The Two Adventurers
The Fortress City of E-Rantel stood at the intersection of three borders — those of the Slaine Theocracy, the Baharuth Empire, and the Re-Estize Kingdom. It was so named because it was defended by three layers of walls. The districts enclosed by each concentric circle of the walls were distinctly different from each other.
The outermost district was sometimes used to billet the troops from the Royal Army, and so it was fully furnished with barracks and other military facilities.
The innermost district was the administrative area of the city. In addition, the district also contained storehouses for combat rations. Thus, it was heavily guarded.
Between these two areas was the residential district, where the people of E-Rantel made their homes. This place best fit the image that came to mind when one thought of a city.
There were several plazas here, and the largest of them was called the Central Plaza. It was filled with stalls selling vegetables, spices and other such commercial products.
Amidst the crowds, the stall-owners energetically shouted their sales pitches to the people walking by, while the older women haggled with the merchants as they looked for fresh food. Drawn by fragrant scents, young men purchased skewers of roasted meat which oozed with warm juices.
The rowdy, energetic atmosphere of this place should have lasted until the sun went down. However, it suddenly went silent as a pair of figures emerged from a five-story building nearby.
Everyone in the plaza froze where they stood, their eyes were drawn to the two of them.
One of these two people was a girl, who looked to be in her late teens. Her tapered eyes gleamed like onyxes, while her thick and lustrous black hair was tied into a ponytail. Her snow-white skin shone like pearls in the sun.
What drew their attention most was the air of elegance which surrounded her, followed closely by her exotic beauty that would make anyone do a double take. Although the dark brown robe she wore was plain in make, it looked like an opulent dress on her.
The gender of her partner was unclear. Or rather, there was no way to tell her partner’s gender.
Someone muttered: “Dark Warrior”.
Indeed, that person was sheathed in an intricately engraved suit of full plate armor that was edged in gold. There was no way to see that person’s face through the narrow slits of the closed helm which that person wore. A pair of greatswords were visible below that person’s flowing red cape, and they looked as impressive as that person’s armor.
The two of them looked around, and the fully armored person took a step forward.
The onlookers watched the pair vanish into the distance, and then immediately began whispering about what they had seen. They did not seem afraid of their arms and armor.
That was because the building the pair had just left was called the “Adventurer’s Guild”. It was a place that only monster-hunting professionals would visit, so it was hardly strange to see armed people coming out of there. In fact, several other similarly equipped people had left the building in the meantime. Those with keen eyes might have noticed a pair of copper plates hanging around the necks of that pair.
That said, the two of them had drawn all that attention because of the woman’s beauty and her partner’s magnificent set of full plate.
♦ ♦ ♦
The pair walked quietly down a narrow road.
Sunlight reflected off the water caught in wagon-ruts on the road. Unlike proper cobbled roads, said water mixed with the earth and sand, which made for treacherous footing. A moment’s carelessness might have led to a fall, but the two of them possessed excellent balance, and so they moved along the road almost as quickly as a proper one.
After verifying that there was nobody else around them, the light-footed woman turned to the fully-armored person beside her and said:
“—No, my name is Momon. Neither are you Narberal Gamma, battle maid (Pleiades) of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, but Nabe, Momon’s adventuring partner.”
The person in full plate — Ainz — interrupted the girl — Narberal — halfway through her reply.
“Ah! My apologies, Momon-sama.”
“Also, don’t call me -sama. We are simple adventurers, and companions. It would be weird to address me like that.”
“B-but! How could I possibly be so disrespectful to the Supreme One?”
Ainz gestured at Narberal to keep her voice down. She had raised it in her excitement. Then, in a tone that was somewhere between resignation and helplessness, he replied:
“Like I’ve already said, several times, in this place I am Momon the Dark… no, just Momon, and your partner. So don’t call me -sama. That’s an order.”
After a short silence, Narberal reluctantly replied:
“Forget it, this is fine too. Actually, dropping the -san would be good as well. After all, how shall I say this, addressing your partner as -san might make people think there’s a distance between us.”
“But… would that not be too disrespectful...?”
Ainz shrugged as Narberal mumbled.
“We cannot reveal our true identities. You understand that, right?”
“...Your tone… mm, forget it. In any case… what I want to say is that you must be very careful in your words and actions.”
“...Understood, Momon-sa—san. However, is it really all right for me to accompany you? Would not the beautiful and gentle Albedo-sama be better for this task?”
Ainz’s words betrayed his complicated feelings as he replied:
“I need her to manage Nazarick for me while I am travelling.”
“...Though I fear to offend you, could the task of running Nazarick not be given to Cocytus-sama? The Guardians all say this too… that for the sake of your safety, Albedo-sama is the best choice as your companion. Do you not think so?”
Narberal’s question made Ainz smile bitterly.
Among all the Guardians, Albedo had objected the most strenuously when Ainz had announced his decision to visit E-Rantel. It began when she learned that she would not be able to accompany Ainz on his journey.
After the transition to this mysterious new world, Ainz had gone for a walk without his vassals, something which Albedo blamed herself for. Thus he could not rebuke her too harshly. However, this was a deliberate expedition, unlike the stroll he had taken last time, and so he had to stick to his guns.
As a Guardian she would obey his orders without fail, even if they conflicted with her own opinions. Yet, Ainz did not think of that as a good thing. All the Guardians were the product of his fellow guild members’ hard work, and he felt guilty about forcing his will upon them.
Therefore, Ainz tried to persuade Albedo — who staunchly disagreed with him — to come around to his way of thinking. However, neither of them could accept the others’ opinions. At first, Ainz thought they would be deadlocked forever, but after Demiurge whispered something into Albedo’s ear, her resistance suddenly evaporated. In the end, she fully approved of his journey and even sent him off with a smile.
Until now, he still did not know what Demiurge had said to her. Ainz was a little uneasy about what could have made Albedo reverse her opinion so suddenly.
“...I did not bring her along because I trust her more than anyone else. It is because she is in Nazarick that I can leave it in peace.”
“I see! In other words, Albedo-sama is the closest person to you, Momon-sa—n?”
While he did not reply, “Mm, well, kind of,” he did nod in response to Narberal’s question.
“I am fully aware that this is potentially dangerous.”
Ainz raised his gauntleted right hand and wiggled its ring finger.
“However, I must go in person. If I stay in Nazarick, there is a chance that I might make a miscalculation. Therefore, I need to personally make contact with the outside world… Indeed, there are other methods I could use, but all of them make me uneasy, given that there is so little we know about the situation.”
Narberal replied, “I see” with a look of understanding on her face. Ainz narrowed his eyes at her through the slits of his helmet, and then asked in a somewhat uneasy tone:
“Incidentally, I have a question… Do you think humans are inferior lifeforms?”
“Yes, they are. Humans are worthless trash.”
Narberal delivered her answer with firm conviction and without a moment’s hesitation. Ainz muttered, “Ah, so you felt that way too,” but his voice was too soft to reach Narberal’s ears.
After that, he continued grumbling, “I didn’t want to bring her along because her personality makes her react poorly to humans. Looks like I should have been certain of my subordinates’ personalities beforehand. ”
One of the reasons why he had not taken Albedo with him was because she firmly believed that humans were inferior lifeforms. If he brought someone like that into a highly-populated city and then took his eyes off her for just a moment, there was a very real possibility that he might look back to find a gore-soaked abattoir. In addition, Albedo had no disguise skills and could not conceal her horns and wings, which was another point against her.
The greatest reason, however, was one that he could never speak out loud.
That was the fact that Ainz was a mere salaryman, and he had no confidence in running an organization if he had to rely on reports from others, with no direct observation on his part. Because of that, he handed the task of managing the Nazarick to the talented Albedo. If one had a capable subordinate, allowing them to take charge was a wise gesture; interference from an incompetent superior would only lead to tragedy.
In addition Albedo was bound to Ainz by the twin shackles of “love” and “loyalty”. That was why Ainz could leave the operations of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick to her.
Every time he saw Albedo, and every time she declared her love for him, Ainz was reminded of the mistake he made in altering Albedo’s settings. Indeed, in the last moments before the game ended, he had changed Albedo’s character settings so that she would deeply love Momonga — in other words, Ainz. Of course, he did not know that he would be transported to this new world. It had merely been a final, little joke.
Still, when he thought about it — even if Albedo did not mind — what would his friend Tabula Smaragdina think about what Ainz had done?
What if it were himself? What if his comrades had interfered with his hand-created NPC (Pandora’s Actor)...
Worse still, he had made use of Albedo’s absolute loyalty toward him for his own gain. He hated himself for that.
Ainz shook his head to clear away these dark thoughts. Although his undead body automatically suppressed any strong emotions he felt, he still experienced petty emotions like those as keenly as he had when he was human. When he fully assumed an undead state of mind, perhaps he would no longer feel that sense of guilt.
Distracted by these thoughts, the helmed Ainz turned to Narberal and said:
“...Nabe, I won’t tell you to cast away those thoughts, but at the very least, you must control yourself. This is a human town, and we do not know what exceptional individuals they have among them. Therefore, we should try our best not to make enemies.”
Narberal bowed deeply to him to show her loyalty and obedience. Ainz extended his hand to her, to bid her raise her head. Then he continued:
“There is one more thing. When we intend to fight in earnest, we might radiate a… killing intent, which humans might be able to sense. Well, something like that might happen. Therefore, you are not to get serious without my permission. Do you understand?”
“I understand, Momon-sa—n.”
“Very good… Then, the inn we heard about should be nearby.”
Ainz looked around.
There were several shops open for business nearby, their customers filing in and out of them. To the side were several people in work aprons, carrying goods.
In this densely-populated commercial district, Ainz and Narberal had to look for the inn by inspecting the pictures on the shops’ signs. This was because neither of them could read this country’s language.
Before long, Ainz found the picture that he was looking for. His steps quickened, and Narberal followed suit.
He scraped off the mud caked on his sabatons, climbed the steps to the western-style saloon doors, and opened them with both hands.
The windows were closed, and so the interior was somewhat dark. People who were used to the light outside would probably not be able to see their hands stretched out in front of their faces. However, Ainz possessed darkvision, and he could see clearly with this meager amount of illumination.
The inside of the building was quite spacious. The first floor was a dining area, with a counter further within. That counter was backed by shelves that contained dozens of bottles of alcohol. The door beside the counter most likely led to a kitchen.
A spiral staircase turned up in the corner of the dining area. According to the receptionist at the guild, the guest rooms were located on the second and third floors. One could see the scattered customers within seated around several round tables. Almost all of them were men, and the promise of violence hung heavily over them.
Everyone’s attention was on Ainz. They looked at him as though they were sizing him up. The only person who did not pay attention to Ainz was a woman seated in a corner. She was staring intently at a small bottle on her table.
This tavern scene made Ainz furrow his nonexistent brows under his helmet.
He had expected this sort of thing, but this place was filthier than he had imagined.
There were dirty and disgusting places in YGGDRASIL, of course. Even the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick which Ainz ruled over contained such places, such as Kyouhukou’s room, the Venomous Cave, and so on.
However, the filth here was different from those places.
The floor was covered in scraps of mysterious food and unknown liquids, while the walls were stained and there were chunks of some moldy substance in the corners of the room...
Ainz sighed internally, and looked into the tavern.
A man in a dirty apron stood there, his stout arms protruding from his rolled-up sleeves. They were covered in several scars, and Ainz could not tell if they were caused by the claws of wild beasts, or by blades of some sort.
