Twin Swords of Death
They had spent a night outside on the way to Carne Village, and another night within the village itself. After that, they left Carne Village for the city of E-Rantel in the morning, and thus their journey of three days and two nights came to an end. It was almost nightfall by the time they returned to the Fortress City.
The main roads were lit by streetlamps made from [Continual Light] spells, which cast white-colored illumination, while the nature of the pedestrians had changed as well. There were no young women and children to be seen, but instead working men returning home after they were done for the day. The two rows of shops on either side emitted cheerful and pleasant sounds.
Ainz looked around him.
The city had not changed much in three days. Or rather, he had gone to Carne Village right after arriving in E-Rantel, so he did not have much basis for comparison. Still, he felt that the peaceful streets remained the same.
They turned off the main road, and then Ainz and company came to a halt.
Obviously stopping in the middle of a busy thoroughfare would be a big hindrance, but nobody dared complain. This was because nobody dared go near Ainz.
Ainz tiredly rounded his back, and then peeked at the people around him.
Just about everyone walking past on the street seemed to be looking in Ainz’s direction — no, they were staring at him — and whispering to each other.
The sounds of their chatter filtered into Ainz’s ears, and he felt like they were mocking him. However, that was just a mistake on his part. If he strained to listen, he would realise that everyone was discussing matters in tones of praise, surprise or outright fear.
Even so, he could not find it in himself to be relieved.
Ainz silently lowered his head and looked at the pearly-white fur beneath him. It was there because he was riding the Wise King of the Forest.
The people around him were surprised by the Wise King of the Forest’s majestic — Ainz wanted to dispute this choice of words — form, and they were discussing how that warrior could ride such a fearsome yet dignified beast, and so on.
I should be able to take pride in that… right…?
This reaction was entirely understandable. The people were praising the Wise King of the Forest as a mighty creature, but to Ainz, it was more like a form of public humiliation. For comparison, it was like a middle-aged bachelor with no family or girlfriend proudly riding a merry-go-round by himself.
In addition, he was riding in an unsightly manner. Because the Wise King of the Forest had a completely different body structure from a regular horse, Ainz was forced to stick his butt out and back while spreading his legs wide. If he did not adopt this stance —which resembled someone jumping over a box — while riding, it would be difficult to keep his balance.
Naturally, riding the Wise King of the Forest was not Ainz’s idea. It had taken not only the Swords of Darkness and the Wise King of the Forest itself to persuade him, but also Narberal’s humble submission that “a ruler should not be walking”. That made him think that perhaps riding it back would be a good idea, but it had ended up like this.
If I’d known this would happen I would have refused. Could it be someone was trying to set me up and arranged for this?
Riding a hamster was something one would hear about in children’s fairytales. However, those creatures were best suited for boys and girls. At a stretch, it might be all right for a woman to ride one. A rugged warrior in full plate armor was right out.
However, the surrounding folk all seemed to think that Ainz was the one with the strange reaction.
Could it be that my aesthetic sense is at fault, or that they have weird taste, or is it that this world’s sense of aesthetics is completely messed up?
Of course, the answer went without saying. As long as the majority of people felt that it looked good, then it was Ainz’s aesthetic sense which was at fault. This was why he could not protest riding the Wise King of the Forest too vigorously. In addition, if riding it made Momon the adventurer that much more memorable — which would help in finding his feet here — all the more reason to do so. All the same—
Isn’t this basically a form of shame play?
Ainz’s psyche automatically suppressed any emotions he experienced which exceeded a certain magnitude, but this was not happening now. In other words, this was not really affecting him. All this told Ainz one thing.
Does this mean I’m immune to shame play… don’t tell me I’m a masochist?… But I’ve always felt I was more on the sadist side…
“Since we’re back in town, it seems the assignment is over.”
As Ainz compared the images and videos he had collected in the past to his current mental state and agonized over his sexual fetishes, Peter and Nfirea struck up a conversation.
“Indeed, you’re right, the request is at an end. Then… while I’ve already prepared the arranged remuneration, I still have to pay the bonus we negotiated in the forest. Could you come to my family’s store with me?”
The wagon behind Nfirea was piled high with herbs. In addition, there was tree bark, strange fruits which looked like branches, a gigantic mushroom that was large enough for a man to put his arms around, extremely tall grasses, and other such harvests. To an amateur, they seemed like nothing more than plants, but to a trained eye, they were a heaping pile of glittering treasure.
After Ainz subdued the Wise King of the Forest, they were free to fully explore the region in its former sphere of influence. They discovered many rare and valuable herbs, as well as other efficacious ingredients which could be used to make other potions. Nfirea picked and picked nonstop, promising the others that he would pay them a generous bonus on top of the prearranged amount.
“Momon-shi, you should go to the Adventurer’s Guild first!”
“Mm, indeed. Since I brought a monster into a city, I need to register the Wise King of the Forest with the Guild.”
“It’s troublesome, but it can’t be helped.”
“Well, we wiped out those Ogres and other monsters too, so how about it? Want to all go to the Guild together?”
“Hmm — no, I think not. Momon-san basically did all the heavy lifting for this job, so we should go to Nfirea-san’s house first to help with the chores and unload the herbs. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to accept getting the same fees as Momon-san.”
The Swords of Darkness nodded as Peter spoke, and Nfirea politely added:
“There’s no need to trouble everyone…”
“Well, you did agree to pay us a bonus, so consider this a free service on our part.”
After hearing Peter’s light-hearted statement, Nfirea politely replied:
“Then, when you come to our store for potions, we’ll give you a discount.”
“Nothing would please us more. Then, Momon-san, please head to the Guild first, and meet us at Nfirea-san’s home afterwards. We’ll proceed directly to Nfirea-san’s home, take care of the chores, and then go to the Guild to take care of paperwork. Unfortunately, we’ll have to trouble you to come again tomorrow because we can only claim the bounty on the Ogres then… we’ll meet at the same time as the last time we met you.”
Ainz nodded in response to this suggestion. Since he could simply register by nonchalantly asking the Guild receptionists, he did not want to go to the Guild with them. He would have to pretend that he knew how to read this and write that, and it might well cause all his hard work over the past few days to go up in smoke.
“Then, we’ll let you take care of business.”
Ainz nodded slightly, and then he and Narberal parted ways with Nfirea and the Swords of Darkness. At this point, Narberal leaned in and asked:
“Can we trust them?”
“…It’s fine. Even if they betray us, the most we’ll lose is the bounty for the Ogres. If we fixate on that measly amount of money and end up with a reputation as penny-pinchers, it’ll do more harm than good to our cause.”
Ainz had come to this city to make a name for himself. Gaining a reputation for pettiness would impede his future plans.
He would simply have to pretend that he really was that big-hearted.
As he thought of that, Ainz idly reached for his laced-up money pouch. His fingertips pressed it flat almost immediately — a sign that there was not much money inside — but he could easily tell that there were still a few coins left. However, he had the night’s lodgings to worry about.
It might not be enough if he included the costs for food and drink, but Ainz was undead, while the ring on Narberal’s finger was imbued with magic that removed the need for her to eat or drink, which helped a lot in cutting costs. Narberal could wear and use two rings, and one of her ring slots was allocated to this one. Initially, it had been chosen to protect against consuming something poisonous, but it had proved unexpectedly useful in this situation.
However, as he glanced at the Wise King of the Forest beneath him, he mused, “This guy has got to eat at some point.”
Then Narberal cut in:
“Indeed… it would be strange for the almighty Ainz-sama to be concerned about such a small sum. My apologies for my rudeness.”
Ainz patted his money pouch again, and he felt what seemed like a stream of sweat on his back, which should not have been to produce sweat. He silently cursed himself for handicapping himself for no reason. And also—
Ainz-sama… don’t call me that any more, Narberal. At least nobody was around to hear you…
As Ainz sighed internally, Narberal happily continued:
“Those inferior lifeforms (crane flies) should prostrate themselves before your awesome power, Ainz-sama.”
“Well, maybe not to that extent…”
“Ainz-sama, you are being too modest. Although Ogres must be less than insects in your eyes, your sword skills are still first-rate. I am truly amazed, Ainz-sama.”
Ainz felt a strange trembling through his waist from the Wise King of the Forest, but he paid it no heed, and instead told Narberal:
“…I was merely swinging my swords using sheer brute force.”
Though killing Ogres in one stroke sounded quite impressive, this was not actually the case. When he watched Gazef fight earlier, Ainz had seen the man’s fluid movements and technique, but when he reflected on his own moves, he was reminded of a child flailing around with a stick. It shamed him to realize it.
What the Swords of Darkness admired was only the destructive power born of his superhuman strength. It was completely different from their praise of a real warrior like Gazef.
“It would seem it’s very difficult to move and fight like a real warrior.”
“…Then what about using magic to transform into one?”
There were five spells Ainz could use while wearing armor, and one of them allowed him to convert his magic caster levels into an equivalent number of warrior levels. In other words, by using that spell, he could temporarily become a level 100 warrior.
Although it also carried the benefit of being able to use certain pieces of arms and armor that would normally require specific job classes to access, there were many drawbacks to that spell. The first weakness was that he could not cast other spells while the magic was in effect. In addition, he would not gain any special warrior skills from the spell, and his recalculated ability scores would be lower than an actual warrior. In other words, it was a spell that turned him into a half-baked level 100 warrior. Of course, it was enough when matching blades with second-rate combatants like priests and the like, but he would have no chance of winning against an opponent who was a dedicated warrior.
Even so, Ainz would be much stronger in that state than he was now.
The problem was —
“There’s too many drawbacks to that spell. If I’m ambushed by an opponent of my level, I won’t be able to use magic for a while, and defeat is certain. I could use scrolls to cast spells, but it would take too much preparation time. It’s still a major flaw in the spell.”
Since he did not know if there were any enemy players around, he could not allow himself to lower his guard. There was no need to use that spell and make himself weaker on purpose.
“I’m pretending to be a warrior to hide my true identity, so there’s no need to be so shocked.”
A tremor ran through the Wise King of the Forest as it raised its head to look at Ainz, a surprised look on its face.
“Your humble servant was listening to your words; could it be that you are not a warrior, milord?”
The Wise King of the Forest looked up to Ainz with its round, black eyes. Ainz looked back and nodded sagely. With a hint of pride in her voice, Narberal explained:
“Ainz-sama is merely pretending to be a warrior. It is like a game to him. If he were to use the spells which are his true power, he could easily sunder the heavens and shatter the earth.”
Ainz could not bring himself to deny Narberal with words like, “No way”, not when he was confronted with her absolute faith in him, or the fact that she felt it was perfectly logical.
“…Mm, yes, something like that. Wise King of the Forest, aren’t you glad you didn’t fight the real me? If I had used my true power, you would have been destroyed in an instant.”
“I, I see… Milord, your servant Hamsuke shall be doubly faithful to you!”
When the Wise King of the Forest asked for a name, the first thing that came to Ainz’s mind was Hamsuke. Once he named it Hamsuke, the Wise King of the Forest seemed quite pleased with it. However, when he thought about it, the name Hamsuke was actually quite lame.
…Maybe I was too hasty in naming it Hamsuke… Perhaps Daifuku… that name might have been wittier… the people in the guild always said I had poor naming sense…
With a faint sense of regret, Ainz — mounted atop Hamsuke, the Wise King of the Forest — wobbled toward the Adventurer’s Guild.
♦ ♦ ♦
They drove the wagon into the house’s backyard, stopping in front of the back door. Nfirea unlocked the door, a magical lantern in hand. He hung it on a wall inside, illuminating the darkened interior.
Because of the lantern’s light, they could see several barrels within the house. The smell of dried herbs hung in the air, suggesting that this room was a place for herb storage.
“Then, could I trouble you to help me with the herbs?”
The Swords of Darkness cheerfully replied in the affirmative as they carefully unloaded the bundles of herbs from the wagon, moving them into the room.
As he showed the adventurers where to put the bundles, a question popped up in his mind:
“Isn’t Granny home?”
Nfirea’s grandmother was quite old, but she still had keen eyes and ears. She should have come the moment she heard them moving things. However, if she was focused on making potions, then she would not pay attention to lesser noises. Since this seemed like par for the course, Nfirea did not make a big deal out of it.
After all the herbs were in their place, Nfirea called out to the slightly-panting Swords of Darkness.
“Thank you for your hard work! There should be some cool fruit juice in the house, so please come in for some.”
“That sounds great.”
Lukrut, his forehead shiny with sweat, exclaimed in delight. The others nodded happily as well.
“Then, please come this way…”
Just as Nfirea was about to lead the others into the house, someone opened the door on the other side of the room.
“Hiiii~ Welcome home~”
Before him stood a pretty, yet vaguely unsettling young woman. Her blonde hair swayed in the wind.
“Ah~ I’ve been worried, you know? I thought you went missing. What poor timing — I didn’t know when you’d be coming back, so I had to wait here all this while, you know?”
“…May, may I ask who you are?”
“Eh! You don’t know each other?”
Peter exclaimed in surprise. He thought they knew each other, from her familiar tone of voice.
“Hm? Ehehehe~ I came to kidnap you~ I need someone to use the spell which summons a biiiiiiig horde of undead, [Undeath Army], so could you be my magic item? Onee-chan’s begging you~”
The Swords of Darkness sensed the air of malice radiating from the girl, and they immediately drew their weapons. Although everyone else was in a combat stance, the girl airily said:
“That’s a 7th-tier spell which hardly anyone can use, but it can be cast with the Crown of Wisdom. You can’t control all the undead it makes, but you can guide them! What a perfect plan~!”
“Nfirea-san, fall back! Get out of here!”
Peter eyed the woman warily, his sword in hand, and spoke in a steely tone:
“She’s going on and on because she’s certain she can kill us all. Since you’re her target, the only way to turn things around is for you to escape.”
As Nfirea withdrew in a panic, the Swords of Darkness closed ranks in front of him, turning themselves into his meatshields.
“Ninya, you go too!”
After Dyne spoke, Lukrut shouted:
“Take the kid and run! Weren’t you going to save your kidnapped sister?”
“That’s right. You’ve got something you have to do. Though we might not be able to help you until the very end… at least we can buy you some time.”
“Mmm~ how touching~ I’m about to shed a tear myself, mm. But if he escapes, it’d be troublesome for me. So let’s leave one to play with~”
The girl smiled happily and withdrew a pair of stilettos from under her robe as she saw the doubtful gaze on Ninya’s face as he bit his lip. Just then, the rear door swung open, revealing a sickly-pale, stick-thin man, who looked like one of the undead.
