Confusion and Understanding
The first thing that Ainz saw after teleporting was a hill. No, it was nothing as tall as a hill; it was more of a rise in the land, six meters tall at the very most.
The raised land was covered in dense vegetation of the kind one might find on the plains, and it gave the impression of having been there for a long time. Many similar mounds dotted the landscape as far as one looked, giving the impression that they covered the surrounding region.
Naturally, this was not the case.
This landscape had been created by Mare, one of the Guardians of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. Buried beneath these mounds were the surface walls of the Tomb.
Ainz cast a [Fly] spell and flew over the heaped dirt. Within his expansive field of view, the only thing he could see was weed-strewn land, with no trace of the surface level of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. It was almost completely covered by soil.
Ainz did not linger over this scenery, but continued flying at his current speed.
Once he reached a certain point, the scenery changed, and he felt as though he had pierced some sort of thin membrane. The hilly terrain vanished, and the familiar scenery of his home filled Ainz’s eyes.
This was the sign that he had breached the protective layer of illusions.
Without slowing the speed of his [Fly] spell, Ainz continued toward his destination, the largest mausoleum at the center. That was because it was the sole entrance to the Great Tomb of Nazarick.
As he neared the bone-white steps of the mausoleum, he discovered countless forms beneath him. Suppressing his feelings of anxiety, he landed before them.
“Welcome back, Ainz-sama,” said a gentle female voice. It was soon followed by a chorus of other greetings and welcomes.
The woman in the pure white dress who stood before him was none other than Albedo, the Guardian Overseer of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. She was the one with the clearest picture of the current situation.
The four maids behind her were members of the battle maids (Pleiades), and behind them were a line of level 80 vassals.
After speaking to Albedo via a [Message] spell, he had given Narberal her orders and then teleported back immediately. The fact that Albedo could gather so many people to welcome Ainz in five minutes spoke volumes of Albedo’s skill as an administrator.
Filled with respect for that fact, Ainz raised his hand and waved in response to his vassals’ greetings. Perhaps he should have said a couple of words in thanks, but that was not suitable given the circumstances.
“Albedo, about what you said through the [Message]...”
Had Shalltear really betrayed them?
He wanted to ask that question, but hesitated to do so. Unease surged within him — he feared that if he asked about her betrayal, he would find that it was true. In addition, it was too dangerous to discuss this matter in front of the vassals.
“Yes, shall we discuss it elsewhere?”
“That’s right… we should speak of it in the Throne Room, no?”
“Indeed. Then — Yuri, present Ainz-sama with his ring.”
A bespectacled maid stepped forward from the maids lined up behind her.
Yuri wore the same basic combat-ready maid uniform that Narberal did, but there were some differences in her outfit.
Narberal’s maid uniform was designed to protect its wearer, but Yuri’s outfit prioritized ease of movement. The proof of that could be seen in the lack of metal parts on the front of her skirt.
Her metal gauntlets were covered in spikes, and all she had to do was clench her fists to turn them into deadly weapons.
Her wide blue choker was decorated with a small, translucent gemstone. It radiated a light from within, which shimmered and flickered as though cast by a flame.
Her hair was done up in a bun behind her, and her prim features were cool and elegant, giving her an air of wisdom.
She was Yuri Alpha, assistant leader of the Pleiades Battle Maids. As the male Sebas was their leader, it would not be wrong to consider her the organizer of the Pleiades.
She held a tray in both hands, which was draped with a purple satin cloth. The cloth itself bore a ring — the Ring of Ainz Ooal Gown.
Ainz picked up the ring, and placed it upon his ring finger.
This ring permitted its wearer to freely teleport throughout the Great Tomb of Nazarick. Ainz removed it during any excursion to the outside world, because he feared that it might be stolen.
As he looked at the ring upon his skeletal finger, Ainz nodded, as though in approval. The discomfort of not wearing it for several days vanished, replaced by a supreme satisfaction.
“Then, let us go, Albedo.”
He could not directly teleport into the Throne Room, so he used the Ring’s power to send him to the room (the Lemegeton) which directly adjoined the Throne Room.
After opening the massive doors, Ainz entered in the company of Albedo, heading for the crystal throne. As he walked, Ainz asked the question he had been pondering just now.
“Then, before we start, I have some questions for you. You said that Shalltear betrayed us; then, when she betrayed us, how did Sebas — who was in the same place at her — react? Did he not betray us along with her?”
“Yes. There were no signs of his betrayal.”
“Then, did you question Sebas about the matter?”
“I did, and he finished his report to me. According to Sebas, they encountered a group of bandits. After that, Shalltear headed toward the bandits’ hideout in order to capture them. Nothing suspicious occurred during that time, and she vocally proclaimed her intent to render loyal service to you, Ainz-sama.”
“I see. In other words, something happened after that which made her decide to betray us.”
“Yes… in addition, she brought two Vampire Brides with her. However, they seem to have been destroyed.”
“...Is that so. But mooks like that… no, that means something happened which destroyed them. Then, I’ll summarize what happened on my end.”
Ainz had almost finished his report by the time they reached the stairs to the throne. However, he had not gotten to the events of the tomb yet, so he continued speaking.
After it was all finished, Albedo — who had been listening attentively and silently — nodded in acknowledgement.
Ainz wanted to ask if he had handled the situation well, but there was something more important that he wished to know.
He looked to the throne and recited the designated password.
“Master Source — Open.”
A translucent window appeared before his eyes. It looked like the console, but was completely different from it.The window had multiple pages within it, each covered in densely-packed characters.
This was the administration system for the Great Tomb of Nazarick.
It recorded the daily maintenance costs, the numbers and types of vassals present, all sorts of magical traps and gimmicks and so on. One could exert large-scale control over them all from here. While they had still been in YGGDRASIL, one could access this system from anywhere, but after some experimentation, Ainz found that in this world, the system could only be operated from the heart of the dungeon, the Throne Room.
Although it’s troublesome to have to come here every time… at least I have the ring to teleport me… so it’s not such a big deal.
With practiced movements, Ainz brought up and enlarged the NPC status page.
This page recorded the names of all the NPCs made by the guild members. After changing the sorting method from alphabetical (katakana) order to level order, from highest to lowest, Ainz’s eyes travelled down the list — and then his eyes halted on a single spot. Then, he silently turned his gaze to Albedo’s face.
“Yes, it has become like this.”
Amidst a sea of names written in white, only Shalltear Bloodfallen’s name was shown in black.
Ainz knew what this change meant, but—
He looked over it twice, three times, and after realizing that his eyes had not been mistaken, he screamed “Impossible!” within his heart If his skeletal face could display an expression, it would be one of shock.
“...Is she dead?”
Ainz continued questioning Albedo. In his heart of hearts, he hoped that something had happened to the system when they had been brought to this world. However, the truth Albedo spoke was unbearably cruel:
“If she were dead, her name would have vanished and left a blank space. In all likelihood, this represents betrayal.”
“Well... that’s right.”
As Ainz replied thusly to Albedo, he recalled the meaning of this change when he had last seen it in YGGDRASIL.
Albedo called it betrayal, but that was slightly different from what the system was displaying. Indeed, broadly speaking it was similar to betrayal, but this color change occurred when a third party used mind control to make an NPC take hostile actions temporarily.
Ainz voiced that denial in his heart once more. Shalltear and Ainz were both undead, which meant that they were of races that were immune to all sorts of mind-affecting effects. How had Shalltear been mind-controlled, then?
It was easier to accept the fact that Shalltear had simply betrayed Nazarick. For example, she might have been unhappy with her treatment and someone on the outside might have offered her better terms, thus leading to her treachery.
If that was not the case, it meant that something had happened when they had come to this world which was outside the scope of Ainz’s knowledge.
Ainz recalled Nfirea’s face. Indeed, perhaps a talent-holder like himself with some unknown power could have affected an undead mind.
“...Could this be the effect of some being, phenomenon or special effect that is unique to this world?”
“It is uncertain. However, Shalltear’s betrayal is certain enough, so I propose that we assemble a strike force immediately.”
At this moment Ainz suddenly realized something. Could it be that the vassals who had welcomed Ainz back were intended to eliminate Shalltear? As he brought them back to mind, he noticed that there were many vassals among them who were a rare sight in Nazarick, the ones who possessed holy-elemental attacks which were effective against the undead.
Albedo continued in a voice that seemed to be made of steel:
“I wish to nominate myself as the commander of this expedition, and if you permit it, I would like to have Cocytus as my executive officer and include Mare in our forces, Ainz-sama.”
These choices were perfect for destroying Shalltear. It was clear that Albedo was very serious about this.
Shalltear Bloodfallen was very strong. In fact, she was the strongest of the Guardians, barring Gargantua. Therefore, one would need the team members selected by Albedo to be absolutely certain of defeating her, or else one would have a very hard time.
“Do you approve?”
“No, it’s too soon to come to that conclusion. Let us verify the reasons behind Shalltear’s betrayal first.”
“You are indeed compassionate, Ainz-sama. However, as long as anyone faces the Supreme Beings with hostility, there is no need to show them any mercy.”
“That’s not correct, Albedo. It is not that I am showing mercy to Shalltear, but I simply do not understand why she would betray us.”
If this sort of thing could happen to anyone other than Shalltear, he had to figure out a way to deal with it.
If she was unhappy with how she had been treated, then the same thing might happen to the other vassals. Thus, he would have to take the appropriate measures to nip it in the bud.
If this were the result of some sort of domination ability from a talent, he would also need to figure out some way to counteract it.
When he heard from the [Message] that an NPC created by his friends had betrayed him, he felt as though he had been condemned by everyone (the other guild members), as a guildmaster. So great was the shock that he had nearly fallen to his knees. However, this was no longer a simple matter of being rebuked by others.
