no idea what the chief was getting at, so he did not know how to answer him.
“I am very aware that you does not wish to be seen as cheap, and I understand that you would wish to request an appropriate reward in keeping with the public view of yourself, Ainz-sama. Certainly, it would require a great deal of money to obtain your services. Therefore, what else do you desire besides 3000 coppers?”
Ainz had no idea what the chief was talking about and his mind was a whirl of confusion. He was silently grateful that he was wearing a mask. The reason Ainz brought out the gold coin was because he wanted to know what it could buy, and thus gain a rough grasp of market values. How had things ended up like this?
The chief did not give Ainz any opportunity to cut in and continued:
“However, as I said earlier, this village can only produce 3000 copper coins in cash. Although you must be suspicious of us, we would not dare hide the truth from our savior, Ainz-sama.”
The chief’s expression seemed honest and determined. He did not seem to be lying. If it turned out to be a deception, then Ainz could only curse his inability to read people.
“No, I am certain that a great man like yourself could not possibly be content with that sum. Perhaps if everyone in the village gathered their wealth, we might be able to produce sufficient cash to satisfy Ainz-sama. However… our village has lost a lot of manpower, and if we paid more than 3000 coppers, we would not be able to survive the coming winter. The same applies with our produce. Many fields will have to be abandoned because we lack the people to work them. If we gave you our supplies, our lives would be very difficult. Although it pains me to have to ask a favor of our savior, perhaps… could we… could we pay by instalments?”
Hm? Isn’t this a good chance?
It felt like he had been lost in a dense forest, and then his field of view suddenly expanded before him. Ainz pretended to think about it, and then all he could do was pray it all worked out. After a few seconds, Ainz finally gave his reply.
“I understand. The payment will not be needed.”
“Eh?! But… but why?”
The village chief and his wife stared at Ainz, their eyes wide and their tongues tied. Ainz raised his hand, indicating that he still had something to say. He had to consider what he could and could not reveal, and it was quite troublesome. He did not know if he could guide them into telling him what he wanted, but he had no choice but to try.
“...I am a magic caster. I was researching spells in a place called Nazarick, and I have only stepped outside recently.”
“I see, so that is why you are dressed like this.”
“Ah, mm. That’s right,” Ainz muttered as he touched the Jealous Mask.
What would people on the street think if they saw a magic caster walking around in his weird getup?
He thought of the crowded streets of Bali, and just as he was hoping not to see something like that in his world, Ainz noticed something that he could not understand, which was how YGGDRASIL terms were understood and used here.
The term “magic caster” referred to a lot of things. It included clerics, priests, druids, arcaners, sorcerers, wizards, bards, mikos, talismancers, sages and countless other magic-using classes. In YGGDRASIL, they were all called magic casters. It would be surprising if the exact terminology carried over to this world.
As Ainz watched their reaction, he replied:
“...I may have said that I did not want a reward, but a magic caster uses many tools to achieve his aims, including fear and knowledge. These things are all tools for generating profit, but like I said earlier, I was focused on spell research, so my knowledge of local matters is somewhat lacking. Therefore, I would like to learn about the surroundings from the two of you. In addition, I hope you will not tell anyone about this sale of information. I will accept that in lieu of a reward.”
Nobody would be so nice as to say “I don’t want anything”. One could say that nothing was more expensive than being free of charge.
Someone who saved another’s life was entitled to a reward for their hard work. Yet, if the savior said they did not want a reward, anyone would find that strange.
Then, the next best thing was to make the other side feel that they had paid in some way, even if it was in an intangible form.
In other words, the best solution to the present situation was to allay their suspicions by having them trade information to Ainz. That would put them at ease.
The chief and his wife nodded, steadfast looks on their faces.
“I understand. We will not let anyone know about this.”
Ainz secretly clenched his fist in approval. It would seem the skills he had picked up through working could still be put to use here.
“Excellent. I do not wish to bind you with magic. I shall trust your good nature.”
Ainz extended an armored hand. The chief stared blankly at it for a moment before taking the situation in, and he grasped Ainz’s hand.
After that, Ainz breathed a sigh of relief. It would seem shaking hands was a known practice here. It would have been tremendously depressing if the chief had looked dumbfoundedly at him.
Of course, Ainz did not fully trust them. After all, mouths that were sealed by the promise of benefits could be opened by bigger benefits. If he tried to play on their personalities to keep them quiet, the vagaries of human nature might make them talk. No method was better than the other, so all Ainz could do was take a chance and hope that the chief’s character would keep his lips sealed. Although, it would be fine even if he did talk. That betrayal would simply be more leverage Ainz could use in future dealings with the village.
That saod, Ainz’s instincts told him that they would not betray him. After seeing the earnest gratitude of the chief and his wife, he believed that they would be loyal.
“Then… can you tell me more about this place?”
♦ ♦ ♦
“...What, what is this?”
“Urk! Is something the matter?”
“No, it’s fine. I was simply speaking to myself. Forgive me for alarming you.”
Ainz recovered in an instant and immediately covered himself up. If his body were still human, he would be sweating buckets by now.
The chief simply said, “Is that so” and did not ask further.
Perhaps the chief had already equated “magic casters” with “weirdos”. Then again, that was better for Ainz...
“Shall I prepare a drink for you?”
“Oh, no, I’m not thirsty. Please, don’t trouble yourself.”
His wife was no longer in the room, but outside — there were many things she had to help with. Only Ainz and the chief were in the house now.
Ainz first asked about the neighboring countries, and the chief responded with many names that he had never heard before. Although Ainz was prepared for this, he could not help but be surprised after hearing them.
At first, Ainz had thought that this world would be designed according to the fundamental principles of YGGDRASIL. After all, he could use YGGDRASIL’s magic here, and there were many connections with YGGDRASIL to. Yet, none of the names he heard were related to YGGDRASIL.
The nearby countries were the Re-Estize Kingdom, the Baharuth Empire and the Slaine Theocracy. These names did not appear in the context of YGGDRASIL, which was inspired by Norse mythology.
Ainz felt like the world was spinning and his body was wobbling. Ainz gripped the table edge with a gauntleted hand to maintain his balance. Although he had expected this world to be an alien one, he could not help but be surprised by it.
The impact was greater than he had expected.
This was the first time he had felt so shaken ever since he had become undead.
Ainz tried his best to remain calm, and reconsidered what he had heard about those neighboring kingdoms and the local geography.
Firstly, there was the Re-Estize Kingdom and the Baharuth Empire. These countries were on different sides of a mountain range, and to the south of those mountains was a sprawling forest, and at the edge of that forest was this village, under the Re-Estize Kingdom, and the fortress city of E-Rantel.
Relations between the Kingdom and the Empire were bad, and they would fight a battle in the wilderness near E-Rantel almost every year.
To the south was the Slaine Theocracy.
The best way to describe the orientation of these countries was to draw a circle, and then divide it up with an inverted T. It seemed confusing, but it was much easier to describe things that way. To the left was the Re-Estize Kingdom, to the right was the Baharuth Empire, and below them was the Slaine Theocracy. There were other countries, but the chief only knew of these three.
The chief was not sure where exactly this village was placed between the three of them.
In other words —
“...How foolish of me.”
The knights from just now were wearing armor emblazoned with the insignia of the Baharuth Empire, so the chief believed that they were from the Baharuth Empire. But this area also bordered the Slaine Theocracy, so they might have been knights from that country in disguise.
Releasing them all was a mistake. He should have kept one for questioning, but it was too late for that now.
If this was the work of the Slaine Theocracy, then he should probably do something on the Empire’s side. On the Kingdom’s side, he should have accumulated enough goodwill with them for rescuing their village, so things should be fine for now.
Ainz sank into thought.
Was he the only one who had come to this world?
Impossible. There was a very high chance other players had come here too. Perhaps Herohero-san was here as well. He needed to think about what would happen if he encountered other players.
If other players had come to this world, they would probably gather up, given the nature of Japanese people. When the time came, he had to do almost anything to blend in. He could give in to anything as long as it did not involve Ainz Ooal Gown.