They were caught in a pincer attack. The Swords of Darkness’ faces turned grim.
“…You’re getting carried away.”
“Ah~ What’re you saying, Khazi-chan? Weren’t you the one making preparations so their screams wouldn’t spill out? It’s just one person, so let me enjoy myself~”
The way the girl smiled with her teeth bared sent a chill down Nfirea’s spine.
“Then, since there’s nowhere for you to run, let’s have some fun~”
Registering Hamsuke itself was simple enough, but it took about one and a half hours. The most time-consuming part of the process was sketching an identification picture of Hamsuke by hand. While magic could have sped up the process, Ainz did not want to go to the extra expense of paying for a spell, which had led to this situation.
Ainz had to make up an excuse in order to avoid being labelled as petty.
“Although it’s a little late to mention this, the whole ‘I’m interested in drawing’ excuse is getting old… Ah, forget it. Let’s go over now,” Ainz said to Narberal as he finished the registration, before he headed toward Hamsuke.
He had become used to it.
Since the merry-go-round was not the exclusive domain of the rich — or people with lovers or family — then it made no difference if a lonely older man rode it.
Having given up on himself, there was no hesitation in Ainz’s movements.
Using his superior athletic ability, he mounted the Wise King of the Forest with a masterful vault. If he were an athlete, his name would have gone down in the history books. He did not have a saddle or reins, but several hours of experience was enough for Ainz to learn how to skilfully mount up.
The pedestrians were gasping in awe as far as his eyes could see. He could even hear the sounds of women screaming in excitement. In particular, he felt the piercing gazes of his fellow adventurers burning into him. After seeing the copper plate around Ainz’s neck, their eyes went wide with disbelief.
I’m the one who should have a hard time believing this. What’s wrong with your sense of aesthetics?
Just then, a voice called out to Ainz, interrupting the foolish questions in his heart and the process of ordering Hamsuke to move out.
“Say, would you be the people who went herb-picking with my grandson?”
The voice was an aged one. When he turned to look, he found an old granny.
“…And who might you be?”
He said that, but Ainz could guess at the answer. If this granny’s words were genuine, then there could be only one answer to that question.
“My name is Lizzie Bareare. I’m Nfirea’s grandmother.”
“Ah! So it really was you? That’s right, I’m one of the adventurers who escorted your grandson to Carne Village. My name is Momon, and this is Nabe.”
Lizzie smiled to the bowing Narberal:
“She’s an unbelievably beautiful girl. And what is the name of the creature you’re riding?”
“It is the Wise King of Forest, Hamsuke.”
“This one is Hamsuke! This one is very pleased to meet you!”
“What! This mighty beast is the legendary Wise King of the Forest?!”
The adventurers around them who heard Lizzie’s cry were even more surprised. With shocked looks on their faces, they whispered “Is that really the monster of legends?” and so on.
“Indeed. After receiving your grandson’s request, we encountered it at our destination and I managed to tame it.”
“You actually… tamed the Wise King of the Forest…”
Lizzie was dumbstruck and could do nothing but stare.
“Then… where is my grandson now?”
“Ah, he went home first with the herbs. We’re heading over there now to collect our payment.”
The old lady breathed a sigh of relief, and then looked at Ainz with a strange look in her eyes:
“Oh, I see… then, shall we go together? I’m quite interested in you adventurer types.”
To Ainz, Lizzie’s suggestion was like a life preserver to a drowning man.
“Ah, the pleasure’s all mine.”
The group proceeded through the streets of E-Rantel, led by Lizzie.
♦ ♦ ♦
“Then, please come in.”
Once they reached the storefront, Lizzie came to the front door and took out her keys. Then, she looked down, and pushed. The door swung open, without any resistance.
“What’s this? This is too careless of him.”
Lizzie muttered to herself as she entered the shop. Ainz and Narberal followed her.
“Nfirea, Momon-san’s here—”
Lizzie’s voice echoed through the shop, but it was silent. It felt as though there was nobody there.
Lizzie was filled with confusion. Ainz, on the other hand, replied curtly:
Lizzie heard, but did not understand. Ainz paid her no heed, but instead placed his hands on the hilts of his greatswords. Narberal figured out what he was up to from that action and she drew her sword as well.
“What, what are you doing?!”
“Don’t ask, just follow.”
With that clipped answer, Ainz drew his weapons and entered the store. He kicked the door open and kept to the right as he went in. Though this was a stranger’s house, completely unfamiliar to him, there was no trace of hesitation in Ainz’s footsteps.
Ainz came to a door which led down, and then turned to Lizzie, who had just caught up with him:
“What is this place for?”
“This, this is the herb storage room, it leads to the back door.”
Although she was not sure what was going on, Lizzie sensed that something was wrong and began to worry. However, Ainz ignored her and pushed the door open.
What he smelled was not the scent of herbs, but a more acrid odour — the stench of blood.
The first people he saw were Peter and Lukrut. Dyne was a bit further beyond. Ninya was all the way inside the room. All of them were slumped against the walls. Their legs stuck forward and their arms drooped down lifelessly. They seemed to have lost all the blood in their bodies, which was now clotted on the ground so thickly that it looked black.
“This, what is this…”
A shocked Lizzie made to enter with shaky footsteps. Ainz put a hand on her shoulder to keep her from moving forward, and quickened his pace to get ahead of her.
Just then, the fallen Peter suddenly jerked like a puppet. However, before he could get up, the greatsword flashed across him.
Peter’s head rolled to the ground. With the blade in his other hand, he decapitated Lukrut, who was halfway through standing up.
Just as Lizzie managed to process the shock of the tragedy before her, Dyne, who was somewhat further inside, had already risen to his feet.
The face which raised itself was not a living one. There was no color in it and its eyes were clouded. There was a hole in its forehead, instantly recognizable as a fatal injury.
There was only one reason why a dead man would move again — because he was undead.
Just as Lizzie cried out, Dyne groaned menacingly and lurched at them. Ainz immediately thrust his greatsword at Dyne. His throat pierced, Dyne’s head shuddered and then he collapsed.
Nobody else moved.
Amidst the silence, Ainz stared at the unmoving Ninya.
Lizzie finally realized what was going on, and began looking for her grandson. Ainz narrowed his eyes at her receding back, and gave Narberal an order.
“Protect her. My passive skill [Undead Blessing] isn’t giving me any reactions, so there shouldn’t be any more undead in the house. But there might be living people inside.”
After a quick nod of her head, Narberal broke into a sprint to catch up with Lizzie.
Once he made sure that the two of them were gone, Ainz looked toward Ninya again. He kneeled slowly before him, and then gently touched the body. Once he was sure that there were none of the usual corpse boobytraps found in YGGDRASIL, he raised Ninya’s face. Of course, he was not unconscious, but dead.
He must have been beaten by some sort of blunt object, given how his cheeks were bloated up like pomegranates. If Ainz did not know it was Ninya, he might not have recognized the corpse at all.
His left eye was crushed, and the vitreous humor had flowed out. It looked like he was crying.
The bones of his fingers were completely pulverized. The skin was split open, revealing the red muscle underneath. In some places, there was no muscle at all. Ainz pulled open Ninya’s clothes, and his eyes went wide in surprise.
He closed up the garment, and muttered:
“…So even the body was…”
Much like the face, the body bore signs of a brutal beating. It was covered in the bruises of internal bleeding, and it would be harder to find a patch of uninjured flesh than the other way around.
Ainz gently closed Ninya’s eyes.
“…This is a little… upsetting.”
The sound of his murmurs faded into the air.
♦ ♦ ♦
“My grandson! Nfirea’s gone!”
Lizzie returned, shouting at the top of her voice Ainz had gathered all the corpses into a corner of the room, and calmly replied:
“I checked their gear. None of them were searched. That being the case, the opposition must have intended to kidnap Nfirea.”
“Come see this.”
Ainz pointed to the letters written in blood under Ninya’s corpse. They would not be visible unless someone moved them.
“This is… the sewers? Does it mean he was taken to the sewers?”
“…It might be a trap set by the person who did this, and I have no idea how big the sewers are… searching them might take a long time. What do you think?”
“There’s numbers there, 2-8, what could that mean?”
“Those are even more suspicious. Although I don’t know what those numbers mean… but I can guess that you can divide the city into eight sections, or it might just be a simple 2-8… although, did Ninya really have the time to think of all that? Even if Ninya did write it, how much could he have learned from the enemy? This is far too much of a coincidence.”
Lizzie frowned her already wrinkled face, directing something that approached anger at Ainz, who was analyzing the entire situation with unexpected calmness. Then she looked at the four corpses on the ground.
“Who are these people?”
“…They were the adventurers your son hired, who went with us. After we parted ways, they should have come to help him unload the herbs.”
“What! Then they’re your comrades, aren’t they?”
Ainz shook his head:
“No, they were not. We just happened to be adventuring together.”
His cold words chilled Lizzie to the bone, and she had no desire to pursue the matter further.
“Come to think of it, I’ve been thinking about their corpses, but I’d like your opinion. What do you think about them being turned into Zombies?”
“…[Create Undead]. That means the enemy has someone who can use at least 3rd-tier magic. I don’t know anything else apart from that.”
“I think we need to think of something quickly.”
“Isn’t that obvious… what do you mean by that?”
“…The enemy could have used mind control or hidden the corpses, but they did not do that at all. They seemed to have done it for fun. Otherwise, they did it because they were absolutely sure they would not be exposed, or that they were completely confident in their ability to escape. Hm… I don’t know which of them it was. Since they could make Zombies, they could have brought the corpses back with them, right?”
If they wanted to kidnap Nfirea, all they would have to do was hide the bodies, which would have bought them enough time to escape. However, the enemy did not do that, which meant that they had other things to do, or because they wanted Lizzie to do something.
The latter was easier to deal with. It was the former which was tricky. Nfirea’s life and talent were valuable, but they might not be able to use them for long. Would these cruel people who could kill without blinking an eye let him live after using him up?
After Lizzie realised the meaning hidden in Ainz’s words, her gray face turned white. With no idea where he had been taken in this gigantic city, they would need to search the whole of E-Rantel, which would take far too long.
Their only clue was the sewers, but Ainz had his doubts about it.
The flame of Nfirea’s life was ebbing away with each passing moment.
Ainz calmly turned to the panicked Lizzie and asked:
“How about hiring us?”
The cold voice continued:
“Isn’t this something you should hire an adventurer for?”
A light came on in Lizzie’s eyes as she understood what Ainz was getting at.
“You are a very lucky woman, Lizzie Bareare. At the moment, I am the strongest adventurer in this city, and the only one who can save your grandson’s life. If you hire me, I will accept your request. However… the price will be very high, because I am fully aware of how troublesome this task might be.”
“That, that’s right… if it was you… the one who possessed that potion… and with the Wise King of the Forest… then there’s no doubt about your strength… I’ll hire, I’ll hire you!”
“Is that so… are you prepared to pay a high price for this?”
“How much will it take to satisfy you?”
“Give me everything you have.”
Lizzie’s eyes widened in shock, and her body trembled violently.
“Everything you have. When I safely return Nfirea to you, give me everything you have.”
Backing away in fear, Lizzie muttered:
“When you say everything… you don’t mean money or rare potions… I’ve heard that demons will grant any wish in return for men’s souls. Are you a demon?”
“…And what if I was? Do you want to save your grandson?”
Lizzie did not respond, silently biting her lip.
“Then there’s only one answer, right?”
“Umu… I’ll hire you. I’ll give you everything I have, so please save my grandson!”
“Very well, the pact is sealed. Then, let’s not waste time. Do you have a map of this city? If you do, lend it to me.”
Lizzie had her doubts, but she still handed the map to Ainz immediately.
“Then, we shall find Nfirea’s location next.”
“Can you do such a thing?!”
“Only this time. Just this one time, I can. I don’t know if the enemy was stupid or…”
As Ainz’s voice trailed off halfway, he turned to look at the four corpses resting within the room.
“Then, I shall begin the search. Go look in the other rooms and see if the people who kidnapped Nfirea left any clues behind. If kidnapping Nfirea was itself a distraction, that would make things troublesome. You’re familiar with this home, so you’re better suited to this.”
After thinking up a reason to get Lizzie out of the room, Ainz turned to Narberal.
“May I ask what you intend?”
“Simple. Look, their adventurers’ plates are all missing, probably taken by the person who attacked this place.The question now is why they didn’t take anything more valuable, but these plates… what do you think?”
“My apologies, but I have no idea.”
Halfway through, a voice spoke in Ainz’s mind. It was the [Message] spell.
The voice was somewhat high-pitched, and there was something like rustling in the background.
“Is that you, Entoma?”
『Yes, it is me.』
It was Entoma Vasilisa Zeta. She was a member of the Pleiades, like Narberal.
『I have a report to deliver.』
“—I’m busy now. I’ll contact you again when I’m free.”
『Understood. Please contact Albedo-sama as soon as possible.』
The spell ended, and Ainz continued replying to Narberal, who was looking at him:
“They were trophies, loot from hunting. Probably a memento for the killer to remember them by. However, that was a fatal mistake. Narberal, use these scrolls.”
Ainz pulled a scroll from his Infinite Backpack and handed it to Narberal.
“This is a scroll of [Locate Object]. I trust I don’t have to tell you what to look for?”
With that acknowledgement, Narberal opened the scroll. Just as she was about to activate it, Ainz grabbed her hand and coldly rebuked Narberal:
Narberal’s shoulder shuddered as Ainz scolded her.
“My, my apologies!”
“When using divination-type magic, you need to prepare yourself thoroughly against the enemy’s counter-detection spells before casting it. This is an ironclad rule. When considering that the opposition might use [Detect Locate], it’s a basic precaution to use [False Cover], [Counter Detect], and the like to protect yourself. Also—”
Ainz prepared about ten more scrolls, and explained the function of each one to Narberal like a teacher.
When using magic to collect information, one had to protect oneself. This was basic knowledge.
When Ainz Ooal Gown PKed, they gathered as much information on the opposition as possible and then launched an ambush to swiftly decide the matter. Simply put, “the battle is over before it begins”, as stated by the guild member Punitto Moe in the text named “PKing for Dummies”.
Therefore, Ainz was now teaching these skills to Narberal, so they would have the advantage if they encountered other players in the future.
“—That’s basically it. The fact is, you still need to use skills to improve the effectiveness of your spells and defend yourself, but I don’t think we need to prepare so much against our enemy this time. After all, if the opposition was a magic caster who knew more spells to deal with the enemy, they wouldn’t have simply cast that level of spells on the corpses. Then, begin, Narberal.”