He had to solve this problem not as a guildmaster, but in his capacity as the absolute ruler of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. It was far too early to despair, and if — though it was impossible — Shalltear had actually been mind-controlled, then he needed to save her.
A superior who put on a high and mighty face but did not save his subordinates while they were in trouble was not fit to be a leader.
Ainz was his subjects’ ruler, and he had to protect them.
“Then, do you know where Shalltear is? Have you pinpointed her location?”
“My sincerest apologies, but we have not confirmed that yet. I considered that Shalltear might attack Nazarick, so I had her direct subordinates placed under arrest, and dispatched other vassals to reinforce the 1st Floor.”
“Really now. Then, let’s go visit your elder sister to see if we can divine Shalltear’s location.”
The 5th floor of the Great Tomb of Nazarick was an extremely cold region that had been modelled after a glacier.
A bluish-white iceberg stood in the middle of an endless expanse of white land, like a tombstone. It seemed to glow from within and confused the senses. Snow fell from the heavy, overcast sky above, whipped into a mad dance by the freezing wind which carried frozen vapors on its gusts. In the distance was a frozen forest covered in snow, which looked like giants clad in robes of purest white.
The bone-chilling wind ruffled Ainz’s clothing, which fluttered in the wind. Albedo stood beside him, and as he eyed the way she was dressed, Ainz asked:
“Aren’t you cold? If you need to, you can put on your armor. We should still have time for that.”
Ainz was completely immune to all forms of cold-elemental attacks. He would not be chilled or frozen regardless of how low the temperature went. However, Albedo was a different matter. If she was in her full battle order, mere freezing gusts like this would not harm her, but she was currently in a white dress. He had asked her about this before teleporting, but he had come away with the feeling that she was just trying to put on a brave front.
However, Ainz simply smiled gently in response to Ainz’s worries.
“Thank you for your concern, Ainz-sama, but it is not necessary. Mere cold like this is not a problem.”
Ainz nodded and replied, “I see.”
Normally, there would be an environmental effect here which applied cold damage and slowed movement. However, operating it required money, so it had been left deactivated. Perhaps she had simply been lucky that they had made that decision early on. Or was it because Albedo had some sort of magic item or skill that negated cold damage?
In truth, the NPCs were equipped by the guild members who designed them. There were only a few of them which Ainz could confidently say he understood thoroughly, apart from Pandora’s Actor. That said, he had gone over all their data after coming to this new world.
Questions filled Ainz’s mind as he looked at the majestic two-story mansion before him.
This building seemed strangely out of place in this frozen land. It was like a house from a storybook, and seemed to be surrounded by a fairytale atmosphere.
However, its surface was covered in a layer of ice, giving it an uncomfortably cold aura. In fact, the name of this building was about as far from a fairytale as one could get.
Its name was the Frozen Prison.
All of Nazarick’s enemies were locked up here.
With those simple words, Ainz pushed open the frozen main gate. Though it was covered in a thick layer of ice, the gate still opened easily, as though it were welcoming a visitor.
A wave of cold air washed over them in the instant the gate opened. This was because the interior of the Prison was colder than even the freezing environs outside.
It was only after the chilling wind swept over her that Albedo began shivering. As Ainz saw this, he reached into his pocket dimension and withdrew a crimson cape, whose hem was decorated with flame-like patterns.
“Wear this, Albedo. It is not highly enchanted, but it should be enough to ward off the cold.”
“To think you would lavish such a gift upon me! My deepest thanks! I shall treasure it all my life.”
Ainz had not said that he would give it to her, but after seeing Albedo’s radiant smile, Ainz could not muster up any words, but instead looked to the other side of the opened gate.
A silent, dark passage extended within.
“Right, the surviving members of the Sunlight Scripture should be in here.”
“Yes. Neuronist should be watching them closely. Ah, how warm, it feels like Ainz-sama is hugging me… kukuku.”
“...Really now. That’s wonderful.”
I doubt being embraced by skinless, fleshless arms like mine would feel warm, but of course Ainz did not say that. At the very least, he knew that it would not be appropriate at the present moment.
As Albedo wriggled and twisted around in the cape, wrapping it around herself so tightly she almost vanished into its folds, Ainz strode forth.
“What are you doing, we’re running out of time… under these circumstances”
“Ah, ah yes!”
Ainz’s passive skill [Undead Blessing] allowed him to sense all the undead lurking within the compound. Since it was annoying, Ainz disabled the skill in order to ignore the presence of the undead as he walked down the freezing, blue-white passage. People without countermeasures against movement impairment might end up tripping and falling on the completely frozen-over corridor.
“...Ainz-sama, shall I summon Neuronist? It is unthinkable that she would not come to lead the way, thus forcing the supreme overlord of Nazarick to advance by himself…”
“It’s fine. Though it’s not a bad thing, she talks too much. There is a matter we need to settle as soon as possible and I would like to avoid wasting time.”
“Understood. Then, after all this is over, I will lecture Neuronist and caution her not to babble too much.”
“No, no, no need for that. It does not displease me.”
Ainz smiled bitterly as he watched Albedo furrow her brows from her place beside him. As her master, he appreciated the fact that she was thinking of him, but if she did that, his subordinates might not dare complain in future.
“It is fine. I love you all, regardless of your merits or flaws, because you were all made by my friends of the past. The fault is mine for being unhappy with such meticulously crafted people.”
Indeed, if Shalltear had betrayed them because her backstory had been designed that way, then he had to forgive her for it. That was because she was simply obeying the will of her creator, Peroroncino. However, he did not seem like the type who would plant bad seeds in the guild. All this confused Ainz, because Peroroncino was a man who liked joking around and disliked ruining relationships between his friends.
If that’s the case, then it should be an external reason after all, no? The way the text was displayed represents that she was mind-controlled… although I can’t rule out the fact that it might have been a part of her settings I wasn’t sure about, or a change in her settings which happened after coming to this world. Besides, I didn’t memorize the personality profiles of all the NPCs, and their personalities seem quite similar to those of their creators… I guess nobody could program them without personalities, so that might be why. If that’s the case, then Shalltear… could it be that she had something like a time bomb built into her settings? Her creator liked H-Games, so maybe he programmed some kind of event into her which needed to be solved with a walkthrough… uwah, that sounds quite likely.
Ainz sighed weakly, and then he finally realised the oddity in the behavior of the woman next to him.
She was looking forward and walking, but unlike just now, she was not matching his stride. And while her eyes were facing forward, they were not focused on any particular place.
Ainz heard Albedo mumbling something, and he strained to listen.
“I love you… I love you… I love you…”
She was repeating those words over and over again, like a broken record.
“...Oi, Albedo. I said I loved you all. That refers to everyone, right?”
Albedo turned her head toward him in a strange manner.
“But, but that, that means, you love me too, right?”
“Er… erm… well, yes.”
Albedo squeezed her legs together and hopped up in an adorable manner — the motion sending her into the ceiling.
Such was the case when one possessed superhuman athletic ability.
Ping! Or rather, it was a boom. A startling crash came from the ceiling, so great was the force of the impact. As they heard what sounded like a bomb exploding, the translucent bodies of several incorporeal monsters poked themselves out of the ceiling.
These were the undead which were hiding within the Prison, which Ainz’s skill had picked up.
“Ah, you lot can go back, it’s nothing special.”
Ainz looked at Albedo before him, so happy that she was humming to herself. Though she had crashed into the ceiling, her racial skills included a certain measure of damage reduction, so it had not hurt at all.
The various undead bowed reverently before vanishing, returning to where they stood ready to meet any intruders.
“...Albedo, we’re almost at your big sister’s room. Are you ready?”
Albedo’s flighty and overjoyed expression turned serious in an instant.
“Understood. Then, I shall retrieve the doll.”
“Umu. Give it to me.”
Albedo reached a hand toward the wall, and a pale-white hand reached back out, depositing a doll to her hand. It was a baby doll, which was about the same size as an actual baby.
Ainz accepted the doll, and looked it over without averting his eyes.
The doll was a caricature of a human infant, its distorted features resembling a Cupid doll. Its large, round eyes were particularly disgusting. Ainz furrowed his nonexistent brows and directed his gaze to the end of the corridor. There was a large fresco there, painted on a wall which contained a door.
He saw a mother and her baby. It was a painting of a mother gently cradling her child.
If that were all, it would have been a beautiful painting. However, the passage of time had worn away at the paint, turning it into a hideous sight. In particular, one could no longer see the shape of the baby itself. All that remained was something which looked like a corpse.
Ainz pushed open the door, which slid open with no sound or resistance — and he was greeted by the sound of crying babies.
It was not just the sound of one or two voices. Nor was it the result of an echo.
Tens, hundreds of crying voices fused into one and reached Ainz’s ears. However, he could not see any babies in the room.
Still, although he could not see them, they were definitely there.
In this empty room, bare of all furniture, there was a cradle, and a woman gently rocked it.
Though Ainz had entered the room, the woman in the black mourning clothes remained silent, caring only for the cradle she was rocking. Her face could not be seen because her long black hair completely covered it up.
Normally, if an NPC saw a Supreme Being (Ainz) and paid him no heed, Albedo would loudly rebuke them. However, she remained silent. Ainz knew the reason for that, because Albedo’s guarded stance told him everything.
“It’s about time to begin, no?”
“It should be. Please be careful.”
As though on cue, the woman’s movements froze. Then, she reached her hands into the cradle, and gently retrieved the baby within. No, that was not a real baby, but a baby doll.
“It’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s wrong.”
She shook it forcefully and then cast it aside with all her strength. The doll shattered into pieces when it hit the wall.
“My baby, my baby, my baby, my babyyyyyyy—!”
A sound of grinding teeth came from the woman, and with that, the crying noises from the floor and ceiling grew louder. Soon, the source of the sound revealed itself, and lumps of flesh which resembled translucent babies emerged.
