Wise King of the Forest
Clementine stormed back to Khazit’s hideout — the secret shrine under E-Rantel’s graveyard. Her strides were wild and forceful, her brows were furrowed, and her mouth was twisted. Her pretty features were distorted into something which could only have been described with the word “ugly”.
That said, her true nature was probably more grotesque than that face.
Khazit muttered to himself as he guided a newly-created Zombie over to the undead storage area.
“Oh~ A new Zombie? That’s over 150 now, the Orb of Death is quite extraordinary~”
The number of undead that could be controlled by the 3rd-tier spell [Create Undead] was limited by the power of the spell’s caster. The more undead one made, the fewer one could control. Still, Zombies were among the lowest grade of undead. Someone like Khazit, who was specialized in controlling the undead, could maintain his hold over the unbelievable amount of over a hundred of them at once. The reason Khazit could control more than even that number was due to the power of the item he carried — the Orb of Death.
“It’s all because you’ve been fooling around so much.”
There was not even the slightest hint of remorse on Clementine’s face as she apologized.
“Still~ it’s their fault for dying so soon~ couldn’t they hold on a little longer—?”
“…When you bash them like that, it’s no wonder they’d die…”
“Adventurers wouldn’t die so easily~”
“They weren’t adventurers, just ordinary civilians… Clementine, do you like spouting obvious things to waste time?”
“Yesyesyes~ I’m sorry, it won’t happen again, please forgive me~”
Khazit clicked his tongue.
“As if I could believe that. In any case, stop going after people.”
Her flighty response made Khazit furrow his brows. Still, there was no point going on about it, so he decided not to continue lecturing her. He tried to express his displeasure with the wrinkles of his frown, but as expected, she ignored it.
“Buuut~ I’m so booooooored — speaking of which, where is he, anyway?”
“Has he not returned yet?”
“Not yet. I missed him — since it’s hard to get a hold of him, what about grabbing that granny instead~?”
“Stop that. That old woman is a 3rd-tier magic caster and a famous person in this city, so don’t look down on her. If you move carelessly against her, you might find yourself in too deep to dig yourself out.”
Khazit reached into his robes, and withdrew a jet-black gemstone.
“…Clementine, I’ve spent several years preparing to turn this place into a city of the dead. I don’t want your pointless antics to set my plans back. If you continue making trouble… I’ll kill you.”
“…It’s called the Death Spiral, right?”
“Indeed. It’s the rite our leader is conducting.”
In places where the undead gathered, more powerful undead were born. When these more powerful undead gathered, even more powerful undead would appear. The magic rite which made use of this property was like a spiral, constantly spawning ever more powerful undead beings. It was potent enough to destroy an entire city, so it was known as the “Death Spiral”.
This wicked ritual had been conducted in the past, and it had turned a metropolis into a city of the dead where the undead roamed free.
Khazit’s aim was to turn E-Rantel into another such dead city. He would turn himself into an undead being by harnessing the necromantic energies from such a place.
He had made extensive preparations to achieve his aim. He would not let this woman who had showed up just a few days ago ruin his plans.
Khazit saw through Clementine’s adorably puffed-up cheeks. Her expression was one of cruel malice. In that moment, Clementine surged forward like a killing storm.
She closed the distance between them in an instant, and struck like lightning. The sharp blade in her hand gleamed lethally as it flashed toward Khazit’s throat —
♦ ♦ ♦
The small blade Clementine thrust forth was a piercing weapon known as a stiletto.
There was little variation in the ways one could attack with a piercing weapon, so they were not easy to use. However, Clementine favored such weapons, and she had trained her body ceaselessly, selected the best equipment, and learned the right martial arts, all in order to kill in a single blow.
This technique of hers, honed and refined through countless battles with humans and monsters, was on a level where no normal person could defend against it.
Clementine was naturally gifted with physical abilities which exceeded those of normal human beings. On top of that, she had spent her life training and practicing her combat skills, so it was only natural that she should be able to fight at such a level.
However, her target was not a normal person.
Khazit — one of the 12 high disciples who were the pride of Zuranon — could not be killed so easily.
♦ ♦ ♦
— And a wall-like white object which erupted from the ground and intercepted the unavoidable, razor-sharp blade. It was a gigantic hand made of countless human bones, covered in hooks which called to mind the image of maggots.
The hooks writhed, and the earth around them shattered. Under Khazit’s mental control, a giant creature began revealing itself.
She could sense a powerful undead creature beneath Khazit’s feet. The smug Khazit turned toward Clementine and said:
“What a waste of time. Because of you, I was distracted for a moment and lost control of the other undead.”
“Tehe~ Sorry ‘bout that~ But I wasn’t going all out either. You had to pull out all the stops to barely block it, right?”
“That’s nonsense and you know it, Clementine. You’re not the sort to hold back.”
“Uwah~ you saw through me~ Mm, if you hadn’t blocked it, your shoulder would have been stabbed through. Butbut, I never intended to kill you — Really~”
Khazit frowned again as he saw the hateful smile on the woman before him.
“Still, if it was me, I could beat that chap — maybe magic casters couldn’t win, but as a warrior, I could defeat it handily. I’m just not too used to bludgeoning-type weapons—”
“…Your specialization in one-hit kills might make you strong against the living, but what will you do against the undead which lack biological processes? And do you really think ‘that chap’ is the last card I have to play?”
“Mmm~ that’s also true~”
Clementine glanced toward the entrance. She seemed to have noticed the undead controlled by Khazit, who were waiting there for his orders.
“I think I could win… but if I draw out the fight I’ll probably lose~ Tehe~, sorry, Khazi-chan.”
Clementine returned her stilettos under her cloak, and the rumbling from the earth ceased.
“Buuuut~ that’s a specialized undead controller for you~ Well done!”
With that, Clementine turned and left.
“Ah, yes, yes, I won’t touch that granny until the end. I won’t go hunting people either. That should be okay, right?”
Khazit did not release the power he was holding until Clementine left. He continued holding on to it even after her shadow was gone from his underground shrine.
“What a bad personality,” Khazit spat.
He had his own flaws, but he was not nearly as bad as Clementine.
“Even though she’s so skilled… no, it’s because she’s so skilled that she’s so twisted.”
Clementine was strong, and even among the 12 executives of the secret society Zuranon, only three of them could beat her. Sadly, Khazit was not one of them. Even with the magic item in his hand, he only had around a 30% chance of success.
“The former 9th Seat of the Black Scripture… deranged individuals with the power of heroes are hard to deal with.”
♦ ♦ ♦
“So that’s what happened.”
Nfirea sighed deeply, and mumbled to himself.
Nfirea had been close to Enri’s parents. They were great parents, and one might even envy the amount of love they lavished on their daughters. Nfirea had lost his parents at a young age and only had murky impressions of them. Therefore, when he thought of an outstanding father and mother, Nfirea immediately thought of Enri’s parents.
He was filled with rage when he heard that her parents had been killed by the Imperial knight impostors, and all he could think when he learned that they had been slaughtered in turn was “serves them right”. He was also somewhat angry at the higher-ups in E-Rantel, who refused to send soldiers over.
However, he felt something was wrong about him displaying this anger, when Enri — for whom that anger was far more justified — had set those feelings aside.
He looked at Enri, her eyes brimming with tears. As he wondered whether he should try to comfort her, Enri wiped her tears away and smiled:
“I still have a little sister. I can’t lose myself in sadness forever.”
Nfirea was halfway off his chair, and now he sat down again. Having lost the chance to console her, he felt like he had wasted an opportunity and was ashamed of his own uselessness.
Even so — his desire to protect her had not changed. After a brief pause, Nfirea made up his mind. He would not let anyone other than himself sit beside Enri, even if that person was a powerful being who could protect her.
He felt a little anxious, but while he was riding on this surge of emotion, Nfirea decided that he would share the feelings he had had ever since he came to this village for the first time, as a child.
His throat seemed to have clamped shut. Come on, say it! Although he desperately wanted to speak, the words stuck in his throat and refused to leave.
Both Enri and Nfirea were at an age where it would not be unusual for them to be married. In addition, due to his income as a herbalist, Nfirea had enough money to support Enri and her little sister.
I could probably provide for a child too…
The image of the family he wanted to make appeared in his mind — but he immediately waved away his runaway imagination. The knowledge that Enri was looking at him in surprise made him even more nervous.
His mouth opened, and then closed.
I like you.
I love you.
But the words refused to leave his lips, because he was afraid of hearing her reject him.
Then, what else could he say to shorten the distance between them?
The city’s safer, do you want to live with me? I’ll take care of you and your little sister. If you want to work, you can help in Granny’s shop.
If you feel uneasy about the city, I’ll do my best to help you.
He should say that. The chances of those words being rejected would be a lot lower than a confession of love.
“Wh-what happened, Nfirea?”
Enri jumped as Nfirea loudly called her name. He began to speak:
“—If, if, if you’ve got any problems, let me know. I’ll do whatever I can to help you!”
“Thank you… You’re such a good friend that it’s almost wasted on me, Nfirea!”
“Ah, ah, er… it, it’s fine, we’ve known each other for so long, after all.”
Nfirea was unable to say anything else in the face of Enri’s beaming smile. He cursed himself for his uselessness, but at the same time he fondly reflected on how cute Enri was, and of the times he had spent talking with her.
Just as it seemed the matter was at an end, Nfirea asked a question:
“Come to think of it, what’s up with those Goblins?”
Those Goblins called Enri their “Ane-san”. In addition, those Goblins all looked like the ones they had encountered on the road to Carne; they had the air of veteran warriors. It was even more surprising to see a magic caster in the village. When and where had these Goblins encountered a simple village girl like Enri, and what sort of relationship did she have with them?