A relieved Narberal carefully opened a scroll and recited the name of the spell inscribed upon it.
A heatless flame engulfed the scroll, consuming it within seconds and releasing the magic locked within.
She did the same with all the other scrolls, and only after sheathing herself in countless protective spells did she finally cast [Locate Object]. After that, she pointed to a location on the map:
Ainz could not understand the characters, and racked his brains for some clue as to where “there” was.
“…The graveyard, huh. As I thought, it wasn’t the sewers after all.”
E-Rantel was also a military base, and the graveyard was massive, almost the largest of its size. The spell pointed to the deepest reaches of the graveyard.
“I see. Then, use [Clairvoyance] next. Combine it with [Crystal Monitor] so I can see as well.”
Narberal activated the scrolls once more, and the image floating in mid-air revealed countless human shapes. However, their movements were oddly stiff. In addition, there were many inhuman objects within the image.
There was a boy in their midst. He was dressed strangely, but there was no mistake about him.
“So he’s definitely there. And the metal plates should be nearby… hm, a big mass of undead?”
There was a group of undead around Nfirea. They were all low-tier undead, but they were present in surprising numbers.
“…What do you plan to do? Teleport in and wipe them all out at once? Or perhaps use flight magic to attack them from above?”
“Don’t be silly. Wouldn’t either of those methods mean that the problem gets solved without anyone knowing about it?”
Seeing that Narberal had no idea of what he was talking about, Ainz continued his explanation:
“Whoever created all these undead must have done so in preparation for something of earthshaking proportions. Therefore, if we save Nfirea and deal with that matter at the same time, it will greatly boost our reputations. If we do this on the quiet, we will only receive Lizzie’s payment, and we won’t be able to gain much fame from it.”
That said, if they did not take care of the situation quickly, there was a high chance that Nfirea might die. Even Ainz could not summon this many undead and control them, so there must have been some sort of trick at work here. Nfirea’s life might well be an important part of that trick.
That said, he wanted to know the secret of that trick, even if it cost Nfirea’s life.
The most important thing to Ainz was how to strengthen the Great Tomb of Nazarick. If he could do so by sacrificing Nfirea, then he would gladly pay that price.
“I’d like to collect more information, but our preparations and time won’t allow it,” Ainz muttered as he approached the door. After opening it, he shouted:
“Lizzie! We’re ready. We’re heading to the graveyard now!”
“What about the sewers?”
Lizzie’s voice came from far away, accompanied by the patapata of her running footsteps.
“The sewer is just a red herring which the author of this tragedy left for us. They’re actually in the graveyard, together with an army of undead. There’s easily thousands of them there.”
Of course it was an estimate. How could he have counted all of them?
“No need to be shocked. We intend to cut a path through them. The problem is that we can’t guarantee that undead army won’t escape from the graveyard. You need to tell as many people as possible to hold the undead back if they see them spilling out. There’s no proof, but I’m sure that a lot of people will be willing to listen to a big name like you. If the undead ran wild and there was nobody stopping them… that would be troublesome, no?”
Ainz’s face twisted under his helmet.
If I don’t make a grand spectacle of this, it’ll be a pain. The more I heat this up, the more fame I’ll earn when I solve the problem. That’s why I’m doing this, after all.
“That’s all I have to say. Time is tight, so I’ll be heading over right now.”
“Do you have a way to break through that army of the dead?”
Ainz looked quietly at Lizzie, and then pointed to the greatswords on his back.
“Don’t you see it right here?”
There was a place which occupied roughly a quarter of E-Rantel’s outer ring, which was also most of the western quadrant. It was E-Rantel’s communal cemetery. While other cities had their own graveyards, none of them were as big as this one.
This was in order to suppress the spawning of the undead.
Although many things were unclear about the spontaneous genesis of the undead, the basic idea was that vile creatures frequently spawned from the places where the living came to an end. Of these, people who died sudden, violent deaths and the dead who were not properly revered had the highest chance of coming back to unlife. Therefore, battlefields and ruins tended to be infested by the undead.
Since E-Rantel was very close to the Empire and consequently its battlefields, it required a huge graveyard — a place where remains could receive the proper veneration.
In this aspect, the neighboring country — the Empire — also adhered to their common agreement to respect the dead. Though they slaughtered each other, they both saw the undead that attacked the living as their common enemy.
In addition, there was another problem with the undead. If left unattended, the undead spawned more powerful undead. This was why the city guards and adventurers patrolled the graveyards day and night to exterminate the weaker undead as soon as possible.
A wall surrounded the graveyard. This wall was the boundary between the living and dead. While it was only four meters tall and could not compare to the city walls, it was wide enough for people to walk on top of it. The large doors set into its side were sturdy and could not be easily breached.
All this was in order to ward against the undead that spawned in the graveyard.
There were staircases to the left and right of the doors, and watchtowers along the length of the wall. The guards took turns observing the graveyard below them as they yawned from the watchtowers, in shifts of five men at a time.
The graveyard was lined with sconces enchanted with [Continual Light] spells, so there was ample illumination despite it being nighttime. Still, there were many shadowy places, and visibility was even worse in those places blocked by tombstones.
A spear-wielding guard absentmindedly looked out to the graveyard, and said to his yawning colleague:
“Tonight’s quite peaceful too.”
“Yup, there were only five Skeletons earlier, right? That seems a lot less compared to the past.”
“Hm, could it be the souls of the dead were called back by the Four Gods? That would be pretty lucky for us if it were true.”
The other guards were drawn in by the topic, and began speaking up:
“Well, if it’s just Skeletons and Zombies we can deal with them. Still, it’s a pain to take out Skeletons with a spear.”
“I think the most troublesome ones are the Wights.”
“For me it’s the Skeleton Centipedes. I’d be dead by now if the adventurers standing guard nearby didn’t chase them away from me.”
“Skeleton Centipedes? I heard that the powerful undead only show up when you let the weak ones get away. So all you need to do is kill them all when they’re weak and the strong undead won’t appear.”
“Yes, that’s right. The captain chewed out the squad patrolling the graveyard last week. While it’s nice to have them buy a round for us, I’d rather not have to go through that sort of thing again.”
“Still… when I think about it, I’ve got a bad feeling about the lack of undead right now.”
“Ah, I just feel like we might have missed something out during our watches.”
“You’re thinking too much. There aren’t that many undead normally. They say that they only pop up frequently when they bury the corpses of the people who died while fighting the Empire. So on the flip side, this is what happens when there aren’t any big wars, right?”
The soldiers nodded to each other in agreement. They had buried human corpses in their own villages, but they had never heard of the undead appearing that often.
“…So that means the Katze Plains must be pretty insane.”
“Yeah, didn’t they say something about an unimaginably strong undead creature showing up?”
It was a place where the Empire and the Kingdom clashed in fierce battles. It was also a place famous for the proliferation of its undead. Adventurers hired by the Kingdom and Imperial knights would often go there to hunt down the undead. This task was important enough that the Empire and Kingdom’s support corps had built small towns nearby to support their personnel.
A guard who was about to speak suddenly shut his mouth.
Another guard, who felt easy about this, spoke up:
“Oi, don’t scare me—”:
The silent guard looked straight at the graveyard, as though he could see through the darkness. Following this, the other guards turned to look at the graveyard one after the other.
“…Didn’t you hear it?”
“Were you imagining things?”
“Though I didn’t hear the wind blowing or the grass moving… I think I can smell dirt. Didn’t they dig a few graves just now? It smells just like it did then…”
“Come on, don’t joke about this sort of thing.”
“…Eh? Ah, oi! Look over there!”
One of the guards pointed to the graveyard, and everyone else looked toward the spot he was pointing at.
Two guards were sprinting for the doors. Both of them panted heavily, their eyes bloodshot, and their sweat-slick hair stuck to their foreheads.
A growing sense of dread filled the other guards as they saw this.
Guard patrols in the graveyard moved in groups of at least ten. Why were there only two people here? Judging by the way they had no weapons and were running for dear life, they had panicked and fled.
“Open, open up! Hurry up and open the doors!”
Upon seeing the two men shouting in front of the doors, the guards hurriedly ran down the stairs and let them through.
Before the doors could even swing fully open, the two guards forced their way in. They collapsed to the ground but kept scrabbling on.
“What the hell …”
The two pale-faced guards who had just escaped the graveyard interrupted their questioners, panting and shouting:
“Close, close the doors! Quickly!”
This strange behavior sent a chill down the spine of the other guards. Working together, they pushed the doors shut and barred them.
“What happened? What about the others?”
As they heard this question, a haunted look appeared on the guards’ frightened faces:
“They, they were eaten by the undead!”
Upon realizing that eight of their fellows had lost their lives, the guards immediately turned to their captain. He immediately ordered:
“…Oi, one of you go upstairs and take a look!”
A guard hurriedly climbed the stairs, but halfway up, he froze in place.
“What, what happened?”
The trembling guard shouted:
“The undead! The undead are everywhere!”
If one listened carefully, they would be able to make out a sound which sounded like ten thousand horses galloping, coming from the other side of the wall. Everyone, not just the guard from just now, were struck dumb by the scene before them.
A massive quantity of undead — so great as to render all who saw it speechless — approached the doors of the graveyard.
“Why, in such numbers…”
“Looks like it’s more than one or two hundred… there should be a thousand of them… or more…”
The magical lights illuminated countless undead, like shadows writhing in the dark, and it was difficult to get an exact count.
Wreathed in the scent of rot, the shambling mass of undead pressed in toward the doors like gathering clouds. It was not just Zombies and Skeletons down there; there were also a few rarer and more powerful undead — Ghouls, Ghasts, Wights, Swell Skins, Corrupt Dead, and so on.
The guards could not help their shivering.
Because the graveyard was surrounded by a wall, the undead could not attack the common folk as long as the wall held out. However, even if they mobilized all their guards, it was doubtful whether they could fend off such a massive horde of the undead. The guards were essentially normal citizens, and they had no confidence in wiping out these undead.
In addition, some undead could turn their slain victims into others of their own kind. If things went poorly, the guards might end up becoming undead themselves and attacking their fellows. And while they had not seen any flying undead yet, the guards had a bad feeling — that if they did not wipe them all out, a flying undead creature would end up spawning sooner or later.
—The undead tide washed up against the side of the wall.
The swarming, mindless undead had no sense of pain, and banged wildly against the doors. It was as if they knew that they could attack the living if they broke the doors down.
The sounds of repeated pounding and the constant moans of the dead came from the other side of the door.
They did not need siege rams. The undead — who did not care if their bodies were destroyed by their non-stop battering — were siege weapons in their own right.
Cold sweat broke out on the backs of the guards who saw this.
“Ring the bell! Ask for help from the barracks! You two, go inform the other doors about this!”
The captain, who had recovered his senses by now, continued giving orders:
“The ones behind, take your spears and stab the undead getting close to the doors!”
The guards remembered their duty as they heard the orders, and they started thrusting savagely at the undead below them. The undead covered the land like a flood, so any stroke of theirs found a home in undead flesh.
Thrust, withdraw, thrust again.
Tainted blood spilled over the ground, while the guards’ noses were soon inured to the stench of decay. They repeated the same motions over and over again like workers. They killed several undead, which fell to the ground and were trampled to paste by the ones behind them.
Because the undead had little intelligence, they did not strike against the guards stabbing at them with their spears. Repeating the same simple actions eroded the guards’ sense of danger.
And then, as though aiming for that moment —
A scream pierced the air. As the other guards turned to look, they saw something long and wriggly curled around another guard’s neck.
It was a slimy, pink object — an intestine.
The creature that had shot forth this length of intestine was an egg-shaped undead creature, with a huge cavity on the front of its body. Within that cavity were several people's’ worth of internal organs, churning and wriggling like parasites.
This undead creature was called an Organ Egg.
The writhing intestine pulled at the guard’s body.
Before his friends could save him, the guard wailed and fell—
“Save, save me! Someone save me! Agyaaaah!”
—His screams filled the air. Every guard saw the terrible fate of their colleague, eaten alive by the throng of undead.
The armor which protected his body and his attempts to protect his face only prolonged his suffering. His fingers, his calves, his face, all of them were picked clean.
“Fall back! Get down from the wall!”
After seeing the Organ Egg’s innards twitching, the guard captain ordered a retreat.
All the guards hurriedly ran down the stairs, and they could hear the sounds of the undead banging at the doors getting louder. The doors themselves began groaning under the strain.
The sense of doom grew stronger. The chances of them holding out until help arrived, or that no other strong undead would show up were very low. Once the doors opened, the tide of death would flood in, and only the gods knew how many lives would be lost.
Just as the guards were fully consumed by despair, there was a clattering of metal.
Everyone reflexively looked to the source of the sound.
Before their eyes was a magical beast whose round black eyes gleamed with intelligence, and a warrior in full plate armor. Beside them was a beautiful woman who seemed completely mismatched to the pair.
“O-oi! This place is very dangerous! Get out of—”
Halfway through the guard’s words, he realized that there was a metal plate dangling from the warrior’s neck.
However, that ember of hope was snuffed out when he saw that it was a copper plate. Adventurers of the lowest class could not possibly deliver them from this dilemma. A look of disappointment appeared in the eyes of all the guards present.
The warrior nimbly dismounted his beast. There was no sense of clumsiness in his movements.
“Didn’t you hear me? Get out of here now!”
“Nabe, my sword.”
The warrior’s voice was softer than the guard’s shouting, but it was surprisingly resonant even through the clamor of the swarming undead. The beautiful woman approached the warrior, and drew a greatsword from his back.
“Look behind you. It’s dangerous, right?”
The guards turned around in response to the warrior’s words, and they looked upon their doom.
They saw a shape which was taller than the four meter high walls.
It was a Necrosome Giant, a gigantic undead creature made of countless corpses.
Just as the guards screamed and prepared to flee, a strange sight appeared before them. The warrior from just now raised his sword in a javelin-thrower’s stance.
What was he doing?
In the next moment, that question vanished like mist in sunlight.
The warrior hurled his sword with unbelievable speed. The guards hurriedly looked where the sword had flown, and there they saw an even more incredible sight.
The Necrosome Giant, that vast, seemingly invincible undead creature, staggered back like it had been hit in the head by an even larger foe, before collapsing to the ground. A thunderous crash provided the proof that the gigantic creature had been knocked down.
“—These undead are in the way.”
With that, the dark warrior drew his other greatsword and advanced.
The guards did not seem to have understood what the warrior said. They blinked several times before they finally managed to parse the warrior’s words.