“To think Tabula Smaragdina-san put so many monsters in here… how much money did he spend on this?”
These squirming masses of flesh which resembled infants were close to level 20, and they were called Carrion Babies.
In games like YGGDRASIL, one could place pop monsters within dungeons by paying the appropriate in-game or real-world currency. However, they would not come back to life after being destroyed, so they were more of a luxury to players. Those players that did not focus on roleplaying would not emplace such monsters.
The fact that he had put in so many Carrion Babies here, despite their low levels, was a testament to the meticulous nature of Tabula Smaragdina.
Just as Ainz was starting to be impressed, the woman produced a large pair of scissors from somewhere and gripped them tightly. A keen gaze looked out from her unkempt hair, directed at Ainz and Albedo.
“You, you, you, you, took, took, took, took, my baby, my baby, my baby, my babyyyyyyyyy—!”
“...She really is your sister. The resemblance is very strong.”
The woman seemed to take the leisurely conversation as some sort of provocation and broke into a run, her killing intent driving her as swiftly as the wind. The woman in the black mourning clothes took unnaturally large strides as she charged, closing the distance to them in but a few steps.
The woman stabbed forcefully at Ainz with her scissors—
“Your child is here.”
—And as Ainz presented the doll to the woman, her movements froze immediately, as though someone had pressed the stop button on her. She put her scissors away, and slowly accepted the doll.
She cradled her beloved child with infinite compassion, as though she would never let it go. Then, she gingerly placed the baby back in the cradle, before turning her face, shrouded as it was by her long hair, to Ainz and Albedo:
“Momonga-sama, and my lovely little sister. I trust you have been well?”
“It’s been a while, Nigredo. You seem… yes, I am glad you have not changed.”
The reason why Ainz could calmly handle this chain of events was because he had witnessed this madness before, in the game.
Back then, I was so scared that I screamed.
His guildmate said he had made a new NPC, and asked the other guild members to come see it with him. In the end, everyone had shrieked together and unleashed their full power on Nigredo. It felt quite nostalgic now when he looked back on it.
“Nee-san, it’s been a while.”
Indeed, this Nigredo was Albedo’s older sister. In other words, she was an NPC created by the player Tabula Smaragdina.
If one said that Albedo was the incarnation of his love for gap moe, then Nigredo would be the character that represented Tabula Smaragdina’s love for horror movies.
Although he wasn’t a bad person by any stretch of the word, he was clearly quite a character.
Under normal circumstances, he was a rational man, but the more he got into something, the more he began revealing his true nature. As he recalled that guild member from the past, Nigredo brushed away the long hair which covered her face, revealing her true visage.
Perhaps she felt that covering her face was being disrespectful to Ainz, but on the other hand, he would have preferred her to carry on as normal.
Her true face was creepy, to say the least. It had no skin, only exposed muscle.
Her mouth had no lips, yet held a beautiful set of teeth. Her eyes shone brightly in the absence of eyelids. An observer might think her beautiful if they looked solely at her eyes or teeth, but taken as a whole, her face inspired nothing but revulsion.
That frighteningly ugly face from the depths of a horror movie contorted. It was hard to tell because of the lack of skin, but she still had muscle tissue on her face, unlike Ainz, so one could eventually surmise that she should have been smiling.
“Then, Momonga-sama, how may I—”
“—Ah, my apologies. You were not in the Throne Room so you did not know, but my name is no longer Momonga. I am now Ainz Ooal Gown. Please address me as Ainz from now on.”
There was a gasp of surprise, and then Nigredo slowly raised her head:
“I understand, Ainz-sama.”
“Then, Nigredo, I came here to seek your help. Could I make use of your abilities?”
“My abilities? Is it alive? Or unliving?”
“...Probably counts as alive… should probably be living… I’ll tell you straight up, the target is Shalltear Bloodfallen.”
“The Floor Guardian? ...Forgive my rudeness. If it your order, then I will carry it out at once, Ainz-sama.”
Though her voice seemed doubtful, Nigredo immediately complied with the request.
In response to Albedo’s request, Nigredo raised her thumb playfully before casting a variety of spells. There was quite the variety of them, and Ainz mused that he had heard most of them not long before. They were the spells he had demonstrated to Narberal last night.
Nigredo was a magic caster, and she was one of the highest-level NPCs in Nazarick. Though one could not tell from looking at her, she had been designed to specialize in divination and information gathering. That was why Ainz had come here to ask for help with locating Shalltear.
Soon enough — as befitting a person with her skills — Nigredo swiftly announced the results.
“Put it on a [Crystal Monitor].”
She cast another spell, and a [Crystal Monitor] appeared, displaying something which looked like a vast expanse of forest. Someone in armor was standing amidst the trees.
Ainz praised her:
“Amazing. You discerned the location of the target with pinpoint accuracy. I’d expect nothing less of a specialized magic cas—”
As the image in the monitor became clearer, the praise vanished.
The person depicted there was dressed in a suit of red-colored full plate armor which looked like it had been drenched in blood. It wore a swan-shaped helmet which left only the face exposed. Plumes of avian feathers sprouted from either side of the helmet, while the chest and shoulders of the armor had been styled into the shape of wings. Crimson skirt armor covered the lower body.
It held a huge, strange-looking lance in one hand, resembling a pipette one might use in a science class.
This was Shalltear Bloodfallen. She possessed levels in Valkyrie — a divine magic caster class which specialized in fighting power — fully ready for battle.
“The Spuit Lance! That’s the divine-class item that Peroroncino-sama gave Shalltear!” Albedo exclaimed as she saw Shalltear’s weapon.
Ainz had enough divine-class items that he could equip them to every slot on his body. However, this did not mean that they were easy to come by.
YGGDRASIL’s magic items were made by embedding data crystals into items, but not all data crystals dropped by monsters were equal. If one wanted to make a divine-class item, one would need several data crystals which were classified as “high-rare drops”. In addition, one would need to make the container for those data crystals — a sword, for instance — out of extremely rare metals and the like.
As a result, it was fairly common for even level 100 players to not own a single divine-class item.
Even the members of Ainz Ooal Gown — a guild which had ranked among the top 10 in the game — could not outfit their NPCs in nothing but divine-class items. At the most, they could only give them one or two such articles.
The Spuit Lance which Shalltear Bloodfallen possessed was such an item.
Its name sounded silly, but its power was extremely insidious. When embedded in a weapon, some data crystals allowed their user to absorb a certain percentage of damage dealt and use it to replenish their health. The Spuit Lance was specialized in doing so.
“...Let’s head out now.”
“Eh? Ah, please wait! Since Shalltear is already fully equipped, it’s possible that hostilities will begin on sight, so we need to select several guards to defend your person.”
“We don’t have time for that; if negotiations break down, we’ll retreat immediately—”
“『Forgive the disturbance, Ainz-sama.』”
A female voice echoed through his mind. It belonged to Narberal, who had stayed in E-Rantel.
Anger blazed in Ainz at this untimely interruption.
“What is it, Narberal? I’m—”
I’m busy, he wanted to say, but Ainz cut himself off halfway.
This was because he recalled how he had interrupted Entoma’s [Message] last night. At the time, he had felt that it could not be helped, but perhaps if he had taken action immediately, the present situation might be different. This was because he could have handed the task of saving Nfirea to Narberal.
This faint sense of regret allowed Ainz to regain his calm.
The NPCs treated Ainz as their supreme overlord. Even if he made the wrong decision, they would still treat Ainz’s words as their top priority. Because of that, Ainz had to keep calm, act carefully, and avoid making mistakes.
That’s a bit much to ask of an ordinary person like me...
As he inwardly laughed at his own flawed judgement, Ainz smiled bitterly as he concluded that it was most likely impossible for him. Then, he felt Narberal’s subservient attitude through the [Message], waiting for her master’s instructions, and his body trembled like he had been struck by lightning.
What am I thinking? I am Ainz Ooal Gown, the ruler of Nazarick, the man who took on the name of everyone else. Indeed, I am not Suzuki Satoru. Impossible? No, now that I’ve taken on this name, I have to turn the impossible into the possible.
“...No, it’s fine. What is it? It must be important for you to contact me with [Message], right?”
“『Yes. Someone from the Adventurer’s Guild is looking for you, Ainz-sama.』”
“...If it’s about last night, tell them to wait… no, that’s not right. There should be something else, am I correct?”
“『Yes! You are as perceptive as always, Ainz-sama.』”
Narberal was not being clear, so Ainz let his silence show his confusion. Soon, she seemed to have picked up on that and spoke again:
“『Actually, there is another problem besides that. It… concerns a certain Vampire.』”
“What? A Vampire, you say?”
Ainz turned to look at Shalltear, whose image stood ramrod straight on the monitor.
“Did they mention anything about that Vampire? Like say, silver hair, or crimson armor, or something?”
“『Regretfully, they did not. The person they sent for yourself was little more than a runner. They said that they would explain at the guild, and hoped that you would hurry over as soon as possible, Ainz-sama. I hear that several adventurer teams have already made their way there… the Guild’s messenger is nearby; what should I tell him?』”
Ainz closed his eyes. Of course, he had no eyeballs, so it simply meant that the lights in his eyesockets vanished.
“What do you think of Narberal’s [Message], Albedo?”
After finishing his explanation, Albedo lowered her eyes for a few moments, and then looked back at Ainz.
“Given that we lack information, there will be merits and demerits to either alternative. Thus, you should select according to your personal preference, Ainz-sama. If it were up to me, I would ignore these humans.”
After thanking Albedo, Ainz fell into deep thought.
He considered the worst that could happen if he prioritized Shalltear.
He then considered how Shalltear’s situation would change if he put the Guild first.
As he thought about the drawbacks of both, he began to feel that either option would lead to the worst-case scenario.
If his friends were with him, he could probably use the majority vote to make a decision. But his friends were not with him. As the man who had taken charge of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, as the man who had taken its mighty name for his own, he had to make that choice himself.