Enri simply replied:
“They appeared after I used a magic item given to us by our village’s savior, Ainz Ooal Gown. They follow my orders.”
Enri’s eyes were like twin sparkling stars as she said that name. It made Nfirea feel bitter inside.
Ainz Ooal Gown.
Enri had already mentioned this name several times since they started talking.
When Carne Village was attacked by mysterious men dressed as Imperial knights, a magic caster who was passing by saved the village with his tremendous might, returning peace to the village. He was Enri’s savior, and someone that Nfirea should have thanked.
However, the look on Enri’s face made it difficult for him to thank him in earnest.
He could understand how Enri felt when she mentioned her messiah, but at the same time, jealousy welled up at the bottom of his heart. He was filled with his one-sided love for Enri, and by his competitive spirit as a man. Influenced by these emotions, his emotions turned ugly.
Nfirea thrust these feelings aside, and turned his thoughts to the magic item of which Enri had spoken.
It was a magic item which summoned Goblins, called the “Horn of the Goblin Whatever”.
The magic caster who had saved her village had explained what sort of horn it was, but because her mind was too confused back then, her memory was hazy.
Nfirea felt it was a little strange.
He had no idea what sort of magic item it was, but she should not have forgotten about it. Nobody should have forgotten the details of a magic item with special abilities once they were told about them.
Still, there were many magic items which could summon creatures, just as there were many summoning spells in magic. Any monsters summoned with those spells would vanish after a while.
Summoned monsters were not creatures which could persist for a long time.
If that item could do that, it might well overturn all of magical history and theory to date.
How valuable was a magic item which could accomplish such a feat? Enri did not seem to have realized its value, but if she sold it, she could probably live comfortably for the rest of her life.
Enri had used this rare and precious item because she did not want blood to flow in the village once more.
Nfirea felt that this line of thinking was very much her style. Thus, the Goblins she had summoned called her Ane-san, followed her orders, and in addition to protecting the village they even helped in the fields. Apparently, they were even teaching the villagers how to use bows, and how to defend themselves. As a result, the village had gained several odd new residents.
Part of the reason why the village could accept the Goblins was because the knights who had attacked the villagers had been human beings like them. This had made them distrust human beings, and thus they could more easily accept the Goblins’ help.
Another big reason was because the one who bestowed this item on them was the magic caster that had saved the village.
“So, he was called Ainz Ooal Gown? What sort of man is he like? I’d like to thank him myself.”
Nfirea knew nothing about the name Ainz Ooal Gown. Besides, Enri had not seen his face under his mask, so she had no idea who he was either. Still, anyone who could casually give away precious items like those horns had to be someone important. If she had seen his face, she would not have forgotten it easily. After he told her that line of reasoning, a look of disappointment appeared on her face.
“Is that so… I was thinking you would know him, Nfirea…”
Enri’s reply made Nfirea’s heart pound violently, and sweatdrops bloomed uncomfortably on his back.
…Looks aside, he’d be a hit just going by his strength alone.
The words from last night appeared in Nfirea’s mind, and he began to pant and breathe heavily.
Forcing down the uneasiness in his heart, Nfirea asked:
“En-Enri, what, what will you do when you see that Gown fellow?”
“Hm? Mm, I’d like to thank him properly. The village came together with the idea of building a little copper statue for him because he saved us, and I need to show my gratitude too…”
After sensing that the answer did not contain any hints of affection which frightened him, Nfirea breathed a sigh of relief, and let his tensed shoulders relax.
“Ah. Is that so. Mm… hoo. Yes, of course you need to thank him. If you noticed any special features, or if he reminded you of someone, maybe it would narrow down the field… right, do you know what sort of magic he used?”
“Ah, magic, huh. It, it was really amazing. The was a flash of lightning and the knight went down in one hit.”
“Lightning, huh… did you hear him say [Lightning] or something?”
Enri’s eyes looked to the sky, and then she nodded deeply.
“Mm! …I think I heard him say that. Although it seemed like there was more to it than that…”
After hearing Enri trail off into mumbling, Nfirea concluded that this Gown fellow must have said something before casting his spell.
“If that’s the case… it should be magic of the 3rd tier.”
“…Magic of the 3rd tier… is that very amazing?”
“Of course it is! I can only use 2nd-tier magic myself. 3rd-tier of the magic is the limit for normal people. Only talent-holders can use magic beyond that.”
“I knew it! Gown-san is really amazing!”
Enri respectfully nodded. However, Nfirea did not think the magic caster called Ainz was limited to 3rd-tier spells. Given that he was a person who could nonchalantly give away those magic items, he might be able to use 5th-tier spells, which were the domain of heroes.
Why would such a great person come to a village like this?
A confused Nfirea tilted his head to the side, but then Enri dropped a bombshell which immediately blew all his doubts away.
“In addition, he gave me a red potion too—”
Nfirea recalled part of a conversation from earlier:
♦ ♦ ♦
“Then, what if I paid you, and you told me more about the person who gave you that potion?”
The warrior named Britta did not seem happy about that request:
“And why do you want to know?”
“Of course it’s to find clues to lead me to that mysterious man in full plate armor. If we get in his good graces, he might tell us where he got those potions from, right? He might let something slip by accident, so if he’s an adventurer, I want to hire him for a job. How about it, Nfirea?”
♦ ♦ ♦
That was the reason Nfirea had asked for Momon by name.
Nfirea’s plan was to winkle out information about the potion by deepening his friendship with Momon. In addition, if they went to pick herbs in the forest together, Momon might accidentally reveal something.
Nfirea tried to hide the excitement in his heart, and in the same calm voice from before he asked Enri:
“Hm, what kind of potion was it like?”
“You know I’m a herbalist, of course I’d be interested in potions.”
“Ahhh, that’s right! Making these things is your job.”
Enri told Nfirea everything she knew about the magic caster and the potion he had given her. She mentioned the name Ainz Ooal Gown’s wondrous deeds several times during her account. The Nfirea from just now might have been filled with jealousy, but at the moment, his mind was pondering other matters.
He put all this information together, and after peeling back several layers of mystery, the hidden truth was revealed.
It was very likely that the potion which had appeared in E-Rantel and which Enri had drunk were one and the same. It was also apparent that a pair of adventurers had appeared in both those places, a magic caster and a warrior in black full plate.
There could only be one answer, yet there were two people who could be candidates for being Ainz Ooal Gown. From what Enri had said, he could conclude that Ainz was a man, but he decided to ask again just to be sure.
“…Could that Ainz Ooal Gown person be… a woman?”
“Eh? I don’t think so? I didn’t see his face, but his voice was a man’s.”
By itself, this was not proof that Ainz was a male. After all, there were spells and magic items which could change voices. It seemed strange to think that Nabe = Ainz Ooal Gown. The merciless and occasionally naive Nabe seemed completely different from the wise, benign and righteous Ainz. It was clearly too much of a stretch to think of her as Ainz.
“The person in the black full plate armor was called Albedo, I think.”
“Is, is that so…”
He remembered the name from when Nabe had said it.
The answer was clear.
Ainz Ooal Gown = Momon.
From that, he could draw a startling revelation.
The magic caster who had saved the village was also a fearsome warrior. Although there were some warriors with magical training, for the most part, one would cancel out the good points of the other. In a similar vein, arcane magic casters could not cast spells while wearing the heavy equipment which most warriors favored.
So he was a magic caster of the 3rd tier, as well as a swordsman on par with an adamantite-ranked adventurer.
This must be some kind of joke. If someone like that truly existed, he would be a hero among heroes.
Still, why had he asked so many questions on the road?
The most logical answer was that he was a magic caster who had learned his art in another country and was not sure about this one. That being the case, it made sense that he would possess potions from another land, whose means of manufacture was completely unknown.
After learning this piece of priceless information, his breathing became irregular, and he could not calm himself down even though he knew Enri was staring at him.
His heart was filled with complex emotions.
Ainz had saved Enri and given away potions. In comparison, Nfirea was a miserable little man who tried to get into Momon’s good graces, in order to learn how he made those potions, and knowing this shamed him.
It was only natural that Enri would fall for someone like Momon.
As he thought about this, he could not help but sigh heavily.
“Are, are you all right? You don’t look too good.”
“Mm, mm. I’m okay, I was just thinking about something…”
Perhaps he could try to stave off his feelings of guilt by thinking that he wanted to learn the secret of that potion in order to save people. However, that hardly seemed convincing, given that he had wanted to learn how to make those potions in his capacity as a herbalist.
A mighty warrior who was also an excellent magic caster, accompanied by a beautiful woman, who possessed unknown potions, a righteous man that saved an innocent village girl from danger… and himself.
Nfirea considered the distance between himself and Ainz Ooal Gown — no, Momon, and fell into despair.
“What’s wrong? You seem strange…?”
“Ah, mm. It’s nothing.”
Nfirea suppressed a sigh and smiled weakly. However, he was not confident he could make it look natural, and Enri’s expression showed that she had seen through his fake smile.
“…What should I do? Enri, you don’t like people who hide things from you, right?”
“…Everyone has something they’d want to hide when brought before the gods, especially things which would hurt others if spoken. But it’s a different matter if hiding those things would hurt others… Nfirea, I won’t hate you for it, but if you’ve committed any crimes, you need to confess your sins to the magistrate!”
“…No, I did nothing wrong.”
“Yes… mm! Like I was saying! How could you do a bad thing, Nfirea? I believe in you!”
As he looked at the giggling Enri, Nfirea let the tension flow out of his shoulders.