“Don’t, don’t be foolish! There’s a whole crowd of undead on the other side of the door!”
“So? What does that have to do with me, Momon?”
Faced by the absolute confidence of the dark warrior, all of the guards were shaken to the core, and they could not respond.
“…Well, if you won’t open up, it can’t be helped. I’ll go over there myself.”
The warrior broke into a sprint and kicked off the stone floor, vanishing over the other side of the wall. He had leapt over a four meter high wall in a single bound, and while wearing full plate too.
It was a scene that barely seemed real at all.
The guards could not bring themselves to believe the events which had just occurred. Each of them continued staring slack-jawed at the place where Momon had been.
The beautiful woman floated into the sky from her original position. She looked like she would cross the wall like that, but then a voice halted her:
“A moment please! Please bring this one with you!’
The voice came from the mighty beast which the warrior from just now had ridden here. Its voice was as awe-inspiring as its appearance.
The beautiful girl’s brows furrowed slightly — not that it damaged her looks at all — and responded to the beast:
“…Climb the stairs over there. You should still be able to move after falling from a height like this, right?”
“Of course! This one must rush to his master’s side! Wait for this one, milord!”
The massive creature shot past the guards and nimbly bounded up the stairs. It hopped over the wall and landed on the other side.
Now all was silence.
They stared with open mouths and stunned eyes for a while, as though a typhoon had just swept past them. The first guard to recover spoke in a voice that trembled uncontrollably:
“Oi… do you hear it?”
“The sounds of the undead.”
Even though they strained their ears to listen, they could not hear anything. It was as though a veil of silence had been drawn across the land. The constant sound of the undead pounding on the doors from just now was nowhere to be found.
The frightened guards muttered:
“Oi, did that actually happen? That warrior… there were undead like that, and so many of them, and he broke right through them… went straight ahead.”
They were filled with equal parts shock and awe.
The reason why the noise had stopped was because the nearby undead had been drawn away by a new target. Given that the sound still had not returned, it implied that they were still fighting and had not returned.
This unbelievable scenario drew the guards to the top of the walls to satisfy their curiosity. They could not believe what they saw from up there, and they muttered:
“What is this… that warrior… what kind of a man is he…”
Countless bodies littered the ground. Mountains of corpses were everywhere, covering the entire graveyard. Although some of the undead hung on to a thread of unlife and struggled weakly to move, all of them had lost the ability to fight.
The smell of decay floated over as they expected, and they heard the sounds of distant battle.
“…No way… he’s still fighting? All these undead, strong ones too, and he could actually break through them! Incredible…!”
“Who was that warrior, anyway?”
“…He called himself Momon, I think… but calling someone with skills like that a copper-plate is too much of a joke. He should be one of those legendary adventurers with an adamantite plate, right?”
The others quietly voiced their approval. Someone like that could not be a mere copper-plate adventurer.
He should be someone who possessed a plate made of the highest-ranked of all metals — in other words, a hero.
There was no other possibility.
“We… perhaps we just saw a man of legend… a dark warrior… no, a dark hero…”
Everyone else could not help but nod in response to that.
♦ ♦ ♦
When his right hand moved, the undead were flung away. When his left hand struck, the undead were cut in two.
Ainz — a tornado of death which killed everything it touched — finally ground to a halt.
“What bothersome pests.”
Ainz had re-created his greatswords with magic, and now he held them in both hands. He looked on the undead around him with an exasperated expression on his face, and then pointed a greatsword caked in vile fluids at them.
The undead recoiled at this and tried to flee Ainz. The undead should not have known the meaning of fear, yet they had come to fear Ainz.
“…This one apologizes deeply for this one’s actions…”
The sound came from high above Ainz. The Wise King of the Forest floated in mid-air, limbs spread. Its whiskers drooped down and its voice sounded equally lifeless.
However, the person who responded was not Ainz.
“You… settle down up there. It’s hard to carry you when you squirm.”
Narberal’s voice came from the belly of the Wise King of the Forest. It was not flying, but rather Narberal, who had cast the flight spell on herself, was carrying it. She was halfway buried into the Wise King of the Forest’s fur.
“My deepest apologies…”
The unintelligent undead had not attacked Ainz when he appeared. This was because they could perceive life-force, and they sensed that Ainz was of the same kind as they.
However, the same did not apply to the life-force of the Wise King of the Forest behind him. This resulted in a chaotic battle which drew Ainz in, and the Wise King of the Forest was thus carried up by Narberal lest the undead touch it.
With every step Ainz took forward, the undead took one back. They encircled him in this way while keeping their distance from him.
This circle moved with Ainz’s steps. Although the undead seemed to be looking for a chance to attack, any who stepped forward were immediately destroyed by Ainz. Therefore, the undead merely surrounded him, but did not make a move on him.
Countless undead had already been annihilated by Ainz when they carelessly strayed too close to Ainz. Even the mindless undead had learned something from this, which was why they had chosen to surround him.
“Still, if this keeps up, it’ll only be a stalemate,” Ainz grumbled as he saw the huge throng of undead that still remained.
If he wanted to break the encirclement, he could easily cut a path through the undead horde. However, if he forced his way through, the undead would scatter in all directions and the nearby guards might end up being injured or killed. If that happened, he would lose the witnesses to his deeds, and thus fail the objective of being “the adventurer who cleared up this matter”. Therefore, he had to lure the undead to him as he moved forward, in order to ensure the safety of the guards. However, doing so made his forward progress very slow.
And then, Narberal responded in earnest to Ainz’s words:
“Should we summon reinforcements from Nazarick? A couple dozen people could annihilate everything in this graveyard that dares stand against you, Ainz-sama.”
“…Don’t be silly. How many times have I told you our objective for coming to this city?”
“But, Ainz-sama, if we wanted to win fame, would it not be better to let the undead surge into the city and cause more casualties first before stepping in?”
“I have considered that possibility as well. If we knew our enemy’s aim, this city’s fighting power and so on, we might be able to do that. But since we lack information, we need to avoid losing this chance. It would also be very annoying to have to dance to the opposition’s tune. In addition, from what I can see, other teams might snatch away our glory first.”
“I see… Ainz-sama, you are truly incredible. To think your plan was so immaculately conceived; as expected of our supreme ruler. I bow before your superior wisdom once more. Speaking of which… your foolish vassal would like to be enlightened on one point. Would it not be better to send the Eight Edge Assassins, Shadow Demons and other vassals adept at hiding themselves to observe the situation before a great shift in the circumstances occurs, and then seize the moment when it comes?”
Ainz silently looked at Narberal, who was floating in the air.
The night wind blew softly. Any undead who sought to exploit this perceived weakness would instead be destroyed in one hit by a swing of Ainz’s greatswords.
“…If, if I taught you everything, how would you learn? Figure it out yourself.”
“Yes! My deepest apologies.”
Ainz had been somewhat shaken by this. He forcefully jerked his head back to double check the distance between himself and the doors to the graveyard, and to see if the guards could still see him from there.
“However! That said, time is still getting quite tight. It can’t be helped — I guess I’ll have to carve a path through them.”
Ainz unleashed his power.
[Create Mid-Tier Undead: Jack the Ripper]. [Create Mid-Tier Undead: Corpse Collector].
After using his skill, two undead creatures appeared.
One of them was dressed in a trenchcoat and wore a mask which showed a smiling face. Its fingers ended in large, sharp surgical scalpels.
The other was a massive, brawny creature, but its body was covered in pustules and the bandages which wrapped its entire body were stained yellow. There were many metal hooks all over its body, linked by metal chains to just as many moaning skulls.
The two undead obeyed Ainz’s orders and laid into the surrounding undead horde. Though there were only two of them, they were stronger by far.
As Jack the Ripper severed limbs with each swipe of its scalpel hands and the Corpse Collector wrenched off the heads of the undead with its chains, Ainz continued using his skills.
“Then, let’s take care of things on this side too.”
Those skills were [Create Low-Tier Undead: Wraith] and [Create Low-Tier Undead: Bone Vulture]. After summoning several of them, he ordered:
“Chase away any intruders that enter the graveyard. Killing adventurers is fine, but do not kill the guards.”
The Wraiths’ bodies shimmered and vanished, and the Bone Vultures spread their wings and flew up. Now that his work was done, Ainz smiled to himself.
The low-tier undead were there just in case some adventurers used flight magic to reach the enemy’s location and steal the credit for his hard work.
“Then, let’s go.”
As the two summoned undead made a brutal display of their skills, Ainz charged into the greatly-thinned ranks of the undead horde.
♦ ♦ ♦
Only Narberal remained with Ainz by the time they reached the chapel at the heart of the graveyard. Several suspicious-looking fellows were standing in a circle in front of the chapel, apparently conducting some kind of ritual.
They all wore crude black robes which covered their entire bodies, and which varied in both texture and color. Their black head cloths hid their faces and only showed their eyes, while the wooden staves they carried had strange carvings on their ends.
They were short, and by the way they carried themselves, they were probably all men.
The only exposed face belonged to the man in the middle, and he looked like he was undead. He was well-dressed, and seemed to be concentrating on the black stone that he held in his hand.
The wind carried whispered words to Ainz’s ears. The voices in the air rose and fell in unison, and it sounded like some sort of chanting. However, it did not sound like a requiem to the dead, but more like some sort of dark ritual which blasphemed against the deceased.
“Should we ambush them?” Narberal asked. However, Ainz shook his head.
“It wouldn’t help. Besides, it seems they’ve already spotted us.”
Ainz had no concealment-related skills, so he simply strode directly over to them. Although he could have avoided the lights of the graveyard, all the opposition would need to do was use “Darkvision” in order to see as though it were broad daylight. In addition, Ainz had personal experience of the fact that summoned monsters and their summoners were linked by a mental bond. Since he had defeated so many undead on the way here, they must have known that Ainz was approaching them through their bond.
In fact, there were already several people looking at Ainz and Narberal.
Given that they had not launched an attack yet, they might have something to say. Having come to that conclusion, Ainz decided to approach them head-on.
As Ainz and Narberal walked below the magical lights, the suspicious group of people took a stance, and one of them said to the man in the center: “Khazit-sama, they’re here.”
All right, idiot confirmed… no, he might have been faking it. First, let’s listen to what they have to say.
“Ah… what a lovely night. Don’t you think it’s wasted on a boring old ritual?”
“Hmph… I’ll decide whether the time is right for a ritual. Come to think of it, who are you, anyway? How did you break through that horde of undead?”
The man standing in the center of the circle — his name was Khazit, unless that was an alias, and he was probably the highest-ranked of all the people present — asked Ainz that question on behalf of the others.
“I’m an adventurer on an assignment, looking for a missing young man… I trust you know who I’m talking about, even if I don’t state his name?”
The other members of the group took a stance, which confirmed in Ainz’s heart that they were not innocents who had been dragged into the matter.
Under his helmet, Ainz smiled bitterly at Khazit, who was looking around the surroundings.
“Just the two of you? Where’s the rest of your party?”
Oi oi, what kind of question is that? Or maybe he’s trying to see if there’s anyone lying in ambush… still, he should have thought a little before opening his mouth. Based on that, I can be sure he’s just a pawn.
Ainz tiredly shrugged as he replied:
“Yup, just the two of us. We flew over here with a flight spell.”
“You’re lying, that’s impossible.”
Ainz sensed that there was some kind of meaning behind that curt retort. Thus he asked:
“You don’t have to believe it, but let’s get back to the main topic. If you let the boy return home safely, I can spare your life. How about it, Khazit?”
Khazit glared at the foolish disciple who had blurted out his name.
“—And you are?”
“Before that, there’s something I’d like to ask. Is there anyone over there besides you lot?”
Khazit looked coldly at Ainz:
“We’re the only ones—”
“—Surely it’s not just you? There should be someone with a piercing weapon among you… planning to ambush us? Or are you hiding because you’re afraid?”
“Fufu~ You checked their bodies~ Not bad~”
Suddenly, a female voice rang out from the chapel.
A young woman slowly emerged into the light, and every step she took was accompanied by the clattering of metal against metal.
“Ahhh~ they found me out, so there’s no point hiding. Speaking of which~ I only hid because I can’t use the [Conceal Life] spell~”
The woman grinned, in response to the somewhat angered Khazit.
That reply aside, they still haven’t trotted out Nfirea as a hostage. Perhaps Nfirea’s already dead…
Just as Ainz was thinking along those lines, the woman asked:
“May I know your name? Ah, I’m Clementine. Pleased to meetcha~”
“…Well, it’s kind of pointless to answer your question, but I guess I’ll tell you anyway. My name is Momon.”
“I’ve never heard that name before… how about you?”
“I haven’t heard of it myself — and I’ve gathered information on all the high-ranked adventurers in the city, so how is it I’ve never heard of a Momon among them? Still, how did you know it was here? The dying message pointed to the sewers—”
“The answer is under your cloak. Show me.”
“Uwah~ Pervert~ Lewd~”
As she said that, the girl’s — Clementine’s — face twisted. She had a grin so wide it nearly reached her ears.
“Ju~st kidding~ you mean these?”
Clementine threw open her coat, revealing what looked like scale mail whose individual plates had mismatched components. However, Ainz’s excellent vision saw the truth immediately. Those were not the metal plates which made up scale mail.
They were countless adventurer plates. Platinum, gold, silver, iron, copper, even mithril and orichalcum. All these were the proof of all the adventurers Clementine had been killing, the trophies taken from her hunts. Innumerable vengeful groans seemed to haunt the metal plates’ clinking.
“It was these prizes of yours which led me to you.”
A look of confusion came over Clementine, and Ainz did not intend to explain himself.
“…Nabe. Deal with Khazit and the other men. I’ll take care of this woman.”
With that, he quietly warned Nabe to watch out above.
Khazit’s expression was somewhere between a sneer and a grin. The cold-eyed Narberal, on the other hand, showed nothing on her face.
“…Clementine, let’s kill each other over there.”
Ainz immediately set out without waiting for Clementine to respond. He was very confident that she would not reject the challenge, and the sound of her lazy footsteps behind him was ample proof of that.
Once they had gotten some distance away, a thunderous, eye-wateringly bright discharge of lightning erupted between Narberal and Khazit. As though on cue, Ainz and Clementine turned to look at each other.
“Could it be those people I killed in that store were your friends? Are you mad because I killed your buddies~?”
Clementine continued in a mocking tone:
“Ufufufu, that magic caster was soooo funny. Until the end he believed that someone would save him~ but how could he hold out that long against my attacks with just that little bit of health… Or could it be he was hoping you would save him? Sor~ry, I killed him.”