After a brief period of hesitation, Ainz came to a conclusion.
“Albedo, send someone to keep an eye on Shalltear. I will go visit the Guild in E-Rantel. After that matter is concluded, take me to Shalltear.”
“You heard that too, didn’t you, Narberal?”
“『Understood. Then, I shall inform the messenger that you will be on your way.』”
“Ah, yes, tell him that. Then, Albedo, forgive me, but I shall be heading to the Guild now.”
“I understand. I shall send several vassals out, in accordance with your instructions.”
“Please do. Also, I will hand the ring over to Yuri. Take it from her afterwards.”
In truth, there was something he wanted to hand to the Head Librarian, but Ainz felt that he no longer had that time, so he teleported himself with the power of the ring.
Now that only the two sisters were left in the room, the mood in the room lightened. As though waiting for this opportunity, Nigredo turned to Albedo, a curious look in her eyes.
“What’s wrong? Has something happened to Shalltear?”
“Mm, it seems she has rebelled against us.”
“...Unbelievable… How could that be… is it really true?”
“I find it hard to believe myself, but that seems to be the case.”
“Then she should be eliminated without delay. But... it seems that is not what Ainz-sama wishes to do?”
“Indeed. Because of Ainz-sama’s boundless mercy… no, he probably thinks that killing her without realising why she turned against us would be a big mistake. I’m sure that is what Ainz-sama has in mind.”
“Hm~” Nigredo mused, in a tone that seemed somewhere between acceptance and denial.
“I understand. Before you send the vassals out to keep an eye on Shalltear, I will continue my magical surveillance from here.”
“I’m grateful for that, Nee-san.”
Thinking the conversation was over, Albedo was about to unleash the power of her Ring when she sensed that her older sister still had something to say. When Nigredo was in a rational state of mind, she was the sort of person who would speak openly, so there was only one reason that Albedo’s big sister would hesitate like this.
Although she did not want to inquire about it, when she considered that it might not be about the previous matter, she had to ask, however unwillingly.
“What’s the matter, Nee-san?”
“...Since I am not permitted to leave this Frozen Prison, I am unsure about the situation outside. Is Spinel still well?”
...As I thought.
Albedo regretted asking as she thought that, but in an even voice, she replied:
“Nee-san, you call her that…”
“I hate that girl. Even if we were all characters made by Tabula Smaragdina-sama… no, Spinel was made in a completely different way from us. She is not the kind of person to whom people could open their hearts.”
“That’s not the case, Nee-san. She’s adorable.”
“All I can think is that you have been deceived by her. Spinel will definitely bring a great disaster to Nazarick someday. I’ll wager on that.”
“...We will never see eye to eye on that point. I believe that girl will not cause any trouble.”
“Really now. Well, if you — if the Guardian Overseer feels that way, then there’s nothing left for me to say. However, I hope that you will take my concerns into consideration, in your role as the Guardian Overseer.”
“I understand. I will take your words to heart, Nee-san.”
Resisting the urge to sigh, Albedo teleported elsewhere.
However, the matter which she could have laughed off usually now stuck in her heart like a thorn.
She felt that everyone created by the Supreme Beings was staunchly loyal to them. Yet, Shalltear had still rebelled against them. If that were the case, anyone else might be next.
For all she knew, her little sister might also betray—
She could not erase these thoughts entirely. Yet, to Albedo, this was not necessarily a bad thing.
Albedo had a baffled, confused look on her face as she reached her destination.
“Ainz-sama, my beloved, I am your loyal dog, your slave.”
She declaimed her feelings to a man who was not there.
“Even if all of Nazarick turns against you, I will always stand by your side.”
“Come, come, come, Momon-san, pull up a chair.”
There were six men in the room. Three of them were stout-looking men girt for war, while one of them looked similarly imposing despite his lack of arms or armor. He was the one who had risen to beckon Ainz over. In addition, there was a skinny, neurotic-looking man in a robe, and finally a fat man seated in the innermost part of the room.
Ainz took a seat, under the eyes of everyone else, and then the standing man spoke once more.
“Allow me to introduce myself. I am the head of this city’s Adventurer’s Guild, Pluton Ainzach.”
He was a powerful-looking middle-aged man.
He had an aura of a mighty veteran about him. There was no doubt that he was an excellent warrior.
“This is the Mayor of E-Rantel, Panasolei Gruuze De Rittenmeier-san.”
Ainz nodded, and Panasolei waved slightly in response.
He was fat — no, frankly speaking, he was almost entirely made up of fat. His belly was rounded and flabby, and his chins were overflowing with adipose tissue. The excess of fat made him look like a bulldog.
The hair on his head was sparse enough that his scalp reflected the light, and what little hair which was left had already turned white.
“Momon-san, pleased to meet you.”
Perhaps it was because his nose was stuffed up, but he made buhiiii noises when he spoke.
“And this is the leader of the E-Rantel Magician’s Guild, Theo Rakesheer.”
The skinny man — who looked as frail as a bamboo pole and seemed at least somewhat anorexic — nodded to Ainz.
“And these three are much like yourself, members of the adventurer teams which are the pride of E-Rantel. From the right to the left are Igvarge-san of Kralgra, Perote-san of Tenrou and Moknak-san of Rainbow.”
Those three men each had metal plates around the necks — made of mithril — and each gave the impression of being commanding and even powerful. Their equipment was nothing more than junk to Ainz, but they were still far above the gear sported by most adventurers in this city.
Each of them had different looks in their eyes, but they all shared the same common thread of curiosity.
One of them — the representative of Kralgra, Igvarge — glared icily at Ainz and asked:
“Before that, there’s something I’d like to ask you, Guildmaster Ainzach. I’ve never heard of the name Momon before. Since he’s a mithril-plate, he should have done something noteworthy, right?”
There seemed to be a little hostility in his voice. However, Ainzach seemed to pay it no heed and cheerfully replied:
“His feats include taming the Wise King of the Forest, as well as settling the graveyard incident last night.”
Unlike the confused Igvarge, Moknak of “Rainbow” exclaimed in surprise.
“You don’t mean the incident concerning appearance of vast quantities of undead?”
“Buhiii~ you’re quite well informed. I instructed that the matter not be made public due to receiving some troubling news. Where did you hear that from?”
His words were frequently accompanied by a buhiii, probably due to a blocked nose or some other reason. Nor was there much intonation, probably because he was using his mouth to breathe. It made his words sound strange, as though he were reading off a script.
“Forgive me, Mayor. I merely overheard this, so it’s difficult for me to tell you where exactly the news came from. In addition, I do not know much of the details.”
The two of them looked at each other and they smiled as their eyes met. Moknak’s smile was forced, while the Mayor’s was uneasy.
“Hm~ it rings false to me, but forget it. There should be a lot of people who know about the undead running wild. Buhiii~ forgive me, I interrupted by accident.”
“It’s fine, Mayor. In any case, the Guild concluded that due to his contributions in that incident, Momon-san is a mithril-ranked adventurer.”
“Just one incident? Just by handling one matter? No adventurer who’s gone through rank placement examinations would be happy with that, am I wrong?”
He was not even pretending to be polite any more. Igvarge displayed his naked aggression on his face, and then someone spoke coldly from the side.
“Hmph. Frankly speaking, I have to say that I’m not happy about Momon-dono’s mithril rank either, Guildmaster.”
The man who cut in was the head of the Magician’s Guild, Rakesheer. There was a derisive expression on his face, though Ainz understood that it was not directed at himself, but at Igvarge. However, Igvarge did not realise this, and smiled at Rakesheer in a friendly way.
“I’m glad you see it my way, Guildmaster-san.”
Rakesheer’s lips grew even thinner, as though he had heard something amusing. It was not a friendly gesture, because he had a scornful look in his eyes.
“Is that so? I feel that our views are diametrically opposed.”
“What do you mean by—”
“Really, that’s enough out of you, Igvarge-kun. There’s people in the Guild who feel Momon-kun was worthy of an orichalcum plate.”
Igvarge’s face seemed to be asking how that was possible.
As he saw it, Rakesheer’s mocking smile grew so wide that it twisted his entire face.
“Momon-san broke through a horde of thousands of undead with just his partner — no, he had the Wise King of the Forest as well, for a total of three people — and defeated the people conducting an unholy ritual.”
“—Anyone with some stealth training could do that!”
Rakesheer sighed, in a somewhat exaggerated way.
“Indeed, you are correct. Initially, I felt that this was not enough to qualify Momon-san for orichalcum rank. However, the discovery of a set of bones bore testament to Momon-san’s might.”
At that point, Rakesheer turned to Ainz in his suit of black full plate armor, a stern look in his eyes.
“...That is to say, the bones of a Skeletal Dragon. Momon-san slew a frightening undead creature that possessed absolute resistance to magic.”
“Well, uh, yes! Skel-skeletal Dragons are strong! But mithril-ranked adventurers can still def—”
“—Can still defeat two of them at the same time?”
Igvarge’s gasp of surprise was joined by the other two adventurers. Then, there was a subtle shift in their attitude as they looked toward him. They were like inspectors trying to plumb the depths of a lake.
“We found the remains of two Skeletal Dragons at the scene. Could your teams break through a horde of thousands of undead, slay two Skeletal Dragons, and kill the hitherto unknown masterminds of this conspiracy in such a short time? Other adventurers were present at the graveyard, and they reported the presence of twisted spirits like Wraiths. Could you have penetrated such deadly ground?”
Igvarge bit his lip, unable to respond.
“Then, let me ask you another question. I hear that the only other member of Momon-san’s party is a woman. She is a magic caster, which means that she would have been completely useless against Skeletal Dragons and their complete magic immunity. Under these circumstances, with only one other… no, even with the Wise King of the Forest by your side as well, could you have made such a great accomplishment?”