The problem was what would happen if the other side considered him an obstacle. The possibility was slight, but it could not be discounted.
Ainz Ooal Gown was a guild that had always roleplayed as villains through PKing, and thus they were a much-hated guild. He could not be sure that he had shed that negative image. For all he knew, the other players might want to take revenge on him out of a sense of justice and righteous anger.
In order to avoid others declaring a vendetta on him, he had to refrain from doing anything that antagonized the surrounding people. For instance, massacring the local populace — especially innocent civilians — might enrage those players who had not yet lost their humanity. Of course, it would be a different matter if there was a reason which would satisfy them, such as killing the knights who were trying to sack this village.
In any event, it would be better if future actions were taken for a high-sounding reason. That also meant he might have to do things he did not like, but that could not be helped.
If the people he met bore hatred toward Ainz Ooal Gown, then combat would be unavoidable. To that end, he had to draw up a plan and countermeasures if that situation took place.
Given the current strength of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick’s defenses, they could easily overwhelm about 30 level 100 players. In addition, they could use World-Class Items in their defense, so it was a nigh-impregnable fortress. They would probably be able to repel invaders like they had in the past.
However, it was easy to see how dire the situation could be without reinforcements. In addition, the trump card of Ainz Ooal Gown — their World-Class Items — would drain Ainz’s levels every time he unleashed their full power. If they were attacked in succession, the time might come when the World-Class Items would become unusable.
Ainz was very clear that wargaming a scenario like this in his head was prone to bias and tunnel vision. However, Ainz was no longer a child, and he always considered the worst-case scenario before taking any action. This was simply thinking of how to take care of a problem before it happened.
If he just wanted to scrape by, he could simply live in the mountains like a beast. However, the power he possessed and the mighty name he bore prevented him from doing that.
If he wanted to coexist peacefully with the world, then he would need to deal with problems as and when they came up.
As such, combat and the expansion of fighting power would become a very important topic in future. He had to gather information about this world, as well as news about other players.
“...That should do.”
“No, it’s nothing. I simply spaced out because things were not as I expected. Right, can you tell me about something else now?”
“Ah, ah yes, I understand.”
The village chief started talking about monsters next.
Much like YGGDRASIL, this world had monsters in it. The nearby forest was filled with monsters, and one of them was known as the “Wise King of the Forest”. There were also Dwarves, all sorts of Elves, Goblins, Orcs, Ogres, and the like. Apparently some of the demihumans had even built their own nation.
There were people called adventurers who drove off these monsters, and they counted many magic casters among their number. Apparently, these adventurers had guilds of their own in all the big cities.
Apart from that, he also learned about the nearby fortress city of E-Rantel.
According to the chief, E-Rantel was the biggest city in the area, although he did not know exactly how large its population was. That seemed to be the best place to gather information.
While the chief’s words were helpful, there were still many unclear details. Therefore, it would be better to send someone over there to find out, rather than ask the chief questions.
Finally, there was the matter of language. It was truly surprising that they understood Japanese in this new world. As a result, Ainz looked carefully at the village chief’s mouth, and discovered that he was not, in fact, speaking Japanese. Neither their words of the movements of their mouths matched up with the Japanese language.
After that, he did some more experiments.
His conclusion was that someone had fed the people of this world some sort of Translation Konnyaku. However, he did not know who had fed that substance to them.
The language of this world was translated before the other party heard it.
If he could understand what the other person said, then he should be able to communicate with non-human lifeforms, like say, a dog or a cat. The question now was who had done this. In addition, the village chief did not find this strange.
It seemed perfectly natural to him.
—-In other words, this was a basic principle of the world. Then again, when one thought about it calmly, this was a magical world, which might run on completely different precepts than the world in which Ainz had been born.
It would seem that the basic knowledge and facts he had learned in his previous life were no longer applicable here. This was a grave problem.
If he was ignorant about this world, there was a chance he might make a fatal mistake. “Ignorance” was synonymous with “disaster”, in this case.
Right now, Ainz lacked information about his surroundings. He had to solve this problem quickly, but he had no idea where to begin. Could it be that he had to kidnap someone and make him talk about what he knew? That was not a very workable option.
That being the case, there was only one alternative left to him.
“...It would seem I will need to live in a city for a while.”
He had to observe and imitate many things in order to learn about the world. He also needed to understand the magic of this world, and many other things about it.
As he thought about this, he heard footsteps from outside the flimsy wooden door. There was a large delay between the sounds of the footsteps, which meant that whoever it was, they were not advancing quickly. Those were the steady, plodding sounds of a grown man’s footsteps.
A knocking came from the door just as Ainz turned to it. The chief could not help but look at Ainz’s face. He dared not act of his own accord because he was still explaining things to his savior, as payment for saving him and everyone else in the village.
“Please, by all means. I was intending to take a break myself. I won’t mind if you step outside.”
“I’m very sorry about this,” the chief said as he nodded in apology. He headed to the door, and when he opened it, a villager appeared. He looked first to the chief, then to Ainz, and said:
“Chief, I’m sorry to interrupt you when you’re talking to our guests, but they’re ready for the burial…”
The chief looked to Ainz, his eyes begging for his approval.
“It’s fine. There’s no need to worry about me.”
“Thank you. Then, tell the others that I will be there soon.”
The burial ceremony was held in a nearby communal graveyard. It was surrounded by a broken-down fence, and within were several circular stone slabs inscribed with people’s names.
The village chief recited the verses to ease the spirits of the dead, and the words from his mouth appealed to a god that Ainz had never heard of in YGGDRASIL. It was a prayer that the spirits of the dead would find peace.
It appeared that there were not enough hands to bury all the bodies at once, so they chose to bury some of them first. To Ainz, burying the dead on the day they died was too hasty, but perhaps this was a normal practice for the faiths in this world.
He spotted the sisters he saved among the other villagers — Enri Emmott and Nemu Emmott. Their parents’ bodies were among those that would be buried today.
As he watched the villagers from close by, he idly stroked a 30 centimeter long wand under his robe. The wand was made of ivory and capped with gold. There were runes over the grip and it radiated an aura of holiness.
It was a Wand of Resurrection.
It was a magic item which could return the dead to life. Of course, Ainz did not possess just one of these wands. He had enough to resurrect all the dead in the village, with room to spare.
According to the village chief, this world’s magic did not have the power to raise the dead. That being the case, if he used the wand of resurrection, he would create a miracle in this village. However, after the prayer finished, as the burial ceremony neared its end, Ainz returned the wand to his inventory.
He could have brought them back to life, but he chose not to. This was not because he felt that the souls of the dead were the domain of the gods, or some other religious reason. It was simply because he felt that there were no benefits in doing so.
It was not hard to tell which would be more threatening, a magic caster that could take lives, or a magic caster which could return them. In addition, the chances of the villagers keeping the secret would be very low, even if he ordered them not to talk about the resurrections.
The power to conquer death was something that everyone craved.
If things were different, he might have used that power to recall people to life. However, he did not have enough information on the local conditions, so it would be unwise to do so now.
“They should be content with the fact that the village was saved,” Ainz muttered as he looked at the Death Knight that was standing behind him.
The Death Knight was another mystery.
In YGGDRASIL, all summoned monsters would vanish after a certain time unless special methods were used in their summoning. He had not used any such methods to summon the Death Knight and its summoning time was long past, but it remained here.
Although he had many hypotheses for this phenomenon, he still did not know enough to come to an answer. As Ainz was thinking about this, a pair of figures turned up beside him.
One was Albedo, and the other was roughly humanoid, but resembled a spider dressed in a ninja uniform. Its eight legs were tipped with sharp blades.
“An Eight Edge Assassin? Albedo, this is…”
Ainz looked around, but it seemed like none of the villagers were paying attention here. Albedo was one thing, but bringing a monster here would make them the center of attraction, even if the burial was going on.
Just then, Ainz remembered that Eight Edge Assassins were monsters that could go invisible.
“I brought him over because he wanted to pay his respects to you, Ainz-sama.”
“Oh, how refreshed my soul is whenever I see Ainz-sa—”
“—Enough of that. Are you part of the support troops?”