Clementine was all smiles. Ainz looked at her, and shook his head.
“…No, there’s no need to apologize.”
“Really? Well that’s a shame~ It’s fun to piss off those people who get all emotional when their friends come up. Oi, why aren’t you getting mad? You’re no fun! Or could it be they weren’t your friends?”
“…Well, under the right circumstances, I might have done the same thing as you. So blaming you for it would be hypocritical.”
Ainz slowly raised his greatswords:
“…Still, they were tools for building my reputation. Once they returned to the inn, they would have spread word of my deeds to the other adventurers. They would have told everyone about how the two of us were heroes who drove off the Wise King of the Forest by ourselves. And now you’ve gotten in the way of my plans. That greatly displeases me.”
Clementine seemed to have sensed something in Ainz’s tone, and she laughed uncontrollably:
“Really now~ oh woe is me, to have made you mad~ oh yes, it was a poor decision to fight me~ That pretty girl’s a magic caster, right? Then she won’t be able to beat Khazi-chan~ though if you two swapped out, maybe you could have won. Though that girl couldn’t beat me either~”
“Nabe alone would be more than enough for you.”
“Don’t be silly~ how could a measly little magic caster beat me? It’ll be over in two or three blows~ It’s always been like that~”
“I see, so you’re that confident in your abilities as a warrior…”
“Yup, it goes without saying. No warrior in this country can beat me~ no, wait, almost no warrior in this country can beat me~”
“Is that so… well, that gave me an idea. I shall give you a handicap, and have my revenge on you at the same time.”
Clementine’s eyes narrowed, and for the first time she had a look of annoyance on her face.
“According to the info from those chaps in the Windflower, there’s only five people in this country who can give me a good fight. Gazef Stronoff. Gagaran of Blue Rose. Luisenburg Albelion of Red Drop. Brain Unglaus. Also, the retired Vestia Croft Di Lofan… though none of them could beat me even if they went all-out. Not even if I was without the magic items from my country.”
Clementine smiled to Ainz. That smile was a disgusting one.
“I don’t know what sort of ugly face is under that helmet of yours, but there’s no way that I, Clementine-sama — one who’s left humanity behind and stepped into the realm of heroes — could possibly lose!”
In contrast to the agitated Clementine, Ainz’s reply was calm and composed.
“Because of that, I will give you a handicap. Under no circumstance will I use my full strength on you.”
“[Twin Maximize Magic - Electrosphere].”
Two balls of lightning, each nearly twice the normal size, appeared in Narberal’s open palms and shot forth—
—And then they struck.
The electrospheres — their destructive power greatly augmented — expanded rapidly. The electrical pulse that spread from them was huge and lit the graveyard as if it was in broad daylight. The magical lightning vanished as quickly as it had appeared, taking its power with it.
All of Khazit’s minions were on the ground.
Only one person remained standing.
“Really… why didn’t you fall like those other inferior lifeforms (caterpillars)… Could it be that you cast the [Energy Immunity - Electricity] spell?” Narberal asked as she noticed the faint burn marks on Khazit’s face.
If those were there, then he should have cast [Protection Energy - Electricity], a lower-tiered defensive spell than [Energy Immunity - Electricity].
Narberal felt it was a shame that she could not exterminate all the pests in one go, and then she consoled herself with the thought that all this was still within acceptable parameters. After all, it would have been boring to have finished everything off with just one spell.
“You aren’t just a regular idiot, but an idiot who can cast 3rd-tier spells, aren’t you?!”
“…An idiot? An inferior lifeform (mite) like yourself dares call me an idiot?!”
Narberal wrinkled her eyebrows.
“Anyone who makes a mess of my plans is an idiot. Especially an idiot who doesn’t know the meaning of strength and came here to find their death! My preparations are finally complete! Now behold the supreme power of the Orb of Death that has drunk its fill of negative energy!”
Khazit raised the orb in his hand.
It was a fairly rough-looking gem that gleamed like a lump of blackened steel. It had not been polished and it looked more like a lump of ore than anything which had been manufactured. Narberal sensed something like a heartbeat coming from the Orb.
Suddenly, the six disciples of Khazit who had been electrocuted by the [Electrosphere] climbed to their feet, but those were not the motions of a living, thinking creature. The six disciples were now under necromantic control, and shakily drew themselves up between Narberal and Khazit. Narberal watched the scene before her with doubt and puzzlement in her eyes.
“These zombies are my opponents?”
“Fuhahahaha, that’s right. But they’ll be enough for you! Attack!”
Zombies, being the least among the undead, could not use magic, and as the half-dozen former disciples lunged at her with claws outstretched, Narberal cast a spell on them.
Once more a white globe shot forth. Where it struck, it generated a pulse of electricity which consumed all the disciples within its radius. The lightning vanished after a moment, and the disciples collapsed to the ground once more. Although she had easily dispatched her enemy, there was no joy on Narberal’s face.
[Create Undead] could not produce multiple undead at once. This must have been the result of Khazit using some sort of support skill.
Narberal turned her gaze to the black sphere in Khazit’s hand. It would seem the power of that item extended to letting him control multiple Zombies at once.
Still, this man had some nerve calling an effect like that “supreme power”. To Narberal, the rulers of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, the 41 Supreme Beings who had created her and all her comrades, were the only entities who deserved to be described as “supreme”.
Just as unhappiness filled Narberal, Khazit exclaimed in delight.
“That’s enough! You’ve taken in more than enough negative energy!”
The black sphere in Khazit’s hand drew the graveyard’s darkness into itself, and it seemed to be glowing faintly. The slow heartbeat she felt from earlier seemed stronger than before.
It would seem that ignoring it would be problematic in the future.
Having come to that conclusion, Narberal was about to make a move when she heard something. It was the sound of something whistling through the air. Narberal recalled her master’s warning and flung herself to the side.
A massive creature rushed past Narberal’s body, and after hovering behind Khazit, it landed on the ground.
It was a composite entity that stood three meters tall, made of countless human bones. It was designed to resemble a being with a very long neck, wings and four legs — a Dragon. Its tail, also made from innumerable bones, lightly thumped the ground.
This was the monster known as a Skeletal Dragon.
Narberal did not consider monsters of its level strong, but the Skeletal Dragon had a trait which was very dangerous to Nabe.
For the first time, a look of surprise appeared on Narberal’s face, which then stiffened up.
Khazit’s mad laughter echoed through the surroundings.
“Skeletal Dragons and their absolute immunity to magic are a magic caster’s worst nightmare, aren’t they?!”
If Nabe could not hurt the Skeletal Dragon with magic, then—
Her master had ordered her to carry a sword with her in case of emergencies. She now removed it from her belt — along with its sheath — and then secured her sword so it would not easily slip out of the sheath.
“—I’ll beat you to death.”
Narberal strode forth.
The Skeletal Dragon swiped its forepaw in response, but Narberal nimbly evaded its attack. The wind of its passing tossed up Narberal’s hair as she rushed in at the Skeletal Dragon’s chest.
Then, she concentrated all her strength and swung with all her force.
Her blow sent the three meter tall Skeletal Dragon flying.
Shortly afterwards, it hit the ground with an earth-shaking crash.
Khazit’s jaw dropped as he stared.
Skeletal Dragons were made of many smaller bones, and they certainly looked light. However, they only appeared light. Magic casters, who spent their days pursuing greater magic power, should not have had enough strength to pull off a move like that.
Khazit hurriedly fled behind the Skeletal Dragon’s vast body, and then he shouted:
“—You, who are you? A mithril…no, an orichalcum-ranked adventurer?! There shouldn’t be anyone like that in this city; did you pursue Clementine or myself to this place?!”
Khazit grit his teeth in agitation.
“Well, panicking like this does suit an inferior lifeform (click beetle) like yourself.”
Crafting this Skeletal Dragon had required two months of elaborate rituals and an immense quantity of negative energy. How could it be beaten so easily? He had worked and planned many years for this.
Just as Khazit was turning red with rage, the Skeletal Dragon creaked as it slowly got up. There was a massive fissure in the bones which formed its chest, which spilled bone fragments as it moved. It could not take another hit like this.
“No! I won’t! I won’t let you! [Ray of Negative Energy]!”
A beam of black light shone extended from Khazit’s hand and touched the Skeletal Dragon, quickly healing its injuries with negative energy.
“So it’s immune to magic, but it can be healed with magic.”
Khazit ignored Narberal’s mockery and continued casting spells.
“[Reinforce Armor], [Lesser Strength], [Undead Flame], [Shield Wall].”
He cast buff after buff on the Skeletal Dragon.
Now the Skeletal Dragon’s bony body was sturdier, stronger, and wreathed in life-draining black fire. It even had an invisible barrier in front of it which acted like a shield.
“Well, if you’re doing that, I’ll play along.”
“[Reinforce Armor], [Shield Wall], [Protection Energy - Negative].”
Narberal layered defensive spells on herself as well.
Once both sides had finished buffing themselves, it was as if a bell had gone off and the two of them went at it again.
♦ ♦ ♦
Narberal swung her sword.
She landed a forceful hit on the Skeletal Dragon’s foreleg, but then Narberal furrowed her brows.
Although she could easily strike her opposition like just she had earlier, this was hardly a good matchup for her. She was not skilled at melee combat and her weapon was not suitable for it either.
The Skeletal Dragon was made of an assembly of bones, so piercing and slashing weapons did very little damage to it. However, Narberal did not have bludgeoning weapons, which were ideal for the task, so she had to resort to using her sheath. Although she had the advantage, the poor balance of the improvised weapon meant she could not effectively damage the Skeletal Dragon.
Perhaps a specialized warrior might have been able to maintain his balance, but Narberal was a magic caster and did not know how to do so.
The Skeletal Dragon’s forepaw swiped over the crouching Narberal. Though it missed her with its kick, the black flames wreathing its limbs washed over Narberal. However, she resisted them with the [Protection Energy - Negative] spell, and the black flames vanished without a trace.
If she had not protected herself, she would probably have been hurt by the additional effects of the blow even if she had avoided it.
“[Ray of Negative Energy].”
Khazit healed the Skeletal Dragon’s wounds with a magic ray.
This was also one of the reasons why Narberal was frowning. No matter how much damage she did, Khazit the backliner immediately healed it all. She knew she had to attack Khazit first, but the Skeletal Dragon between Narberal and Khazit did not permit her to do so.
Even a piercing spell like [Lightning] would be stopped by the Skeletal Dragon’s magic immunity. The area-effect spell [Electrosphere] would also be stopped by Khazit’s defensive magic, its damage reduced to insignificance.
Then, perhaps by using an enchantment-type spell, she could force him to lower his defenses and win the encounter in one stroke —
“[Mind of Undeath].”
Narberal and Khazit cast their spells at the same time. Narberal directed a spell which would charm humans at Khazit, while Khazit cast a defensive spell on himself which protected him from mind-affecting spells.
In the end — Khazit smiled triumphantly, while Narberal frowned and clicked her tongue.
Perhaps she had been distracted by Khazit’s smile, but a shadow appeared over Narberal’s face.
A white object filled Narberal’s field of vision.
—She would be hard-pressed to avoid it.
She deftly ducked her head and braced the tip of her sword against her shoulder, turning her sword into a shield. The impact spread through her sword arm and the shoulder which took the blow, practically numbing her entire body and tossing Narberal’s body into the air.
This was the result of the Skeletal Dragon aiming a tail swipe at her face.
Though her balance had been broken, Narberal had not fallen down, her legs skilfully braced against the impact. Still, she had been driven back.
This was a good chance for a follow-up attack, but the Skeletal Dragon remained where it was. Its job was to protect Khazit, and so it could not stray too far from him. After sensing this from the Skeletal Dragon, Narberal shook her hands to clear off the numbness and soreness.
Just then, Khazit poked his head out from behind the Skeletal Dragon —
Khazit launched a green, spear-like object that streaked towards Narberal’s body. The javelin, which should have dealt her acid damage, stopped several centimeters away from Narberal’s body and vanished without a trace. At the same time, the lightning bolt Narberal shot from her fingers was blocked by the Skeletal Dragon’s tail and fizzled out.
Khazit and Narberal glared at each other.
“…A defensive spell? How annoying.”
“…That should be my line, you inferior lifeform (bagworm moth). How about coming out from behind there and facing me fair and square?”
“And why do I have to come out?”
“Doesn’t staying here ruin your plans?”
Khazit knew that Narberal had his number and narrowed his eyes. Narberal smiled nonchalantly.
“…It can’t be helped.”
After making his decision, Khazit clutched the strange sphere and raised it to the heavens.
“Now behold the power of the Orb of Death!”
The earth trembled, and Narberal’s body shook as well. This was a sign that something big was coming.
A massive fissure appeared in the ground, and a white monster slowly revealed itself.
“Hmph! The negative energy’s depleted now, but after I kill you and your friend, I can spread death throughout the city and recover it all!”
Khazit’s shouting was angry and emotional, in contrast to the unfazed Narberal.
Narberal forcefully exhaled, then sprinted forward with preternatural speed. Khazit was taken by surprise and could not react in time.
The Skeletal Dragons stomped at Narberal, who had entered their attack range, with their forelegs.
Narberal turned and evaded the stomp of the Skeletal Dragon on her right, but the other one was waiting for her. It swept its tail along the ground, like it was going to scythe the grass.
The tail which had nearly hit her thundered through the air in front of Narberal as she leapt a long way back. Then, the tail suddenly changed its direction, swinging down on Narberal, who had just jumped clear.
Narberal avoided the earthshaking blow from the left, but the Skeletal Dragon on the right swiped its forepaw at her as well.
She raised her sword to block the Skeletal Dragon’s swipe. Although the paw’s crushing pressure was extraordinary, Narberal still stood strong underneath it, and even forced it away. The right-side Skeletal Dragon stumbled several steps back, causing a brief lull in the action.
“…What are you? Blocking it without martial arts… how did you learn to do that?!”
“It is because I was created by the ones who are greater than the gods, the Supreme Beings.”
“Are you kidding me?!”
“Even if you knew the truth, you would never understand, and to think you would go so far as to to call me, one who spoke the name of the Supreme Beings, an idiot… this is why I say human beings are inferior lifeforms (planarians).”
Narberal turned a keen glare on Khazit. It was a cold, piercing stare that made him want to back away from her.
The frightened Khazit gave an order, as though to wipe away his fear.
“Skeletal Dragons, get her!”
The Skeletal Dragons kept within range of Khazit and made their move.