Rakesheer bowed to Ainz and said:
“Please allow me to thank you on behalf of the city, Momon-san. If not for your swift response, many more lives might have been lost. And while I can only speak for myself in this matter, you have but to come to me with any request you have and I will do my best to fulfil it.”
“You praise me too highly, Guildmaster. I was simply fulfilling Bareare-san’s request, and I solved a problem along the way.”
Rakesheer laughed, and there was an undercurrent of respect amidst his laughter.
“It seems you are truly worthy of an orichalcum… no, an adamantite rank. To think someone could take such a mighty accomplishment and pass it off which such humility, as though it were nothing of note. I heard that your companion can use magic of the 3rd tier as well… is that correct?”
“Your praise honors me… but I do not wish to casually show my hand.”
“Is that so? What a shame.”
Igvarge’s face and ears turned red as he watched the way Ainz and Rakesheer spoke lightly to each other. Then, he bellowed:
“We could do the same thing if we got everyone together! Besides, it’s his fault that he’s got so few teammates, right? He can’t get anyone because he’s no good!”
The air in the room grew tense even as it grew frigid, and then the sound of a buhiii~ rang forth.
“Let’s leave the matter at that. We didn’t gather everyone here to fight now, did we?”
After that last buhiii~, Igvarge sat down, seemingly deflated. However, he still glared hatefully at Ainz. The two guild leaders watched this sight and shook their heads helplessly.
“I understand that you all value strength, but that is not the topic we are here to address, so why don’t we settle the matter quickly?”
“Thank you, Mayor.”
“Muu? I have no idea why you would thank me, but you should probably continue speaking. The fact is, I’m not quite sure what is going on.”
“Understood. If only I could have reported it right away…”
“Don’t worry, I was handling a matter in connection with Stronoff-kun myself.”
There was another buhiii~
“Now then, let’s get to the point—”
“Before that, shouldn’t we show some basic courtesy and remove our helmets?”
Igvarge cut in once more with a mocking words. He was not incorrect in saying so, but he was also being quite annoying. The other adventurers frowned as well.
“It’s fine. This time, he has a point. I have been somewhat rude.”
However, the false face Ainz revealed when he removed his helmet was a plain one, which was not particularly attractive.
“Since I come from another country, I wore my helmet to avoid drawing trouble. Please forgive my lack of manners.”
“Cheh, so you’re a foreigner.”
“Shut up, Igvarge. Adventurers protect all humanity from monsters and as such, borders do not exist for them. As a fellow adventurer, I am ashamed at your griping about the unspoken rules which govern our guild.”
As the voice castigating Igvarge’s second interruption rang forth, he realised that everyone else in the room felt that way, so he reluctantly fell silent.
“...Well, it’s because of this sort of thing that people have loaded opinions of foreigners.”
Several of the people smiled bitterly at Ainz’s words. Igvarge’s own face had turned from pale to almost white, but by the time Ainz put his helmet on again, there was no complaint.
“Then, I hope we won’t get sidetracked any further. Let’s get right to it.”
“Well, it’s because someone was late that we haven’t heard about anything until now.”
“That was a mistake on my part. Please forgive me.”
Ainz lowered his head in apology. He had experienced this sort of thing before as a salaryman, where his bosses announced that they would only begin once everyone had arrived. Thus, all he could do was suppress the urge to go home, because he truly understood how they felt.
Ainz’s sincere apology made him seem that much more noble, in contrast to Igvarge’s hostility and constant jibes. Igvarge scoffed angrily as his scowl deepened, because he was well aware that the general opinion of him had fallen even further.
However, there was someone who was even angrier than Igvarge.
“...Are you quite done yet? One more interruption and you can get your ass out of here.”
As expected, it was Ainzach who had spoken up. His eyes were filled with rage, and there was no trace of his previous calm in his voice. Naturally, he was glaring at Igvarge.
Igvarge inclined his head slightly to apologize.
Ainz was confused as he observed Igvarge’s reaction. Given the hostility the man had shown him just now, it would not have been strange for him to break into a grade-schooler’s tantrum, as though complaining to his parents. Why had he chosen to back down?
After a brief period of thought, he came up with something.
What would people think of Igvarge if he were chased away from a gathering of mithril-ranked adventurers? Even if the truth got out, there would be some people who would believe that he had been ejected from the group because he was useless. If that happened, his standing within the adventuring community would plummet. That was probably why he had shut up.
“To summarize, about two nights ago, some adventurers patrolling the outskirts of E-Rantel encountered a Vampire. Five of them were killed by the Vampire. I have gathered all of you here because of that incident.”
As he listened to the description of the Vampire, Ainz’s hopes shattered like spun glass.
The sole surviving adventurer had been too afraid to give a proper description, and had only noted details like clothing, hair color, and the like. However, the thing that had stood out most clearly was “silver hair and a large mouth”.
Even if it was just a muddled description, anyone who knew Shalltear would immediately think of her once they heard it. Ainz was certain of the Vampire’s identity in his heart.
I have no idea how things ended up like this, but things might go badly if I don’t alter the memories of the survivor. I’ll have to do that some other time.
As Ainz furrowed his illusionary eyebrows, the discussion continued apace.
“I see. I’m not too clear about this incident myself, but I would be wasting everyone’s time if I asked for a full explanation. I’ll ask if anything I don’t understand comes up.”
“Understood. Then, gentlemen, do you have any questions?”
“When you say ‘the outskirts’, where exactly do you mean by that?”
“It’s a place about three hours’ walk from the north gate. There’s a large patch of forest there, and the incident took place within the forest.”
“What rank were those adventurers?”
“They were iron-plates.”
“...I’d like to ask, but why have you brought so many adventurers on board for just one Vampire? Is there going to be a competition of some sort?”
“He’s got a point. Platinum-ranked adventurers can deal with a Vampire. I have no idea why you’ve gathered so many mithril-ranked adventurers.”
“The answer for that is simple: because that Vampire is very powerful.”
Everyone looked to Rakesheer in surprise as he interrupted.
“A very powerful Vampire…”
“Could it be you’re trying to say that the opposition is a high-end Vampire… the Vampire Lord ‘Landfall’ who was mentioned in the Saga of the Thirteen Heroes?”
“We do not know if the enemy is indeed a Vampire Lord, but according to the adventurer who encountered the Vampire, the Vampire used the 3rd-tier spell [Create Undead]. I trust I don’t need to tell you adventurers the implications of that?”
They had nothing to say. The stiff looks on their faces spoke for them.
“Hm~ I have no idea what that means, so could you tell me?”
“Forgive me, Mayor-san.”
“Anything which could use magic of that tier is of platinum-rank at the very least.”
Panasolei frowned as he began getting a better picture of the situation.
“In other words… I won’t speak like this any more.”
Panasolei’s eyes sharpened, and just that was enough to change the image he projected to everyone else. He had turned from a fat, lazy pig to a savage wild boar. Or rather, this was Panasolei’s true face.
“In other words, it’s exactly as what you’re saying, Guildmaster-san. A monster on par with a platinum-ranked adventurer party, with platinum-ranked powers on top of that.”
“It is as you say.”
“So it’s basically strengthening something which is already strong?”
“That is a valid way of looking at the matter.”
“How would you describe it, in terms of the size of a comparable military force?”
“A military force… that’s a somewhat tricky question.”
Rakesheer racked his brains, and then spoke again.
“Let me get this out of the way first, this is just my personal opinion and it’s by no means a final, unassailable assessment. If you want to think of it in terms of a group of fighting men, given the fact that the undead do not tire, nor do they eat or drink… I guess you could compare it to an army of ten thousand.”
A look of shock came over Panasolei as he heard this, and he looked to the other adventurers, as though seeking their opinion of those words. Apart from Ainz, everyone nodded in agreement with the words of the Magician’s Guild’s leader.
As though picking up the baton from Rakesheer, Ainzach continued speaking:
“To continue where Theo left off, only about 20% of the adventurers in the Kingdom can be considered to be at or above platinum-rank. There are around 3000 adventurers in the Kingdom, so among the 8 million people of the Kingdom, there are only about 600 platinum-ranked or higher adventurers. Do you understand now? Platinum-ranked adventurers are that rare.”
“Is that so. I wish I did not understand, but I do. Then, with this situation in mind, I would like to ask you adventurers: are you confident in eliminating this creature? If not… well, then how about asking the Warrior-Captain Gazef-kun for help?”
Gazef Stronoff. He was the mightiest warrior of the Kingdom, superior even to adamantite-ranked adventurers. A man that was arguably the Kingdom’s ace in the hole.
However, Ainzach immediately shot that proposal down.
“It may be true that no warrior is capable of beating Stronoff-dono. However, if Stronoff-dono faced a party of adventurers that was weaker than himself, the victors would undoubtedly be the adventurers. This is because adventuring parties have many methods of attack and defense — to continue the example of using Stronoff-san, the party can use four times the amount of magic and martial arts as Stronoff-san. The impact of this difference is particularly marked when facing monsters who possess unique special abilities.”
“The ideal solution would be to recruit orichalcum and adamantite-ranked adventurers for this. But before it comes to that, I would like the strongest adventurers in our city to set up a defensive line to keep the Vampire from invading us.”
“That would be giving up the initiative, don’t you think?”
“That is the best possible outcome of the worst-case scenario. Need I remind you that our foe is a one-man army?”
“I… I don’t want to imagine the terror facing such a fearsome foe would entail…”
One could follow an army of ten thousand by their tracks and evade them easily. In addition, prodigious quantities of supplies would be needed to keep such an army on the march, so it would be difficult for them to do battle for long.
However, what if that army was compressed into a single person? And what if that person was able to use [Invisibility] or was adept at covert operations?