“Mm, but still, thank you. For some strange reason, I feel the weight lifting off my shoulders. I’ll work hard to catch up with him.”
So that I can raise my head before you and say that I like you and that I love you.
Enri, who had no idea what Nfirea’s impassioned declaration and his previous words meant, simply smiled and nodded politely.
Ainz looked over to a certain part of the village, sighing as he did.
There, he saw several villagers lined up in a row. There were men, women and children of all ages. He could see a motherly-looking 40 year old woman as well as teenagers. The one thing they had in common was the stern look on their faces, which might even be mistaken for hostility. It was a clear sign that nobody here was in the mood to play around.
A Goblin with a bow addressed the villagers.
Even Ainz’s heightened sense of hearing could not make out his words over the great distance.
After a while, the line of villagers slowly raised their bows. They were simple, shabby shortbows which looked warped and were probably self-made.
After drawing their bows all the way back, they took aim at the strawmen some distance away.
The Goblin must have given an order, because the villagers loosed as one.
The bows looked crude, but the arrows they launched flew in beautiful trajectories. All of them struck the straw men, without a single miss.
Ainz could not help but praise them.
“Are they really that good?”
Narberal, standing behind Ainz, could not help but express her doubt.
In all likelihood, Narberal could not understand why their skills were praiseworthy. After all, they were like children at play compared to the archers of the Great Tomb of Nazarick.
As he realised what Narberal was thinking, a bitter smile bloomed on Ainz’s illusionary face under his helmet.
“You’re right, Narberal. Their technique is hardly something to get excited over. However, ten days ago, they did not even know how to use a bow. In order to prevent their spouses, children and parents from being slain once more, they threw themselves into training, so that they could one day stand with weapons in hand to fight. Is that not worthy of praise?”
What was truly praiseworthy was the depths of the villagers’ hate, which had brought them this far.
“My, my deepest apologies. I had not thought that far.”
“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it so much, Nabe. It’s true that their skills aren’t really that impressive.”
Ainz watched as more arrows sailed through the air and penetrated the strawmen. An idea suddenly came to mind.
How strong could they become? How strong could he become?
Ainz had attained the maximum level in YGGDRASIL, level 100. When he came to the world, his excess XP bar was around 90% full. It was just a hunch, but since his other abilities were intact, the concept of levels should exist in this world as well. The question now was whether he could obtain that remaining 10% of the experience bar and reach level 101.
To some extent, he had an answer to this question.
He could not become stronger. This was as powerful as he was going to get.
Ainz’s might was one which could no longer grow, but their weakness could be an unfathomable source of strength.
If there were no limits on the inhabitants of this world, if they could surpass the maximum level of 100 in YGGDRASIL, then Ainz and the vassals of the Great Tomb of Nazarick would not be able to defeat them.
And that would definitely—
“It’s not impossible…”
Ainz felt it was possible that the Six Gods who appeared in the Slaine Theocracy 600 years ago were actually players. Although he did not know why they had appeared so far apart from Ainz, if they counted heteromorphic beings — which had no maximum lifespan — among their number or if they possessed classes which extended their lifespans, there was a very high chance that they had survived to the present day.
If the Six Gods were still hiding in the Slaine Theocracy, and if they had begun powerleveling others using the power of the Six Gods — i.e. helping them with the abilities of powerful players in order to gain experience faster than normal — from 600 years ago, it might well be possible that there were people in excess of level 100.
If that were the case, the reason why the Theocracy had not yet taken over the world might be because there were other beings of the same calibre lying in wait. It might even be the case that being level 100 meant nothing.
As he thought about that, Ainz’s nonexistent gut began cramping up again.
If the Six Gods really were players, then he had to try and get on their good side while he lacked information about this world. According to the members of the Sunlight Scripture, the Imperial knights attacking this village were imposters from the Theocracy, which meant that saving this village was making an enemy of them.
“Was helping them a mistake…”
As he had surmised, gathering more information was a top priority.
Just as Ainz was absentmindedly pondering these matters, he noticed a teenager running over to him. The hair which normally obscured his eyes swayed from side to side, and he could see a pair of eyes fixed intently on himself.
Ainz immediately had a bad feeling about Nfirea. It looked like the same panic the village chief had from earlier.
“Why the rush? Did an emergency crop up again? This village is really…”
Nfirea reached the mumbling Ainz.
He was panting heavily and his forehead was slick with sweat. His hair, stuck to his skin by his perspiration, revealed a serious expression which was directed at Ainz and Narberal.
Nfirea seemed a little hesitant and unsure of whether to speak. In the end, he gathered up his determination and asked Ainz:
“Momon-san, are you Ainz Ooal Gown-san?”
The sudden question left Ainz dumbfounded. He should have denied it immediately.
But could he do that? It was a name made together with his friends. Now that he had used it as his own, could he deny it so easily?
This brief hesitation was an unspoken admission, and Nfirea continued:
“So it was you, Gown-san. Thank you for saving this village, as well as saving Enri.”
As Ainz looked on the bowing Nfirea, he quietly replied, “No… I…”
After hearing the words Ainz managed to squeeze out, Nfirea nodded in understanding.
“Yes. I understand why you might want to go by a different name, but still, I have to thank you for saving this village — for saving Enri, the girl whom I like.”
Ainz did not reply to the deeply bowing Nfirea. While part of him, the middle-aged uncle part, was musing that the words “the girl whom I like” were really a youthful thing, another part of him was reminiscing nostalgically about things past, and at the same time he thought about other, more important things.
“Ah… that’s enough… raise your head.”
This answer was a tacit admission that he was in fact Ainz Ooal Gown, but no matter how he tried to get out of this, there was no way he could deny Nfirea’s conclusion. This was a complete defeat for Ainz.
“Yes, Gown-san. The truth is… I’ve been hiding something from you.”
“…Come with me. Nabe, stay here and wait for instructions.”
After giving Narberal her orders, Ainz brought Nfirea to a place some distance away. This was to keep Narberal from overreacting if she heard something odd.
Once they had gone far enough away from Narberal, Ainz turned to face Nfirea.
Nfirea swallowed nervously, but the look on his face was full of determination.
“Gown-san, the potion which you gave that lady in the inn cannot be made by normal methods and is extremely rare. I wanted to know what sort of person would have such a potion and what kind of methods would produce such a potion, which was why I requested this job. I am very sorry about that.”
“Ah, so that’s what it was.”
As he thought, it had been a mistake.
Ainz had given the healing potion to Enri in this village, and to someone else in E-Rantel. Because of that, his identity had been exposed. In addition—
…Maybe I should have taken back that potion. If I’d gotten that woman adventurer’s name as well it would have been fine… although, there’s no point regretting it now.
At the time, Ainz felt that giving her that potion was the best course of action.
That woman had said, “Well, seeing as you’re dressed in such a flashy suit of armor, surely you must have some healing potions, right?” Perhaps she had not thought about those words before speaking them, but the fact was that they greatly limited the ways in which Ainz could have responded.
For instance, one might see a person getting out of an expensive car. Upon seeing that person’s opulent, almost decadent clothing and appearance, they would assume that the car matched their background. But what if that person dressed shabbily? People watching might then think that person had spent all their money on the car. They might even laugh at him.
Ainz wanted to avoid that sort of situation.
If he had refused on the spot, people might have become jealous of his beautiful companion Narberal, as well as his own full plate armor. They might even have begun spreading malicious rumors about him. Such rumors were a thing that followed one for life after they appeared, and people would bring them up constantly.
Ainz had come to E-Rantel to build his reputation as an adventurer. As a result, he had to avoid any actions which might damage his public image.
He had given her the potion after considering these factors.
It was a gamble which he had lost, but he did not lament it. This was not a fatal mistake, and all he needed to do was work hard to compensate for it. After all, Ainz was not a perfect being who could do no wrong.
Still, he did not know why Nfirea was apologizing.
“Is there anything to be sorry for?”
“…Well, I can’t say I feel entirely good about someone hiding something from me while smiling and shaking my hand, but then this assignment was designed to build a connection with me, am I correct? What’s wrong with that?”
A deeply puzzled Ainz asked this question from the bottom of his heart.
“Gown-san, you’re really a magnanimous person…”
Ainz had no idea why Nfirea was so impressed by him. Building connections was a basic element of living in society, so there was nothing wrong with what Nfirea had done. He was somewhat confused about the details, but he vaguely understood. Perhaps Nfirea thought that Ainz believed that Nfirea was drawing close to Ainz in order to steal industrial secrets.
“If I told you how to make the potion, what would you do with that knowledge?”
Nfirea gasped in surprise, and after a brief period of thought he answered:
“I had not thought that far ahead. I just wanted to know because I was curious… Granny’s probably the same way too.”
“I see. Then, there’s no problem. If you were planning to exploit it for criminal gain, it would be a different matter, but if not, then it’s fine.”
“You’re really amazing. No wonder… looks at you that way…”
As Nfirea murmured, the wind dried the sweat on his forehead, and his hair fell down to cover his eyes again. Still, Ainz could see a look of admiration in his eyes, like a boy meeting with his favorite baseball player.
Nfirea’s expression reminded Ainz of the look of surprise and immense gratitude on his own face, when his friends had saved him after he had been repeatedly PKed.
For a moment, he felt embarrassed, and then that emotion was damped down.
Ainz was surprised that Nfirea’s attitude could affect his heart, but he immediately calmed himself down and moved on. First, he had to be sure of one thing.
“Speaking of which, are you the only one who knows that I am Ainz?”
“Yes, I didn’t tell anyone else.”