Narberal evaded the attack of one of the Skeletal Dragons and moved to close in, but she was forced to avoid the other Skeletal Dragon’s attack and missed her chance. This back and forth played out for quite a while, until a decisive blow was struck.
Narberal subconsciously turned her head and avoided the magical javelin headed at her face.
That was a grave mistake. The attack would not have done anything even if it had hit, so she could have safely ignored it. However, it came right at her, so she evaded it by reflex. This was a mistake that only a magic caster, who had not improved their close combat ability, would make.
That mistake had grave consequences.
Whoosh! Narberal’s field of view changed dramatically as an ear-splitting impact rang out. She was tossed to the side.
She experienced a brief period of weightlessness before falling heavily to the ground. Her left arm had taken a tail sweep from one of the Skeletal Dragons. The non stop spinning disoriented her and she had no idea where she was.
Her body was protected by all manner of defensive spells, so there was no pain. However, the two Skeletal Dragons raised their forelegs over Narberal.
One might say she was out of options — normally speaking.
“Surrender, and I’ll spare your life. How about it?”
A sadistic grin bloomed on Khazit’s face, as he assured himself of his impending victory.
Of course, Khazit was not going to spare her. That look on his face was the kind that looked forward to the girl begging for mercy before he trampled her pathetic form.
Narberal, who had raised her torso off the ground, was so furious that her face was twisted up.
Narberal looked Khazit in the eye and said:
“You miserable little human being. How dare you utter such nonsense, you pile of trash.”
Khazit’s eyes went wide and he shuddered with rage, and he gave the order to finish her off.
“Destroy her, Skeletal Dragons!”
The two dragons raised their forelegs, and Narberal smiled.
The words of the man she revered had reached her ears. She would hear him, no matter how far away his voice was.
“Narberal Gamma! Display the power of Nazarick!”
“…Understood. Then, I shall no longer face you as Nabe, but as Narberal Gamma.”
The Skeletal Dragons brought their forelegs down, intending to crush Narberal’s body beneath their forepaws. At the very last moment, Narberal cast a spell before being reduced to paste.
Narberal’s field of vision immediately changed.
She was now about 500 meters in the air.
Without wings to keep her aloft, Narberal plummeted toward the ground.
The wind shear roared across her body and the ground drew close. Narberal laughed:
Her rate of descent slowed and then stopped, until Narberal hung in the air, looking down on the battlefield from just now. Khazit and the two Skeletal Dragons looked around in shock, as Narberal was nowhere to be found.
♦ ♦ ♦
“Haaah~ I’m tired~”
Clementine’s flighty words filtered into Ainz’s ears.
They had been fighting for several minutes, but Ainz’s greatswords had not once touched Clementine.
“Speaking of which~ that’s some amazing physical ability you’ve got there~ you might even be proud of it~ buuut~”
Her expression turned into a predatory grin.
“—Are you stupid? You’re just swinging your swords with raw strength and speed, wildly swiping around like a kid with a stick. You might have a sword in each hand, but if you don’t know how to use them, then sticking to one sword would be wiser. Aren’t you taking the warrior business a little too lightly?”
“Come at me, then. Haven’t you been doing nothing but dodging since just now? It won’t be good for you if you drag this out for too long, no?”
Ainz chuckled coldly as he replied to her.
Clementine furrowed her brows. He had her there — Clementine had not attacked Ainz.
Instead, she had been dodging his attacks, and that was because Ainz’s extraordinary physical attributes did not give her an opening to attack.
Things were not as easy for Clementine as she had claimed. She was beginning to feel angry at herself for not being able to take the initiative and strike.
“You said no warrior could beat you, right? Where’s that confidence of yours fled to?”
Clementine finally went to her weapons after Ainz taunted her. She had four of the piercing weapons called stilettos at her waist, as well as a morningstar. Right now, she drew one of those stilettos.
With his superhuman eyesight, Ainz verified that the morningstar was covered in detritus that looked like blood and chunks of flesh. Ainz tightened his grip on the greatswords in his hands as he stared down Clementine.
Just as both sides were about to strike, the earth shook.
Ainz could not take his eyes away from Clementine, who had taken a fighting stance. He sneaked a glance to the side, and saw that there were two gigantic dragon-shaped monsters made of bone where Narberal was fighting.
“…Skeletal Dragons… huh?”
“Cor-rect~ Looks like you do know a thing or two. Yup~ they’re the bane of any magic caster.”
“I see. So that’s why Nabe can’t win.”
“In~deed it is,” Clementine replied in a mocking tone of voice. She seemed to have regained her composure after the Skeletal Dragons showed up. Ainz furrowed his illusory brows under his helmet.
It was true that Skeletal Dragons were tricky opponents for magic casters, and now there were two of them. Narberal as she was now could not possibly beat them.
As though sensing the agitation in Ainz’s heart, Clementine shifted slightly.
This was a move that was intended to seal off his movements, so there would probably be a follow-up to it. When one saw a weakness in a powerful opponent, it would be natural to take the chance and attack.
Ainz cast all thoughts of Narberal from his mind and thrust forth the greatsword in his left hand in an intimidating manner. It was a feint as he slowly raised the greatsword in his right hand in preparation for a powerful strike.
Clementine’s weapons were a piercing type, and they could not execute complex attacks like slashing weapons could. They were weapons that were optimized for charges. In addition, stilettos were slender and were certainly not strong enough to survive a clash with greatswords.
Because of that, Ainz used his left-hand greatsword to keep her at bay, waiting for Clementine to close in. However, Clementine knew what he was up to.
“Do you have any way to close this gap?”
Clementine had a smug, self-assured look on her face as she responded in her usual self-assured tone. All of this pointed to the fact that she had something up her sleeve.
Clementine slowly changed her posture, lowering herself into what seemed like a runner’s crouch. However, her body was still upright, so she looked very strange. It might have appeared comical, but this was definitely not the sort of stance one could take lightly.
And then — Clementine moved. Before Ainz’s vigilant eyes, Clementine shot out like a fully compressed spring.
She sprinted right at him.
It was a charge that even Ainz, with his superhuman physical abilities, could hardly believe was possible.
Like a hurricane that devoured everything in its path, Clementine closed the distance between them in an instant. She slid under the greatsword Ainz was holding out, her physical dexterity allowing her to maintain her full speed as she moved.
Ainz — who was shaken by Clementine’s serpentine movements — forcefully swung his right-hand sword. The powerful stroke ripped through the air as it surged toward Clementine, promising unimaginable devastation if he connected.
And in that brief instant, Ainz saw the face-splitting grin on her face get even wider.
The unbelievable sight took Ainz aback.
The slender stiletto had actually blocked a hit from a greatsword that was more than ten times its mass.
The stiletto should have snapped under the grand strike it had just blocked head-on. Even if it had remained intact by some miracle, it would have been knocked flying. However, it was Ainz’s greatsword which bounced away, like it had struck some ridiculously strong castle wall.
As though throwing herself into a lover’s embrace, Clementine rushed toward Ainz’s unguarded chest. In that moment, half of Ainz’s field of view was taken up by the grinning Clementine.
Ainz retreated, but his opponent was faster. This attack, which combined a full-tilt charge, all her strength and skilful use of momentum, could be described as “meteoric”.
There was a flash of light, and then the screeching of metal clashing with metal rang through the graveyard.
Clementine ducked the wild swing of Ainz’s left-hand sword and then sprang clear.
Ainz knew the secret behind Clementine’s flashy moves.
“—Martial arts, huh!?”
These were techniques which did not exist in YGGDRASIL. They could be said to be a warrior’s magic — and they were things of which he had to be wary.
Its effect seemed to be to defend against his greatsword hit and neutralize the weapon's impact. She must have used martial arts to deflect Ainz’s attack.
“…So haaaard~ what’s that armor of your made of? Adamantite… hm?”
Although he did not feel pain, he felt that something sharp had pierced his left shoulder, near the place where he had heard the sound of scraping.
Ainz glanced to the shoulder from where the impact had come, but there was only a slight dent in the armor. Although the armor had no special magical properties, it was still the product of a level 100 magic caster’s spells. The armor’s hardness increased with its creator’s level, so the fact that there was a dent in the armor was testament to the destructive power of Clementine’s strikes.
“Ah well. If that’s the case, next time~ hmm, maybe I should hit somewhere with thinner armor~ although I wanted to wear your down bit by bit, then sloooowly torment you once you couldn’t move~ what a shame, what a shame.”
Ainz realised that Clementine had not been wildly attacking his shoulders, but aiming to disable his arms in order to render him incapable of attacking. For the first time, Ainz felt something like respect toward Clementine the warrior.
All Ainz could do was simply swing his swords and deal damage to the enemy. Of course, if he could hit at all, the enemy would assuredly be slain. However, against a skilled opponent, he had to carefully consider the flow of the battle.
This has been good training for me…
“Mmm, then I’m coming~”
Just as Ainz was admiring Clementine, she took that strange stance she had assumed from just now. In response, Ainz raised his right-hand greatsword to meet the attack. This time, however, he did not thrust forth his left-hand greatsword.
Clementine snorted at Ainz’s stance and sprinted. She was so fast that even Ainz and his incredible dynamic vision could barely follow her. If she had not rushed straight at him, he might have lost track of her movements.
In the face of Clementine’s full-tilt charge, like an ominous arrow headed straight at him, Ainz swung his right-hand greatsword, launching an attack of his own to intercept her—
—The swing was deflected by the same martial art as before, but he had already predicted this. Ainz had lost his balance in the previous exchange because he had put all his strength into the blow, so this time, he did not use as much force.
Ainz absorbed the radiating impact — as though he had struck a wall — with the strength of his arm, and then he swung his left-hand greatsword. This time, Ainz was fully confident that his foe could not block another full power hit.
However, even faster than that, Clementine used another martial art.
This martial art had a startling effect.
It felt as though someone had used time-controlling magic to slow time down. Everything moved slowly, as though immersed in some highly viscous fluid. The speed of Ainz’s swing slowed to a crawl.
However Clementine moved at the same speed in this decelerated world. She effortlessly dodged Ainz’s counterattack and approached Ainz from the front.
This might have been some sort of misperception on Ainz’s part. The magic rings which Ainz wore should have protected him from temporal attacks and attacks designed to impede his freedom of movement — although there might be some unknown factor at work here.
He must have felt like she had accelerated all of a sudden because his battle with Clementine was so intense. The important thing was that Ainz had seen this martial art before, but he had not felt the same way back then.
Gazef Stronoff had used this technique before.
Before he could finish speaking the name, her stiletto stabbed at him. It was aimed at one of Ainz’s eyes, through the narrow vision slit of his helmet.
Ainz forcefully jerked his head to the side, and while he managed to evade the stiletto thrust, the sound of metal shrieking against metal echoed through his helmet. Before he could breathe a sigh of relief that he had avoided the worst of it, he glimpsed Clementine readying her stiletto for another attack out of the corner of his eye.
Even after factoring in the differences in their physical abilities, Clementine’s straight-line thrust was faster than the circular swing of Ainz’s greatsword. This time, the stiletto struck home, hitting Ainz dead on.
A surprised voice and a panicked voice hit the air at the same time.
Ainz pressed his greatsword against his helmet and jumped far back, but there was no follow-up attack.
Clementine glanced at Ainz’s unsightly retreat, then looked curiously at the tip of her stiletto. With a mocking laugh, she said:
“That’s enough of that handicap stuff. If you don’t go all-out you’re going to die~”
And then, to clear up her own doubts, Clementine continued asking the silent Ainz:
“Still, how did you do it? I know I hit you, but you’re fine. I thought I would have hurt you with that~”
“…Good grief. I’ve… learned a lot from this battle. First, about these things called martial arts, and also, the fact that I can’t swing my swords around blindly during combat, and the importance of maintaining my balance while attacking.”
“…Hah? Are you an idiot? If you’ve only learned that now… then you’re a failure as a warrior. Oh well, it doesn’t matter since you’re going to die here~ though I’d like an answer to my question… was it some sort of defensive martial art~?”
Clementine’s tone showed that she had had it with Ainz. He, on the other hand smiled bitterly under his helmet, because he agreed with what she had said.
“No, you’re right. I really am unskilled… you have my thanks. Although, since time is tight, playtime is now over.”
Paying no heed to the doubt on Clementine’s face, Ainz shouted at the top of his voice:
“Narberal Gamma! Display the power of Nazarick!”
He swivelled the sword hilts in his hands and then stabbed the points of both his greatswords into the ground. Ainz extended his empty hands before him, and gently beckoned Clementine over.
“Now then, come at me with the intent to die.”
♦ ♦ ♦
“…So, you can use the [Fly] spell, looks like you’re not bluffing. Although, how did you avoid that last hit? I didn’t see you behind the Skeletal Dragons…”
That puzzled question reached Narberal, who was slowly descending from the heavens. Khazit had no idea why she had not used the [Fly] spell to escape. She could have done so when encountering the Skeletal Dragons, but she had not. It baffled him.
“Hmph, you think you can win? Against Skeletal Dragons, who are immune to magic?”
“There are any number of ways to win… but before that…”
Narberal grabbed at her shoulder and pulled off her robe.
“Rejoice, inferior lifeform (human). You have the honor of doing battle with Narberal Gamma, one of the battle maids (Pleiades) who are the loyal servants of Ainz Ooal Gown, the absolute ruler of the Great Tomb of Nazarick.”
Her equipment was completely different. She now wore gauntlets and greaves of gold, silver and black metal, as well as a set of maid-themed armor which looked like it had come out of a manga. In place of a helmet, she wore a maid’s white-brimmed headdress. In her hands she held a staff of gold inlaid with silver.
Player-made items in YGGDRASIL could have their abilities changed by using data crystals. Narberal’s robe had a quick-change crystal embedded in it, so she could directly swap out her gear for a set of predetermined equipment without having to waste time changing.
Her cast-off robe now occupied the pocket dimension where they had been.
Khazit narrowed his eyes in puzzlement as he saw the maid before him, and when he finally realized what was going on —
—He exclaimed in surprise.
Of course he would have been taken aback when the magic caster before him turned into a maid.
Although he was annoyed by her nonsensical get-up, Narberal’s serene expression filled Khazit with a sense of danger. He immediately ordered the Skeletal Dragons to attack. The two Skeletal Dragons drew close to Narberal with surprising speed, swinging their forepaws, which were made of countless bones. Before they could strike home, Narberal cast a spell.
Once more, Narberal vanished without a trace.
Khazit looked to the sky to look for the missing Narberal as he thought of what had happened earlier. However, it was his pain that told him where Narberal’s location is.