“Yes. There are 400 vassals beside myself who stand ready to assault the village at any time.”
Assault? How had it ended up like this? As Ainz pondered that problem, he began muttering to himself — Sebas had no talent for passing messages.
“...There’s no need for an assault, the problem’s already been taken care of. Who’s your commander?”
“That would be Aura-sama and Mare-sama. Demiurge-sama and Shalltear-sama remain in Nazarick on alert, while Cocytus-sama is supervising Nazarick’s perimeter security.”
“I see… well, too many cooks spoil the broth. Everyone but Aura and Mare are to fall back. How many of you Eight Edge Assassins are there?”
“There are 15 of us in total.”
“Then you can stay with Aura and Mare.”
After watching the Eight Edge Assassin nod in acknowledgement, Ainz turned his eyes back to the burial. They were about to fill in the graves, and the two girls were crying non-stop.
♦ ♦ ♦
In order not to interrupt the burial, Ainz strolled leisurely toward one of the roads leading to the village. Behind him were Albedo and the Death Knight.
Though his information-gathering had been interrupted by the funeral. Ainz had still managed to learn much about the region and the ways of this world. By the time he left the village chief’s home, the sun was going down.
It would seem his little hero act — to pay forward the kindness his old friend showed him — had taken more time than expected.
Still, the time spent here had not been wasted. In particular, the more he learned about this world, the more he realised he did not know. It was enough that he was aware of his ignorance.
As Ainz watched the magnificent sunset, he thought about what he needed to do.
It was dangerous to move around in this world when he did not understand anything about it. Ideally, he should finish gathering information and then begin acting in this world under a false identity. Although, after saving this village, hiding his identity was impossible.
Even if the knights were exterminated, their parent country would unearth the truth. Much like in the previous world where forensic science was well-developed, this new world might have its own ways of finding out the truth, and they might be very efficient in doing so.
Also, even if they made no investigation, as long as the villagers survived, someone would eventually follow the trail back to Ainz. To prevent a leak, he could take them all into the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. However, the country that these villagers belonged to would not take that lying down, and they might even treat it as a kidnapping.
Therefore, he had stated his name, and let the knights flee.
There were two reasons for that.
The first reason was that news about Ainz would get around as long as he did not hole up in Nazarick. Therefore, it would be better if he controlled how the information got out.
The second was because he wanted to spread the word that Ainz Ooal Gown saved a village and slew the knights. In particular, he wanted to let any players from YGGDRASIL hear about it.
Ainz planned to take up residence in either the Kingdom, the Empire or the Theocracy.
If there were other players in these countries, there should be some trace of them. In contrast, if Ainz used Nazarick’s personnel to gather this information, it would not only be troublesome, but very risky. For instance, given Albedo’s personality, giving her the wrong kind of orders would end up making him unnecessary enemies.
Therefore, from an information-gathering point of view, joining one of the countries was a very good idea.
It would also be good to have one of them as backing in order to ensure the autonomy of Nazarick. After all, he could not take these countries lightly while he was not aware of their power. In addition, he could not lower his guard as long as he did not know who was the most powerful person in this new world. For all Ainz knew, there might be someone stronger than him among these three nations.
While there were a lot of drawbacks to becoming part of one of these kingdoms, there were many advantages as well .The question was the capacity in which he would join one of these countries.
He was not interested in being a slave. Neither was he interested in becoming part of a black-hearted enterprise like the one Herohero-san was in. Therefore, he needed to make his existence known to these factions. After having a closer look at their respective situations and how they treated him, he would move toward the most ideal of the factions.
These were the basics of job-hopping.
In that case, when should he make his move? He might end up exposing his weaknesses while he remained ignorant.
Ainz shook his head as he thought about that, as though he were tired. After all, he had been ceaselessly using his mind for the past few hours, and it was overstressed.
“Haa… let’s leave it at this. We’ve finished everything we need to do here. Albedo, let’s go back.”
Albedo’s reply sounded very tense. There should be no reason for her to be so on edge in a harmless place like the village.
In that case, there was only one reason he could think of for Albedo to be like this. Ainz quietly asked Albedo:
“...Do you hate humans?”
“I detest them. Humans are weak and inferior lifeforms. They would look so pretty if I squashed them like bugs… besides that girl.”
Albedo’s words were as sweet as honey, yet their meaning was terribly cruel.
Ainz felt that they did not fit Albedo’s benign, goddess-like beauty. Therefore, he said:
“I see… I understand how you feel. However, I hope you can control yourself for the time being, because we have to put on a show.”
Albedo nodded energetically. As Ainz looked at her, he began to feel frustrated.
Her likes or dislikes would not be a problem for now, but the future was a different matter.
Understanding his subordinates was an important skill he had to master.
After Ainz realized this, he began looking for the village chief. it was basic manners to bid someone farewell before leaving.
He found the chief almost immediately, talking to some of the villagers. He had a stern look on his face, but it did not seem normal. Indeed, he seemed to be quite wound up.
What was happening now?
Ainz resisted the urge to go “Cheh” and approached the chief. After all, he had saved them once; that meant that they were his responsibility.
“...What’s wrong, Chief-dono?”
The chief’s face lit up, as though he had glimpsed a golden shiny wire of hope.
“Oh, Ainz-sama. It would seem there are some mounted people who look to be warriors approaching us…”
The chief and the other nearby citizens looked at Ainz, worried expressions on their faces.
Ainz gently raised his hand as he saw this, which filled everyone with relief as he said:
“Leave it to me. Gather all of the survivors into the village chief’s house right now. The chief and I will remain here.”
A bell rang, and the villagers gathered. The Death Knight took up a position near the chief’s house, while Albedo remained behind him, awaiting orders.
In order to dispel the chief’s unease, Ainz cheerfully said:
“Please be at ease. I will make an exception and handle this for free.”
The chief no longer trembled, and smiled bitterly instead. Perhaps he had prepared himself to take this risk.
After a while, they finally sighted many mounted warriors along the road leading to the village. The horsemen slowly entered the square.
“...They aren’t uniformly equipped, and each of them is outfitted differently… are they not regular troops?” Ainz mused as he observed the men and their wargear.
The knights from before had breastplates bearing the sigils of the Baharuth Empire, and they were heavily equipped, each in the same way. While these men were wearing armor as well, their gear varied from man to man. Some wore leather armor and some did not have their plate armor on, exposing the chainmail underneath.
Some of them wore helmets, while some went bareheaded. About the only thing they had in common was that they each showed their faces. All of them had swords of similar make, but apart from that, they also carried bows, javelins, maces, and other backup weapons.
One could say that they looked like hardened veterans of the battlefield. A less polite way would be to say that they were a ragtag bunch of sellswords.
The riders finally entered the square. There were around 20 of them, and while they were wary of the Death Knight, they formed up neatly before Ainz and the village chief. A man stepped forward from the rest of the force.
He seemed to be the leader of the horsemen. He looked like the fiercest and most eye-catching one of his men.
The leader’s eyes rested briefly upon the village chief before lingering on the Death Knight and then he turned toward Albedo. He took a long time looking at her. However, once he satisfied himself that none of them were going to move, he immediately turned his keen gaze on Ainz.
Although the man looking at him seemed to be the sort who made his living by violence, Ainz remained still. A look like that could not hope to raise any ripples on the still lake of Ainz’s heart.
It was not because Ainz did not fear those eyes, but because of his undead body. Perhaps he was full of confidence because he could use his powers from YGGDRASIL.
Once satisfied, the leader spoke in a grave tone:
“—I am the Warrior-Captain of the Re-Estize Kingdom, Gazef Stronoff. By order of the King, I have been visiting each of the frontier villages to exterminate knights from enemy countries who have been making trouble here.”
His even baritone echoed through the village square, and there was some commotion from the chief’s house behind Ainz.
“The Kingdom’s Warrior-Captain…”
Won’t anyone tell me what’s going on? Ainz thought as he spoke to the chief, his voice carrying a hint of rebuke:
“...What sort of man is he?”
“According to the traders, he was a man who claimed the championship of the martial arts tournament held before the King, and now he leads the elite warriors who are loyal to the King.”