“Is that so, that’s good.”
Saying that, Ainz thought about how to continue speaking with Nfirea, but he had no idea where to begin. In the end, he decided to ask him directly.
“…Right now, I am simply Momon the adventurer. I would be glad if you could keep that in mind.”
“Yes, I thought you’d say something like that. I’m sorry for causing you all this trouble, Momon-san, but I needed to thank you in person. Thank you very much for saving Enri and this village.”
Nfirea delivered his earnest thanks with a sincere look in his eyes.
“There’s no need to stand on ceremony. I was merely righting a wrong where I saw it.”
“Even so, there shouldn’t have been a need to give away those horns.”
The truth was that there was no particular reason behind giving those horns away. However, if that was how Nfirea had interpreted the gift, then he would leave it at that. Ainz said nothing but merely nodded in a magnanimous way.
♦ ♦ ♦
In his capacity as an employer, Nfirea arranged with Ainz to head for the forest in an hour’s time. After thanking him again, he turned and left.
As he watched Nfirea vanish into the distance, Narberal came and bowed before Ainz.
“Ainz-sama, my sincerest apologies!”
“People are watching, raise your head.”
Once she had straightened up, Ainz continued in a barbed tone: “And you’re not wrong to say that. All this was because you mentioned Albedo’s name.”
My exposure here had nothing to do with Albedo’s name, but that was still a big mistake. Might as well scold her for it now and make sure she doesn’t do it again. First, I should forbid her from calling me Ainz… though… I don’t think anyone heard…
“Please allow me to atone with my life!”
That did not sound like a joke at all.
Everyone in the Great Tomb of Nazarick was like this. They considered the members of the guild Ainz Ooal Gown to be their absolute superiors. They took great pride in their loyalty — to the point of death — to these Supreme Beings.
Though it felt like a bit of a burden to Ainz, having his hand-crafted NPCs being loyal to him was not a bad thing. It might well be the fate of any creator.
Narberal was an NPC like that. If he jokingly ordered her to kill herself, she would immediately take her own life. The reason why she had asked for permission at all was because of her absolute loyalty to her master, to whom her life belonged.
“…Enough. Anyone can make mistakes. All you need to do is strive not to make the same mistake twice. Work hard, step by step, and do not repeat your past failures. I forgive you, Narberal Gamma.”
Narberal weighed the desire to pay for her mistakes with death against the loyalty compelling her to obey Ainz’s command not to die. After a while, the balance of her mental scales seemed to have tipped to one side.
Narberal slowly lowered her head.
“My deepest thanks! I will strive not to make the same mistake again!”
“…Well, don’t mind it too much. The name of Momon the adventurer — my undercover identity — was not completely compromised, so you just need to pay more attention in future. However… depending on the circumstances, we may need to eliminate Nfirea…”
“Shall I take care of him now?”
“Don’t be foolish. It would be troublesome if we messed up this assignment.”
Nfirea’s grandmother was a famous herbalist in E-Rantel. Annoying or making an enemy of her would make it more difficult for Ainz to reach his aims.
“In any case… we’ll see how it goes.”
That was all Ainz could think of for the moment.
There was a large clearing in the dense forest about 100 meters from the village. Although that clearing had been made by the villagers cutting down trees — under the protection of the Goblins — in order to make logs, it still looked like the gaping maw of some gigantic beast.
Ainz and the others made their final checks, and then the young man who had hired them spoke up:
“We’ll be entering the forest after this, so I’ll be counting on you to protect me. That said, the area just inside the forest is part of the Wise King of the Forest’s sphere of control, so under normal circumstances, the chances of meeting other monsters are very low. The problem is that the Ogres we met yesterday came from a place near the Wise King of the Forest’s territory, so something must have happened in the woods. Although it’s hardly something that I need to warn you gentlemen about, I hope everyone will remain on guard.”
Nfirea’s gaze rested briefly on Ainz.
The Swords of Darkness turned to look at Ainz as well.
“Well, with you around, we should be fine, Momon-san.”
“…If that monster called the Wise King of the Forest appears, let us hold it back. You should escape first.”
They could not help but gasp as they heard Ainz’s confident pronouncement. He seemed to shine even brighter in their eyes than after yesterday’s battle with the Ogres.
Ainz felt like something was wrong every time the people around him did that. This was a relic of rarely being praised in his past life. He envied the way Narberal could accept their awe so naturally with a smug look on her face.
“If there’s a need to run, could you please leave without delay? If the Wise King of the Forest is strong, I’ll need to face it with my full power, and I don’t want to get everyone caught up in it.”
“Understood. If that happens, we’ll protect Nfirea-san and flee the forest. But don’t push yourself too hard either, Momon-san.”
“Thank you. I’ll escape when it gets dangerous.”
Nfirea seemed to be wavering between speech and silence. In the end, he made up his mind and said:
“Could you not kill the Wise King of the Forest, but instead chase it away?”
“…Why is that?”
“Mm, Carne Village has not been attacked by monsters because the Wise King of the Forest’s territory is nearby. If you defeat the Wise King of the Forest…”
“That might be a bit much. Momon-san is strong, but his opponent is a legendary monster. Wouldn’t he be in trouble if he couldn’t defend himself with his full strength? How would he have the luxury of—”
“Wha—!” Lukrut exclaimed in shock.
The other Swords of Darkness remained silent, but their surprise was written all over their faces.
“It might be difficult, but I’ll try to go easy on it and merely chase it away.”
Ainz’s reply, brimming with confidence, raised goosebumps on the skin of his fellow adventurers.
“Even if your opponent is… a legendary monster that’s lived for centuries…”
“Is this the sort of attitude that only the strong have…”
“Judging by Momon-san’s personality, he probably isn’t exaggerating or bluffing…”
In stark contrast to the Swords of Darkness, Nfirea had an idea of Ainz’s power, and he had a relieved expression on his face.
As he looked toward the young man, Ainz laughed in his heart.
Nfirea hoped that monsters would not attack Carne Village. That being the case, all Ainz needed to do was to have other monsters replace the Wise King of the Forest in enforcing its area of influence. That way he could still fulfil Nfirea’s wish.
Even if he ended up killing the Wise King of the Forest, all he had to do was dispatch vassals from Nazarick to replace him.
“All right! Now, let’s move on. The herbs I’m looking for this time look like this. If anyone finds them, let me know.”
Nfirea produced a sample of a withered plant from a herb-gathering pouch on his belly.
“Oh, it’s Ngenac grass!”
To Ainz, it looked like the nearby weeds. However, Dyne the druid was different, and he immediately named the plant.
Lukrut and Ninya nodded in response to hearing the name. They probably had some herbal knowledge themselves, and the name jogged their memories.
Just as he was hesitating over whether to pretend that he knew, everyone looked at Ainz.
“Momon-san, are you all right?”
“Eh? Ah, that plant? I’ve heard of it.”
Ainz calmly nodded in agreement.
If he were not undead, his voice might have become high-pitched from panic, but his helmet prevented others from seeing his expression, which also concealed his feelings. Ainz was sheathed in heavy armor and cut an imposing figure, but his heart was closer to that of a bunny.
“Yes, this herb is commonly used when making potions.”
“So it’s commonly found near adventurers!”
“Indeed it is. Now I see why we came to this place — I’ve heard that wild herbs are more potent than cultivated ones, no?”
“That’s right. Incidentally, the fact that we use all-natural ingredients in our potions is a point of pride for us! Well, they’re only about 10 percent more effective than those of the competition.”
“That 10 percent can be crucial to people who frequently put their lives on the line. To think you sell better potions for the same price… as expected of the Bareare Apothecary, which built its reputation on selling high-quality potions.”
As he heard Nfirea and the Swords of Darkness discussing potions, Ainz fell into deep thought.
In YGGDRASIL, healing potions were usually made through skills that were only available through certain job classes, or by casting the desired spells on the appropriate ingredients. Although Ainz knew a little about this field, all he knew was that the ingredients were made by compounding specific substances with an alchemical solvent, but never through the use of herbs.
In other words, potions in this world were made in a different way from YGGDRASIL. This must have been what Nfirea meant by “cannot be made by normal methods”.
Ainz was convinced that mastering the potion-making techniques of this world would strengthen Nazarick. The question now was how to master them.
As he was thinking, the conversation seemed to have turned to the job once more, and Ainz turned to listen.
“There’s a clearing in the forest, which I’ve designated as our destination. I’ve already told you about that place, Lukrut-san, so please guide us there.”
After hearing Lukrut’s casual “Leave it to me,” Nfirea turned back to the others.
“Then, let’s begin the herb collection-”
“—I have a suggestion, actually.”
“Please tell us, Momon-san.”
“Since Nabe can cast something like the [Alarm] spell we used when pitching camp, could we temporarily split off when we reach the destination?”
Everyone, Nfirea included, wrinkled their brows. This was because they were uneasy about their strongest fighting force leaving them in such a dangerous area. However, Nfirea quickly replied:
“That’s fine. However, please don’t go for too long.”
“Of course. In order to avoid getting lost, I’ll tie a rope to myself. Tug on it if there’s anything.”
“Then, could I go too? I need to watch carefully in case you and Nabe-chan do something weird in the bushes.”
“Die, inferior lifeform (cockroach). Is lust the only thing left in your head? If I castrated you, would you still be able to move?”
“…That’s enough, Nabe. Lukrut-san, there’s no need to go that far. Although, I’d like to ask Ninya-san if there’s a spell which can tell you where members of your group are when you’re scattered in the forest. It would be convenient if such a magic existed.”
“I’ve never heard of such a spell. It would be very handy if it existed.”