He looked somewhere between imposing and bestial, and there were scars on his face as well. His head was shaved completely bald, without a single hair left standing on his scalp.
This man, who looked more like a bouncer than an innkeeper, sized up Ainz as he held a mop in one hand.
“A room, huh. For how long?” a voice like a broken bell called out to Ainz.
“We wish to stay for one night.”
The innkeeper replied crudely: “...A copper-plate, huh. A night is five coppers. The food’s oatmeal and vegetables; meat’s an extra copper. Might be getting days-old bread instead of the oatmeal.”
“If it is at all possible, I would like a double room.”
Ainz thought he could hear the man snorting.
“...In this town, there’s three inns that cater to adventurers, and mine’s the worst of these three… you know why the guild sent you here?”
“I do not. Could you tell me why?”
Faced with Ainz’s answer, the innkeeper furrowed his frown and turned a frightening look upon him.
“Use your brains a little! Or is that flashy helmet of yours empty inside, huh?!”
Ainz remained calm, despite the innkeeper’ annoyed retort. Perhaps his ability to weather this childish tantrum was the result of experiencing that battle several days ago.
That battle — as well as the information squeezed out of the prisoners they had taken — had allowed Ainz to understand how powerful he was. Because of that, he could calmly face this shouting.
The innkeeper seemed surprised to see Ainz’s reaction, and said:
“...You’ve got some guts, huh… The people who stay here are mostly copper or iron-plate adventurers. If you’ve got some strength, you can form a party here, if you’re lucky. Therefore, there’s no better place than this to find party members whose strength matches yours…”
Something seemed to flash through the innkeeper’s eyes.
“It’s fine if you want to sleep in a room, but if you don’t make contacts here, you won’t be able to find party members. If you can’t form a well-balanced, strong team, you’ll die out there against the monsters. That’s why novices with no comrades advertise themselves in places with a lot of people. So I’ll ask you one more time: do you want to sleep in the dormitory or in a double room, huh?”
“A double room. And I’ll pass on the food.”
“Cheh, another punk who doesn’t appreciate others’ kindness… or are you trying to say that you’re something else and that full plate isn’t for show? Ah, forget it, that’ll be seven coppers a night. Upfront, of course.”
The innkeeper extended his hand in one smooth motion.
Ainz stepped forward, followed by Narberal. The two of them were bathed in the appraising looks of everyone in the room — when suddenly, someone stuck a foot into Ainz’s path, as though to prevent Ainz from moving forward.
Ainz halted, and turned to the man who had stuck his foot out.
He had an annoying smile on his face, which was mirrored by everyone else at his table. They stared at Ainz and Narberal.
Neither the innkeeper or the other customers stepped forward to stop this. They were watching silently.
Although everyone seemed to be uninterested in the proceedings, or looking forward to a good show, there were quite a few of them who were intently studying the situation.
Give me a break...
Ainz sighed, and lightly kicked away the foot in front of him.
The man suddenly stood up, as though he had been waiting just for that. Since he was unarmored, his bulging muscles were clearly visible under his clothes. He had a necklace like Ainz did, but his was an iron plate, which swayed as the man moved.
“Oi, oi, that hurt.”
The man approached Ainz, speaking in a threatening manner as he did. He had a gauntlet on his hand, which he must have put on while standing up. It creaked as he clenched his fist.
The two of them were roughly the same height, and they glared at each other with wrathful eyes. It seemed a bit too close for a fistfight. Ainz decided to fire the first shot:
“Is that so. I must have missed the foot in front of me because of this closed helm, or perhaps your leg was just too short… well, that’s my excuse, can you forgive me for that?”
A dangerous look crept into the man’s eyes as Ainz’s taunt sank in. However, he turned his angry gaze to Narberal, who was standing behind Ainz, plastering his eyes on her.
“You’re an annoying fellow… But I’m a generous man. As long as you lend me your woman for a night, I’ll forgive you.”
Ainz could not help but sneer at the man, and he lightly raised his hand to keep Narberal from stepping forward.
“...What’s so funny?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I couldn’t help but laugh at the way you sound like a stereotypical punk. Don’t worry about it.”
The angry man’s face flushed red.
“Ah, before we start, can I ask a question? Are you stronger than Gazef Stronoff?”
“Wha? The hell are you talking about?”
“I see, it’s all clear from your reaction. If it’s like that, then I won’t even need to play with you.”
Ainz swiftly grabbed the man by the neck, and then hoisted his body off the ground.
The man could not even dodge, much less resist the sudden clinch. He went “Uoh!” in surprise as he was lifted up. The men around him who were watching the show only added to the excitement. How strong was this guy, if he could lift a grown man with one arm? The imaginations of everyone present were now considering that topic.
A wave of surprise and consternation swept the inn. As though to shatter the atmosphere of shock in the air, Ainz raised the man — whose legs were dangling and kicking furiously — and gently tossed him away.
Well, it was gentle for Ainz.
The thrown man flew in a neat trajectory with frightening speed, skimming the ceiling as he went, and fell heavily to the ground.
The sounds of the man’s body striking a nearby table, an object on the table breaking, the planks of the table splitting apart and the man’s own howls of pain blended together and echoed through the tavern. Then, the whole place fell silent, as though startled by the noise. However—
—A beat later, the woman seated at that table emitted a strange wail. It was a cry of despair that a soul might make as it rose to heaven.
No, it would only be natural to scream like this if a man suddenly fell out of the sky and landed in front of someone. There was another reason here, mixed into the shocked cry.
“...Then, what do the rest of you plan to do? Can you save me the trouble and come all at once? It’s foolish to waste time on things like this.”
Ainz’s words were directed at the other men seated at the table of the fellow he had just thrown. They immediately got his meaning, and hurriedly lowered their heads.
“Ah? N-no! Our buddy offended you! We’re very sorry!”
“...Mm. I forgive you. Besides, it hardly inconvenienced me. However, you had best pay the innkeeper for that table.”
“Of, of course! We will pay the full price!”
Just as Ainz felt the matter was at an end and turned away, a voice froze him in his tracks.
“Wait wait wait!”
Turning around, he saw the woman who had made that weird cry just now. She was stomping up to him.
She looked to be in her twenties or younger, and her red hair was messily-cut, yet at a good length for movement. It could not be described as neat by any stretch of the word. To be more precise, it resembled a bird’s nest.
She had a pretty face and a keen edge to her eyes. She did not wear makeup, and her healthy body was tanned brown by the sun. Her arms were muscular and her palms were covered in calluses from wielding a sword. The word that first came to mind when he saw her was not “woman”, but “warrior”.
A small iron plate hung around her chest, and it shook mightily with every step she took.
“See what you’ve done!”
“What have I done?”
“Hah!? Don’t you even know what you did?”
The woman pointed at the shattered table.
“You threw that guy over and broke my potion, my precious potion!”
Her gaze sharpened further, and her tone became low and dangerous.
“Pay me back for my potion.”
“...It’s just a potion…”
“...I starved and scrimped and saved to buy that potion today! And now you broke it! I’ve always believed that I could get through a dangerous adventure as long as I had a potion, but now you’ve shattered my hopes and dreams! And you’ve still got an attitude like that? Ahhhh, it makes me so mad!”
The woman drew closer to Ainz.
It seemed like a wild bull had just seen red and was approaching him.
Ainz suppressed a sigh at himself. Indeed, he had made a mistake by throwing the man without thinking about where he might land. However, Ainz had his own reasons for not paying compensation that easily.
“...How about asking that man to pay you back? If he hadn’t stuck his short leg out, this tragedy would not have taken place. Am I wrong?”
Ainz’s gaze swept across the man’s buddies through the slit of his helmet.
“Ah, yes, that’s right…”
“Forget it, I don’t care who pays me back as long as it’s a potion or its equivalent in cash… although, that potion was worth one gold and ten silvers.”
The men lowered their heads. It would seem they did not have the money to pay. Thus, the girl turned on Ainz again.
“As I thought, these drunkards wouldn’t have that sort of money. Well, seeing as you’re dressed in such a flashy suit of armor, surely you must have a healing potion, right?”
No wonder, Ainz thought. So that was why this woman was asking Ainz to pay up.
He thought briefly about it, composed himself, and replied:
“It’s not like I don’t.. although, that was a recovery potion, am I correct?”
“Indeed. I saved up for every little—”
“—All right, I get it, that’s enough. I’ll pay you back with another potion, and we’ll be even.”
Ainz handed her a Minor Healing Potion. She looked at the potion bottle in surprise, then reluctantly accepted it.
“...This should be fine, right?”
“...Mm, I guess.”
The woman seemed to have more to say, but Ainz cast aside his doubts. The more important thing was his uneasiness over whether Narberal would do something big and blow their cover.
Narberal still had a combative look in her eyes, even though Ainz had already chided her. Some of them seemed to sense her hostility and felt uneasy.
“Let’s go,” Ainz curtly told Narberal. They went before the innkeeper and Ainz withdrew a single silver piece from his leather purse before placing it on the crudely-made counter.
The innkeeper silently slipped it into his pant pocket and returned Ainz several copper pieces.
“Mm. Here’s six coppers back.”
He placed the copper coins onto Ainz’s gauntleted hand, and then laid a small key on the counter.
“First room on the right once you go up the stairs. You can put your gear into the chests at the foot of the bed. This goes without saying, but don’t barge into people’s rooms without permission. Might lead to trouble if someone gets the wrong idea. Although, it’s a pretty good way to let people know you. You look like the sort who can handle all kinds of problems. Just don’t give me a problem.”
The innkeeper narrowed his eyes at the man that Ainz had thrown, who was moaning on the floor.
“Understood. Also, I’ll need a basic adventurer’s kit for us. We’ve lost some of our things and the Guild said that you’d prepare one for us if we asked.”
The innkeeper looked at Ainz and Narberal, and then looked straight at Ainz’s purse.
“Mm, I got it. I’ll get it ready by dinner. Just be ready to pay.”
“Understood. Then, Nabe, let’s go.”
Ainz brought Narberal up the old staircase. The wood creaked under his feet as he headed for his room.
♦ ♦ ♦
After Ainz’s silhouette vanished up at the second floor, the buddies of the man which Ainz threw rushed up and began casting curative magic on him. Their actions seemed to be the spark which caused the silent tavern to burst into clamor.
“...It seems he’s as strong as he looks.”
“Yeah, that’s it. His arm strength is unbelievable, how did he train it?”
“He must be pretty confident to carry no weapons besides those two greatswords.”
“Dammit, another guy’s going to leap ahead of us as well.”
The scattered conversations were filled with awe, surprise, and fear.
They all knew that Ainz was not an ordinary person.
The first reason for that was his impressive equipment. Full plate armor was hardly cheap, and one would need to have gone on many adventures — in other words, be an experienced adventurer — in order to purchase it. One would need to be at least a silver-plate in order to accumulate enough capital for such a feat. However, some people inherited their suits from their predecessors, or found those suits on the battlefield or in ruins.
That was why they wanted to take a measure of his ability.
Everyone here was a comrade and a competitor at the same time. They all wanted to know the strength of any newcomers. The circumstances from just now had occurred in the past as well, over and over again.
The truth was, everyone here had experienced this sort of thing in the past. However, none of them had passed the test so easily before. In other words, that pair of copper-ranked adventurers...