“Is the man before us truly so amazing…?”
“...I do not know. All I heard were stories.”
Ainz looked closely, and he saw that each of the horsemen had the same emblems on their chests, which resembled what the chief had said about the Kingdom’s emblems. That said, he did not have enough reliable information to be sure.
Gazef looked at the chief and said, “You must be the chief of this village. Can you tell me who is the person beside you?”
Ainz interrupted the chief, who was about to answer, before nodding to Gazef and introducing himself.
“There is no need for that. Pleased to meet you, Warrior-Captain-dono of the Kingdom. My name is Ainz Ooal Gown, and I am a magic caster. This village was attacked by knights, and so I stepped in to rescue them.”
Gazef immediately dismounted, his armor clattering loudly as he did. He bowed deeply once he was on the ground.
“Thank you for saving this village. I have no words that can adequately praise your kindness.”
The air seemed to tremble.
The Warrior-Captain was a man from a privileged class of society. It was quite shocking that such a man would bow and scrape before a nobody like Ainz, in this world where people were so clearly divided amongst each other. From what he had heard, the concept of human rights was almost nonexistent in this country — no, in this world. A few years ago, the Kingdom still sanctioned the slave trade.
One could tell Gazef’s character from the way he was ready to dismount and bow to Ainz despite their difference in status.
This man was definitely the Kingdom’s Warrior-Captain, Ainz concluded.
“...Please, do not stand on ceremony. In truth, I did this for payment, so no thanks is needed.”
“Oh, a payment. Does this mean that you are an adventurer?”
“That is close enough to the truth.”
“Oh… I see. You must be an extraordinary adventurer, then. Although, forgive my ignorance, but I have not heard your mighty name before, Gown-dono.”
“I was travelling, you see, and I just happened to pass by. I am nobody famous.”
“...Travelling, you say. Though I regret having to waste the time of such a great adventurer, could you please tell me about the blackguards who attacked this village?”
“It would be my pleasure, Warrior-Captain-dono. Most of the knights who have attacked this village are already dead, so they will not be able to make trouble for the time being. Shall I go on?”
“...Already dead... Gown-dono, did you strike them down?”
After listening to the way Gazef spoke, Ainz realised that this world’s form of address was Western-style, and not Japanese-style. In other words, it went in the order of name, then surname, and not surname, then name. At last, he had solved the mystery of why the chief looked so baffled when he had asked the chief to call him Ainz. It was only expected that he would look like that when asked to address someone in such an unfamiliar way.
After realising his mistake, Ainz covered it up with his salaryman’s thick skin and replied:
“...Well, that is not entirely accurate…”
Gazef picked up on the hint in Ainz’s tone, and turned his eyes toward the Death Knight. He must have smelled the faded scent of gore and death that came from it.
“I have a couple of questions… may I know who that is?”
“He is a servant that I have created.”
Gazef murmured in approval, and then looked Ainz up and down with a keen gaze.
“Then… how about that mask?”
“I wear it for reasons known only to a magic caster.”
“May I remove that mask?"
“Sadly, I must refuse,” Ainz said as he gestured to the Death Knight. “It would not be good if I lost control of him.”
A look of shock flashed across the faces of the chief and gasps came from the villagers hiding within the chief’s house. Perhaps he had sensed the change in the air and seen the look on the chief’s face, but Gazef nodded deeply and said:
“I see. Then, we’d best not take it off.”
“Before that, I have a request you might not like to hear. This village was recently attacked by knights of the Empire, and if you gentlemen brought your weapons in, it might trigger unpleasant memories in the villagers. May I ask you to place your weapons in a corner of the village square, to put the people at ease?”
“...It is as you say, Gown-dono. However, this sword was given to me by the King. I cannot set it down without his express permission.”
“—Ainz-sama, we will be fine.”
“Is that so, Chief-sama… then, please forgive my unreasonable request, Warrior-Captain-dono.”
“No, I see the logic in your thinking, Gown-dono. If this sword had not been personally awarded to me by the King, I would gladly lay it aside. Then, could we sit down and discuss the details. Also, the sky is growing dark, and we would like to rest in this village for the night…”
“I understand. Then, let us return to my home together—”
In the middle of the chief’s reply, one of the horsemen ran into the square. He was panting heavily, and had an urgent report. In a high-pitched voice, the horseman said:
“Warrior-Captain! We’ve sighted a lot of people around the village! They’ve surrounded the village and they’re closing in!”
“Everyone, take heed,” a calm voice spoke into everyone’s ears.
“The prey has entered the cage.”
The speaker was a man.
He had no distinguishing features, and he would not stand out in a crowd. However, there was no emotion in his seemingly man-made black sclerae or the scar on his face.
“Offer up your faith to the gods.”
Everyone began their silent prayers, a shortened version of their usual praise to their gods.
They had to spend time in prayer even when operating in another country. This was not complacency on their part, but a symbol of their faith in their gods.
These men who offered everything to the Slaine Theocracy and the gods they revered were far more devout than the average citizen of the Theocracy. This was why they could perform cruel acts without the slightest bit of hesitation, and why they felt no guilt for doing so.
After their prayers, the eyes of every man present were as hard and cold as glass.
With that one single word, they neatly encircled the village in a way that would appear to onlookers as the product of long, hard training.
♦ ♦ ♦
These men were a black ops group from the Slaine Theocracy. Though their reputation spread far and wide, little was known about their members. They belonged to one of the Six Scriptures who answered directly to the high priests of the Slaine Theocracy. They were the Sunlight Scripture, whose mission was to exterminate demihuman settlements.
However, there were very few of these men, who were the most involved of the Six Scriptures in combat. There were only around a hundred of them in total.
This was because the recruitment standards for the Sunlight Scripture were very strict.
Entry required the ability to cast 3rd-tier divine magic, which was also the highest tier of magic that ordinary magic casters could reach. In addition, prospective recruits had to be in excellent physical condition, and they had to possess a strong will and deep faith.
In other words, they were the elite among other elite combatants..
The man quietly sighed as he watched his men disperse. Once they scattered to take their positions, it would be very hard to be sure of their movements. However, he was not worried about their skilful encirclement of the village.
The Sunlight Scripture’s commander, Nigun Grid Luin, only felt the peace of mind that came with knowing that success was at hand.
The Sunlight Scripture was not used to long-term clandestine operations in the field. As a result, they had missed four chances to finish the mission in the past. They were exceedingly careful every time they closed in on Gazef and his men of the Kingdom, in order to avoid being spotted. If they missed this chance as well, these days of tracking and pursuing would drag on and on.
“Next time… I’d like to ask the other teams for help, and leave some of the work to them.”
Someone answered Nigun’s gripes.
“That’s right, we’ve always been specialized in extermination, after all.”
The speaker was one of the men who had stayed behind to protect Nigun.
“I mean, this is a strange mission. Usually, we would have backup from the Windflower Scripture for something as important as this.”
“Indeed, I don’t know why they only deployed us this time round. Still, this will be good experience for us. We can take this as training in infiltrating enemy territory. Hm, for all we know, that was what the people on top intended.”
Nigun said that, but he was very clear that another mission of this nature would be very unlikely.
The orders he had been given were to “assassinate the greatest warrior of the Kingdom, the man famed in the surrounding countries for his matchless might, Gazef Stronoff.”
This was not the sort of task which would usually be assigned to the Sunlight Scripture. Instead, it would have been the province of the Theocracy’s most powerful special operations unit, the Black Scripture, whose members wielded the power of heroes. However, it was not possible this time round.
The reason was top secret, so he could not tell his subordinates, but Nigun knew the truth.
The Black Scripture was protecting the holy relic “Kei Seke Kouku” in preparation against the resurrection of the Catastrophe Dragon Lord, while the Windflower Scripture was busy chasing the traitor who had made off with a relic of the Miko Princesses. Neither of them had the free time to help them.
Nigun unconsciously felt the scar on his cheek.
He remembered the only time in the past where he had forced to flee with his tail between his legs. The face of that girl with the jet-black demonic sword rose in his mind.