Ainz nodded as he heard Ninya’s denial.
There’s a 6th-tier spell which can detect the location of specific objects. Do they lack knowledge in that field, or is it that there are spells which are unique to YGGDRASIL just as there are spells which are unique to this world?
Ainz put these thoughts aside for a moment and raised his chin to signal Narberal, indicating that she should get ready. Having received her orders, Narberal immediately began sizing up the Swords of Darkness.
“Then, Momon-san and Nabe-san will leave us for a while, and we’ll pick the herbs after they return.”
Since it was their employer’s decision, nobody else could object. The Swords of Darkness nodded one by one.
After the discussion and other matters were concluded, Nfirea called for them to move out. The group shouldered their baggage and entered the forest.
There were trees felled by the villagers nearby. The earth was already dried out. It looked like an easily walkable stretch of forest, but the scenery before their eyes slowly transformed into something like a green labyrinth.
There were no landmarks in the forest, and it was impossible to tell in which direction one was moving. A sense of unease filled everyone, as though they had been swallowed up. The sky-scraping trees further intensified that uneasiness, and most people would have been frightened by this scene. However, Ainz had an undead mind and felt no fear, apart from the vestiges of his human mind. He calmly praised the magnificent natural vista before him.
In YGGDRASIL’s forest and other natural zones, he considered these things to be simple in-game scenery. Even now, he still thought the same way.
Ainz — who was proud of the design of the Great Tomb of Nazarick — was filled with complex emotions. He had not expected that natural forest could be so awe-inspiring.
I see why Blue Planet-san liked nature so much…
He looked around as he surveyed the forest, but it was peaceful, and he saw no traces of any animals. Aside from the distant sound of birdsong, there was no sign of life here at all.
At the same time, he observed Lukrut the ranger advancing carefully, keeping a lookout with all his five senses. He seemed to have concluded that there was no living creature hiding nearby.
Actually, there’s someone hiding behind us.
Ainz was proud of the person sneaking behind him.
The group — save for two people — was filled with tension as they walked silently through the forest, where the sun’s light could not penetrate and which was surprisingly cool. They sweated heavily because the terrain was difficult and they were under no small amount of mental stress.
Finally, they reached a clearing that was roughly 50 meters across.
“We’ve arrived at our destination. We’ll spread out from here and pick herbs.”
Everyone began setting their gear down after they heard Nfirea unburdening himself of his baggage. However, they did not relax. Instead, they carefully observed their surroundings, ready to deal with any sudden developments.
This was because they were no longer in the world of men.
“Then, we’ll move as we planned earlier.”
After Nfirea replied to that statement in the affirmative, Ainz tied a rope to a nearby tree, then picked the other end up and headed into the forest.
The rope he was holding was not thick, but it was very strong. It would not snap just by being dragged along the ground. While holding the rope, Ainz and Narberal could move in a straight line into the forest.
Normally speaking, it was almost impossible to move in a straight line, since the trees would get in one’s way. However, the rope they were holding showed the path, and so the two of them could proceed despite their inexperience with the forest.
They moved about 50 meters into the forest, stopping when the rope had almost run out.
Trees and vegetation blocked the way behind them, so they did not worry about being spotted. There was someone nearby who could immediately deal with anybody who was following them, so there was no need to fret about that either.
“Here should be fine.”
“Then, let’s discuss how to improve my reputation here.”
“…May I ask how you plan to do that? Does it involve finding a lot of the herbs they want?”
Ainz looked quietly at Narberal, and then shook his head:
“I plan to fight the Wise King of the Forest.”
Narberal seemed to have a question mark over her head, so Ainz explained further:
“My aim is to impress my might upon them in an easily understandable way.”
“…Was the battle with the Ogres not enough to convince them of your power?”
“…You’re not wrong to say that, but Goblins and Ogres are not enough. When they discuss my accomplishments back in town, there’s a world of difference between saying I slew an Ogre in one blow and saying I defeated the Wise King of the Forest. One of them will spread much faster and further than the other. This is why I need to put on a good show.”
“I see! As I thought, your plans take everything into consideration, Ainz-sama! Still, how will we find that Wise King of the Forest?”
“I’ve already planned for that.”
Just as Narberal was about to ask, a third speaker cut in.
“Yup~ that’s why I’m here.”
Narberal jerked her head over toward the source of the sudden voice. She even thrust her right hand out, preparing to aim and cast a spell. However, her face changed immediately upon seeing who the speaker was.
“Aura-sama! Please don’t scare me like that.”
A dark elf girl popped out from behind a nearby tree, with a beaming smile that seemed to say “ehehe” on her face.
This was one of the twin Guardians of the 6th floor of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, Aura Bella Fiora.
“May I ask when you arrived?”
“Hmm? I’ve been following behind you and Ainz-sama ever since you entered the forest.”
Aura was a beast tamer-cum-ranger, so tracking people in the forest was child’s play to her. While it was true that Lukrut was also a ranger, the difference in their abilities was so great that there was no way he could have spotted her.
“So, my job here is to find the monster called the Wise King of the Forest, then urge it to attack Ainz-sama.”
“That’s right. According to our previous intelligence, the Wise King of the Forest is a four-legged beast with silver fur and a snake-like tail. Does that remind you of anything?”
“Hm, it’s fine. It should be that guy,” Aura replied as she glanced upward.
“If that’s the case, do you want me to tame it directly?”
“…That is also an alternative, but let’s not.”
Aura the beast tamer should be able to easily subdue the Wise King of the Forest. However, it would be troublesome if someone found out that Ainz had been pulling all the strings. Therefore, it would be wiser to avoid having to worry about such things.
“By the way, Aura, how’s the progress on that matter I asked you to handle?”
Aura swiftly genuflected before Ainz, in the manner of a vassal to her liege.
It did not quite seem like Aura’s style, but Ainz responded in kind, listening to her report in his capacity as her master.
“The order you gave me to ‘investigate and control the interior of the forest, verify if there are any lifeforms willing to obey Nazarick, and set up a resource storehouse’ is going well, Ainz-sama.”
“Is that so,” Ainz replied simply.
Before heading to E-Rantel, Ainz had handed down different orders to each Guardian. The reason he ordered Aura — and Mare — to scout the Great Forest was in order to ensure the safety of Nazarick and collect information.
As for the resource storehouse, it might be better to describe it as more of a shelter. The reason he ordered her to build it there was to provide a hiding place in case there was an emergency and he could not return to Nazarick. In addition, it would be best to have an alternate base of operations to avoid Nazarick’s location being revealed. And of course, it could be used to store all manner of supplies and resources.
He had ordered her to find creatures which would obey Nazarick because he wanted to see if he could powerlevel them. In addition, he wanted to learn about how one went about gaining levels in this world.
Because of this string of tasks, Aura, Mare, the vassals designated for construction, and other powerful entities had invaded the forest and disrupted the balance of power within it. This was why the Ogres and other monsters had chosen to flee, even at the risk of treading within the domain of the Wise King of the Forest.
“Still, the construction of the storehouse will take a long time to complete.”
“That can’t be helped. After all, it has only been a while since I gave you that order.”
While Aura had access to golems and undead from Nazarick, which could labor forever without needing to sleep or eat, this was not a task which could be easily finished, considering the amount of work that needed to be done.
“It’s all right if it takes extra time. Try your best to make it perfect. Make ample preparations for defense, so we won’t fall short if we’re attacked.”
“Very well. Then, Aura, I’ll leave the matter of the Wise King of the Forest to you.”
“Yes!” Aura replied energetically as she stood back up.
♦ ♦ ♦
After Ainz bade Aura farewell, a gigantic black wolf with a lustrous black pelt padded out from behind one of the trees, as though it had been waiting for that moment. Its fiery red eyes blazed with intelligence, proving that it was no mere beast.
That was not all.
On the branches of another tree was a six-legged monster which looked like a fusion of a chameleon and an iguana. Its scaly skin ran through a kaleidoscopic array of lightning-fast color changes. It was as large as the wolf from earlier.
“Fen, Quadracile, what’s with you? Worried about me?”
The massive wolf called Fen whined and nuzzled Aura. Quadracile stuck out its tongue and lightly licked at the top of Aura’s head.
“Hey hey, we still have to do the work Ainz-sama gave us.”
Aura’s fighting strength was second from the bottom among the Guardians of Nazarick, and the fact was that some of the Area Guardians were stronger than her. However, that only took into consideration their solo abilities.
Aura’s forte did not lie in fighting as a lone unit, but as part of a group. Of the hundreds of monsters which Aura could summon, the highest level among them was 80. With the aid of Aura’s skills, they could reach level 90 or so. With these beasts at her command, her combat abilities far surpassed those of any other Guardian.
The two monsters here were two of Aura’s favorite high-level magical beasts — the Divine Beast Fenrir (also known as Fen), and the equally powerful Itzamna, Quadracile.
As they heard Aura’s words, Fen and Quadracile stopped playing around.
“All right, let’s go!”
Aura led the two magical beasts in a sprint through the forest. Even though they were surrounded by dense woodland, they were not impeded in the slightest, moving as fast as the wind.
After about 30 minutes of running, Aura reached her destination.
Aura smiled. It was a cold smile which did not fit her youthful face. It was equal parts innocent and cruel.
“I kind of wanted it for myself, but Ainz-sama did give me an order, so it can’t be helped.”
She did not sound like she was talking to her pets, but rather, like she was muttering to her jewellery.
Aura knew where the Wise King of the Forest made its lair because she had long wanted to subdue it for her own. The Wise King of the Forest was much weaker than Aura’s own monsters, so it had no value to her. However, it was an unfamiliar creature to Aura, and that inflamed her collector’s desire.