“Still, as an adventurer, I have to say that forming a defensive line will be very difficult, Guildmaster-dono. After all, coordinating our teams will need a fair bit of training time…”
“Well, in lieu of that, what do you think of everyone just deploying together?”
The adventurers promptly shot down the Mayor’s proposal.
“I doubt that would be possible. In order to work as closely as that, we’ll need to craft intricate battle plans, but the more complex the plan, the more likely it will go awry when something unexpected occurs. Rather than risk that, it would be better to not work together and just operate independently. Speaking of which, why did that Vampire appear there? What news does the Guild have about it?”
“About that… since the enemy is a powerful Vampire, the Guild does not have the full details on it at the moment. Just as we were about to put a scouting party together, the incident from last night occurred, which dispersed our forces.”
“...I see. So you’re worried that these two incidents are linked?”
“Indeed, that is so.”
“Didn’t Momon-shi take care of the graveyard incident? Was there anything on the bodies of the masterminds that would tie the two events together?”
That question plunged the room into a brief silence.
Ainz was puzzled. The Adventurer’s Guildmaster — who had fielded answers without any hesitation — now turned to the Mayor, a questioning look in his eyes. Still, when one thought about it, this was information pertaining to the criminals that had conducted a terror attack on the city. There were things which could and could not be said to adventurers.
“From their belongings, we learned the enemy was from Zuranon.”
The faces of the three adventurers turned grim.
However, this was the first time Ainz had heard that name. He fervently prayed to the gods he did not believe in that the others would not question him on this topic about which he knew nothing.
Ignorance is frightening, I need to learn more.
“That undead-controlling secret society? I guess they really are linked with that Vampire.”
“So their aim was to trigger incidents within and outside the city to split our forces? Or are both of them decoys, and is the real plan about to begin… this is terrible.”
“The most important thing is to make a reconnaissance. From what the rangers told us, there’s a cave near the location where the Vampire was sighted. Apparently, that cave is a bandit’s hideout…”
“It’s quite likely that the Vampire has already departed that location… still, there’s a non-zero chance of it remaining there, so we should send someone over—”
The adventurer who spoke immediately shut his mouth.
That was a natural reaction. After all, anyone heading to a likely location of that Vampire was essentially saying that they wanted to walk right into danger. If they really encountered the Vampire, and if the Vampire was as powerful as rumored, then certain death awaited them.
Those words were an indirect way of telling someone to kill themselves.
“...Let’s leave that aside for now. It’s more important to strengthen the city’s defenses. After all, the Vampire might have infiltrated the city during this time, for all we know.”
“...Well, it would be easy enough to infiltrate the city, as long as it could use magic. After all, this is not like the Imperial Capital, with air cavalry and magic casters on patrol.”
One could use [Fly] to enter from the air, or walk right in with [Invisibility] for concealment. Magic was very troublesome to deal with, which was why consolidating their fighting strength and mounting a defense was the most logical course of action.
“Still, it’s really hard to do anything without any concrete information. We really should investigate that cave!”
The opinions of everyone present gradually began shifting in favor of that extremely sensible proposal.
It would be very bad for Ainz if that came to pass.
Allowing Shalltear’s appearance to become public knowledge would be a very bad thing. Although he did not know exactly how it would play out, allowing Shalltear’s current appearance to disseminate through the city — perhaps even through the nation — would make covert actions very difficult in future.
Ainz desperately tried to think of a way to guide the situation in another direction.
In the end, there was only one way to avoid exposing Shalltear’s identity.
Ainz gulped — though there was nothing for him to swallow — and said:
“To begin with, you are mistaken. That Vampire has nothing to do with Zuranon.”
“Why is that, Momon-kun? Do you know something about this?”
“I know the name of that Vampire, because I have been hunting that creature for a long time.”
The air shuddered.
Ainz’s brain spun into overdrive — the main event was about to begin.
“It is an extremely powerful Vampire. In truth, the reason I became an adventurer was to collect information about them.”
This was a red herring; but Ainzach took the bait.
“Them? Momon-kun, did you just say ‘them’?”
“Yes, I did. There are two of these Vampires, and one of them, the silver-haired female, is known as…”
He suddenly stopped here. Originally, he was going to say “Carmilla”, but a name like that was far too normal for a female Vampire. If there were any other players around, that name would swiftly clue them in about his presence. Just as he was waffling over what name to give them, a flash of inspiration struck, and he blurted a name:
That idiotic-sounding reply had not come from one mouth; just about everyone had exclaimed in the same way.
“...Her name is Honyopenyoko.”
He had come up with the name himself, but he felt that it was slightly different from the one he had mentioned just before that. Still, if anyone pressed him with their doubts, he intended to maintain that he had misspoke.
While he had given a female Vampire a name ending with “ko”, no YGGDRASIL player should have been able to guess that he had made it up. Filled with pride at this perfect choice of names, Ainz smiled smugly under his helmet.
“Is, is that so? That Honyo… ah, forget it! Since we know that female Vampire’s name… It’s about time you told us your true identity, no? Which country are you—”
“I apologize, but I cannot say that right now. Currently, I am on a highly secret mission. If you find out, I will have no choice but to leave this land, and then you will have to deal with the Vampire yourself. I do not wish to have this become an international incident. You understand, don’t you, Mayor?”
The Mayor nodded slowly, and as Ainzach saw this he bit his lip and looked intently at Ainz.
The Guildmaster’s stare meant nothing to Ainz. However, he did not know if they had bought his story or if it contained any contradictions. Those two points of uncertainty filled Ainz’s heart with unease, but Ainz brushed it aside with an brusqueness that would brook no interference and continued:
“Our team will handle the reconnaissance. If we find the Vampire there, we will slay it on the spot.”
Thus spoke the latecoming Warrior of Darkness.
Though they could not see his face, they could feel the confidence and determination brimming in his voice.
The air filled with a pressure which might have been mistaken for rumbling, and the sigh which followed made everyone think they had made the sound.
“Then, ah, the other teams will—”
“—Will not be needed. I do not need them to slow me down.”
He waved off all opposition to that plan.
That tactless declaration was made with the utmost audacity.
That gesture was not a wise one, not among fellow adventurers of equivalent rank. However — all the adventurers here were grizzled veterans of countless life-and-death struggles. They could sense that his attitude was not born of recklessness, narcissism or pride, but had been coldly, carefully calculated. At the same time, it spoke volumes of Momon’s own strength that he could make such a statement.
This was an extraordinary man.
It seemed as though his black armor was growing before their eyes, and the pressure they felt made them imagine that the room itself was shrinking. They could sense that this man was one they could not hope to surpass; as though he were an adamantite-ranked adventurer.
This man was a hero.
Ainzach choked his words back, and then took several deep breaths. In fact, everyone present was doing the same, and the Mayor even opened up his collar, his sweat flowing freely.
In a quiet voice, as though whispering into Momon’s ear, Ainzach asked:
“—What about your payment?”
“I don’t mind discussing that afterwards. However, after this incident is resolved… after the discovery and destruction of the Vampire, I would like an orichalcum rank at the very least. That would make it more convenient for me when I track that other Vampire, because it is tiresome to have to keep proving my strength.”
Everyone present gasped in realization.
Adventurers did not work for cities or countries, but this city did not have any orichalcum-ranked adventurers at the moment. If he became one of the highest-ranked adventurers of this city, everybody would know his name. In addition, the rarity of orichalcum-ranked adventurers meant that their fame would spread even further. In this way, people would come to him with dangerous missions, and it would allow him to learn about powerful Vampires.
However, there was a man whose heart refused to accept this, even if he had already been persuaded on an intellectual level.
A chair screeched, and as all eyes went to the source of the sound — needless to say, it was Igvarge, who had been hectoring Ainz all this while.
“I can’t bring myself to believe in your strength. Be-besides, it’s still not clear if that Vampire is as strong as you say. Even animating that corpse could have been done through a magic item. We’re going with you!”
The reason why Igvarge could still muster up his opposition to Ainz despite being shaken to the core was purely because of his hostility towards Ainz and his refusal to acknowledge him.
However, his fellow adventurers did not approve of his attitude. Perote spoke in a barbed tone:
“Igvarge, that tone of yours—”
Ainz readily agreed to the request. However, there was no kindness in that reply; the following words were cold and ruthless.
“That said, I must warn you that if you come along… it’ll be certain death for you. Your entire party might be killed as well, for all I know.”
That matter-of-fact tone did not sound like a threat, nor did it sound like a joke. It was a flat prediction of the future, which sent a shudder through Igvarge’s body. In fact, everyone present was chilled to the bone by that statement.
“That’s my warning to you. If you don’t mind, then by all means, do come along.”
“Of, of course!”
He was bluffing, but he could not back down here. He could not run away from this. How could he, an adventurer of equal rank, disgrace himself before someone in power like the Mayor?
Just as the tension built again between the two of them, Ainzach — who had calmed down a little — asked Ainz:
“It’s all well and good to be confident, but is there any basis for that confidence? Of course, we know that you are strong, but surely you must know that the foe is no pushover either. Frankly speaking, we’re not sure if we can leave everything to you either. If… if for some reason you’re defeated, we need to think about what to do after that...”
Without skipping a beat, Ainz replied:
“I have a trump card.”
“What is that?”
Ainz produced a crystal and showed it to the intrigued Ainzach.
“...It can’t be! It’s impossible, unbelievable…” Rakesheer shouted, before panting:
“I once read an old tome… they say that the Theocracy possesses powerful magic items which they consider their national treasures. This is one of them… a spell-sealing crystal. How did you come to possess such a thing?!”
“How surprising… but you have it right. In addition, this crystal now contains a spell of the 8th tier.”
“What?! What did you just say?!”
The exclamations that Ainz had evoked from Rakesheer were like the cries of a strangled chicken. Even the man’s face had distorted to quite a frightening extent.