Magic could have easily healed the wound without leaving a mark, but he had purposely left the scar to engrave the lesson of that humiliating defeat into his heart.
“...That damnable Blue Rose.”
The members of Blue Rose were citizens of the Kingdom, just like Gazef. Their priestess was the one who most drew his ire. Besides the fact that she was an infidel who worshipped another god, she had stopped Nigun while he was planning to attack demihumans, and even believed that she was on the side of justice in doing so.
“...Humanity is weak, and it uses any and all means to defend itself. Anyone who doesn’t know that is an utter and complete fool.”
One of the subordinates seemed to have sensed the anger smoldering in Nigun’s glassy black eyes, and interjected:
“But, but the Kingdom is foolish too.”
Nigun did not answer, although he agreed with those words.
Gazef was very strong, so in order to weaken him, they had to deprive him of his panoply.
♦ ♦ ♦
The Kingdom was divided into the Noble and the Royal factions. Since they were opposed to Gazef, a prominent figure in the Royal faction, the Noble faction was easily led to take political action to eliminate him. They did not even pause to consider that the impetus for their deeds came from a foreign power.
Gazef was a commoner who had risen to his current station by dint of his swordplay, and so the nobles despised him.
And that had led to this conclusion.
The Kingdom’s trump card would soon be lost by their own hands.
That was a supremely foolish move to Nigun.
They — the Slaine Theocracy — might be divided into six sects, but whenever they needed to act, they did so as one.
One reason for that was because everyone respected each other’s gods. The other was because everyone knew that there were many inhuman tribes and monsters in this world, and that they would be in danger if they did not work together.
“...Which is why everyone should walk the path of the righteous teachings together. Humanity should not fight amongst itself, but work hand in hand to bring about a better and brighter future.”
Gazef would be the sacrifice for that.
“...Can we kill him?”
Nigun did not mock his subordinate’s unease.
Their prey was the Kingdom’s Warrior-Captain — the strongest man in the region, Gazef Stronoff.
Eliminating him would be more difficult than attacking and exterminating the inhabitants of a huge goblin village. In order to dispel his underlings’ fears, Nigun calmly replied:
“It will be fine. Right now, he does not possess any of the Kingdom’s treasures, the ones which he is permitted to bear. Without them, killing him will be a piece of cake… no, it would be better to say that without them, this is our only chance to kill him.”
The Kingdom’s Warrior-Captain, Gazef Stronoff, was famed as the strongest fighter in the land. But there was a reason for that reputation beyond his extraordinary swordsmanship.
That reason was the five heirlooms of the Kingdom. Although only four of them were known, he was permitted to bear all of them.
The Gauntlets of Vitality, that made their user immune to fatigue. The Amulet of Immortality, which constantly regenerated his wounds. The Guardian Armor, made of adamantite and enchanted to ward off critical hits. Razor’s Edge, the sword created and enchanted in pursuit of sharpness, which could slice through armor like the proverbial hot knife through butter.
Even Nigun could not hope to triumph in a head-on attack against Gazef Stronoff, whose offensive and defensive ability increased astronomically when he used those items. No, it might well be that no human could defeat him when he was like that. However, he did not have those treasures with him now, so this was a great chance for Nigun.
“And then… we also have a trump card of our own. This is a battle we cannot possibly lose.”
Nigun patted his chest lightly.
In this world, there were three types of magic items which fell outside the usual types and classifications.
The first kind were the relics from 500 years ago, left behind by the Eight Greed Kings who had conquered the world in an instant.
The next kind came from the Dragons, who were once the masters of the world before they were decimated by the Eight Greed Kings. The most powerful Dragons, the Dragon Lords, made the secret treasures of dragonkind.
And the third kind were the keystones of the Slaine Theocracy, the artifacts left behind from when the Six Gods descended upon the world 600 years ago.
Those were the three types.
What Nigun had in his breast pocket now was a rare treasure that very few people in the Slaine Theocracy possessed. In other words, it was Nigun’s secret weapon.
Nigun glanced at the metal band on his wrist. Numbers floated up from its surface, indicating that the appointed time had come.
“Then… begin the operation.”
Nigun and his subordinates began casting spells.
They summoned the highest-ranking angels their magic would permit.
♦ ♦ ♦
“I see… so there were people out there.”
Gazef peeked out at the people surrounding the village from inside the darkened house.
He could see three people within his field of vision. They were slowly advancing on the village while maintaining an even separation from each other.
They were unarmed and were not wearing heavy armor. However, that did not mean that they were pushovers. Many magic casters disliked such equipment and preferred lighter gear. This suggested that they were magic casters.
However, it was the winged monsters floating beside them which confirmed their vocations.
Angels were monsters summoned from another world, and many people — particularly, the citizens of the Slaine Theocracy — believed them to be messengers of the gods. However, the priests of the Kingdom ruled that these so-called angels were merely summoned monsters.
While these religious disputes were part of the reason why the countries were set against each other, Gazef felt that their status as divine messengers was secondary to their strength as monsters.
To Gazef, angels and demons, their similarly-ranked counterparts, were stronger than many other monsters summoned using magic of a similar tier. Most of them had special abilities and some could even use magic. They were troublesome foes, in his reckoning.
Of course, that depended on the individual angel. Not all of them were difficult to beat.
However, the angels this time round, with their shining breastplates and flaming swords, were of a type that was unknown to him.
Ainz was watching them with him from the side. He asked Gazef, who did not know anything and could not gauge their strength:
“Who are these people? What do they want? I don’t think there should be anything that valuable in this village...”
“Gown-dono, you do not know either? ...Well, if it is not wealth they seek, then there can only be one other answer.”
Ainz and Gazef locked eyes.
“They must really hate you, Warrior-Captain-dono.”
“It comes with the job of Warrior-Captain. However… this is troubling. Judging by the way the other side has so many people who can summon angels, they must be from the Slaine Theocracy… and it’s clear that the people carrying out this operation must be a special operations unit… the legendary Six Scriptures. It would seem that both in numbers or ability, the opposition is superior to us.”
Gazef shrugged, indicating the difficulty he was in. He might have seemed merely depressed on the surface, but inside, he was seething with anger and panic.
“Well, they’ve certainly gone to a lot of trouble, using the Noble faction to strip me of my gear. However, it’s troublesome for that snake of a man to remain in the courts, so I guess it should be my good fortune to be able to recognize his villainy here. Still, I didn’t expect the Slaine Theocracy to have their eyes on me…”
He did not have enough men, he was under-equipped for a battle like this, and he had no plan in mind. In short, he had nothing. Although, there might still be a trump card he could use.
“...Is that an Archangel Flame? It looks similar enough, but… what is a monster like that doing here… could it have been summoned by magic too? That means…”
Gazef turned to look at the mumbling Ainz. With a hopeful look on his face, he asked:
“Gown-dono, if it is alright with you, would you be willing to let me hire you?”
There was no answer, but Gazef could feel the weight of Ainz’s gaze beneath the mask.
“You may name your price and I will meet it.”
“...Please permit me to refuse.”
“...Even the loan of that knight you summoned would be fine.”
“...I must refuse that as well.”
“I see… then, what if I conscripted you, in accordance with the Kingdom’s laws?”
“That would be the worst decision you could make… I did not plan to say such harsh words, but if you insist on using the authority of the Kingdom to conscript me, then I would be compelled to put up a bit of resistance.”
The two of them looked wordlessly at each other. The first to avert his eyes was Gazef.
“...That would be frightening indeed. We would be wiped out before even crossing blades with the gentlemen of the Slaine Theocracy.”
“Wiped out… well, that’s a good joke. However, I am glad you understand me.”
Gazef narrowed his eyes and looked at Ainz, whose head was nodded in thanks.
His words just now were not a joke, Gazef’s instincts told him. Making an enemy of this magic caster would be a fatal error.
In the face of this life-threatening danger, his instincts were more reliable than his meager intellect.
Who was he? Where did he come from?
As Gazef thought, he looked at Ainz’s strange mask. What did he look like under the mask? Was he someone that he knew? Or…
“What’s wrong? Is there something on my mask?”