They would be very strong, either as rivals or allies. Everyone here was fully convinced of that.
“Now, how should we deal with those two?”
“Flirting with that beautiful woman is out of the question…”
“If only we could get them into our party…”
“You must be mistaken, they should be in our party.”
“What does he look like under that helmet?”
“I’ll go listen on their wall tonight.”
“Didn’t he mention the region’s strongest man, Gazef Stronoff?”
“Could it be that he’s a disciple of the Warrior-Captain?”
“That’s certainly possible. Leave this task to a big-eared thief like me!”
As the crowd eagerly discussed the mysterious pair, the innkeeper walked up to one of the adventurers.
She was holding the potion Ainz had given her just now.
The woman — Britta — turned her eyes away from staring at the red potion and looked disinterestedly at the innkeeper.
“What kind of potion is that?”
“...Oi oi, you don’t know either? You accepted his potion as compensation, shouldn’t you know its value?”
“How could I? Besides, I’ve never seen a potion like this before. Gramps, you came here because you were curious too, right?”
Britta was right.
“Does it cover the value of your potion that got smashed? This might end up being cheaper than the one you bought.”
“That’s true. It’s definitely a gamble, but one I’m confident of winning. This was something that guy in the flashy armor gave me after he heard the price of my potion.”
“...I’ve never seen a healing potion of this color before. It might be a rare treasure. If I delayed and he said he would pay in cash, I’d be coming back from the dragon’s den with nothing to show for it, right? In any case, I’ll take it for appraisal tomorrow and find out how much it’s worth.”
“Oh, in that case, I’ll cover the appraisal fee for you. In fact, I’ll even recommend a good place for you to visit.”
“You will, gramps?”
Britta furrowed her brows. The innkeeper was a good man, but he was hardly a Good Samaritan either. He must have something in mind.
“Ah, don’t look at me like that. I just want you to tell me the effects of this potion.”
“So it’s a trade, then?”
“Hey, it’s a good trade, right? Besides, I can recommend a really good herbalist to you through my connections. I’m talking about that Lizzie Bareare.”
Britta’s eyes went wide with surprise.
E-Rantel was a place with many mercenaries and adventurers. It specialized in selling weapons and other items to these people, and among them the trade in potions was quite brisk. Therefore, E-Rantel had more herbalists than a normal city.
Amidst this fierce competition, Lizzie Bareare had earned fame as the best herbalist in the region. She could make the most complex potions of all the herbalists in the city. Since the innkeeper had mentioned her by name, Britta had no way of refusing his offer.
The wooden door closed with a thud.
The room was bare, apart from a pair of crudely-made bed frames with accompanying chests. After opening the windowblinds, they could directly feel the sunlight and outside air.
Ainz was somewhat disappointed as he finished his circular sweep of the room. Although he could not expect Nazarick-level furnishings and cleanliness in a godforsaken place like this, he still wanted to get out of here.
“I can’t believe he would dare let you stay in a place like this, Momon-sama.”
“Don’t say that, Nabe. Our aim is to become adventurers, and then increase our fame to the point where everyone knows of us. Until then, it won’t hurt to experience the life of a newbie.”
Ainz tried to soothe Narberal after closing the window blinds, without expressing his own dissatisfaction. There was not enough sunlight coming in through the blinds to light up the entire room. Ainz and Nabe both possessed darkvision, so it was hardly an obstacle to them, but for a normal person, this room would be so dark that they would have trouble seeing.
“Still… the life of an adventurer is pretty banal.”
Once, Ainz dreamed about that profession.
He envisioned them as people who chased after the unknown and had adventures in various parts of the world. Ainz had previously thought that adventurers were a physical manifestation of the right way to play YGGDRASIL, but after listening to the Guild receptionist, he realised that adventuring was a more realistic and more boring job than he had expected.
Simply put, adventurers were “anti-monster mercenaries”.
Although some parts of it fit his dreams of them — for instance, delving into the ruins of kingdoms destroyed by the Demon Gods 200 years ago and investigating mysteries in uncharted lands — for the most part, they were simply monster hunters.
Every monster possessed different special abilities, so they could only be taken care of by people who knew more tricks than average soldiers.
Just going by that point, one might think that they were heroes who were loved and relied on by the common man, like in games.
However, the reality was somewhat different from that.
This was because the ruling authorities did not smile on the existence of armed groups which they could not control. Therefore, aside from the prices they commanded, adventurers did not have much status.
Another reason why adventurers were not accepted on a national scale was because of the same thinking which made companies look for cheap, local temps than employing expensive permanent staff. Thus, much like how temps were treated by companies who could get by without hiring them, adventurers were held in lower regard in those nations which could eliminate monsters by dint of their own military power.
According to the Guild receptionist, there were no adventurers in the Slaine Theocracy, while life had gotten worse for adventurers in the Baharuth Empire after the ascension of their new Emperor.
Ainz banished his mild disappointment from his heart. It was a common thing in life to find that a job which one admired was hardly as glamorous in reality.
With a brief wave of his hand, the black armor and the two greatswords on his back melted away into nothingness, and a skeleton bedecked in magic items was revealed.
He wore a pair of black mirrorshades and a red targeting sight. The silver circlet on his head was set with amethysts and thorns grew from it, making it look like a rose vine.
Then there were the long-sleeved shirt and slacks, made of a lustrous, gauzy black material. A black belt secured the pants around his waist.
Ainz took off the sturdy gauntlets, and there were rings on all his bony fingers save the left ring finger.
His half-boots were made of a reddish-brown leather, and they were embroidered with gold thread.
A silver necklace with a lion-head pendant hung around his neck, and around it was a red cape.
Magic items in YGGDRASIL were made by infusing an item skin with a data crystal, so it was quite difficult to coordinate their appearance. However, many players disliked wearing a clownsuit, so after a certain update, players were given several ways to change their equipments’ appearance without changing their gear.
(TL note: ”clownsuit” is the MMO term for a visually mismatched set of equipment only worn for their stat boosts)
The suit of finely articulated black plate armor, made by the [Create Greater Item] spell, was one of those ways.
Currently, Ainz was wearing Sure-Hit Glasses, a Crown of Mental Fortitude, Black Widow Spider Clothes, a Black Belt, the Jarngreipr from earlier, a Nemean Lion pendant, Haste Boots, and so on.
In YGGDRASIL, trading in magic items was usually done in the form of data crystals. However, there were people who sold second-hand items in order to make even stronger ones. It was at this point that a problem arose — the names of magic items made by other people might include forbidden language, or it might insult someone. Sometimes, the GMs would ask the players in question to rename the items.
In general, naming items was left to the fancy of the creator.
As a result, items with weird names were not very popular on the market. Although cash items which could rename them were not expensive, very few people wanted to make that expenditure.
Thus, every player racked their brains to give their items good names. Sometimes the names would be in English, or they would come from mythology.
Of course, there were exceptions to this as well.
For instance, naming rings was very troublesome, so most people tended to call them Ring1, Ring2, Ring3 and so on. Ainz had even seen someone who called them Thumb Ring, Index Finger Ring, Middle Finger Ring, and so on.
Ainz had a friend called Warrior Takemikazuchi, who wielded two katanas from time to time. He named one of them — the eighth of its line — “Takemikazuchi Mk 8”.
The red cape he was wearing had also been named along that line of thought.
Inspired by an anti-hero from American comics, it was called the Necroplasmic Mantle.
(TL Note: in other words, Spawn’s cape)
All of these were relic-class items. They were two tiers lower than Ainz’s main gear, but he had considered that problems might arise from bringing items which were too strong, so he settled for equipment of this level.
Ainz worked his shoulders and savored the sensation of being free from his armor. Just then, Narberal asked a question:
“Speaking of which, how shall we deal with that annoying woman?”
“Ah, the one whose potion we broke? We don’t need to split hairs with her. I’d be angry as well if someone broke something important to me.”
Or at least, until his emotion-suppression kicked in. Ainz paused for a while, before continuing:
“...Well, probably. It’s only natural for her to scold me for my carelessness.”
“But all that was because a foolish human tried to provoke a Supreme Being. That man is the one who was to blame.”
“Perhaps, but I was the one who threw that man. Therefore, I hope that you will be big-hearted and forgive her. What we should be doing in this city is becoming a part of this world, to increase the renown of Momon and Nabe. It would reflect badly on us if rumors spread that we could not even pay someone back the value of a single potion.”
Narberal nodded, although she could not quite accept what Ainz had said.
“Also, we should give her some face, since she’s technically our senior in this field.”
Ainz fiddled with the necklace he wore, though he kept his fingers away from the Nemean Lion.
If it’s just a simple metal plate, then it can be forged… although that should probably be something for the Guild to worry about.
That small copper plate was something like a set of dog tags. It was what allowed people to know the strength of an adventurer.
Copper. Iron. Silver. Gold. Platinum. Mithril. Orichalcum. Adamantite.
The latter metals were more valuable, which meant that adventurers of those ranks could select more difficult and more rewarding quests. This was part of the system the Guild had developed to keep adventurers from going to pointless deaths.
Ainz, a freshly-registered adventurer, was of the lowest class — copper. That woman was an iron-plate. Showing her a basic level of courtesy was the secret of successfully blending into society.
“However, I feel that such soft metals like adamantite are not worthy of you, Ainz-sama. Apoitakara, hihiirokane or other prismatic metals would be more fitting of yourself. These people in the Guild have no taste at all.”
The metals Narberal had named were of the highest tiers in YGGDRASIL. Ainz turned a sharp look on her, and then said:
“Narberal, just to be safe, call me Momon while we are in this town.”
“Do you need me to remind you again? Call me Momon.”
“My, my deepest apologies, Momon-sa—n.”
“...Momon-sa—n sounds kind of stupid, don’t you think? Forget it, if it’s hard for you to just call me Momon, then Momon-san will do. Got it?”
“I understand, Momon-san.”
Once again, Narberal bowed deeply at the waist. Ainz tapped at his forehead with a finger.
She has no idea why I want her to call me Momon-san. She’s kind of useless… forget it, there’s nobody else I can use for now, so I’ll forgive her.
“This is our plan for the future—”
Narberal promptly genuflected before Ainz. It was the attitude of a vassal awaiting orders.
An annoyed Ainz had no idea how to proceed. Though he had locked the door after coming in, gossip would swiftly spread if people saw this scene.
Still… why doesn’t she understand the reason that I want her to call me Momon? I even explained it to her before coming to the inn...
With a tone of vague resignation, Ainz said:
“We are here to go undercover as adventurers in this city. This is because we have to collect information on adventurers — in other words, the strongest people in this world — though our emphasis will be on learning about YGGDRASIL players, like myself. Attaining higher ranks will allow us to take higher-ranked jobs, which will also allow us to collect more reliable and useful information. Therefore, our first objective is to become successful adventurers.”
After Narberal indicated that she understood, Ainz told her about the things she had to do.
“However, there are several problems at the moment.”
Ainz withdrew his small purse and opened it, then dumped its contents onto his hand. They were coins, and there were very few of them. There was no glint of gold among the coin.
“To begin with, we have no money.”
There were several reasons why Ainz had paid with a potion during the prior dispute. One of them was because he was not confident they could solve this problem with money. Saying that he had no money to pay would be laughable.
Ainz turned to the surprised Narberal, and explained:
“No, I should say that we do have a lot of money, but the currency we have is largely YGGDRASIL gold coins. Therefore, I would like to use those gold coins as a last resort.”