It was a shame to have to let it go, but if she was giving it up to her master, the Supreme Being to whom she owed all loyalty, then she had no complaints.
Aura began transmuting the air molecules in her lungs. The newly recombined breath was not a natural substance, and it leaked from between her pink lips. This breath of hers could control emotions.
Normally, her breath only filled a very small radius around her, so it was more like a special type of passive skill. However, if she wanted, she could combine this technique with other targeting skills to hit any target within two kilometers with perfect accuracy, even in a forest like this.
However, there was no need for that. Because her objective was to remove any signs of her passing, she snuck up on her target. Not even her magical beasts, let along the natural animals of the forest, could detect Aura as she was now.
Aura proudly walked up to the Wise King of the Forest, all traces of her presence thoroughly erased, and breathed lightly. Her breath contained elements which induced terror, startling awake the sleeping Wise King of the Forest.
Every hair on the Wise King of the Forest stood on end, and it fled immediately. The speed of a terrified four-legged beast was startling. Yet Aura — who was chasing it from behind — was faster still.
Aura shadowed the Wise King of the Forest, harrying it towards Ainz, like she was a guided specter of Death.
“…Still, I wonder if I could take its pelt if it died…”
♦ ♦ ♦
There was a disturbance in the forest
Lukrut pricked up his ears as he sensed the change in the air. He surveyed his surroundings with a grim expression on his face and wariness in his heart.
When they heard this, the Swords of Darkness stopped their herb-gathering and drew their weapons in preparation for battle. Shortly after, Ainz tightened his grip on his greatswords as well.
“Is it the Wise King of the Forest?”
Nobody answered Nfirea’s uneasy question as he stuffed the herbs into his bags. Everyone merely watched the depths of the forest in silence.
“This is bad.”
Even the usually flighty Lukrut was speaking in a serious tone:
“Something massive is coming. I don’t know why it’s moving in a serpentine pattern, but from the sound of trampled grass, it should be here soon. However… can’t be sure if it’s the Wise King of the Forest.”
“Let’s fall back, it doesn’t matter if it’s the Wise King of the Forest or not, staying here is very dangerous. Even if it’s not the Wise King of the Forest, we’ve entered its territory, so the chances of it giving chase are very high.”
As he said this, Peter looked to Ainz.
“Momon-san, can we trouble you to be the rear guard?”
“No problem. Leave it to me… We’ll take care of the rest.”
The Swords of Darkness called out their encouragement to Ainz one after the other as they helped Nfirea retreat from of the forest.
“Momon-san, please don’t overdo it.”
Nfirea’s voice carried an absolute faith in Ainz, and his eyes glittered with admiration underneath his hair. It made Ainz feel deeply uncomfortable and he wished that they would leave quickly.
As he watched them disappear into the forest on the other side of the clearing, a twinge of unease ran through Ainz. He was not sure if he could leave the forest by himself, but then he immediately considered that he could let Aura guide him.
There was a more pressing problem before him at the moment—
“Damn… They might think it’s not the Wise King of the Forest… and even if I bring it back to Nazarick, I need some proof of having beaten it… Should I cut off one of its legs?”
Narberal’s gaze was far afield, looking at the mighty shadow that emerged from the distant trees. There was no way to make its shape out because it was hiding behind the trees, and without the sun to light it, there was no way to tell if its body was, in fact, silver.
“Has our guest arrived?”
Or maybe we’re the guests, Ainz idly mused as he stepped up in front of Narberal. He had no idea of how strong it was — what level it was, so Ainz made the logical decision of putting himself in front of the magic caster Narberal, who was not suited to melee combat.
Once he got in front of Narberal, Ainz felt the air move. He immediately crossed his greatswords in front of him like a shield.
He heard something like the sound of steel meeting steel, and a tremendous force bore down on Ainz’s arms. A weighty and swift object had struck the greatswords Ainz was holding.
He saw a long, serpentine tail slowly retreat behind a tree.
Its tail attacks like a bullwhip. However, judging by the feel and sound of the impact, that tail must be as hard as metal… its attack radius of over 20 meters will be hard to deal with, but how does it live with a tail like that?
With no frontliner skills, Ainz had no idea how to deal with it. All he could do was advance into melee with his foe.
Ainz sighed. Of course, this was just going through the motions, since Ainz had no lungs. He braced his shoulders into a battle-stance, ready to counterattack. In response to this, a serene bass voice boomed out from the forest:
“How spectacular; to think thou could endure the blow of this one. Perhaps this is the first time this one hath encountered a foe possessed of such prowess.”
Ainz’s illusory face hardened, and then he considered that those words had already been translated. Ainz decided that this was the closest equivalent to what had actually been said.
“Then, oh trespasser upon mine demesne. Shouldst thou decide to quit the field, this one shall not pursue thee, in honor of thine magnificent defense… what say thee?”
“…What a foolish question. Of course I plan to defeat you for my own gain… speaking of which, are you so insecure about your appearance that you have to hide in the shadows? Or are you shy by nature?”
“…What a wild tongue thou hast, oh trespasser! Now behold this one’s mighty form! Stare with eyes wide and tongue tied, and tremble in dread and awe!”
The Wise King of the Forest slowly emerged from the trees, revealing its body to him.
As he saw it, Ainz’s illusionary eyes went wide.
“Fufufu, this one senses thy fear and alarm from beneath thine helmet!”
A smile twisted the face of the magical beast, and it curled its long tail. There were strange glyphs and symbols on the silvery fur covering its body. It was about the size of a horse, but it was low to the ground, being larger in the horizontal rather than the vertical dimension.
The Wise King of the Forest shrank the distance between them.
“What is this…”
An indescribable feeling washed over Ainz. After becoming undead, all the strong emotions he felt were immediately suppressed. With that in mind, this was probably not a very strong emotion. Even so, he had not felt this a long time — including his time in YGGDRASIL — the sensation when a monster appeared before him.
“…I have a question; what is the name of your species?”
“This one is known in thy tongue as the Wise King of the Forest. Apart from that, this one holds no other titles.”
Ainz gulped, and then asked further:
“Your species… might they be called Djungarian Hamsters?”
The Wise King of the Forest.
From what Ainz could see, it closely resembled a Djungarian Hamster. Its fur was silvery, or rather, snow-white, contrasted by its black, round eyes, and its body looked like a gigantic bun.
Of course, hamsters did not have such long tails, not did they grow larger than a human being. However, those two factors aside, he honestly could not think of any other animal which could compare. Fully a hundred out of a hundred people would agree that it was a hamster. Well, a giant Djungarian Hamster. Maybe a mutant Djungarian Hamster, or something like that?
It tilted its adorable head — it did not seem to have a neck — and the Wise King of the Forest sniffed at the air before speaking again:
“This… this one hath lived in solitude all mine life. This one canst not answer thee, for this one knowst not of this one’s… or dost thou imply that thou knowst of this one’s species?”
“Um… er… I guess, sort of… one of my former friends once kept a creature which was similar to you…”
Ainz recalled that friend of his, and how that friend had not logged onto YGGDRASIL for about a week because that friend’s pet Djungarian Hamster had died.
Behind him, Narberal quietly went “Ohhhh,” probably because she had learned something about one of the 41 Supreme Beings.
“What?! To think beings like this one would be raised as pets!”
The Wise King of the Forest puffed up its cheeks.
Ainz had no idea whether it was unhappy or trying to intimidate him, or something else. The only thing Ainz could be sure of was that it was definitely not eating.
“Hm… This one prays thee enlighten me on that matter. This one is a living being and must procreate. If others of this one’s breed exist, then this one must go forth and multiply, lest this one become a failure as a living being.”
According to the Wise King of the Forest’s logic, Ainz — who could not reproduce — was unfit to be a living being. As he clung to the excuse that he was undead and not, in fact, a living creature, Ainz weakly answered:
“…Er, it wasn’t as big as you, anyway.”
“Be that as it may… perchance it was a juvenile?”
“…No, even fully grown, it was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand.”
With a vague sense of sadness, the Wise King of the Forest’s whiskers drooped down.
“Indeed, that is quite a stretch… this one must pass the years in solitude, after all…”
“…If you were a more impressive-looking species it wouldn’t be so bad… but you’re a hamster. I do sympathize with your circumstances, but if there were others like you, your numbers would increase without end and the world might end up being destroyed…”
The Wise King of the Forest twitched its whiskers. While its eyes were the same shiny black as always, there seemed to be some anger in its tone:
“What an outrage! Increasing the numbers of one’s species is important! And this one hath lived without companionship all mine life! ‘Tis only natural to desire others of mine kind!”
“Oh… um… well, that’s certainly true… forgive me, I misspoke…”
Ainz recalled his comrades from Ainz Ooal Gown and apologized. Although, he felt terribly mixed up about remembering his friends after being lectured by a hamster and then apologizing to it.
“…Think naught of it. This one grants thee mine forgiveness. Then, let us abandon this idle banter and show each other our fatal resolve. Listen well… oh trespasser who hath profaned mine demesne, offer thy life as this one’s sustenance!”
Ainz felt his motivation draining away.
Even if that cute appearance was just a facade, he still could not bring himself to fight it in earnest. No matter how you looked at it, having the ruler of the Great Tomb of Nazarick duel a giant hamster was just sad.
Even if he defeated it, he would have to take the corpse of a Djungarian Hamster and tell people, “This is the Wise King of the Forest, the fight was too intense and I couldn’t chase it away”. How would adventurers — including the Swords of Darkness — view that? Even in the best case scenario, they would simply look silently at Ainz with pitying eyes.