Khazit’s wail resounded throughout the graveyard. A searing pain pierced Khazit’s left shoulder, and the pain spread through his body with the pulse of his heartbeat.
A shocked Khazit looked at the wound, at the sharp blade that protruded from the wound.
In the next moment, the blade was savagely withdrawn, and pain washed over him again. The sensation of something scraping his bones filled his body, made worse by the agony that gripped him. Thick blood gushed from the wound, staining his black robe.
Drooling from the intense pain, Khazit jerked his head back to see what was going on.
All he saw was Narberal, looking at him curiously.
“Did it hurt that much?”
Narberal was holding a black-bladed dagger in the hand that was not holding her staff.
Khazit was in so much pain that he could not speak.
Magic casters typically shunned the frontline, and Khazit was the sort who was served by and dealt out pain to others. Thus, pain was not a common experience for him, which was why his tolerance for it was so low.
Oily sweat beading on his forehead, Khazit issued a mental command to the Skeletal Dragons. Narberal fell back, drawing away from the approaching Skeletal Dragons. The [Fly] spell was faster than the running speed of a normal man.
The two Skeletal Dragons charged into the space left by Narberal.
After hiding in the safe space behind the Skeletal Dragons, Khazit’s calm returned to him, and he finally understood the kind of spell Narberal had used.
“So it was teleportation magic!”
[Dimensional Move] was a third-tier spell, but to magic casters, it was an escape spell used to put distance between themselves and their adversaries.
However, that was only the case for magic casters, who were an unathletic lot. For a magic caster with fighting prowess that was on par with a warrior, that spell was arguably more valuable than even a weak attack spell, given that it was very difficult to defend against.
Khazit pressed down on his shoulder and glared at Narberal.
“I see, so you were planning to kill me with teleportation! You must have escaped with teleportation as well just now!”
Indeed, it was a tricky trump card to deal with. Since magic was useless against the Skeletal Dragons, the sensible thing was to kill their controller. In addition, with Narberal’s skilful use of teleportation, Khazit would have a very hard time dodging.
However, Narberal casually answered:
“How could that be?”
Khazit could not comprehend what she was saying for a moment, and blinked nonstop. Narberal returned the shortsword to its sheath, and began explaining:
“I was simply demonstrating that I could kill you easily.”
Narberal had shown him how she could turn a thoroughly unfavorable situation around, but she had completely abandoned that method. Khazit had no idea what she was up to.
“…Are you mad?”
“Granted, you are an inferior lifeform (flea), but what kind of answer is that? Use that head of yours a little.”
Khazit shuddered as he saw Narberal’s cold glare.
He was not trembling in anger, but in fear. Unease welled up within Khazit’s mind.
“Well, it’s about time to wrap this up. As a servant, it would be rude of me to keep Ainz-sama waiting… You seem to think magic is useless against Skeletal Dragons. Then, I shall enlighten you, inferior lifeform (shore fly). The fee for that lesson will be your life.”
She released her staff and clapped her hands together. As she drew them apart again, tongues of white lightning arced between them. They took the form of dragons, and the air around them began glowing and crackling with energy.
The white radiance seemed to engulf Narberal.
Khazit stared, at a loss for words. He could understand that this was a mighty spell that exceeded his own frame of reference. Amidst the actinic white radiance, the cold smile on Narberal’s face branded itself onto his eyes.
The massive bodies of the Skeletal Dragons loomed before him. As he recalled their existence, an alarm screamed within him.
“—You, you think you can beat Skeletal Dragons, who are immune to all magic? Go! Kill her!”
Khazit’s shouted order was laced with the panic he could no longer hide.
As the two Skeletal Dragons drew close, Narberal laughed. It was the laugh of a merciless master correcting her foolish pupil.
“Immune to all magic? It’s true that Skeletal Dragons resist magic, but that ability only applies to spells of the 6th tier and below.”
The Skeletal Dragons would not reach Narberal for some time yet. During that delay, the strangely calm Khazit finally realised the meaning of Narberal’s words.
“—In other words, Skeletal Dragons cannot resist the spells of a higher tier which I, Narberal Gamma, can use.”
She was not lying. That was what Khazit’s instincts told him.
In other words, this woman could eliminate the Skeletal Dragons and slay Khazit as well—
“Why! My sweat and blood of five years, gone in less than an hour!”
As Khazit let out that mournful wail, countless scenes flashed through his mind, as though he were viewing a zoetrope.
♦ ♦ ♦
Khazit Dale Badantel.
Born in a village on the outskirts of the Slaine Theocracy, his mother was a calm, serene woman while his father had a strong body from working in the village. His childhood was mundane.
The reason why he had ended up like this was because he had seen his mother’s corpse.
That day — when the setting sun was clearly visible in the sky — Khazit panted as he ran home. His mother wanted him back earlier, but he had been late because of small things he could not clearly recall. Looking for pretty stones outside the village, playing at being heroes while wielding sticks, all these insignificant things had come together and delayed him.
He ran home, afraid that his mother would scold him, but when he got there, he found his mother collapsed on the ground. He could still clearly remember the warmth of his mother’s body when he rushed over to touch her.
He thought it was just a joke, but things turned out otherwise.
Khazit’s mother had already departed this world.
According to the clerics, she had died because “she had a blood clot in her brain”.
In other words, it was nobody’s fault. Nobody was to blame. No. Khazit felt that someone was responsible.
That someone was himself. If only he had returned home earlier, he might have been able to save his mother.
There were many divine magic casters in the Slaine Theocracy, and there were quite a few in Khazit’s own village. If only he had begged them for help, perhaps his mother might be well, and still smiling at him.
The person who had caused his beloved mother’s face to twist in agony was none other than himself.
Khazit made up his mind to atone for his misdeed — in other words, he would bring his mother back to life.
Yet, the more magic he learned, the bigger the problems he encountered.
There was a resurrection spell in the 5th tier of divine magic, but that spell could not resurrect his mother. Resurrection expended a tremendous amount of life force on the part of the dead person, and the deceased who lacked sufficient life force would not be resurrected, but reduced to ash and dust. His mother did not have the necessary vitality.
Nor did he have the time needed to research a new resurrection spell. However, if he abandoned his humanity and became undead, he might be able to buy himself enough time to eventually develop a new spell to raise the dead.
That was the conclusion which Khazit had arrived at.
He abandoned the divine magic he had studied all his life, and stepped on the path of using arcane magic to become undead. However, there were still obstacles in his way.
After walking the path of an arcane magic caster, he would still need a very long time to become a high-tier undead creature, even after forsaking his humanity. And of course, there might be obstacles in his way, in the form of talent and ability, and he might not even be able to become undead in the first place.
One of the way to overcome these obstacles was to gather a massive amount of negative energy — yes, by killing an entire city’s worth of people — and turning them into undead in order to harness the negative energy they would generate.
And then, just as his wish was nearly granted, another obstacle appeared in his way.
♦ ♦ ♦
“I spent five years preparing in this city! I’ve held onto this dream for 30 years! What gives you the right to destroy all of this?! You, who appeared out of nowhere?!”
Khazit’s cry was answered by cold laughter.
“I have no interest in the dreams of inferior lifeforms (you). Although, your so-called effort did manage to make me laugh. Still, I do have some words for you… well done on becoming a stepping stone for Ainz-sama.”
“[Twin Maximize Magic - Chain Dragon Lightning].”
A roaring, coiling stream of dragon-shaped lightning appeared around both of Narberal’s hands.
The lightning discharges were wider than her arms, and they struck the Skeletal Dragons. The vast white buddies shuddered from the impact. The twin lightning blasts wrapped around the Skeletal Dragons’ bodies, burning the false life that animated their corpses out of existence.
The end came in an instant.
Under the power of the magic lightning, the Skeletal Dragons and their supposed absolute immunity to magic were torn asunder.
Even though the Skeletal Dragons had been disintegrated, the lightning strikes did not disappear. The two arcs of dragon-shaped lightning seemed to be searching for their quarry, then they raised their heads and sprang at their final prey.
Khazit’s vision was obliterated in a sea of white.
He had no time to beg for mercy, nor did he have time to scream.
The tears at the corners of his eyes flashed into steam, leaving behind a whispered “Mum—”. The searing light consumed Khazit, and the lightning pierced him without mercy.
Khazit’s body went into full-body seizures, as though he were performing some strange dance where he stood.
The current penetrated deep into Khazit’s body and ignited him from the inside. After it had vanished, the smoking Khazit collapsed to the ground.
The stench of burning flesh filled the air.
Narberal shrugged, and muttered something to the pile of scorched meat that had once been Khazit:
“Even inferior lifeforms (insects) smell good after they’ve been roasted… I wonder if it would be fine to give him to Entoma as a present…”
A mocking smile came over Narberal’s face as she mentioned the name of her human-eating colleague.
♦ ♦ ♦
The warrior spread his arms, as though he was going to hug someone.
“…Now what tricks are you up to, hm!? Giving up already?”
“Giving up? Since I’ve given Narberal her orders, I should wrap things up here as well.”
“What? What nonsense are you babbling—? You think you can beat, the great Clementine without any martial arts? You’re pissing me off.”
“I have to say, the ravings of a weakling like yourself are quite impressive.”
Clementine wanted to retort with “That would be you, right?” but she suppressed the boiling rage in her heart.
The man before her did not have much in the way of combat skills, but he possessed superhuman physical abilities. As far as she knew, said abilities were second only to those of the two God-Kin — the Black Scripture’s Extra Seat and its First Seat (who was also the Black Scripture’s leader). Therefore, the way he swung his weapons at his whim became an unpredictable attack and defense, and if she was not careful, she might be killed in a single blow.
Clementine faked her usual sneer, and taunted him in turn:
“…Forget it. You’re right, we should wrap things up quickly.”
Momon the warrior simply shrugged.
Clementine eyed his stance. There were openings everywhere in his stance, but that could not possibly be all there was to him. It was a trap.
However, Clementine had no choice. Her words from earlier might have sounded like a joke, but she meant them. She could probably escape from here by borrowing the power of the Skeletal Dragons, but that was only if she did not waste any more time. Though she had come along to avoid the agents of the Windflower Scripture, she had wasted too much time on playing.
Clementine slowly sank into a crouch, strengthening her grip on her stiletto.
She had to finish this fight quickly, preferably with a single stroke.
Part of that was because she no longer had time to waste, but it was also because the attacks and parries of the man before her were gradually becoming more and more competent. It would be best to kill him now before he grew to a point where she could no longer do so.
Clementine exhaled loudly and then she surged forward.
[Gale Stride]. [Greater Evasion]. [Ability Boost]. [Greater Ability Boost]. Those were the same four techniques she had used earlier, in an attempt to shrink the gap between their physical abilities. In addition, she still had room to use other techniques, no matter what Momon tried.
In this high-speed world, she was fully aware of anything her opponent could do.
He might draw his swords from the ground to attack, or use a martial art, or an unarmed strike, or a hidden weapon… no, he might use a thrown weapon instead.
Clementine guessed that there were dozens of tactics her foe could employ, and she was confident that she could defeat each and every one of them.
However, every single one of her guesses fell short of the mark.
—Because her opponent did nothing.
The dark warrior stretched out his arms, waiting for the attack.
A shiver ran down her spine. This was the fear of something beyond her imagination, a fear of the unknown.
Should she charge bravely forward, or back off and flee?
Those were the only two options left to her.
Clementine was cruel and merciless, but she was no fool. In that fraction of a second, she worked out countless possibilities and countermeasures.
In the end, it was her pride and her confidence in her abilities which spurred Clementine on.
Though she had betrayed them, she had once been a member of the Slaine Theocracy’s strongest special operations group — the Black Scripture. There were probably less than ten warriors who could defeat her. It was unthinkable that she should flee from Momon, an unknown fighter with hardly any skills to speak of.
Once she made her decision, the rest was easy. There was no need to hesitate any further. As she recovered the composure of a first-rate warrior, Clementine sprinted for Momon’s chest — so fast it seemed they were going to embrace each other.
Using all the muscles in her body, Clementine thrust her stiletto into the vision slit of Momon’s full helm. Then she twisted it, as though intending to cause further damage to the surrounding organs while driving it deeper into his head. All this was to inflict a fatal blow.
Although his armored hands drew closer, as if to hug her, she paid it no heed and followed up on her attack.
In keeping with Clementine’s desire to deal a fatal strike, she unleashed the spell stored within the stiletto. That spell was called [Lightning].
Lightning bolts shot through Ainz’s body.
Clementine’s weapons possessed a Magic Accumulate enchantment. She could store a spell within the weapon and release it later. Although the act of doing so would expend the spell, that stored spell could be just about any sort of magic. Thus, it was a handy enchantment which allowed her to prepare for just about any situation with the right stored spell.
She drove the stiletto deep into his skull and then released a lightning attack on top of it — this was certainly a fatal blow.
“I’m not done yet! [Flow Acceleration]!”
Even faster than before, she drove another stiletto into the full helm’s vision slit, and then released the [Fireball] spell locked within. In her mind, Clementine saw Momon’s body burning within his armor, and she imagined she could smell his scorched and blackened flesh.
However, Clementine’s eyes went wide in shock, as she was confronted by an unexpected sight.
“Hm, I see. YGGDRASIL did not have magic weapons like this. Well, this is an eye-opener.”
Despite having stilettos stabbed through both his eye sockets, Ainz was still muttering casually to himself. Clementine then realized that there had been no blood when she stabbed him.
“No way! Impossible! Why aren’t you dead?!”
She had never heard of a martial art like this which could make people invincible. Or had he used some other method to deal with her stabs? If that were the case, how had he stopped the follow-up magical attacks?
Even a hardened veteran like Clementine had no answer to those questions.
Clementine’s body was swallowed in an embrace, and she was now pressed against Momon. The adventurers’ plates rattled.
“Shall I tell you the answer?”
The jet-black full plate vanished, revealing a terrible face beneath.
It was a fleshless skull. Her stilettos protruded from his empty eye sockets — through the Black Mirrorshades covering them — but it did not seem to be in the slightest bit of pain.
Clementine knew what that face meant.
“Undead… an Elder Lich?!”
“…? …Well, I had a lot of questions to ask you, but I guess not. All I can say is that your answer came quite close. Then—”
The monster before her had neither skin nor flesh, and so it should not have an expression on its face. Yet, Clementine had the feeling that it was smiling at her.
“How does it feel? How does it feel to fight a magic caster with sword in hand? How does it feel to be unable to finish things in a heartbeat?”