“Why is that? Haven’t we already confirmed that YGGDRASIL coins have monetary value?”
“Indeed, I learned from Carne Village that each YGGDRASIL gold coin is worth two of the local gold coins. However, if we use YGGDRASIL gold coins here, there’s no telling where they’ll end up. If things go bad, the news might spread beyond to others, and it’ll be a blatant advertisement to other YGGDRASIL players that we’re here. Therefore, we have to avoid that situation as long as we do not fully understand the situation.”
“Players… entities on the same level as yourself, Ainz-sama, and the villains who once attacked Nazarick.”
Ainz frowned as she referred to him as Ainz-sama, but he did not say anything, for the same reasons as just now.
“Indeed. They are people that cannot be taken lightly.”
His — Ainz Ooal Gown’s — level was the highest in YGGDRASIL, level 100. However, to players, being maximum level was hardly a rare thing. It could be said that most players were level 100.
Ainz considered himself to be among the upper-middle tier of the game’s players. This was because he was focused on taking levels in classes to better roleplay an undead magic caster, and neglected raising his own power. However, given the divine-class items he possessed, as well as his numerous cash items, he might be ranked in the middle of the top tier. Still, he could not take things easy. There was always a bigger fish, after all.
Thus, he had to avoid being found by other players, at any cost. There were many opponents Ainz could not defeat if he was drawn into battle.
In addition, there were many players who were human, and they would naturally protect other humans. If these players clashed with people like Albedo, who viewed humans as inferior lifeforms, the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick — or Ainz Ooal Gown — might very well count humanity as enemies. That was why he felt bringing Albedo along was dangerous.
Still, I didn’t expect Narberal to feel the same way as well.
Ainz did not view humanity as an enemy, but he could kill human beings with no hesitation for the sake of his goals. Even so, he wanted to avoid conflict with other players.
“Well, that was a waste.”
“What was a waste?”
“I’m talking about how we lost Nigun so easily. He had a lot of information, but he perished under such simple questioning.”
There were roughly ten people still alive from the members of the Sunlight Scripture captured at Carne Village. The rest died during questioning and became media for Ainz to summon undead with his skills.
As he recalled the information tortured out of his captives, Ainz could not help but mutter:
“Most players would want to support the Slaine Theocracy…”
The Slaine Theocracy was a religious nation which venerated the Six Gods, who descended upon the world 600 years ago.
In the words of the Sunlight Scripture, the Slaine Theocracy fought to allow the weak human race to prosper, grow strong and defeat other species. Any player with any remaining humanity would approve of the Slaine Theocracy’s aims.
Unlike his own world, where humanity stood atop all living creatures, in this world, humanity was one of the weakest species around.
Though they could build such an impressive city upon the plains, the fact that they had to live on the plains only highlighted humanity’s weakness.
That said, plains were also dangerous places. Firstly, there was no place to hide, so it was easy to be discovered by the enemy. Only weak species, who lacked darkvision, would choose to live in a place like this. They would have no safe spaces or living room if they chose otherwise.
There were species who were physically stronger and possessed more advanced civilizations than humans, but they were not in control of the continent. This was because they had ended up fighting the Eight Greed Kings, who dominated this land 500 years ago. Humanity was one of the few survivors of that war. If not, the human race would long since be extinct.
Any players in this world would want to help out humanity. That was why Ainz was on guard against players and kept his distance from the Slaine Theocracy.
“In any case, I plan to sell off the swords taken from the Slaine Theocracy troops pretending to be knights... but before that, we need to get a job.”
“Understood. Then, shall we visit the guild again tomorrow?”
“Indeed. Although I’d like to learn more by walking around this city, we should leave that for after we’ve earned some money.”
“I see. As a battle maid, I shall carry out your orders with all my strength.”
“Is that so. Then, I’ll be counting on you, Narberal.”
Ainz felt a warm glow of satisfaction as he watched Narberal bowing deeply. Then he cast a spell, and was wrapped in his armor and illusion once more.
“I will be inspecting our surroundings. You will stay here and wait for orders.”
“Please allow me to come with you!”
“No, I’m only looking around the neighborhood. I’ve heard of a large graveyard which I want to visit… and the other reason why you’re staying here is to ward off intruders. You must stay on your guard and never slack off. While I don’t think there’s any vulnerabilities in our defenses for the moment, this place might well be considered enemy territory, so you must never relax.”
“I’ll leave the scheduled call-ins to you as well.”
♦ ♦ ♦
As Ainz left the room, Narberal sighed deeply.
Then she rubbed the corner of her eyes, and her eyes, previously filled with a keen expression, drooped powerlessly. Her face looked completely relaxed. Even her ponytail seemed to have lost its energy and hung limply down.
However, she still recalled her supreme master’s orders.
Though Narberal was dying to look around outside the room, she was a magic caster and had a lot of trouble replicating the feats of thieves. Therefore, she used the skills she was familiar with to make up the shortfall.
A pair of adorable bunny ears grew from Narberal’s head as the spell was cast. The quivering ears immediately picked up all the sounds around her.
This was one of the three spells known as “Bunny Magic” to the players of Yggdrasil. The other two were [Rabbit’s Foot], which boosted luck and [Bunny Tail], which reduced monster aggro. Casting all three of these spells at once would change the appearance of a female character’s clothing, and so they were very popular. However, Narberal did not cast the other two because they were not needed.
Most of Narberal’s spells pertained to combat. This was one of the few exceptions.
After listening to the sounds around her, she made sure it was safe before casting the [Message] spell. As she expected, a pleasant female voice spoke within her head.
『Narberal Gamma, is something the matter?』
“Yes, this is the scheduled report.”
Narberal was speaking to the Guardian Overseer of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, Albedo.
She described every detail of the situation to Albedo, and finally she mentioned the news that Albedo was dying to hear:
“Ainz-sama mentioned you, Albedo-sama. He said that there was nobody else he could trust apart from you.”
A strange cry of delight resounded within Narberal’s head.
『Good — very good — Narberal, you’re a good girl! Keep spreading that news for me! This is an order from Nazarick’s Guardian Overseer!』
Narberal wondered, “Is this really worth an order?” However, she realized that this might be a move in the struggle to better serve the Supreme One. Thus, such an order made perfect sense.
Just as Narberal was about to express her doubts, she heard Albedo’s excited voice once more.
『I’ll slowly decrease the distance between myself and Ainz-sama while Shalltear is out on business! Although the objective is hard to breach, as long as I keep up the pressure and gain a beachhead, I’ll be able to bring it down one day! On that glorious day, Shalltear will weep bitter tears of regret!』
Albedo’s cry of delight made Narberal furrow her brows. That excited voice was starting to annoy her.
With a voice that suggested she might burst into dance at any moment, Albedo continued babbling about what she would do next, and how things had to be, and then suddenly, she asked in a calm voice:
『Still, why are you helping me? Why did you choose me and not Shalltear? Could it be that you want something from me?』
“The answer is simple. If someone asked me whether Albedo-sama or Shalltear-sama was more suitable to sit beside Ainz-sama, I would definitely answer with your name, Albedo-sama.”
『Kufu—! Wonderful. I didn’t think you’d be able to see the future of Nazarick. I’m impressed.』
“Also, Yuri-neesama has a hard time dealing with Shalltear-sama.”
『Oh, Yuri Alpha. I see, so that’s how it is. Are the others on my side as well?』
The faces of the assistant leader Yuri Alpha as well as her other comrades appeared in Narberal’s mind.
“That is hard to tell. Lupusregina is with you, Albedo-sama, but Solution is on Shalltear-sama’s side. As for Entoma and Shizu, their allegiances are not yet known.”
『Can Solution be won over?』
“It would be very difficult, because her tastes are very similar to Shalltear-sama’s.”
『Oh, I see… what crude hobbies she has.』
Narberal agreed with Albedo’s words. She had no idea why Solution liked what she did, and she could not help but tilt her head in puzzlement.
Although all human beings were inferior lifeforms — with one exception — none of them had the hobby of tormenting humans. However, they would kill any humans who got in their way, even if doing so was tedious. That said, they would not go out of their way to kill them.
『Well, it can’t be helped. Then, move quickly and bring the other girls into my camp. Start with Entoma and Shizu.』
“That should be fine. Solution and Entoma both like eating humans, so if we bring Entoma to your side, Solution might end up becoming an ally as a result.”
『That’s right… I’ve got it. Then, onto something else… can you tell me in detail what my beloved Ainz-sama has been doing?』
“Yes, I understand.”
The scheduled communication with Albedo ended up being very heated — when Albedo heard Narberal and Ainz were sharing a room, she made strange noises and kicked up a fuss — to the point where she had to cast the same spell four times. Ainz was mildly annoyed when he returned, but that is a tale for another time.
Sensing something like a color upon the wind, Britta sniffed several times, like a dog.
She was not mistaken — the air contained a greenish scent. This odor came from mysterious drugs and crushed plants. The smell told Britta that she was at her destination.
Britta continued forward, to a place where the smell was stronger than just now. Peering left and right, she walked on until she was in front of the largest house.
This house was different from the others around it, which were designed with a shop area in front and a work area in the back. It seemed to have been built from the ground up as a workshop.
From the sign that hung above the door and outside the place, she knew that she had arrived.
The bell mounted on top of the door rang surprisingly loudly as she pushed open the front door.
After she entered, she found herself in something that looked like a guest lounge. There were two facing benches in the middle of the room, cabinets of books on the walls, and ornamental plants in the corners of the room.
As she stepped into the lounge, a voice called out:
It was a male voice, though it sounded too young to belong to a man.
Looking around, she saw a teenage boy standing before her, dressed in a beat-up set of old work coveralls that were stained with juices from crushed plants.
His blond hair covered half his face, so it was hard to guess his age, but from his height and his voice, he should be in puberty.
Although he was a teenager, Britta could still guess his name. Apart from the fame of his grandmother, he had become one of the few notable people in E-Rantel by virtue of his innate talents.
“Yes, that’s me.”
The boy — Nfirea — nodded and asked:
“May I know what business you have here?”
“Ah, yes. Hang on a bit.”
Britta retrieved the folded slip of paper the innkeeper had passed her and gave it to the boy.
Upon receiving the piece of paper, Nfirea opened and read it.
“I see… so that’s what’s going on. Then, can I see the potion?”
Britta took out the potion and handed it to Nfirea, who brought it so close to himself that his hair covered it.
The atmosphere changed.
Nfirea swept his hair away, revealing a handsome face, which would surely break the hearts of many girls.
However, within that youthful face of his was a pair of steely eyes. It was hard to imagine that someone who spoke and acted like he did could have eyes like that. Those eyes sparkled with excitement. Nfirea shook the potion bottle several times and nodded.
“Forgive me, it’s not convenient to speak here. Could you follow me inside?”
Britta agreed, and under Nfirea’s guidance, she soon arrived at a messy room. Still, she thought that way because she lacked professional experience.
On the table were round-bottomed flasks, test tubes, distillation equipment, mortars, funnels, beakers, alcohol lamps, balances, a bizarre-looking pot and various other items. The shelves on the walls were filled with mysterious herb and mineral samples.
An acrid odor hung in the air. It seemed potentially dangerous to one’s body.
The person who was already within the room stared at the two people who had barged in.