“Ah, no. I simply felt that mask was very special. Since that mask is used to control that monster… then it must be a very powerful magic item… am I correct?’
“Well, about that… I should say that it’s a very rare and valuable item. One could even say that it was exclusive.”
Possessing a potent magic item implied that the possessor was a skilled individual. By that logic, Ainz must have been a very talented magic caster. Gazef felt a little saddened for not being able to secure his aid.
Although, part of him hoped that as an adventurer, Ainz would accept that request.
“...I see that it’s meaningless to keep going on about this. Then, Gown-dono, please take care of yourself. Once again, thank you for saving this village.”
Gazef removed his metal gauntlet and shook Ainz’s hand. Originally, Ainz was thinking of removing his own Jarngreipr to return the courtesy, but in the end, he did not do so. Still, Gazef paid it no heed. He gripped Ainz’s hand tightly, and said:
“I am truly, truly grateful to you for protecting these innocent villagers from being slaughtered. Also… I know it is very selfish of me and I have no authority to make you do anything… but I hope you can protect the villagers here, just one more time. Right now, I have nothing to give you, but I hope that no matter what, you will heed my plea… I beg you.”
“If you should ever visit the Royal Capital, I will give you anything you desire. I swear this on the name of Gazef Stronoff.”
Gazef let go of Ainz’s hand, making to kneel, but Ainz extended his hand to stop him.
“...There is no need to go that far… Very well, I shall protect the villagers. I swear that on the name of Ainz Ooal Gown.”
After hearing Ainz swear on his name, Gazef breathed a sigh of relief.
“Thank you very much, Gown-dono. Now I have nothing more to worry about. All I need to do now is charge boldly ahead.”
“...Before that, please take this with you.”
Ainz took out an item and handed it to the smiling Gazef. It was a small, strangely carved statuette. There did not seem to be anything special about it. However—
“If it is a gift from your good self, I will gladly accept it. Then, Gown-dono. Time grows short, but I must now leave.”
“...Will you not you wait until nightfall before setting out?”
“The opposition should have spells like [Darkvision] and the like, so night fighting is not to our advantage, but I cannot imagine they will be hampered by it. Also… we also need to let you see how we stand or fall.”
“I see. As expected of the Kingdom’s Warrior-Captain, your keen insight is truly worthy of praise. Then, I wish you all the best, Warrior-Captain-dono.”
“And I wish you a safe journey home, Gown-dono.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Ainz quietly watched Gazef’s back shrinking into the distance as he rode off. Although her master seemed to be thinking about something, Albedo did not inquire further.
“...Haa...when I first saw the humans here, I could not help but think of them as insects… but after speaking with them, I have come to be fond of them, like small animals.”
“Is that why you swore on your glorious name to protect them?”
“Perhaps… no, I should say that it was in response to how he bravely rode to his death...”
Ainz admired it.
He admired Gazef’s determination, his strength of will that he did not have.
“...Albedo, order the servants to search out the ambushers around us and knock them out once they are found.”
“I will do so at once… Ainz-sama, the village chief and the others are here.”
As Ainz turned to look at Albedo, he caught sight of the chief and two other villagers coming over.
They reached Ainz’s side, panting heavily. Filled with tension and unease, the chief spoke immediately, as though breathing were a luxury he could not afford.
“Ainz-sama, what should we do? Why did the Warrior-Captain leave us behind and not protect us?”
The chief’s words were filled with fear, but there was an undercurrent of anger there as well.
“...He is doing what he must do, Chief-dono… The foe has their eye on the Warrior-Captain-dono, and if he stayed here, the village would become a battlefield. The enemy will not let you flee either. He left this place for your sake.”
“I see, so that was why the Warrior-Captain left … Then, then should we remain here?”
“Of course not. They will come to kill you after they are done with the Warrior-Captain-dono. As long as you remain within their encirclement, you will have nowhere to run. However… while the foe is dealing with the Warrior-Captain-dono, you will have a chance to flee. You should take it.”
So that was why the Warrior-Captain rode out in force with his men. He planned to use himself as bait and lure the enemy away with a head-on attack.
The chief red-facedly lowered his head as he heard about the Warrior-Captain’s slim chances. The man was riding to his death just to give them a chance to flee. He cursed his inability to understand the man’s sacrifice, and how he mistook Gazef’s courage for selfishness and maligned him for it.
“I can’t believe I jumped to conclusions and wrongly blamed a good man… then, Ainz-sama, what should we do now?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“We live near the forest, but there’s no guarantee that we won’t be attacked by monsters. We were just lucky and thought that this place was safe, so we gave no thought to self-defense, and in the end, not only did we lose our friends and loved ones, but even became a burden…”
Now it was not just the chief, but the villagers behind him who had looks of regret on their faces.
“That could not be helped either. Your attackers were professional soldiers. If you had tried to resist, you might have all been dead before I got here.”
Ainz was trying to comfort the villagers, but none of them felt comforted at all. The fact was that no matter what pretty words he said, the loss of the villagers was an undeniable tragedy. All they could hope for was for time to heal their wounds.
“Village chief-dono, there is no more time. You must move quickly so as not to waste the Warrior-Captain’s determination.”
“I see… then, Ainz-sama, what will you do?”
“...I will stay here and observe the situation, and then wait for a good time to escort you all away.”
“We are always making trouble for you, Ainz-sama, really, we…”
“...Think nothing of it. Because I made a promise to the Warrior-Captain-dono… in any case, gather all the villagers into one of the larger houses. I will further protect it with magic.”
He could feel his horse’s agitation through his feet.
Even a trained warhorse — no, it was because it was a warhorse that the beast knew it was riding into death.
There were only four or five of the enemy surrounding the village, so there was a large gap between each of them. However, their encirclement was most likely airtight.
In other words, they had set a trap for him, and if he sprang it, he would die.
Even so, Gazef was still determined to break through them. No, going by the present circumstances, a forceful breakthrough was the only choice for him.
He had no chance against them in ranged combat.
If he had skilled archers by his side, it would be a different matter. If not, he had to avoid a long-range battle with magic casters.
Fighting a defensive battle would be even more stupid.
It would be one thing if they had stone-walled houses or a sturdy fort to fight from, but he had no confidence at all in the ability of wooden walls to stop magic. For all he knew, both Gazef and the houses might go up in smoke together.
Therefore, the last tactic he could use was a thoroughly unethical one.
That was to say, he would have to shift the theater of battle into the village and draw Ainz Ooal Gown into the fight, thus forcing his involvement.
But if he did that, it would completely defeat the purpose of coming here in the first place. Therefore, Gazef had to put himself into danger.
“Hit the enemy hard and draw in the sentries from around the village. After that, fall back immediately. Do not hesitate and miss your chance to flee.”
After hearing the energetic replies from behind him, Gazef frowned.
How many of the men here would be able to go back alive?
They were not any more talented than ordinary people. Nor were they born with superpowers or special talents. They were just a group of men who had trained hard under Gazef. Losing the fruits of his labor here would be a terrible waste.
Gazef was going to make a stupid, senseless sacrifice, and his men were going to follow him into it. He wanted to apologize to these men, that he had drawn in with him, but once he turned around and saw them, those words died in his mouth.
What he saw were the faces of true warriors, fearless men who knew where they were headed and who had swallowed any complaints about the matter..
There was no need to apologize for the looks on his men’s faces, that look which said that they knew they were riding into danger, but they would go into it regardless. One by one, the men shouted to the embarrassed Gazef:
“Don’t worry, Warrior-Captain!”
“Yeah, we all came here of our own free will, to fight and die by your side, Warrior-Captain!”
“Please let us protect our country, our people, and our friends!”
There was nothing left to say. Gazef returned their shouts with a thunderous cry:
“Then, forward! Tear their guts out!”
Gazef’s men spurred their horses forward to follow their leader. The galloping horses shot across the plains like an arrow loosed from a bow.
Still mounted, Gazef drew his bow and nocked an arrow to the string.
Though his horse shook and shuddered beneath him, Gazef calmly drew the string back. The loosed arrow struck its target unerringly, piercing the head of the frontmost magic caster… or at least, that was what he thought would happen.