Nor was it just Rakesheer who was shocked. Everyone — no, everybody except the Mayor had an expression of fear or surprise on their stunned faces. Any adventurer with even a meager bit of experience could understand the value of the item which Ainz had shown to them.
“...The 8th tier… you’re lying, right?”
“...It might be a fairytale, but if it’s really magic of that level… it would be nothing short of mythical.”
“Are you kidding me?! What kind of nonsense is that?!”
The three adventurers — even Igvarge — stared intently at the crystal within the black gauntlet, with frightened looks on their faces.
“Forgive me! Could, could I borrow that item for a bit?”
“That… it’s just a magic caster’s curiosity. I vow I will not do anything strange to it! If you wish anything as collateral, I can pledge everything on my person, for instance, this belt—”
Rakesheer was already unbuckling his belt before he finished. Ainz replied in an annoyed tone:
“I understand, there’s no need for that sort of thing. Here, have a look.”
“Ah, sorry about this, but may I touch it too?”
The spell-sealing crystal passed through several hands before reaching Rakesheer, who stared dumbly at it, like a woman who had finally obtained a jewel she had long thirsted for. No, one could say that he was like a boy who had found a treasure he had always sought.
“Amazing… ah, yes, Momon-dono, may I cast a spell on it?”
After seeing Ainz agree with a wave of his hand, Rakesheer eagerly worked his magic.
“[Appraisal Magic Item], [Detect Enchant].”
The look on the man’s face grew even more exaggerated after he cast those spells, and then—
—There was no trace of the man from earlier. Instead, his innocent eyes radiated a look of pure delight, and even his tone was different, like he was a teenager again.
“It’s true! It’s really 8th-tier magic! That’s all my spells can tell me… but it’s awesome, really awesome!”
He shouted like this over and over again, which left everyone else staring in stunned silence. Then, Rakesheer picked up the crystal and licked it all over, even mashing it into his face — like he had gone mad.
“Get, get a grip! What the hell are you doing!”
Ainzach rose to his feet and drew close to Rakesheer, disturbed by his friend’s sudden bout of insanity. Indeed, everyone was looking at him with an expression of shock or disgust. Such behavior was unsightly, coming from a man so highly-placed in the city.
“You idiot! How could anyone get a grip? This is seriously awesome! It’s got an 8th-tier spell inside it, though I don’t know what spell it is!”
Rakesheer continued staring at the crystal in excitement, his eyes sparkling. Before long, he had slowly recovered his sanity, and he asked Ainz:
“Momon-dono! Where, where did you find this crystal?! Tell me!!”
“It was dug up in a certain ruin, along with many magic items. Of course, the crystal already had the spell sealed inside it by the time it was discovered. I had a powerful magic caster identify it.”
“I see! Then, then where is the site of this ruin?!”
“All I can tell you is that it is very far away…”
Rakesheer bit his lip as he heard Ainz’s matter-of-fact reply.
“Then, could I have it back?”
Rakesheer looked around, then reluctantly returned the crystal to Ainz. As he watched Ainz wipe the crystal clean with a piece of parchment, he suddenly exclaimed:
“Back to the point, I — I oppose Ainz-san going forth to slay the Vampire!”
A shocked silence settled over the room once more and Ainzach palmed his face. He grimaced, and then asked in a severe tone:
“...Why the sudden opposition? Well, I already know why, but still — I have to ask.”
“Oh, that… it’s because it would be too much of a waste.”
He’s gone completely insane, Ainzach decided as he looked on his friend and decided to discard his opinion.
“Well then, leaving Rakesheer’s words aside…”
“Please wait! Magic of the 8th tier is practically of a divine level! How can you use such a valuable item on a mere Vampire?”
Anger boiled in Ainzach’s eyes. He could no longer tolerate these outbursts, especially not from someone as highly placed as Rakesheer.
Then, Ainzach choked back his wrath, and calmly told the other man:
“...Forgive me, Rakesheer, but please don’t continue making a scene.”
The powerful subtext in those words returned Rakesheer to his senses and left him speechless. The slight blush in his cheeks was probably due to embarrassment at his earlier actions.
After glancing at his friend to make sure he was back to normal, Ainzach decided to formalize the request.
“...Then, Momon-kun, we’ll be leaving everything to you.”
Ainz nodded confidently in response to Ainzach’s humble submission.
Then, he looked at Igvarge through the slit of his helmet.
“We’ll be moving out as soon as possible. Vampires suffer a penalty of slowed movement under daylight.”
“Penalty? Eh, a weakness, then? They do move slowly in the day. Our side will be ready soon.”
“...Not going to discuss it with your comrades?”
“It’s fine, they’ll understand.”
“...Is that so. Then, we’ll meet at E-Rantel’s main gate in an hour.”
“One hour? Isn’t that a bit too soon? There’s still a long time before sunset.”
“I am in a big hurry. If your courage is lacking and you need some time to psyche yourselves up7, then I’ll leave you here and go on my own. Any questions?”
“I get it. We’ll prepare ourselves right away.”
There was clear anger in Igvarge’s voice as he rose after speaking. Ainz coldly glared at Igvarge’s retreating back, and then turned to look at the other people who were in the room.
“Then, we shall set out immediately. I hope everyone else will defend E-Rantel. I do not wish to return after not having encountered the Vampire to find that a troublesome situation has developed.”
“Well, I can’t say there won’t be any problems, but you can leave it to us. If you meet any danger, I pray you will fall back immediately.”
Ainz nodded and then left.
♦ ♦ ♦
In the end, there were only three people left in the room; Panasolei, Ainzach and Rakesheer, who still had a lovestruck expression on his face.
“I apologize for showing you that embarrassing side of myself.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry.”
Panasolei smiled sheepishly at Rakesheer’s apology. However, their opinion of him had changed greatly.
Rakesheer also felt that it had been quite an unsightly display on his part, but even so, he found it difficult to conceal his excitement.
He had met Lizzie the herbalist some time ago, and she had eagerlyshared the matter of the potion with him. As he listened to her excited exposition back then, he had regarded her with cool eyes and wondered if it was truly worth shouting about. Now, however, he wanted to laugh at his past self.
He now understood the uncontrollable surprise and emotional upheaval one felt when an unattainable object appeared before one’s eyes.
“Was that truly such a valuable item?”
Rakesheer fell silent. This was because he was struggling to suppress the boyish glee which was welling up within him.
“Yes. That item could change everything we know about magic. The fact is, magic above the 6th tier only resides in the legends. That was the first time I personally saw something like that.”
The spells known as tiered magic had appeared in this world about 500 to 600 years ago. After that, there had been several heroic magic-users, but the rumors of people other than the Thirteen Heroes using spells of the 7th-tier and up were exactly that — rumors.
In the heroic sagas, there was a hero who once used a spell which made people conclude that “it’s impossible even with magic of the 7th tier or higher”, but most people thought that it was just a story. In addition, the question of whether the Thirteen Heroes actually used magic of the 7th tier and up was also in doubt.
Rakesheer thought, these stories might not be entirely fictional. He made a mental note of this and told himself to investigate them when he had time.
For instance, the Goblin King who slew many dragons with an ash branch, the winged hero who soared through the sky for long periods, the mystic knight who rode a Trihead Dragon, the princess who ruled her crystal city with her twelve loyal knights, and so on.
“Then, can we trust him?”
Naturally, Panasolei was referring to Ainz.
“I received a potion from an adventurer in stylish black full plate and threw it at the Vampire, causing it to fall back” — that was the testimony of the sole surviving adventurer.
Thus, they had consulted the city’s most renowned herbalist, Lizzie Bareare about the matter. What they had learned was that the potion was a magic item just as valuable as the spell-sealing crystal from just now.
While one might only be suspicious if he possessed just one exotic item, it was only natural to wonder who he was if he possessed two of them. Still, why had the Vampire halted its attack?
There were two possibilities. One was that they were in opposition. The other was that there was some link between them. This was why they wanted to see if such a relationship existed. Was Momon really a foe of this Vampire?
“Do you think he’s in cahoots with the Vampire?”
This was what they were truly worried about, and the three of them thought back to their conversation with Momon.
“I think the possibility of that is very low. What do you think, Rakesheer?”
“I agree. There are better ways to pretend to kill the Vampire and then conceal her.”
Even if Momon really were linked to the Vampire, the response outlined earlier would do him no good at all.
“Could it be he just wants to become an orichalcum-ranked adventurer?”
“I doubt it, Mayor. Adventurers enjoy fame and prestige, but command little power. What are the benefits of becoming an orichalcum-ranked adventurer, Ainzach?”
“...Well, you can accept better-paying requests, and you’ll be more famous. If you’re lucky, you might even be offered a government post with good terms… although, that’s about it. Power can be much more easily gained through other means.”
The most telling impression of adventurers was that they were specialized anti-monster mercenaries. Certainly, it was possible that one might become the leader of the local chapter of the Adventurer’s Guild, but they would still be unable to reach a position where they could dictate national policy.
“If wealth was his aim, he could sell that crystal and never have to worry about money for the rest of his life. Someone as strong as him could rise in fame quickly enough. The fact is, quite a few of the city guard are already calling him a legendary hero.”
Panasolei nodded in agreement.
He had taken out a towering undead creature in one hit, and then mowed through countless undead like a storm, leaving shattered bodies in his wake. These awe-inspiring sights were truly those which would be associated with a great hero.
The guards eagerly spread their accounts of Momon’s prowess, patting their chests and declaring that there would be no need to fear monsters with him around.
“That said, I regret to say that we have no evidence to prove his reliability. Still, there are no contradictions in what Momon-dono has said so far, and if he really was an enemy, why would he show us that spell-sealing crystal? I think we can trust him.”
Rakesheer’s words put a grimace on the face of the other two men. That expression clearly said that it was hard to believe such words coming from a maniac like him.