She was a very old woman, and both her face and hands were heavily wrinkled. Her hair, which reached to her eyebrows, was pure white. Her work clothes were stained with even more green residue than Nfirea’s and she smelled heavily of grass.
Nfirea, who had just entered, called out to the old lady:
“What is it, what is it, I can hear you even if you don’t shout. My ears are sharp, you know.”
Nfirea only had one grandmother, who was renowned as the greatest herbalist in this city, Lizzie Bareare.
“Come take a look at this.”
Lizzie accepted the potion Nfirea offered her. As she studied it, her gaze was so focused and keen that it unsettled Britta. She looked like a grizzled veteran of many battles.
In this, she was not wrong. Herbalists needed to use magic when making their potions and medicines, and the more famous the herbalist, the higher the tier of magic they could use. Therefore, the greatest herbalist of E-Rantel, Lizzie Bareare, was a much better combatant than Britta.
“This potion… did you bring it here? ...A legendary potion? No, could it be… God’s Blood? What on earth is this potion?”
Britta’s eyes went wide, thinking that’s my line.
“Impossible… this potion. Where did you get it from? A ruin?”
“Eh? Ah, no, that…”
“What a shrinking violet you are. Just give me a straight answer — where did you get it from? Did you steal it? Hm?”
Britta’s shoulders shuddered in surprise. She had done nothing wrong, yet she felt like she was being rebuked.
“...Granny, don’t scare her.”
“...What are you saying, Nfirea? I didn’t scare her at all… right?”
No, you did. Britta wanted to say that, but instead she gulped and simply told Lizzie the full story about the potion:
“Ah, er, someone else gave it to me as payment.”
Lizzie’s eyes became even more stern.
“Wait a minute, Granny. Britta-san, could you tell me who gave it to you? And why was it given to you?”
With Nfirea’s help, Britta explained simply that she had received the potion from a mysterious man in full plate. As Lizzie heard it, more furrows sprouted on her wrinkled face.
“...Did you know that there are three kinds of potions?”
Without waiting for Britta’s reply, Lizzie continued:
“The first kind are potions made from herbs alone. Those potions act slowly, and all they can do is improve a person’s natural recovery. While they’re not very effective, they’re very cheap. The second kind of potions are made with herbs and magic. These potions take effect faster than the first kind, but they still need some time to work. Most adventurers use these potions to recover after a battle. The final kind of potion is made solely from magic. Essentially, one infuses a spell into an alchemical solution and it takes instant effect. These potions are functionally the same as a spell, but they are correspondingly more expensive. Then, which of these three kinds does that potion of yours belong too? I can’t see any traces of herbal residue, so it should be a pure-magic potion, but—”
Lizzie pulled out a potion bottle filled with a blue liquid and held it before Britta’s eyes.
“This is a basic healing potion. The colors are different, right? Recovery potions turn blue during their manufacture, but yours is red. In other words, the process by which that potion was made is completely different from the way normal potions are made. In other words, your potion is pretty rare, and for all we know it might end up revolutionizing modern potion-creation methods… well, you might not realise it for a while.”
After saying that, Lizzie cast a spell:
“[Appraisal Magic Item].”
After casting the two spells on the potion, a look of shock and anger appeared on Lizzie’s face.
—Suddenly, crazed laughter echoed through the narrow room. Lizzie slowly raised her head, a terrifyingly mad smile on her face. Britta was so frightened by the sudden change in Lizzie that not only could she not speak, she could not even move.
“Kukuku! Is that what it is! Look closely at this potion, Nfirea! This is the perfected form of all potions! It’s right here! We — herbalists, alchemists, everyone in the business of making potions — have studied for so long and accumulated so much experience, but yet we have not been able to achieve this idealized form!”
Lizzie’s cheeks were red from her excitement and she was huffing and puffing. However, she maintained her death grip on the potion bottle as she brought it before Nfirea’s eyes.
“Potions will deteriorate over time, am I right?!”
“Of course, that’s common sense.”
In stark contrast to Lizzie’s excitement, Nfirea was calm. However, Britta could sense hints of anticipation within him.
She had no idea why they were so fired up about this. She keenly felt like she had been swept up into a storm that shook the heavens and the earth. To think she had brought a potion here that could put such an excited look on the face of E-Rantel’s greatest herbalist!
“Pure magic potions are made from alchemical solutions. Those solutions are refined from a mineral base, so it’s only natural that the quality of the solution will degrade over time. That’s why you need to cast the spell [Preservation] on it.”
Lizzie paused, and then spoke again.
“At least, until now.”
Britta seemed to understand a little of what Lizzie was saying. She looked at the red solution, her eyes wide with surprise.
“This bottle! This potion! This bottle of potion! It doesn’t deteriorate even without preservative magic! In other words, it’s a perfect potion! Nobody’s done anything like this until today! According to the ancient legends, the original healing potion was made from the blood of the gods.”
Lizzie shook the bottle she was holding and the bright red liquid swirled within the glass.
“Of course, they’re just legends. It used to be a joke between herbalists that the gods had blue blood.”
After another brief pause, Lizzie looked at the bottle of potion she was holding in her hand. It was trembling in her excitement.
“This potion might well be the true God’s Blood!”
Nfirea kept patting Lizzie’s back as she panted heavily. Britta was struck dumb by surprise. The silence between them was broken by Lizzie:
“...You must have come here to learn about this potion’s effects, right? This potion is around the level of a 2nd-tier healing spell. Not counting added value from its rarity, it would fetch around 8 gold pieces. That said, once you factor that extra value in, the price is enough that people would murder you for it.”
Britta’s body trembled uncontrollably.
To an iron-plate adventurer like Britta, the potion’s base value alone was already very high, to say nothing of the added value. Lizzie had a gleaming edge in her eye, and she looked like she was looking for any opportunity to take it from her.
Even so, Britta had her doubts. Why would that man in full plate armor give her that potion so easily? What sort of man hid under that armor?
Just as countless doubts appeared in her heart, Lizzie asked:
“How about selling it to me? I’ll give you a good price for it. How about 32 gold pieces?”
Britta’s eyes went even wider.
The price Lizzie had just quoted was a staggering sum. Frugally used, it was enough for a family of three to live on for three years.
Britta was confused. She knew the potion was incredibly valuable. Then, was selling it for 32 gold pieces the right thing to do? It seemed unlikely that she would ever be able to lay her hands on another potion like this again.
But if she refused, would she make it back alive?
The next morning, Ainz — also known as Momon — opened the guild’s doors once more.
The first thing he saw as he entered the room was the counter, where three of the guild’s receptionists greeted the adventurers with smiles on their faces. There were warriors in full plate armor, nimble fellows in light armor and bearing bows, people in priest’s garb and adorned with all manner of holy symbols, as well as robed arcane magic casters with their staves.
On the left was a large door, and on the right was a notice board. There were several pieces of parchment upon it which he had not seen yesterday. Several adventurers were chatting in front of it.
Annoyed by that sight and the many sticking-out pieces of parchment, Ainz moved forward to the counter.
The eyes of everyone present focused on the copper plate around Ainz’s neck, and he could feel those eyes sizing him up from head to toe. It was just like yesterday at the inn.
Ainz was surveying the adventurers in turn. They wore gold and silver plates on their necklaces, with no copper plates. Feeling vaguely out of place, Ainz advanced to the counter.
A group of adventurers had just departed, freeing up one of the counters. He stepped forward and said:
“Pardon me, but I’m looking for work.”
“Then, please select a piece of parchment from over there and bring it here.”
Ainz nodded in silence, feeling as though his nonexistent sweat glands were now recovering some of their function. He arrived before the notice boards, looked across all of them, and then nodded.
Yup, I can’t read any of them.
One of the laws in this world was that spoken language was automatically translated, but written text was not.
The receptionists walked him through everything the last time he came to the Adventurer’s Guild, so he had assumed they would do the same this time too. How naive.
He wanted to scream “Ahhhh” and roll around on the ground, and then his emotions suddenly calmed down. Grateful for this property of his new body, Ainz frantically racked his brains.
While the literacy rate here was not high, it would be shameful if his inability to read was discovered by others. They might even look down on him.
The translation item that Ainz possessed was now in the hands of Sebas. During YGGDRASIL he had ignored spells of that sort and had not learned them. After all, he had scrolls, which could substitute for learning those spells.
He cursed himself for a fool, for coming out without making preparations despite knowing that he could not read the language.
Still, there was no point crying over spilt milk. Regret would not help him here.
Narberal could not read the words either, so was of no use.
Negative thoughts rose up in his mind, but as the ruler of Nazarick, he could not do anything embarrassing.
After gathering his resolve, Ainz ripped off a piece of parchment, and strode back to the counter.
“I’d like to take this job.”
Confusion came over the counter girl’s face as she looked at the parchment before her eyes. Then, she smiled bitterly and replied:
“I’m very sorry, but this job is only for mithril-plate adventurers…”
“I know. That’s why I took it.”
The calm, unwavering tone in Ainz’s voice evoked doubt in the counter girl’s eyes.
“Er, about that…”
“I would like to take this job.”
“Eh? Ah, but, even if you ask, according to the rules…”
“They’re worthless rules. I’m fed up with having to keep proving myself with easy, pathetic jobs like this before my rank-up examinations.”
“If you fail the job, many people will lose their lives.”
The receptionist’s firm voice seemed to encompass the silent opinions of the countless people who had worked hard to qualify themselves by the guild’s rankings.
Ainz’s snort drew hostility from the counter girl and the surrounding adventurers. Ainz felt that their attitude was only to be expected. After all, he was a clueless newcomer who was sneering at the rules by which they abided.
As an undead being, Ainz felt nothing, but the remnants of Suzuki Satoru’s salaryman sensibilities made Ainz want to apologize to everyone around him.
Suzuki Satoru hated those people who rejected other’ opinions without offering solutions of their own, and crappy customers who knew nothing.
Right now, Ainz was part of the latter group, and he wanted to give himself a good punch.
However, Ainz could not back down easily. He wanted to, but he could still deal with a situation of this level. Therefore, Ainz pulled out his trump card.
“The person behind me is my companion, Nabe. She is a magician of the 3rd tier.”
The air shuddered with a collective gasp, and everyone looked at Narberal in surprise. In this world, 3rd-tier spells were the highest which most magic casters could reach.
Is he for real? The eyes of the surrounding people shifted to Ainz’s stylish full plate armor, dubious of his claim.
Adventurers wore equipment which matched their abilities. The stronger they were, the better the gear they outfitted themselves with. Ainz’s armor was very eye-catching and he travelled with a woman like Nabe, both of which were very persuasive.
Noticing the changes around him, Ainz cheered inside his heart, and decided to strike while the iron was hot:
“I, personally, am a warrior of comparable strength to Nabe. I am very sure that a job like that would be a trivial task for me.”
The receptionist and the other adventurers were not as surprised in comparison to just now. They seemed to be looking at Ainz with different eyes.
“We did not become adventurers to do jobs for a few pieces of copper. I wish to take on a higher-ranked job. If you wish to see our strength, I will be more than glad to show it to you. Therefore, can we take this job?”
The hostility towards them was fading rapidly, and there were whispers of “Indeed, that’s right” and “No wonder”. After all, the rough men called adventurers valued strength, and they understood what Ainz was trying to say.
However, the counter girl was a different matter.
“...I am very sorry, but we cannot let you take this job due to the rules.”
The receptionist lowered her head in apology, and Ainz took a victory pose in his heart.