“Cheh! It was useless after all. Maybe if I had a magic arrow, but… ah, I don’t have what I don’t have. Griping about it here is pointless.”
The arrow bounced off like it had struck a sturdy helmet. That supernatural hardness must have been the work of magic. Just as Gazef had said, in order to shoot through magic that protected against ranged attacks, he would need a magic weapon of his own.
Since Gazef did not have a weapon like that, he stopped shooting and put away his bow.
The magic casters began their counterattack, and cast their spells.
Gazef focused his energies, and took a stance in order to resist their magic.
Just then, the horse between his legs whinnied loudly and reared up, its front legs kicking the air.
“Go! Go! Go!”
He tightly gripped his reins and leaned forward, practically hugging the horse. Fortunately, his swift reflexes kept Gazef from being thrown off. While it had caused a sheen of cold sweat to bloom all over his body, at the very least, he had managed to suppress his brief panic. There was something more important before him.
A flustered and panting Gazef lashed his mount’s flanks, but the horse remained still, as though someone more important than its rider were giving it orders.
This strange phenomenon could only mean one thing.
The horse had been affected by such a spell. Gazef might have been able to fight off its effects, but the affected party was not a magical beast, but a mere warhorse, so resistance was not to be expected.
Anger flared up in Gazef for not predicting such an obvious form of attack. He leapt off his horse, and his galloping subordinates guided their mounts around him, flowing past him on both sides.
The last men of the group slowed down, extending their hands. They wanted to help Gazef onto their horse, but the angel looking down upon them from the heavens swooped down faster. Gazef drew his sword and swung at the angel.
The steel blade became a swift flash of light.
The stroke of the Kingdom’s strongest man was enough to cleave a man’s body in two. But the angel was not a man, and although it had taken a grave wound to its torso, it was not slain yet.
The blood spraying into the air was the mana that composed the angel. It vanished like smoke.
“No need for that! Turn around and charge them!”
After Gazef gave his orders, he turned a keen glare at the angel which had escaped with its life. It had been badly hurt, but it was still trying to find holes in Gazef’s defenses.
“So that’s how it is.”
A strange feeling ran up his arms when his blade found its mark.
Gazef knew what it was. These monsters had a skill that would greatly reduce any damage done to them unless the attacking weapon was made of a special material. It was thanks to this ability that the angel could take a blow from Gazef without falling.
If that was the case...
Gazef focused his energies within himself and activated the martial art [Focus Battle Aura], and his blade glowed with a crimson light.
The angel took this opportunity to cut in with a sword of red flame. However —
In the eyes of the Kingdom’s strongest warrior, Gazef Stronoff, the angel’s movements were truly too slow.
Gazef’s sword moved.
This blow was far more powerful than the one before it, and Gazef’s sword sheared neatly through the angel’s body.
Its body destroyed, the Angel seemed to melt in mid-air, its glittering wings flapping a few times before vanishing as though it had been nothing more than an illusion.
If Gazef had not been in such dire straits, he might well have applauded the light show. However, he did not have the time for that at the moment.
Gazef looked around, saw the enemies advancing on him in an endless tide — and smiled.
More angels flashed into existence around them as well.
Gazef was well aware that they were not ordinary reinforcements.
“...So, anything goes with magic, huh? Damn.”
As he cursed the magic casters who could easily do what warriors could not, Gazef calmly took stock of the enemies surrounding him, and confirmed that this was everyone who was surrounding the village.
That would mean that the encirclement of the village was lifted.
“Then, Gown-dono, the rest is up to you.”
The knowledge that he could save the surviving villagers filled Gazef’s heart with endless joy. He smiled at the enemy’s carelessness.
And then, the sound of hoofbeats filtered into Gazef’s ears. It was the sound of Gazef’s subordinates, charging back into the battle.
“I told you to scatter once the blockade went down… truly, you’re a bunch of fools… and truly, I’m proud of you.”
Gazef sprinted forward.
This might well be the best and only chance to end the battle. Judging by the speed of the horsemen, the enemy magic casters would need to focus all their attention on them. He would take advantage of this opportunity to cause chaos in their ranks. That was the only way.
His men’s horses whinnied and reared up, just like Gazef’s horse did. Several people moaned in pain as they were thrown off their horses, and the angels took the chance to press the attack.
Although his subordinates were on par with the angels in terms of fighting power, the latter had special abilities with the former did not possess, and Gazef’s men were soon plunged into dire straits. As he had expected, more than half of his men were fighting desperately for their lives. The spells of the magic casters only made things that much worse for them.
His men fell to the ground, one after the other.
Gazef averted his eyes, and ran forward again.
His target was the enemy commander.
He did not think the enemy would retreat if their commander went down, but that was the only way to save everyone.
Over 30 angels put themselves in the charging Gazef’s way. He frowned as he saw the heavy defenses ahead of him.
“Out of my way—”
Gazef activated his trump card.
Heat bloomed from his hands, and spread to envelop his entire body.
Gazef broke the limits of his physical body and stepped into the realm of heroes. In addition, he activated several martial arts at once — one could call those a warrior’s magic.
Gazef glared at the six angels surrounding him.
“[Sixfold Slash of Light]!”
This was a martial art that struck as fast as light. In one move, he hit the six angels around him.
All six of them were cut in half, dissolving into motes of light.
The reinforcements from the Slaine Theocracy gasped in surprise, while Gazef’s men cheered.
Although his ultimate attack made his arms cramp up, it was not enough to decrease his fighting effectiveness.
Then, as though ordered to drown out the cheers, a huge wave of angels swept in, and one of them lunged at Gazef with its flaming sword.
Gazef used his martial art just as the angel swung, and his body blurred away like mist.
Halfway through its attack, the angel took a hit from Gazef. That hit reduced it to glittering dust.
But Gazef’s offensive did not end there.
With fluid, graceful moves, he dispatched the angels one after the other.
His ultimate attack took down two more angels again. This splendid display of martial technique inspired Gazef’s men and gave them a ray of hope.
But the Theocracy’s troops would not allow that to happen, and their commander erased that hope with mockery.
“Well done. However… that is all you can do. Clerics who have lost your angels, summon new ones. Focus your spells on Stronoff!”
The heat which had been building in the air immediately cooled off.
“This is bad.”
Gazef took down another angel as he muttered to himself. It would seem there would not be any more cheering no matter how many angels Gazef slew, since his men were worrying about the enemy coming at them.
They were superior in numbers, equipment, training and individual ability.
The sole weapon of Gazef’s beleaguered men — their hope for victory — was gone.
After unconsciously evading an incoming sword, Gazef counterattacked, and destroyed an angel in one hit. However, the enemy he was aiming for was still far away.
Although his subordinates hoped otherwise, they needed magic weapons to break through the angels’ damage reduction. They did not know how to use the [Focus Battle Aura] martial art like Gazef could, and without magic weapons, even if Gazef’s men could injure the angels, they could not finish them off.
They were at their wits’ end.
♦ ♦ ♦
Gazef bit his lip, and continued slashing.
His record for the most consecutive uses of his ultimate attack, [Sixfold Slash of Light], was rapidly increasing.
A warrior like Gazef could use six different kinds of martial arts at once, and combined with his hidden ultimate attack, that made seven martial arts at once.
Until now, he had been using martial arts to improve his physical attributes, fortify his mind, improve his magic resistance, temporarily render his weapon magical, as well as another technique that he used on hitting an opponent. That made five martial arts.
The reason why he had not pushed himself to the limit and used all seven at once was because powerful martial arts depleted one’s concentration.
In particular, the [Sixfold Slash of Light] required three times the focus of his other techniques.
Gazef had two ultimate attacks like this, but he could only use them with four other martial arts at the same time.
He could easily defeat an angel with those techniques. But even if he struck them down, more of them were summoned anew. As long as he did not defeat their summoners, they would call up more angels to face him. While trying to run the opposition out of mana was an option, Gazef would probably tire before that.
The truth was, Gazef’s arms were growing heavier and heavier, and his heart was racing.