In that case, he would not defeat the Wise King of the Forest, but capture it alive to pick its brains.
“Nabe, fall back,” Ainz said, forcing some semblance of fighting spirit back into himself as he gave that order. Narberal had a look of absolute confidence in Ainz’s victory on her face as she bowed deeply and then retreated to a corner of the clearing.
“Oh — but know thou that being outnumbered is no handicap for this one?”
“…I can’t do something as embarrassing as fighting a hamster two-on-one.”
After hearing those words and seeing Ainz raise his weapons in a fighting stance, the Wise King of the Forest lowered its body and tensed its entire body.
“Regret not thy decision! Now bear the charge of this one!”
The massive body forcefully kicked off the earth with a mighty bang, and lunged at Ainz.
The flying tackle of the Wise King of the Forest’s massive body would have tossed any ordinary person away, had they been hit by it without using a martial art.
However, Ainz used the blades of his greatswords as a shield, and took the Wise King of the Forest’s charge head on.
Despite its fearsome destructive power, Ainz still easily resisted it..
The Wise King of the Forest was surprised by the unmoving Ainz, and slashed with the surprisingly sharp claws on its forepaws. Ainz raised the greatsword in his left hand to block the strike, and swung with the greatsword in his right.
He did not put his full strength into it, but it was still quite a forceful blow.
There was a loud crash, and Ainz’s strike was deflected away, his arm numbed from the impact. It would seem the Wise King of the Forest had blocked Ainz’s strike with its claws, and the two attacks had bounced apart after an intense mid-air clash.
“Well done! But how about this? [Charm Species].”
Mind-affecting effects were useless against the undead. Ignoring his opponent’s magical attack, Ainz swung both his greatswords.
There was a sound of clashing metal again, and Ainz’s swords were deflected once more.
Ainz narrowed his eyes under his helmet.
While that had only been a probing attack, the Wise King of the Forest had deflected that strike with its skin. It would seem that its hide was harder than most metals.
Was it not soft and fluffy fur? It was quite surprising, but Ainz chased away these thoughts which had no place in a battle.
Ainz’s physical attack power would be around that of a level 30 warrior, in YGGDRASIL terms. However, that was greatly affected by spells and equipment, so he could not be sure. Still, with that as a baseline, the Wise King of the Forest had the fighting power of a level 30 or so character.
A frown grew on the illusory face under Ainz’s helmet.
“Not bad… very suitable for melee combat training.”
Ainz was certain that as long as he went all-out, he could definitely defeat this opponent. Although he had to stay alert, it was still good practice for being a frontliner.
Ainz continued swinging his twin greatswords, and the Wise King of the Forest continued its adroit deflection of his blows. Then another glyph on its body lit up, and it cast a spell.
Unlike the previous [Charm Species], this non-mind-affecting spell of blindness could potentially have affected Ainz. However, Ainz had a racial skill which rendered him immune to low-tier magic. Therefore, the spell vanished without ever taking effect.
A different symbol lit up when it used that spell… it seems the symbols on its body represent the spells it can use…
There were spellcasting monsters in YGGDRASIL. While the numbers of spells they could use varied greatly according to their level and species, as a rough guideline, they could use about eight kinds of magic. Similarly, the Wise King of the Forest had roughly eight kinds of tattoos on its body, so Ainz felt like he was fighting a monster from YGGDRASIL.
The Wise King of the Forest did not notice its spell had been resisted, and attacked with its forepaws. Ainz blocked with the greatsword in one hand and countered with the greatsword in his other.
He thought of past battles alongside his friends.
Touch Me, who wielded a sword and shield and was one of the greatest warriors in YGGDRASIL. Nishiki Enrai, who bore the twin kodachis named Amaterasu and Tsukiyomi, and boasted the highest attack power in the guild. The man also known as No Second Strike — although that was not actually the case — wielding the twin nodachis known as God-Slaying Slash Emperor and Takemikazuchi Mk 8, Warrior Takemikazuchi.
And then he recalled the brave man he had encountered recently — Gazef Stronoff, the Kingdom’s Warrior Captain.
Perhaps Ainz had travelled to E-Rantel in the guise of a warrior because he had been moved by that man.
Ainz mocked himself for thinking of these things now.
I can’t let my mind wander in combat. Although there’s certainly enough leeway for it, I can’t be careless… even if my opponent is a hamster…
He imagined the countless sword strokes his companions had made, and Ainz attacked continuously, trying his best to reproduce those moves. At the same time, he used the greatsword in his left hand to intercept the Wise King of the Forest’s counterattacks.
Both sides went back and forth, neither side being able to strike a decisive blow, until Ainz’s greatsword finally breached the Wise King of the Forest’s defense.
The scent of fresh blood followed the sensation of the greatsword piercing into flesh. The greatsword in his right hand grazed the hide of the Wise King of the Forest, sending hairs flying.
He planned to continue his assault with his left-hand greatsword, but the Wise King of the Forest sensed it was at a disadvantage and leapt away, landing about ten meters away from Ainz.
I’ve heard hamsters escape their nests by jumping, but I’ve never seen one retreat before.
Just as Ainz began losing himself in thought after battling the giant hamster, the Wise King of the Forest lowered its body.
Ainz watched his opponent’s movements in surprise.
What does it plan to do at that range? If it’s a charge like just now, then I’ll just hold my sword out to let it kill itself… but it’s most likely that it’s going to use another spell.
The Wise King of the Forest curled its tail up behind it, but judging by its length, it probably shouldn’t be able to reach —
“— No, that’s not it!”
Ainz realised that he had miscalculated.
The tail strike at the beginning had come from a long distance away. In other words, he was still in range of the tail attack.
As expected, the tail swung in a huge, sweeping arc, speeding at Ainz with its surprising length. Ainz blocked it with his right-hand greatsword… and his eyes went wide with surprise. This was because the tail had turned at a right angle, using the greatsword as a fulcrum of sorts.
He swung his greatsword to the side, aiming to cast away the tail which was on his sword. However, he was a moment too late, and the tail scraped the back plate of his armor, sending an impact through his body.
Due to a racial skill, an attack like this would not have hurt Ainz even if the tail had struck him dead on. However, if one thought of this as a first-person shooter game, then he had made a great mistake.
“Now, we are one for one.”
A mere hamster — anger rose inside him.
Then, let me try a ranged attack of my own.
Having decided this, Ainz firmly gripped his right-hand greatsword. As Ainz was preparing his attack, the Wise King of the Forest spoke, with heartfelt respect:
“That armor… ‘tis truly amazing. Nay, thy strength and swordplay are both breathtaking to behold. Thou art truly a superlative warrior. Art thou a man of fame in human society?”
The strength faded from his right hand.
In a somewhat disappointed tone, he asked: “Do I look like a warrior to you?”
“Why dost thou ask? What wouldst thou resemble, save a warrior? Mayhaps thou might be better addressed as a knight?”
“The Wise King of the Forest… well, you’ve been misnamed. Or rather, everything started going wrong once I discovered you were a giant hamster…”
Indeed, it was hard to think of Ainz as a magic caster in this suit of full plate armor. Still, he had hoped that something with the grand title of Wise King of the Forest would at least have noticed something amiss, or showed some sign that it could see through his disguise.
The Wise King of the Forest must have thought that Ainz’s magic immunity was simply resisting the spell through sheer force of will. Granted, special defenses like resistance and immunity were practically the same thing in YGGDRASIL, but at least it should have tried to act like a proper sage.
In the end, it was completely undeserving of the title of “Wise King”. Maybe if it had been called a Giant Djungarian Hamster, he would not have held such high hopes. Whoever called him a “Wise King” must have had something wrong with him. It was a mislabelling, false advertising.
Having lost the will to fight, Ainz powerlessly lowered the greatswords in his hands.
“What art thou doing!? Could it possibly be… dost thou intend to yield before the battle is decided? Come at this one with all thy strength! This is a duel to the death!”
The words from the angry Wise King of the Forest chipped away at Ainz’s heart. Fortunately, great emotional upheavals were suppressed immediately, so he still had some strength remaining.
Speaking with a cold, crystal clear voice, Ainz pointed his right-hand greatsword at the Wise King of the Forest and activated his skill.
Despair Aura V.
Since its instant death effect was too strong, he decided to reduce its potency and instead activated [Despair Aura I]’s fear effect.
A cold, soul-chilling vapor gusted out from Ainz
The moment that mass of cold air washed over the Wise King of the Forest, every single one of its hairs stood on end, and it rolled over with surprising speed. All he could see was its silvery fur, and its soft, defenseless belly.
“Craven! This one yields to thee!”
“…Ah… in the end it was just a beast…”
As he muttered tiredly in response, Ainz walked over to the Wise King of the Forest, observing its vulnerable belly, and then considered what he should do next.
It’s a creature of this world, so chasing it away would be a shame. Sadly, it’s just a hamster, so should I raise it as a pet… at the very least, I should make use of its corpse.
One of Ainz’s job classes was called Necromancer. It was a class that allowed one to turn a corpse into an undead slave, though the quality of the undead produced depended on the species of the corpse.
The best corpses were those of powerful beings like dragons, while human corpses could become zombies and skeletons. Then, given that the Wise King of the Forest did not exist in YGGDRASIL, what sort of undead would its corpse make?
A Wise King of the Forest Zombie?
“Shall we kill it?” a cheery voice rang out.
Ainz turned, and found that Aura had mysteriously appeared beside Narberal.