“Then it can’t be helped… it seems I’ve put you in a difficult position,” Ainz replied as he nodded in apology.
“Then, help me pick the most challenging copper-plate job, then. There should be others besides the ones on the noticeboard, right?”
“Ah, there are, I know.”
The receptionist stood up, and just as Ainz was about to cry tears of joy at his absolute victory, a man’s voice reached his ears.
“How about helping us with our work, then?”
He had reflexively responded in a low, threatening tone. Ainz looked over, but all saw was a four-man adventurer team, their silver plates glittering on their necklaces.
Ainz grumbled internally — After all the effort to misdirect them — and turned to face those people.
“The job in question… it’s a worthwhile assignment… right?”
“Mm — well, I feel it’s worthwhile.”
The person who responded was a man who looked like the team’s leader. He wore some sort of banded armor — strips of metal woven together with metal threads over a leather or chain backing — and carried himself like a warrior.
Should he join this man’s team and work with them? Of course, he could decide after hearing them out, but then there was no telling if the receptionist girl would help them pick a job after he spoke with them. However, if he took their job, there would be a chance to build relations with them and obtain useful information.
Several seconds passed.
Ainz slowly nodded:
“Worthwhile jobs are exactly what I seek. Then, let us work together. However, I would like to ask what sort of job it is.”
After hearing his response, the men asked the receptionist to prepare a room for them.
It looked like a meeting room, with a wooden table lined with chairs in the middle. The men streamed in and sat down.
“Please have a seat.”
Ainz did as he was told, and Narberal silently took a place beside him.
The men were all quite young, probably under 20, but there was no childishness in them and they possessed a maturity which did not match their ages. Although they seemed to have seated themselves randomly around the table, judging by their distance and positioning, they could draw their weapons at any time.
This unconscious display must have been a habit born from countless close encounters with death.
“Before we begin discussing the job, let us introduce ourselves.”
The speaker was the man who looked like a warrior.
He had the typical blond hair and blue eyes of the Kingdom, and while there were no other distinguishing features on him, he looked quite handsome.
“I’m the leader of the ‘Swords of Darkness’, Peter Mauk. That fellow over there is the eyes and ears of our team, the ranger Lukrut Volve.”
A leather-armored blond man nodded in acknowledgement, and his brown eyes seemed to have a spark of delight in them. He was slender and long-limbed, kind of like a spider, but his lean torso was wiry and muscular.
“Next is our magic caster and the brains of our group, Ninya, The Spellcaster.”
“Pleased to meet you.”
He was probably the youngest person in the group, with dark brown hair and blue eyes. Though he was an adult, the smile on his face looked too youthful.
Unlike the tanned skin of the group’s other members, his skin was pale, and his face was the prettiest of the group’s. It was more of an androgynous beauty than any masculine concept of attractiveness. His voice was higher-pitched than the others.
However, the smile on his face was like a mask, though it was not entirely fake.
While the others all wore armor, he wore a leather robe. However, Ainz could see that beneath the table he had various strange items in his belt, including oddly-shaped bottles and peculiar wooden objects and so on.
Judging from the term spellcaster, he was probably a magic caster of the arcane variety, like Ainz.
“...But Peter, can you not use that embarrassing nickname?”
“Eh? But it’s a good one.”
“You have a nickname?” Ainz asked, with no idea what was going on. Lukrut explained:
“He’s a talent holder, and a genius magic caster.”
“Oh…” Ainz murmured: they had tortured three of the Sunlight Scripture members to death to get that information, and now there was a live example in front of him. Ainz was delighted.
However, Narberal did not understand and simply snorted derisively. Ainz sighed in relief after he realized that none of them had heard it. He was slightly mad because his incompetent subordinate was doing odd things like this during a negotiation, but getting into an argument here would not be productive either, so Ainz quickly calmed himself down.
“It’s nothing much, it’s just that I happened to have a talent pertaining to that field…”
Ainz was even more interested, and he leaned forward, straining to listen.
Much like martial arts, talents were abilities that did not exist in YGGDRASIL but which were unique to this world. About one in every 200 people was born with a talent. While talent-holders were not rare, the abilities themselves varied greatly in potency and type.
For instance, there were talents like being able to predict tomorrow’s weather with 70% accuracy, the ability to strengthen summoned monsters, hastening the harvest by several days, using the magic of the dragons which once ruled this world, and so on.
However, all of these were inborn abilities, which could not be chosen or changed. It was quite common to encounter situations where these abilities could not be applied. If someone was born with a talent that could improve the destructive power of their magic, but they never had the chance to become a magic caster, then their talent would be useless.
There were very few people who could make good use of their talents. There were almost no talents which could dictate the course of one’s entire life, apart from a few exceptionally powerful talents..
The best proof of that statement was Gazef Stronoff, who was a warrior without a talent.
However, people with combat-applicable talents tended to go into the adventuring profession. Therefore, talent-holders were a common sight among adventurers. The person before him was one of those lucky few who could fully utilize his talent.
“I think his talent had something to do with being suited to studying magic, and he only took four years to learn what should have taken eight years. I’m not a magic caster, so I’m not sure how great that is.”
Ainz was a magic caster as well. Those words made him curious, and awoke a collector’s desire within him. This was an ability which the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick did not possess, and which could strengthen the organization. If he could gain control of that ability, it might be worth making enemies of everyone here.
Shrinking the time it took to learn an ability like this should have been the province of a Super-tier spell, [Wish Upon A Star].
The two of them continued talking, without realizing that Ainz was watching them under his helmet, like a tiger ready to pounce on its prey.
“...I’m really lucky that I was born with this ability, because it allowed me to take a step closer to my dream. Without this power, I would have ended my days as a lowly peasant.”
Ninya’s muttering was gloomy and solemn. As though to sweep away the grim air hanging over the room, Peter continued in a completely different tone:
“Well, no matter what, you’re still a famous talent-holder in this city.”
“Still, there’s people more famous than me.”
“The leader of Blue Rose?”
“That person’s famous too, but I was talking about someone within this city.”
“You mean, Bareare-shi?!” shouted the last person, who had not yet been introduced yet. Ainz was curious about the name and asked:
“...And what sort of talent does that person have?”
A look of surprise came over all four of them. It would seem this was common knowledge.
Ainz had asked that question because he was curious and wanted to acquire an ability which could strengthen Nazarick. Therefore, in response to the regret he felt over his carelessness, he told himself that there had to be some way to recover from a mistake like this.
However, before Ainz could explain, the other side came to a conclusion of their own:
“I see, the reason why we don’t know you at all despite that stylish full plate and your beautiful companion is because you’re not from around here, am I right?”
Ainz nodded at this heaven-sent mercy of a question.
“Indeed, that is correct. The truth is, we only arrived here yesterday.”
“Oh, so you wouldn’t know, then? He’s a famous person in this town, but he’s probably not that famous that distant cities would know about him, huh?”
“Yes, I’ve never heard of him before. If you don’t mind, could you tell me about him?”
“His name is Nfirea Bareare, the grandson of a famous herbalist. His talent allows him to use any magic item. Not only can he use scrolls of a different spellcasting system from himself, he can even use items made by the non-human races. Even items restricted to those of royal blood shouldn’t be a problem either.”
Ainz tried his best not to let them hear the awe in his voice.
How much could his talent do? Could he use the Staff of Ainz Ooal Gown — which only the guildmaster could use — as well as World-Class Items? Or did it have limits?
He was someone to be wary of, but he could be very useful as well.
Narberal seemed to feel the same way. She brought her mouth close to where Ainz’s ears would be under the helmet and whispered:
“I think that person is dangerous.”
“...I know. Coming to this city was the right decision.”
“Momon-san, is something the matter?”
“Oh, no, it’s fine, don’t worry. Speaking of which, could you tell me about your last friend?”
“Yes. He’s a druid — Dyne Woodwonder. He uses healing spells and magic that controls nature, and he’s well versed in herbal lore. Let him know if there’s anything wrong with your body; he has medicine that’s good for stomach pains.”
“Pleased to meet you!” came the greeting from the burly, barbaric-looking man with a full, bushy beard. However, he seemed younger than how Ainz appeared.
There was a very faint smell of grass from him, which came from the cloth pouch tied to his waist.
“Then, it’s time for us to introduce ourselves. She is Nabe, I am Momon. Pleased to meet you.”
“Pleased to meet you.”
“Wonderful, I hope we’ll get along. Then, Momon-san, just address me by my first name. Right, while it feels a little wrong to get to business so abruptly, we should probably start discussing the job. As for that, the truth is what we’re asking you for doesn’t really qualify as work.”
Upon hearing Ainz’s confusion, Peter extended his hand to halt him, with the intention of delaying the question for a later date.
“This job is to hunt the monsters that appear around the town.”
“Clearing out monsters, huh…?”
That was enough to count as work. Or was there some special adventurer reason which made him say that it did not qualify? Ainz wanted to ask about that, but if this was common knowledge, asking that question might make him appear clueless, which was bad. Therefore, he tried asking a safe question instead.
“What sorts of monsters will we be exterminating?”
“Ah, we’re not exterminating monsters. After hunting monsters, the city council will pay us a reward based on their strength. What do they call it where you come from, Momon-san?”
So that was it.
Ainz understood. When Peter said that this did not qualify as work, in Yggdrasil terms, it was more like killing spawned monsters and taking the items they dropped.
“This is something we have to do to make a living,” said the druid — Dyne Woodwonder — in his deep baritone.
Following that, Lukrut spoke up as well.
“For us, it’s making a living, but what we do also reduces the danger to the surrounding people. The traders can come and go in peace and the country can collect its taxes. All in all, it’s a way to earn money without anyone losing out.”
“Nowadays, most countries with guilds do this, but five years ago, this sort of thing was nonexistent. It’s quite surprising.”
Everyone in the team nodded as Ninya spoke. They began chatting amongst themselves, leaving no openings for Ainz to cut in. Still, it would be odd to know absolutely nothing about this country, so Ainz decided to shut up and listen to what they said.
“It’s all thanks to the Golden Princess, long may she live.”
“She proposed a policy through that would waive taxes on adventurers, although it never got passed.”
“Oh, to think she paid so much attention to adventurers.”
“Indeed. Some rulers would treat armed organizations who were not loyal to the country as enemies. Even the Empire isn’t so generous.”
“That princess sure is brilliant, coming out with all these great proposals… although almost all of them were shot down.”
“I want to marry a beautiful girl like that~”
“Then, shouldn’t you work on getting ennobled?”
“Ah—no way, no way, I couldn’t live a stifled life like that.”
“I think being a noble’s not bad. After all, the Kingdom pretty much allows a noble to trample the peasants and do as they please.”
There was a strong undercurrent of mockery hidden beneath Ninya’s words. Ainz furrowed his nonexistent brows within his helmet, but Narberal remained still, a nonchalant look on her face. Lukrut replied in a jovial tone:
“Uwah~ that tongue of yours is still so vicious. You really hate nobles, don’t you?”
“I know that some nobles are honorable, but my big sister was taken away by that big. I can’t not hate nobles.”
“...We’re getting sidetracked here! We shouldn’t be talking about this sort of thing in front of our comrades, Momon-shi and Miss Nabe.”
After Dyne tried to get everyone back on track, Peter coughed in an incredibly fake manner before continuing:
“And so, we’ll be searching for monsters in the nearby region. We’re close to a developed region, so the monsters shouldn’t be too strong. Does that displease you, Momon-san?”