[Instant Counter] was a martial art that forcibly corrected the body’s balance after making an attack, resetting it to before the blow was struck. While that meant that the practitioner could immediately attack again, the forced reset of the body would place immense strain on it.
[Flow Acceleration] was a martial art that increased the speed at which one’s nerves functioned, increasing one’s attack rate. However, that technique created fatigue in the brain.
And then, there was the ultimate attack, the [Sixfold Slash of Light].
Using them put a great burden on the body, but without them, he would have no chance at all.
“Bring them all on! Your angels are nothing!”
His fearsome shout startled the Theocracy troops, but they soon recovered and renewed the offensive on Gazef.
“Pay him no heed, that’s just the roar of a caged beast. Don’t worry, deplete his strength bit by bit. But don’t get too close. That beast’s claws are long and sharp.”
Gazef glared at the man with a scar on his face.
If only he could defeat him, he could turn the battle around. The problem was the other angel near him, different from the ones with the flaming swords. And then there was the great distance between them, and the several layers of defenses in the way.
They were simply too far apart.
“The beast is about to make a break for it. Show him the meaning of the word ‘impossible’.”
The man’s calm voice only served to aggravate Gazef further.
Even if he stepped into the realm of heroes, Gazef could not win with his refined melee techniques alone.
Still — so what? If that was the only road available to him, then he would have to charge down it with all his might.
As the strength returned to his eyes, Gazef began his charge.
However, the road ahead was hard, like he had expected.
The angels loomed before him, one after the after, swinging their swords of scorching red flame. As he evaded and counterattacked and destroyed the angels one after the other, Gazef suddenly felt an intense pain. It felt like he had been struck hard in the belly.
As he looked in the direction of the pain, he saw a group of magic casters casting a spell of some sort.
“Well, if you’re priests, you should act like it. How about a little healing over here!”
As though to answer Gazef’s jibe, an invisible force smashed into Gazef’s body.
Even if the enemy used invisible attacks, Gazef was confident that he could avoid them by reading traces in the air and the looks on his opponent’s faces. That might even have worked, if there were only a few of them. However, against 30 of those attacks, there was nothing he could do. Just keeping his sword in his hands was taking all his strength.
The pain filled his whole body. He had no idea where it was coming from, only that it was so great it almost made him collapse.
The taste of steel welled up in his throat, and Gazef spat a mouthful of fresh blood. The sticky ichor welled out of his mouth and stained his chin.
Gazef’s legs were shaky after that barrage of invisible blows, and now an angel was swinging its flaming sword at him.
He could not avoid the blow, and it struck his armor. Fortunately, it deflected the sword, but the impact travelled through the breastplate and deep into his body.
He swung wildly at the angel, but his poor balance meant that the angel easily evaded the attack.
Gazef’s sword trembled in his hands as he gasped for breath.
The fatigue that filled his body seemed to be whispering into his ear, telling him to just lie down and rest.
“The hunt has entered its final stages. Do not let the beast rest — order your angels to attack consecutively.”
Even though Gazef desperately wanted a moment to recover, the angels surrounding him obeyed their masters and mercilessly attacked him, one after the other.
He somehow evaded the attack from behind, and parried a thrust from the side. He used the strong angles of his armor to deflect an angel’s charge from above.
Gazef wanted to counterattack his foes, but he was greatly outnumbered.
As his strength diminished, he could only take out one opponent at a time, since he lacked the stamina to use martial arts. As his subordinates fell one by one, the enemy’s attacks were concentrated on him. With no way to break through the enemy’s encirclement, he felt death closing in on him.
His concentration faltered, and he nearly fell to one knee. He desperately tried to refocus so he could fight.
The invisible impacts came again, striking the tottering Gazef.
The world before him shook mightily.
Gazef used all his strength to try and maintain his balance. However, something seemed wrong with his body, and the strength that should have held him up was nowhere to be found.
The itch of touching the grass spread through his body, and Gazef realised that he had fallen.
He struggled to rise again, but his body betrayed him. The angels’ swords meant death for him.
“Now, finish him off, but do not send in one angel. Use them all to ensure he is dead.”
Yes, he was dead.
His well-trained hands were shaking uncontrollably, and he could not pick up his longsword. Even so, he could not give up.
His gritted teeth made creaking sounds.
Gazef was not afraid of death. He had taken many lives in the past, so he was prepared to meet his end on the battlefield.
Like he had told Ainz, he was hated by people. That hatred became a sword that would one day pierce his body.
But he could not accept an end like this.
They had attacked several villages and murdered defenseless, innocent villagers, all to lure Gazef into a trap. He could not allow himself to die at the hands of honorless dogs like this, and he could not bear his powerlessness.
“Gaaaaaaah! Don’t look down on me—!”
He shouted with all the strength in his body.
Blood dribbled out the side of his mouth as Gazef rose to his feet.
A man who should have been powerless to stand now stood proudly, the mighty force of his presence forcing back the angels that surrounded him.
Just getting to his feet made it made him breathe hard. His mind was a blur and his body felt like it had turned to mud. But he could not lie down. If he lay down, all would be lost.
This little bit of pain he felt could not compare to the suffering of the dead villagers.
“I am the Warrior-Captain of the Re-Estize Kingdom! I am a man who loves and defends his country! How can I lose to bastards like you who stain my country with your footsteps—!”
He was certain that great man would protect the villagers.
Then, what he should do was defeat as many of the enemy as he could , so the people would not meet the same fate as all the others.
Protecting the future people of the Kingdom. That was all he wanted to do.
“...You will die here because all you can do is babble that nonsense, Gazef Stronoff.”
Gazef glared at the enemy commander as his cruel mockery reached his ears.
“If only you had abandoned these villagers on the border, you would not be dying here. You probably don’t know, but your life is far more valuable than even a thousand of these peasants. If you truly love your country, you should have abandoned them to die.”
“You and I… will never see eye to eye… let’s go!”
“What can that body of yours do? Cease your pointless struggles and lie down quietly. As a final act of mercy, I will kill you without drawing out your suffering.”
“If you think… I’m helpless… then why don’t you come... take my head? It should be easy… if I’m like this, right?”
“...Hmph. You’re all talk. It looks like you still want to fight. Do you think you can win?”
Gazef simply stared straight ahead, his hands trembling as he gripped his sword. He focused on the enemy in front of him, ignoring the angels surrounding him.
“...What a pointless effort. Truly, you are an idiot. After we kill you, we will then massacre the villagers you saved. All you have done is bought them a fear-filled stay of execution.”
“Kuh. kuh… kuku…”
Gazef was smiling brightly.
“...What’s so funny?”
“...Hmph, you fool. In that village… is a man who is stronger than me. His power is unfathomable, but he could take you all out by himself… Trying to kill… the villagers he protects… is impossible for you.”
“...Someone stronger than the Kingdom’s greatest warrior? Do you think boasting like that will do you any good? You truly are an idiot.”
Gazef was still smiling. What kind of look would Nigun have on his face when he met that inscrutable man called Ainz Ooal Gown? Seeing that would probably be the best gift Gazef could receive before heading off to the afterlife.
“...Angels, kill Gazef Stronoff.”
Countless wings moved in response to that cold, cruel order.
Gazef steeled himself, preparing to run forward, when suddenly a voice came past him:
—Looks like it’s about time to switch.
The scenery before Gazef changed, and he was no longer on that bloodsoaked plain. Instead, he was in the corner of what looked like a simple village hut.
There were worried-looking villagers all around him.
“This, this is...”
“This is a warehouse that Ainz-sama has protected with his magic.”
“So you’re the chief… Gown, Gown-dono does not seem to be here.”
“No, he was here just a moment ago, but he seems to have vanished without a trace, and in his place, you appeared, Warrior-Captain-sama.”
I see, so the voice in my head was...
Gazef allowed himself to relax. He would have no part to play in what would come next. Gazef collapsed to the ground, and the villagers hurriedly drew closer.
The Six Scriptures. An enemy that even Gazef Stronoff, the strongest warrior in the region, could not hope to defeat.
Yet, he could not even begin to imagine that Ainz would lose.