“If you kill it, I’d like its hide. It looks like it would make a great pelt…”
Ainz lowered his head and looked straight at the Wise King of the Forest, who was looking at him with moist, tear-filled eyes. Its whiskers twitched as it waited fearfully for its future to be decided.
Just then, he suddenly recalled the words which he had exchanged with the Wise King of the Forest. Ainz recalled the part about friends.
Ainz found that he was hesitating. Then, with a sigh, he made his decision.
“My true name is Ainz Ooal Gown. If you are willing to serve me, I will spare your life.”
“Th-thank you very much! This one shall offer absolute fealty to thee for the gift of this one’s life! The life of the Wise King of the Forest shall be an offering to the great warrior, Ainz Ooal Gown-sama!”
Aura looked at the Wise King of the Forest, who had jumped up and was frantically pledging its loyalty. There seemed to be something like regret in Aura’s eyes.
♦ ♦ ♦
Once they left the forest, they encountered the others, who rejoiced that Ainz and Narberal were both unharmed. Only Lukrut seemed to have his doubts.
In a tone that combined surprise and praise, Nfirea asked Ainz:
“You’re unhurt… Did you avoid fighting?”
Just as Ainz was about to answer, Lukrut cut in:
“Momon-san, what did you bring back? Were you charmed by something?”
“I battled the Wise King of the Forest, and tamed it. Oi, come out.”
They could all see the pearly-white fur of the Wise King of the Forest as it emerged from the trees. The Swords of Darkness gathered around Nfirea, shocked expressions on their faces as they all took a step back with weapons raised.
Well, it’s huge, even if it’s a Djungarian Hamster…
Though it had cute round eyes, its massive body was still a fearsome sight, and it was only natural that these adventurers should be wary on behalf of the client they were escorting. With that in mind, Ainz decided to calmly say:
“Be at ease, everyone. I have subdued it, so it will not lash out wildly and hurt people.”
Then, he approached the Wise King of the Forest, and made a show of patting its furry body.
“It is as milord says; this Wise King of the Forest is loyal to milord, and is milord’s faithful servant. This one swears to milord that this one will not inconvenience thee, fine gentlemen!”
In this way, the Wise King of the Forest displayed its loyalty to Ainz.
Perhaps they were on guard because of its vast size, but since it was a cute Djungarian Hamster to begin with, they would probably stop being on edge once they got used to it. The problem was how to make everyone think it was the true Wise King of the Forest. That was the only thing Ainz had no idea how to accomplish.
And then, things developed in a completely unexpected direction.
“…So this is the Wise King of the Forest! Unbelievable! What a majestic beast!”
Ainz looked back and forth between Ninya and the Wise King of the Forest, checking to see if Ninya was making fun of him, but Ninya seemed to be entirely serious.
“…Wow, the Wise King of the Forest… so the legends really were true! I can feel its mighty presence just standing before it!” Dyne gasped.
Eh? Mighty presence?
“Uwah, that’s pretty awesome. You actually pulled it off. Someone as strong as you is certainly qualified to have Nabe-chan at his side.”
“If we had encountered him, we would have been killed for sure. I expected nothing less of you, Momon-san. Amazing work.”
As Lukrut, Peter and the others showered him in praise, Ainz looked to the Wise King of the Forest again.
A giant Djungarian Hamster.
It did not remind him of anything else. Why were they so intimidated by a beast like this?
“…Everyone, do you not think this creature’s eyes are very cute?”
Their eyes went wide as they heard those words, as though their eyeballs were about to fall out. It would seem that statement was quite absurd.
“Mo-Momon-san, Do you think this beast’s eyes are cute?”
Of course. After mocking the reply in his heart, Ainz magnanimously nodded, and then he began to wonder if the Wise King of the Forest had used a passive charm skill.
“Unbelievable, that’s Momon-san for you. Ninya, you looked into its eyes, what do you think ?”
“…They are eyes filled with wisdom, and I could feel the power of this beast. There’s no way it could be cute by any stretch of the word.”
Ainz looked dumbfoundedly at the others. After realizing that they shared Ninya’s opinion, Ainz felt his head spin for a moment.
“How about you, Nabe?”
“Actual strength aside, those are powerful-looking eyes.”
They were all gushing praise with sparkly eyes. In other words, they were in awe of Ainz for being able to nonchalantly call the eyes of such a beast “cute”.
Ainz kept glancing back at the Wise King of the Forest, but there was no way he could see anything approaching “wisdom” in them.
Could it be that my aesthetic sense changed as well after becoming undead?
Since nobody apart from himself felt that way, it was quite likely that such a change had taken place. However, it was probably best to make absolutely sure.
“By the way, does everyone think rats are strong?”
“Rats… giant rats? Monsters like that aren’t anything special.”
“You can find them in the sewers of E-Rantel.”
“Giant rats carry nasty diseases. Wererats too… hmm, since wererats can resist damage made from everything except silver weapons, would they qualify as strong?”
Don’t hamsters look like rats? And the Wise King of the Forest has a very long tail… it’s more like a rat than a hamster…
A puzzled Ainz came to a conclusion. In other words: “This world is weird.”
Just as Ainz was agonizing over trivial matters like the differences between this world and the previous one, Nfirea asked in a worried tone of voice:
“But if you take this monster away, and thus its sphere of influence, won’t the other monsters attack En… Carne Village because it’s not there to scare it off any more?”
Ainz raised his chin to indicate the Wise King of the Forest. It got the message, and said:
“By village you mean… ah, well, the balance of power in the forest is now in chaos. Even if this one was there, this one would not be able to guarantee their safety by any means.”
Ainz did not comfort the shocked Nfirea. He merely smiled inside.
The Wise King of the Forest is hardly a fitting name, let’s see what I can get out of this.
Just as Ainz was thinking about how to guide the conversation, he could feel Nfirea looking at him. He seemed to be wavering between speaking and keeping quiet, and his mouth opened and closed like a goldfish.
Ainz understood the turmoil in Nfirea’s heart. On one hand, he must have wanted Ainz to save the village once more. On the other, Nfirea probably felt that it was too troublesome, and did not want to leave everything to him.
As the Swords of Darkness discussed how to save the village, Nfirea made up his mind and addressed Ainz with a serious look on his face.
A secretly delighted Ainz waited for what Nfirea would say next.
The truth was that Ainz had always intended to protect Carne Village, which was highly valuable as a source of information. However, the important thing was whether he could profit from it. Since he could frame the thing as doing a favor for Nfirea and thus make Nfirea indebted to him, it was like killing two birds with one stone. This was Ainz’s plan in order to make up for the miscalculation with the Wise King of the Forest.
However, Nfirea’s words vastly exceeded Ainz’s expectations.
“Momon-san! Please let me join your team!”
“I want to protect Enri… Carne Village, but I don’t have the strength to do it now. So I want to become stronger! I want to learn the secret to your strength, Momon-san! I don’t mind if it’s just a little bit! However, I can’t hire an excellent adventurer like you on a long-term basis with the amount of money I have! So please, let me join your party! I have some confidence in my ability as a herbalist, but I’m willing to carry luggage and do other menial labor! Please allow me to do this, I beg you!”
Just as Ainz was blinking his non-existent eyelids, Nfirea continued:
“I’ve always been researching herbological knowledge. I didn’t give that decision much thought because my grandmother and father were both herbalists… but now I’ve found the path I want to walk, and it’s not as a herbalist.”
“So, you want to become a great magic caster and protect Carne Village, then?”
Nfirea seemed to have shed his youthful attitude, and looked straight at Ainz, his eyes filled with a manly resolve.
♦ ♦ ♦
In YGGDRASIL, there had been an endless stream of applicants seeking to join the guild Ainz Ooal Gown. Most of them wanted to do so for personal gain, thinking that they would profit from joining one of the highest-ranked guilds in the game. They did not think of what they could do for the guild, but what the guild could do for them.
In addition, there were those who wanted to infiltrate the guild to steal its information and rare items.
Because of this, Ainz Ooal Gown did not increase its numbers much beyond its founding members. They were careful not to let their hard work and effort be trampled by others.
Still, this was the simple, pure desire of a man who knew nothing of the guild called Ainz Ooal Gown. His misguided way of thinking was quite refreshing.
♦ ♦ ♦
Ainz laughed, long and loud. His laughter was light and buoyant. Then, when he was done, he removed his helmet and bowed deeply.
He could hear Narberal taking a deep breath in the background.
Actions like this did not fit Narberal’s master, the supreme ruler of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. Still, Ainz felt that he had to do this, without any hesitation about whether it was right or proper. He did not feel that bowing to a young man who was only half his age was shameful.
There was no malice in Ainz’s laughter, but Ainz now knew he should not have done so. He raised his head to face the surprised Nfirea:
“…Forgive me for my laughter. That was a mistake on my part. But I would like you to understand that I was not laughing at your determination. In order to join my team, you must meet two criteria. At the moment, you have only met one of them. Therefore, I am sorry, but I cannot let you join.”
The hidden condition was that more than half of the present guild members had to approve of the prospective member. Therefore, even if Ainz agreed, he could not add members to the guild on his own. However, Ainz was pleased by the loyalty which the Guardians of Nazarick had shown him after coming to this world, and in that good mood, he continued:
“I understand how you feel, and I will remember that you wished to join my team. As for protecting this village, I will exert all my power to aid you. However, I might need your help—”
“Yes! Please, I’m eager to help!”
“Is that so, is that so…”
As Ainz was nodding, he met Ninya’s gaze. He seemed to be enjoying the show, which made Ainz feel a little embarrassed.
“Then, we’ll discuss that matter later. Before that, I have an interesting story to tell everyone, about the taming of the Wise King of the Forest.”