“Don’t, don’t look down on me!”
Clementine used all her strength to struggle free, but she was held immobile, as though by sturdy chains.
Elder Liches were powerful undead who were skilled in the use of magic attacks, but their physical abilities were not very impressive. Clementine should have had the advantage.
—She could not get free.
Once she realized that the mighty arm which held her — in other words, his physical strength — was not the result of his armor’s enchantment, Clementine froze. What she saw in her mind was a butterfly trapped in a spider’s web, with no way out.
“…This is what I meant by a handicap. Simply put, there was no need for me to go all out — that is to say, cast a spell — against an opponent like you.”
“Son of a bitch—!”
“Well then, since the truth’s out, let’s begin… but first, these are in the way.”
There was a grinding sound as the Elder Lich pulled out the stilettos which had been stabbed into its eyes and cast them aside. As the undead creature did this, Clementine was still struggling for dear life, but even her full strength could not compare to the power in just a single arm of his. All she could do was squirm helplessly within his embrace, unable to move.
After the two stilettos were drawn out, an evil red light remained in those empty eye sockets. They looked down on the panting, gasping Clementine as she exerted herself.
“Now then, shall we begin?”
Clementine — who was on guard against anything her opponent might try to pull ever since she heard the word “begin” — felt herself being drawn nearer to the Elder Lich, closer than even lovers were.
After that, she heard a strange creaking sound.
Clementine understood what the Elder Lich was doing as a chill ran down her spine, as though she had been impaled by an icicle.
“…No… no way, you bastard—!”
The creaking sound was the bending of armor.
—He was planning to crush her flat against his own chest.
Of course her own armor would press against the Elder Lich’s chest, but he must have used some method to harden his own body. His immovable body was like a sturdy, thick wall.
“Perhaps if you were weaker…”
The Elder Lich withdrew a dagger from somewhere. It was black, with four jewels set into its hilt.
“I thought about using this to finish you off… but well, isn’t it all the same if you get stabbed to death by a sword, die by having your spine broken, or get crushed to death? In the end, you die.”
Clementine’s body shuddered.
His casual tone caused panic to bloom in her heart, and the crushing pressure on her chest grew. The metal plates taken from the adventurers she had killed could no longer bear the strain, and they scattered to the ground like they were being buried.
The first to fall were the four silver plates which she had recently acquired.
It was frightening how it was becoming more and more painful to breathe.
She hated the arm at her back, the one which held her.
She resented herself for wearing light armor to increase her evasive ability and to display her adventurer’s plate trophies.
Clementine knew that swords were useless against the Elder Lich, and so she punched wildly at his face. However, that hurt Clementine more than it did him. Then, as the pain set in, she reached for her morningstar to maul him, but she was not used to wielding it and injured herself instead.
She could clearly see the fate awaiting her. From how the act of breathing was getting more and more difficult, the ever-increasing pressure on her belly, her slowly deforming armor, she knew exactly what was going to happen to her.
“Don’t bother struggling. Do you think I can’t end this quickly just by changing where my arm is pressing? You took your time killing them, so I’m going to take my time killing you as well.”
Clementine desperately flailed at him.
She tried to push his face away, scratched at him until her nails nearly came off, even tried biting him — but nothing she did worked, and the unbearable pressure kept increasing.
No matter how hard she struggled, she could not break free of the arm binding her. Even so, Clementine kept squirming, betting everything for a slim chance at hope even as it became difficult to breathe and her vision began blacking out.
“Is this the dance of death?”
She did not even have the strength to hear those whispered words.
There was the sound of retching, and then vomit spewed over Ainz’s body. The scarlet points of light in Ainz’s eyes dimmed slightly.
Clementine, who had been desperately swinging her arms about in the hope of escaping, was now a spasming lump of meat.
Still, Ainz did not loosen his grip, but tightened it further. Soon, the feeling of thick bones breaking ran up through Ainz’s arms.
He released the body, which could not even twitch any more.
Clementine’s body thudded heavily on the ground, like a sack of rubbish. Her face was a hideous blend of agony and terror. Like a deep-sea fish brought up to the surface, one could see her internal organs in her mouth.
Ainz took out his Pitcher of Endless Water, and used its ever-flowing stream of clean water to rid himself of the vomit that stuck to his body. At the same time, he spoke casually to Clementine, who could no longer answer him:
“I forgot to tell you… but I am a terrible hypocrite.”
Just as Ainz was starting to get annoyed by having to wet his clothes while cleaning his body, he heard a huge object approaching fast. He turned toward the source of the sound, and as it turned out, it was Hamsuke.
Hamsuke’s fighting power was far weaker than that of Ainz or Narberal. Allowing it to fight would only lead to unnecessary injuries. Therefore, he ordered it to stand by some distance away. It must have come because it could not hear the sound of fighting any more.
He recognized the expression on the giant hamster’s adorable face — it was worried for Ainz — and he went a little weak.
The giant hamster, which did not know what its master was thinking, approached Ainz with unexpected speed and then looked around. When it locked eyes with Ainz:
It flipped over and bared its belly while wailing:
“…There’s a horrible monster here! Milord! Milord~!”
Ainz grabbed his head, all the strength fleeing his body. Come to think of it, he had not yet shown Hamsuke his true form. However, he could not let it continue making a racket here. As he looked to the graveyard wall in the distance, he saw that the adventurers were still battling the Wraiths. Judging by distance alone they should not be able to hear Hamsuke, but there was no guarantee of that.
In a stern tone, Ainz scolded Hamsuke:
“…That’s enough clowning around from you.”
“Oh? That manly and commanding voice… could it be milord?”
“…Indeed. That’s why I want you to keep your voice down.”
“Unbelievable! This is more than what I expected… though I long knew milord was possessed of tremendous power… this Hamsuke’s faithful loyalty to you is redoubled!”
“Is that so. However, I’ll say it again — keep your voice down.”
“That, that’s cruel, milord! Please do not make light of your servant’s pledge of loyalty!”
“…Did you not hear what Ainz-sama said? Fool.”
Part of Hamsuke’s body flattened as it was kicked into the distance. In place of its body was Narberal’s foot, which she slowly withdrew.
“Ainz-sama, there should be no value in raising this foolish lifeform. Would you allow your loyal servant to incinerate it with lightning?”
“No… being known as the one who commands the Wise King of the Forest is quite worthwhile. Having it alive and well on our travels is beneficial to us. Back to the point — Narberal, time is short. Go loot their bodies. We might need to turn their possessions over to the local authorities, so we need to ascertain the value of those objects first.”
“I will be in the chapel. Take care of the rest.”
“Yes! Then… what about the corpses? Should we take them back to Nazarick?”
“No. We might need to hand over the masterminds behind the incident, so just take their equipment.”
Hamsuke — who had just run back — sighed with deliberate loudness. Narberal glared coldly at him:
“Ainz-sama’s words are more important than anything you have to say. This is basic knowledge for one of his servants. A lifeform like you is the lowest-ranked of all his minions, so you will either pay attention or I will kill you on the spot.”
“Next time, it will not be a physical attack, but magic. For the crime of disobeying Ainz-sama, you will suffer until you pray for death.”
“I understand… please do not put on that scary face… although, I was quite surprised by how majestic he looked. It was quite impressive.”
Narberal’s expression softened a little and she said:
“Indeed. Ainz-sama cuts an impressive figure. At least you have good taste.”
“Thank you for your praise. But if that is how milord looks, then do you have another face as well, Narberal-dono?”
“…I am a Doppelganger. This face of mine is made by my own innate abilities. Watch.”
She removed a glove and revealed a hand with only three fingers, which were longer than human fingers. They resembled the bodies of peppered moths.
“I, I see…”
“Don’t look so surprised. You’re a servant in the Great Tomb of Nazarick as well, so don’t make such a big deal over such small things. Anyway, I’m going to strip the magic items from the corpses, so come along and help me.”
♦ ♦ ♦
The boy (Nfirea) was in the chapel. As Ainz looked at him, the red light in his eye sockets dimmed.
He wore a strange, transparent outfit which drew attention to his body, but Ainz’s attention was on his face.
Someone had cut him across the face and punctured his eyes. From the tear-shaped clots of reddish-black blood that wept down his cheeks, it was clear that he was blind.
“Well… blindness can be cured… magic really is convenient.”
The question now was Nfirea’s current condition.
He had been standing up here, but had not reacted to Ainz’s arrival. Even if his eyes could not see, he should have known that someone was coming. However, there was no reaction, which implied one thing — mind control. The question now was what sort of control he was under.
“It must be this.”
Ainz’s gaze settled on the spiderweb-like crown which rested on Nfirea’s head. Or rather, it would be better to say that nothing else looked more suspicious than it.
Just as he reached out to remove the crown, Ainz stopped himself halfway. Since he did not know what had caused this, he should not make any careless moves. Therefore, Ainz cast a spell on the crown.
“[All Appraisal Magic Item].”
In YGGDRASIL, this spell would tell its caster about a magic item’s creator and manufacturer. The spell could also be cast here. No, beyond that, information which could not appear in YGGDRASIL showed up in Ainz’s mind.
“The Crown of Wisdom… I see. However… this item’s abilities don’t exist in YGGDRASIL… so it’s a magic item that could not have existed in YGGDRASIL.”
Ainz sighed after learning all this, and began thinking about what to do next.
He was mainly concerned about the benefits of bringing Nfirea back to the Great Tomb of Nazarick. The prospect of gaining a rare magic item and an equally rare talent-holder was very attractive.
However, his hesitation only lasted for a moment.
“Since I accepted this task, failing it on purpose would stain the name of Ainz Ooal Gown.”
“[Greater Break Item].”
Ainz cast a spell on the crown. The sight of it decomposing into sparkling dust was quite beautiful.
Ainz tenderly embraced the limp youth and gently laid him on the ground. Then he examined Nfirea’s face.
“After this… all I need to do is heal his eyes… though I probably shouldn’t do that here.”
Ainz touched his face and then rose slowly. The undead he had summoned had not been completely wiped out yet, but he sensed that some of them had already been destroyed. Soon, the reinforcements — or rather, interfering busybodies — would find this place. Before that, he had to recast his facial illusion and remake his swords and armor.
He also had to recover their magic items quickly.
Unlike how things were when he PKed in YGGDRASIL, he could take all their weapons and gear for this own. It pleased him.
As he looked back to see if he needed to help Narberal collect the equipment, she appeared at the entrance of the chapel.
“What’s the matter? Have you already collected the enemy’s gear? How about their cash?”
“Yes. However, there is something I wanted to consult you about, concerning this.”
Narberal advanced into the chapel, a black orb in her hand. It looked uneven, like a pebble one might find by the side of a river, and it did not seem very valuable.
“…What is that?”
“It seems to be something which the inferior lifeform (flatworm) I fought treasured deeply. However, I do not know what effects it has…”
“Is that so.”
Narberal the NPC knew far fewer spells than Ainz, and most of them were combat spells. This was why she could not appraise its value.
Ainz picked up the orb, and cast the same spell he had just now.
“[All Appraisal Magic Item].”
The red points of light which served as Ainz’s eyes lit up.
“What is this…? The Orb of Death? And… it’s an intelligent magic item?”
The Orb of Death was an impressive name, but it was hardly outstanding.
It aided in controlling the undead, and it could cast several different necromantic spells every day, but none of those appealed to Ainz. It also had the drawback of mentally dominating humans who held it, although Ainz and Narberal —, who possessed defenses against mind-affecting effects — were immune, as were demihumans or heteromorphic creatures.
“What a strange item…”
The only thing which intrigued him was the fact that it was an intelligent magic item.
Ainz poked it lightly, and just as he was about to command it to speak, there was a voice in his head.
“—Greetings to you, oh mighty King of Death.”
Those words echoed within his skull. Ainz continued looking at the Orb. In a world of monsters and magic, this was hardly something to shout about.
“Umu, it really is an intelligent magic item.”
Ainz nimbly rolled the Orb from hand to hand, and then continued examining it. However, the Orb did not show any sign of wanting to speak. Ainz pondered the situation, and then after deciding a possible reason for this, he said:
“I permit you to speak.”
“—You have my deepest thanks, mighty King of Death.”
This reaction reminded Ainz of the loyal NPCs of Nazarick, and he chuckled.
“—Please accept the utmost respect of this one for the absolute aura of Death which surrounds you.”
I should have dispelled all my auras. Why does this item keep calling me the King of Death?
“I shall permit it.”
“—My deepest thanks, oh supreme overlord of Death. I am deeply grateful to all the forms of death which exist within this world that I could encounter an exalted being like yourself.”
Though the Orb was laying it on a bit thick, those words seemed sincere enough. It made Ainz’s back itch a little, so he thrust his chest forward and said:
“And? Can you speak anything besides flattery?”
“—Yes. This one deeply apologizes for this thoughtless request, but this one has a wish that it hopes you will help to grant.”
“—Yes. This one has always felt that it had come to this world in order to spread death, but after meeting a mighty King of Death like yourself, this one realised that it had been truly born in order to serve you.”
“—Oh mighty King of Death, please accept this one’s fealty. This one hopes to have a place among your faithful servants.”
It sounded sincere enough, and if it had a head, it would probably have been lowered. Ainz pressed his knuckles to his mouth and began thinking. He had to consider the merits and demerits of taking it as a minion, whether it was reliable, and so on.
Ainz examined the magic item again. For safety’s sake, he should probably destroy it. However, something like this did not exist in YGGDRASIL, so destroying it would be a waste.
After casting several protective spells on the Orb, Ainz called out to the giant hamster that had entered the chapel.
“What does milord desire?”
Ainz tossed the Orb he was holding, and Hamsuke nimbly caught it.
“May I ask milord about this item?”
“It’s a magic item. You can use it, right?”
“Mm… I should be able to! But it’s noisy! It’s so loud I want to return it to milord.”
Narberal looked at Hamsuke, her eyes wide.
“Are you giving it to the newcomer?”
Ainz could tell from the way she had lost control of her voice that Narberal was deeply shaken.
“Though I’ve already cast anti-detection spells on it, I can’t say it’s perfectly safe, so it’s better to hand it to Hamsuke.”
“I see! As expected of Ainz-sama. Your wise judgements are impeccable.”
Before him were Narberal and Hamsuke, who was bowing. Its cheeks were larger than a human’s fists.
Just as he was about to order them to fall back, Ainz noticed his bright red cape. On a whim, he grabbed its hem.
“Now then. If the recovery is complete, then let us take Nfirea—”
Ainz flourished his red cape in a grandiose manner.
“—And return in triumph.”
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