Peter spread a piece of parchment on the table. It looked to be a map of the surrounding region. The map showed villages, forests, rivers, and so on.
“Basically, we’ll be heading south and looking around this area.”
His finger moved from the center of the parchment to the vicinity of the southern forest.
“We’ll be hunting monsters in the forest bordering the Slaine Theocracy. THe only creatures who can hit the back line are goblins with magic items that grant flight.”
“However, we won’t get much for killing such weak monsters.”
Ainz had his doubts about this group’s easygoing attitude.
From what Ainz knew, there were many kinds of named goblins in Yggdrasil, and their levels ranged from 1 to 50. Since individual goblins could vary widely in power, one could not lump the goblins into one big group. A moment’s carelessness could lead to dire consequences.
Did their relaxed attitudes mean that they were confident of not encountering high-level goblins, or did it mean that this world’s goblins were simply that weak?
“...What if a powerful goblin shows up?”
“While it’s true that powerful goblins exist, they won’t show up in the forest we’re heading towards, because these goblins are usually tribal leaders. They won’t mobilize their entire tribes just for us.”
“The goblins know about humanity’s area of influence, so they’re fully aware of the retaliation that’ll be headed that way if they launch a large-scale attack. It’s especially true when it comes to the stronger goblins, since they tend to be the higher-ranked and more intelligent members of their species.”
“Plus, Nabe-san can use 3rd-tier magic. So it should be fine even if we encounter high-level goblins, right?”
“I see. However, I’d like to remind you that there are goblins who can use 3rd-tier magic. Just for my reference, could you tell me about the monsters we might encounter?”
The Swords of Darkness turned in unison to look at Ninya. Picking up on their thoughts, Ninya began explaining with a teacherly look on his face.
“We’re likely to encounter goblins and the wolves they raise. As for other monsters, there haven’t been any strong ones sighted around this area. The most dangerous monsters we might encounter on the plains are probably ogres.”
“We won’t be entering the forest?”
“Yes, because the forest is very dangerous. We can still deal with things like Jumping Leeches and Giant Beetles, but the Hanging Spiders which spit webs at you from the trees and the Forest Worms which maul you from the ground with their huge jaws are harder to handle.”
Ainz nodded in acknowledgement. So their aim was to hunt the monsters from the forest which made their way onto the plains.
“That’s how it is, Momon-san. How about it? Want to lend us a hand?”
“...Mm. Then, I’ll be in your care… although before that, could you tell me about the pay for this?”
“Ah, yes, that’s right, the payment is very important. Basically, since Momon-san’s team and our team are working together, the plan is to split it evenly.”
“Going by the numbers in our teams, it seems awfully generous.”
“However, when the monsters appear, I hope you and Nabe-san will take half of them as well. We can only use spells of up to the 2nd tier. So when we factor your abilities in, that division of the money seems quite logical.”
Ainz pretended to think for a while before nodding his head in agreement.
“I have no problems with that arrangement. Then, let us fight shoulder to shoulder. Also, since we’re working together, I guess I should let everyone see my true face.”
With that, Momonga removed his helmet. The four people before him seemed quite surprised by what they saw.
“...Black eyes and hair like Nabe-san, so he shouldn’t have been born in this area. I’ve heard that in the south, people like Momon-san are commonplace… did you come from that region?”
“Yes. We have come here from a faraway land.”
He’s older than I thought, he’s already an uncle.
Hey, that’s rude.
A warrior on par with a magic caster of the 3rd tier should be around that age.
Miss Nabe’s pretty amazing too.
Ainz’s keen ears picked up their whispered words, with the exception of Peter’s.
Being called an uncle made Ainz feel uncomfortable, but it probably couldn’t be helped that he was an uncle in the eyes of these youngsters. If one was an adult by the age of 16, then Ainz was definitely an uncle to them.
“I’ll be covering my face up after showing it to you. There might be trouble if other people know I’m a foreigner.”
With that, Ainz put his helmet back on again. After that, he smiled in satisfaction under his helmet. This was because Ainz had enchanted himself with an illusion — although it was a low-grade type, which would be seen through if touched — just in case.
“Since we’ll be hunting together, it would probably be good to get questions out of the way at this point. Do you have anything to ask me?”
A hand shot up toward the ceiling after Ainz asked his question. That hand belonged to Lukrut.
After making sure that nobody else was asking a question other than himself, Lukrut cheerfully asked Narberal:
“What kind of relationship do you two have!”
The room was filled with silence.
Ainz had no idea what Lukrut meant by that question. However, Peter and his people had picked up on Lukrut’s intentions.
“...We are companions.”
After Ainz’s answer, Lukrut’s next few words threw the room into an uproar.
“I’ve fallen for you! It’s love at first sight! Please go out with me!”
Everyone turned to look at Lukrut. After realising that Lukrut’s words were not a joke to deepen their friendship, Ainz shifted his gaze to Narberal. As the center of attention, Narberal took a deep breath before replying:
“Silence, inferior lifeform (slug). Learn your place before speaking again, or should I rip your tongue out of your head.”
The silence was even more deafening than before.
Ainz made to lighten the mood, but Lukrut stole a march on him and said: “Thank you for the firm rejection! Then, let’s start as friends!”
“Die, inferior lifeform (maggot). How could I possibly be friends with you? Or do you want me to gouge out your eyeballs with a spoon?”
After turning away from the feuding pair, Ainz and Peter bowed to each other in apology.
“...My comrade has made trouble for you.”
“No, I should be the one apologizing.”
“We’ll call it quits, then. Is that all right?”
Peter looked around before speaking, though he kept his eyes from the grinning Lukrut and the cold-eyed Narberal.
“Then, Momon-san. If you’re ready, then let’s move out. We’re already prepared.”
After hearing the word “ready”, Ainz suddenly thought of something.
They had already purchased the minimum required gear from the innkeeper. Although Ainz and Narberal did not need to waste space on food and drinks, it would be weird if they did not eat or drink anything, so they had some ready just in case.
“All right, once we distribute the rations, we can set out right away.”
“Are rations the only thing you need to prepare? If you’re not going to buy them from a specialist shop, why not get some dry rations from the counter? They’ll prepare them for you right away.”
“Is that so? That’s good to hear. We can finish our preparations right away.”
“Then, let’s go.”
Everyone rose and left the room.
♦ ♦ ♦
After returning to the guild lobby, there were more adventurers than before, and there were several teams standing near the parchment-covered noticeboard. However, everyone’s attention seemed focused on a certain teenager.
The blond-haired teenager was talking to one of the counter girls, and the other two receptionists were leaning in to eavesdrop on their conversation. If things had been busy when Ainz came in, the current situation was now the exact opposite.
The counter girl’s face — no, her mouth was in an O shape. It was a look of surprise. And the person she was looking at was none other than Ainz himself.
What’s going on here?
Just as doubt started welling up inside Ainz, the counter girl approached and said:
“There is a job here asking for you by name.”
Those words changed the air in the room instantly. Ainz could feel many curious eyes staring unreservedly at him.
The Swords of Darkness were similarly shocked.
Narberal shifted briefly at the unpleasant change in the room’s atmosphere. This was to make it easier to act during the critical early stages of a battle.
Ainz could not help but feel worried by this.
This is bad, Narberal’s movements are bad. Judging by the way Narberal stood beside him, she must have thought that something strange was about to happen and had taken up a defensive posture to protect Ainz. However, it was an action completely unfitting for a situation like this. Normal people would not do such a thing under these circumstances.
Granted, protecting Ainz was her top priority, but her movements were far too thoughtless.
You idiot. Albedo’s the same way too. What the hell are the both of you thinking? No… it’s more like they didn’t think at all. They feel like they can crush humans like insects because they look down on them.
While that sort of attitude could not be helped from NPCs of a guild composed of heteromorphic beings (Ainz Ooal Gown) there was a time and place for that sort of thing.
An annoyed Ainz wanted to ask his past comrades, “Why are all your NPCs like this?” He did not care what kind of backstory they had, but they needed to have basic social skills, as well as the ability to take note of the time, place, situation, and respond accordingly.
He did not have time to scold Narberal now. If someone discovered that Narberal was in battle mode, who knew what sort of trouble they might get into.
Ainz immediately karate-chopped Narberal on the head. Although he did not use his full strength, he was still wearing his Jarngreipr. Narberal looked back at Ainz with tear-filled eyes, a look of surprise and confusion on her face, as though Ainz had grievously wounded her with that strike. However, Ainz paid her no heed and asked the counter girl:
“And who is this person who has asked for me by name?”
The moment those words cleared his mouth, Ainz cursed himself. Who else could it be but the boy in front of him?
“That would be Nfirea Bareare-san.”
I just heard that name — as Ainz thought this, the boy approached him.
“Pleased to meet you. I was the one who put out that job.”
The boy nodded slightly, and Ainz returned the gesture.
“Actually, this request—”
Before the boy could finish speaking, Ainz raised his hand to interrupt:
“My deepest apologies, but I’ve already made an agreement with someone else for a job, so I cannot accept your request right away.”
The air in the room seemed to shudder as he said this. The reaction of the Swords of Darkness was more intense than Ainz’s own:
“Momon-san! He asked for you by name!”
Peter’s response filled Ainz with doubt. Was a personal request something to be surprised about? However—
“That may be so, but should I not carry out the job I’ve been requested to do earlier?”
Ainz’s decision seemed to have been the right one. Some of the adventurers around him were nodding in approval. Just then, he had a flash of inspiration:
“However… our job is hardly a request. If we don’t meet any monsters, there won’t be any pay to speak of…”
Peter’s words to Ainz trailed off, and he sounded reluctant to speak them.
Being hired by the boy with the famous grandmother was a far cry from wandering around the place trying to kill monsters. That was why Peter sounded like he wanted to give up on the job.
With that conclusion in mind, Ainz gently said:
“...Then how about this, Peter-san. Bareare-san has not told me about the job’s details, payment, timeframe and so on. I will hear him out and make my decision then.”
“I’m alright with that, of course. Though I’d like to finish it quickly, it can wait a day or two.”
“Then, please allow my friends from Swords of Darkness to be present during the job briefing… no, I should say, if the negotiations fall through, I would like the privilege of carrying out my previous task first.”
“Eh? Momon-san, is it all right for us to come with you?”
“Of course. I hope you will be party to the discussion and provide your opinions.”
After the Swords of Darkness gave their approval, Ainz and company returned to the room from just now.
He felt very busy.
Once more, Ainz smiled bitterly and took his seat from just now. Narberal sat beside him, while the boy was one seat away from them. The Swords of Darkness went back to their previous places.
The first to speak among them was, of course, the boy:
“The receptionist mentioned it earlier, but I think it would be best if I introduced myself. I am Nfirea Bareare, and I work as a herbalist in this city. As for the details of the job, I will soon be heading into the nearby forest as planned. Since everyone knows the forest is dangerous, I was hoping that you could be my guardians, as well as helping to harvest herbs if possible.”
“Bodyguarding, huh. I see.”
Ainz nodded calmly. He had the feeling that this job would be a troublesome one.
Ainz knew he was powerful, and he could probably exterminate any attacking monster when working with Narberal. However, he was not as confident when it came to carrying out an escort mission. This was because Ainz and Narberal were both magic casters, and lacked the specialized magic and skills needed to become shields for other people.
“Compared to the usual amount, the payment will be—”
“—Please hold on a moment. The task of bodyguarding suits you well. Then, Peter-san, would you like me to take you on instead?”
“If it’s a job that involves bodyguarding and harvesting herbs, don’t you think we’d be more effective with Lukrut-san the ranger and Dyne-san the druid?”
“Oh! Good eye, Momon-shi. As a druid, I can show my true ability in the forest, perhaps even more so than Lukrut the ranger.”
Dyne’s baritone seemed to carry an undercurrent of pride. Lukrut was not happy and said:
“Dyne-san, you really went and said it, huh.”
“It’s an undeniable truth, given the abilities of druids! And don’t forget that I’m trained in herbalism too!”
“Hmph — Peter, I’m fine too. I’ll show you who’s the better of us, between Druid-san and myself.”
“I’ll take that to be agreement, then. If we see any monsters on the way, we’ll kill them and claim the reward when we get back to town. As for Bareare-san’s payment, what if we divided it equally, Peter-san?”
“If you’re fine with it, then I have no objections, Momon-san.”
“Bareare-san, sorry for the wait. If it’s alright with you, could you permit everyone here to accept the job that you just offered?”
“I don’t mind that. Then, I’ll be counting on all of you. Ah, you can just call me Nfirea.”
Ainz and the others began introducing themselves to Nfirea. Although Narberal lashed Lukrut with her sharptongue, they managed to successfully complete their self-introductions.
“Then, what I’ve done in the past is to proceed to Carne Village to set up a base of operations before venturing into the forest.The amount of time we’ll spend depends on the herbs that we can gather, but it will be three days at the latest. In the past, it’s been a couple of days on average.”
“Will we be walking there?”
“Ah, yes. There will be a horse cart, but it’ll be full of pots and bottles for gathering herbs, so there’s not much room for you to ride.”
“Can we replenish our rations in Carne Village?”
“Water should be fine, but food might be a problem, because Carne Village isn’t very big.”
The Swords of Darkness began discussing the preparations for the journey, as well as asking Nfirea several questions. As Ainz saw this, he decided to speak up as well:
“May I ask a few questions?”
After seeing Nfirea smile and nod in reply, Ainz began with the first question.
“Why me? I’ve only arrived in this city by carriage recently, and as such I have no friends here, nor am I renowned in this area. That being the case, why did you ask for me? In addition, you mentioned that you’ve done this in the past, which implies that in the past you’ve hired other adventurers. How about them?”
Ainz’s gaze was keen under his helmet.
He did not know why the boy had called him out. If he had been exposed, then he would need to change his disguise and his approach to things.
Ainz studied Nfirea closely — though he could not see his eyes, due to the hair concealing them — but he could not tell what the boy truly wanted.
Could it be that he was overthinking this? Just as Ainz was beginning to get suspicious, Nfirea replied:
“Ah, the adventurers I hired in the past have all left E-Rantel for another city. That’s why I was looking for new adventurers. Also, actually… I heard about what happened in the inn from one of its guests.”
“What happened in the inn?”
“Yes, I heard that someone effortlessly threw an adventurer one rank higher than himself...”
Ainz had planned to use a show of strength to increase his renown. Had this boy taken the bait? Once more, as suspicion welled up in Ainz, Nfirea smiled and pointed to the plate on Ainz’s breastplate.
“Plus, copper-ranked adventurers are cheaper, right? Hopefully we’ll get along for a while yet.”
“Haha, I do hope so.”
Ainz understood how it was like to hire an untested rookie. He slowly felt himself lowering his guard, but there was one thing that worried him. If that really happened —
As Ainz thought about this, the other were asking questions one by one, which Nfirea took in stride. After there were no more questions, Nfirea announced:
“Then, let’s move out once we’re ready!”
In the dead of night, a hooded person entered the giant graveyard of E-Rantel, with steps that made it seem as though it were gliding across the ground.
The person’s hooded, jet-black cape and the way its waist and shoulders did not move up and down as it advanced was quite peculiar, resembling a ghost when viewed from afar.
The figure deftly avoided the magical illumination of the tomb and proceeded ever inward.
Before long, the figure arrived at a mausoleum, and shed its hood.
The figure was a young woman of around 20, in the flower of her youth.
She had a pretty face, and she was cute in the way of a kitten or other small animal. Still, while she looked adorable, there was a carnivore’s predatory nature hidden under that face of hers.
As she spoke in playful tones, the girl ran her fingers through her short blonde hair and pushed open the stone doors to the mausoleum. The noises of clattering metal came from under her cloak, like the sound of chain mail.
Once inside the mausoleum, all the slabs for corpses were empty. The grave goods for the deceased had already been taken away.
Perhaps it was the scent of all the incense absorbed by the stone, but a fragrant smell tickled the girl’s nose.
The girl furrowed her brows, then headed steadily inwards.
“Hm hm hm — hm~”
The girl pressed on an unobtrusive little carving as she hummed. As the carving moved, there was a click as something made contact with something else. A moment later, the sound of grinding came forth. The slabs slowly moved aside, and a path leading downstairs appeared.
“I’m coming in~”
With those sing-song words, the girl descended the staircase. It curved halfway, and led to a wide open space beneath the earth.
Although the walls and floor were made of mud, it looked like it had been worked, so it would probably not collapse so easily. The air was relatively clean; the airflow to this place was good, which kept the air in here fresh.
However, this was not part of the graveyard; it was something far more malevolent in nature.
Menacing tapestries hung on the walls, with several crimson candles made from fresh blood below it. They gave off a pale radiance, as well as a smell of burning blood.
The flickering flames generated countless shadows, and there were several holes here, big enough for people to pass through. The unique corpse-stench of low-tier undead wafted out from those holes.
The girl looked around, and her eyes stopped on a certain place.
“Ah~ creepy guy who’s hiding in a corner, you’ve got a guest~”
The man watching his surroundings from his hiding place in the dark corners of the room heard those words, and his shoulders trembled.
“Hi~ I’m here to meet Khazi-chan who’s supposed to be here, is he~?”
The man seemed a little lost as to what to do, and as he heard the sound of footsteps again, his shoulders shook once more.
“It’s fine. You may leave now.”
After the newcomer spoke to the man, he revealed himself.
He was a skinny man.
His eyes were sunken in, and his face was a corpse-like pale white, which could be summarized in the word “lifeless”. His scalp was bereft of any hair, nor were there any eyebrows, eyelashes, or any body hair at all. He gave the impression that he was completely hairless.
Given that, there was no way to tell his age at all, but since there were no wrinkles on his skin, he probably was not that old.
The man was dressed in a dark red robe that was the color of dried blood, and wore a necklace made of the skulls of small animals. His hands were so shrivelled that they resembled claws, and his fingers — tipped with dirty yellow fingernails — were wrapped around a black staff. Rather than a human, he looked more like an undead monster.
The man frowned as he heard the girl’s playful greeting.
“Can you not address me like that? It’ll damage the reputation of Zuranon.”
They were a powerful and evil secret society, counting several veteran magic casters among their number and led by a wise leader. After orchestrating several tragedies, they had become enemies of the countries in the region.
The fact that the girl did not wish to change the way she addressed him made the man frown even more.
“...And then? Why did you come here? You know I’m infusing energy into the Orb of Death, right? If you’re here to make trouble, I have ways to deal with that too.”
The man narrowed his eyes, and tightened his grip on his staff.
“Nooooo, Khazi-chan~ I just came here to bring you this~”
The girl flashed him a coquettish smile and reached around under her cape. There was the sound of clattering, and then the girl triumphantly produced the item she had been looking for.
It was a circlet.
Countless small gems adorned thin, metallic threads, looking for all the world like a spiderweb covered in water droplets. The item was exquisitely made, and in the middle of the circlet — where the wearer’s forehead would go — was a large black crystal.
The man could not help but stare in silence.
Although he had only seen it from a distance, there was no mistake here. This was the crown he had seen once before.
“The symbol of a Miko Princess, the Crown of Wisdom! This is one of the treasures of the Slaine Theocracy!”
“Correct~ I saw a cute girl wearing this strange crown, but it looked so wrong on her head that I took it off~ And then I was sooooo surprised! She went mad~ peeing and crapping herself~”
The girl convulsed in laughter.
The Miko Princesses stood at the heart of the Slaine Theocracy’s rituals. There was no way that she — as a former member of the Black Scripture — would not know what would happen when she snatched the Crown of Wisdom away from its bearer.
After all, when the time came for a new Miko Princess to be appointed, the job of the Black Scripture was to remove the Crown from its current wearer, and then promptly send the now-insane Miko Princess to be with the gods.
“Still, it can’t be helped. It’s the only way to obtain this — it’s the fault of the person who made the Crown, he’s the one to blame~”
There was no way to safely remove the Crown of Wisdom. The only option was to destroy it.
However, the Crown would delete the wearer’s personality and turn a human being into a magic item that could use incredibly high-tiered spells, so nobody would do anything wasteful like destroying it.
Still, there were such madmen around.
“Hmph, to think you’d betray the Black Scripture for such trash. Why not steal one of the divine artifacts of the Six Gods?”
“Calling it trash is too mean~”
The man laughed at the girl who puffed up her face.
“Nothing wrong with calling it trash, right? Girls who can wear an item like this are one in a million. Finding a wearer for this would probably be impossible, even in the Slaine Theocracy.”
The Slaine Theocracy was the only one in the surrounding countries that kept detailed registers and genealogies of its citizens. Therefore, by consulting those registers, one could easily find a wearer for the item — in other words, a sacrifice.
Without that, it would be hard for even Zuranon to find such a person.
“But really now, it’s impossible to get those artifacts~ After all, that antique show is guarded by the strongest monster of the Black Scripture, that ancient beast with the blood of the Six Gods that’s beyond the realm of humanity~”
“A God-Kin, huh… Is that fellow really that strong? I’ve only heard about it from you.”
“It’s stronger than the idea of strength. The relevant information has been sealed up, which is why you don’t know~ If someone who knew about it was interrogated with mind-affecting magic, it would be really bad. I’ve heard that it the secret got out, it’d lead to total war with the surviving true Dragon Lords, which means the Slaine Theocracy would get destroyed in the crossfire, so I hope you’ll pretend you never heard any of it~”
“...I find that hard to believe.”
“Well, anyone who hasn’t seen that power would think so~ Well then, let’s get down to business, Khazit Dale Badantel — are you willing to help me out as a fellow member of the Twelve Executives?”
The girl’s tone finally changed.
“Oh, showing your true face at last, oh fragment of Quintia? But don’t call me Dale. I’ve cast away that baptismal name.”
“...Then, don’t call me a fragment of Quintia, hm? Call me Clementine.”
“...Clementine, what do you want me to help you with?”
“There’s a pretty outstanding talent holder in this town, no? Maybe that guy could wear this item~”
“...I see, that guy from the stories. Still, you could easily handle the task of kidnapping a single human being by yourself, no?”
“Mm, that’s right~ But I’d like some sort of confusion while I make my move~”
“I see… a distraction while you flee, huh…”
“What about it? What if I was willing to help with your ritual? It’s a good deal, right~?”
The man — Khazit — narrowed his eyes, and smiled evilly:
“Wonderful, Clementine. If you’re willing to help me, I can carry out the rite of death. Very well, I shall aid you with all the resources at my disposal.”