“Mayor, Ainzach, the reason why neither of you can bring yourselves to trust Momon-san is because he showed up just as the Vampire did, am I correct? However, I feel that Momon-san’s words can adequately explain that.”
The two men nodded in agreement.
“In addition, if that female Vampire really was being hunted by Momon-san, there’s also a rational explanation for why she ceased her attack on the lady adventurer when it saw Momon-san’s rare potion. In addition, it’s possible that the female adventurer was spared because the Vampire wanted to let Momon-san know she was here.”
“I see… so she wanted to let Momon-san think she was nearby and make him stay here. The female Vampire must have seen the female adventurer’s potion and suspected that she was related to Momon-san. Thus, she let her go, to spread the news of her presence. It does make sense…”
“...Given the fact that Momon-kun chased that Vampire all the way here… I can’t imagine she would be happy about learning that he was around.”
“Indeed, Mayor. However, while we do not yet know which country he hails from, we should still treat him well and be on our guard. Although I don’t think he’s that suspicious… kuku, I’d like to discuss the matter of Momon-san’s magic items with him. His suit of armor looks quite valuable as well.”
“...Speaking of Momon-kun, there’s something I wanted to ask you, Mayor — where are the corpses of Zuranon?”
“I have no idea.”
The Mayor scowled as he said this.
The mangled corpses left behind by Ainz had been placed in storage under the eyes of layers upon layers of guards, but they had vanished after daybreak. Although they suspected that someone had broken in and stolen them, the guards had not been attacked and there were no signs of anyone suspicious.
The storage area had been built in a way that inhibited the use of teleportation magic; one could say that it was something of a secret room. Thus, there was no sign of how the intruders had even managed to enter. It was as though the corpses had vanished in a puff of smoke.
They were still secretly searching for clues within the city, but nothing had turned up. The possibility of finding anything relevant were close to zero. In other words, there was nothing they could learn from the two corpses.
“Could it be that the unholy ritual they were conducting turned them into undead, which then escaped?”
“...We cannot rule that possibility out entirely.”
“How troubling, we couldn’t even get any evidence from it… the only possibility is that secret shrine under that chapel, no? It would be good if we could learn something useful from it.”
“From what you said, it would seem that Momon-kun did not enter that place. If we found an ownerless magic item of great value in there, could we hand to to him?”
“Mmm, if it those items have nothing to do with the ritual, then by adventurers’ rules, they would belong to him.”
Ainz sped through the streets.
The warm wind filtered in through the slits in his helmet, blowing over the location which corresponded to his eyes. Perhaps if he had eyeballs, he would be blinking non-stop, but Ainz lacked any sensory organs, so all he felt was “the wind is blowing”.
Looking down, he saw the earth flying past him beneath his feet, like a loosed arrow. He did not know if it was because he was close to the ground or because of some other reason, but it felt like he was moving faster than he actually was. Of course, he was not frightened in the least. Still, every time his body bounced up, he reflexively channelled more strength into his legs.
Although Hamsuke could maintain its balance well, it was still a Djungarian Hamster, albeit a gigantic one. Ainz needed to spread his legs wide to ride it, and this unstable riding posture was compounded by a lack of reins, barding or a saddle. Even someone with extraordinary balance like Ainz had to be careful not to fall off.
It’ll be hard to swing my swords while riding Hamsuke; perhaps I should have a set of riding tack and barding made for it soon. The head blacksmith’s making a decoy suit of armor; perhaps I could get some help there.
It was not just the unsteady ride which brought that topic to mind, but also because of the shape which rode beside him.
Narberal was mounted on a horse while staying in line with Ainz. She rode a Statue of Animal - War Horse, a magic item which summoned a massive destrier in heavy plate barding.
She was a dazzling sight, skilfully guiding her gigantic horse as it galloped down the city streets. Her ponytail swayed in the wind, and her brown cape fluttered out behind her. The way she sat tall in the saddle was as though she had come straight off a movie screen.
In contrast, Ainz rode a giant Djungarian Hamster. How could he even compete? He looked forward, despair filling his heart, and saw a group of men there.
They were a team of four people, and they seemed better equipped than the members of Swords of Darkness, with whom Ainz had travelled with earlier.
Ainz tucked the matter of the Swords of Darkness into the corner of his mind, letting go of his complicated thoughts concerning that issue, and then studied the horses those people rode.
They were majestic beasts.
Ainz was no equestrian, but given that their coats gleamed and their bodies were in fine fettle, they should have been superior horses.
The four mounted men rode in a formation shaped like an isosceles triangle, and they too looked like they had sprung from a movie.
I must look like an idiot riding Hamsuke. I certainly feel stupid enough.
Ainz was quite depressed, but he seemed to be the only one who felt that way.
“That’s an impressive-looking creature you’re riding there.”
Those words came from one of Igvarge’s comrades as he tried to strike up conversation with Ainz. Unlike Igvarge, there was no hostility in his voice. Instead, it would seem Hamsuke had piqued his adventurer’s curiosity, and his words were filled with wonder and awe.
“What manner of beast is that? Is it famous?”
“...It is the Wise King of the Forest.”
“Ehhhh?! What! That legendary monster?!”
The staring man’s eyes went wide as he exclaimed in surprise.
I still can’t get used to that sort of reaction. Do they have to make such a big deal over a hamster… hm?
Out of the corner of his eye, Ainz could see Hamsuke woffling its whiskers in pride, and its ears twitched in time with the movement. It was probably paying attention to Ainz’s conversation, given the way it was shuddering under him.
Ainz mercilessly chopped Hamsuke on the head with his gauntleted hand, which produced a deep, reverberating sound from the creature’s skull.
“No, I just heard Igvarge talk about it… I see, he’s seeing red again.”
“How did he describe me? Ah, forget it, you don’t have to tell me. I can guess from the looks on your faces.”
“Hahaha, my apologies. That guy… he’s not really a bad sort, but he gets blinded by what’s in front of him sometimes.”
“...It’s a wonder how you guys have stayed safe with a companion like that. Or has this party changed out a lot of members?”
“No, everybody’s been with the team ever since it was formed. That guy’s a pretty good adventurer, unlike what his personality would suggest.”
“Pretty good… huh.”
Ainz turned to Igvarge, and received a hostile glare in response.
“You guys must have had a really hard time,” Ainz snorted. Then, after dropping that line, he raised his hand, indicating that Narberal should suppress the anger building within her towards Igvarge. Ainz did not want to start a fight here — there were more important things which had to be done at this moment.
After signalling to Narberal, Hamsuke raised its head.
“Milord… your servant’s head hurts…”
Tears sparkled in those black, beady eyes.
Ainz felt a twinge of regret. Perhaps he had used too much force. Still, it would have been bad if he had been tossed off at those speeds.
He would not be hurt even if he hit the ground. Ainz had once conducted an experiment with one of the vassals who had similar damage reduction to his own, and it had not felt any pain even after being dropped from a height of 1 kilometer.
The problem was what would happen if his travelling companions began having their doubts about Ainz’s toughness. Now that they had come this far together, Ainz was sincere about getting along with them until the very end.
“Run more evenly. I don’t want to use force to cling to you.”
“Understood! Milord must be worried about his servant’s body!”
This time, Hamsuke teared up because it was moved, and Ainz ordered it to watch its front. It was then that Igvarge’s companion from earlier addressed him in a respectful tone:
“Oh, that’s amazing, to think you can maintain your balance in such a precarious position. This would be pretty dangerous, even for someone with a good sense of balance like yours, no?”
“It’s because I’m used to it… though I do intend to have it fitted for a saddle soon.”
“A harness, huh… I don’t really like that… just a jape, of course! If Milord desires it, then your servant has no objections!”
Under Narberal’s reproachful gaze, Hamsuke scrambled to display the attitude befitting of a loyal vassal. The vibrations coming from beneath Ainz’s waist were different from the tremors of travel.
Ainz furrowed his illusionary eyebrows beneath his helm.
There’s no need to frighten a hamster with killing intent, is there? While I do appreciate that sort of loyalty, isn’t that going a bit too far? It’s fine to look down on human beings, but there’s a time and place for that sort of thing… She doesn’t quite seem to grasp that concept… Was she really designed that way? There’s not much which can be done if she’s like that, but…
Just having Hamsuke with him was a huge boost to his fame, and the combination of the Wise King of the Forest’s staunch loyalty to himself was far different from the fear it inspired in others. The first would make people think highly of Ainz and consider him to be a noble adventurer. Although it did not mean much to him, he wanted to continue developing in that direction since he had the chance to do so. This was also because he wanted to be regarded as a hero.
In addition, it would be helpful to have people outside of Nazarick swear loyalty to him.
That made Ainz reflect on his actions, and he considered that he might have been too rough towards Hamsuke. Therefore, he lightly patted the place which he had chopped just now, as though stroking a small animal.
“Milord… this is embarrassing…”
The sound of grinding teeth was clearly audible to Ainz, through the galloping of horses.
...You’re part of the reason I’m doing this, no? Speaking of which, how hard are you grinding your teeth anyway? If she’s really jealous, then I should do something for her, right? Narberal’s been very loyal too, but… what kind of reward can I give her?
As Ainz agonized about whether to give her a ring or some other treasure, Igvarge spoke in a thoroughly unfriendly manner.
“Oi, Momon, we’re here.”
After indicating that it understood, Hamsuke gradually reduced its speed. Unlike a horse, Ainz could communicate directly to Hamsuke. Ainz had no equestrian experience and was not at all confident about stopping a horse.
It’s a little embarrassing to ride Hamsuke, but I should be glad because I don’t have to ride a horse. Still, the time might come when I might have to do so, I should probably practice that a little in case of emergencies.
Ainz leapt off Hamsuke, then petted it in gratitude. Narberal transformed her horse back into a statuette and the men tied up their horses.
“Then, let’s go. What formation should we take when moving?”
“We’ll take the lead, you can follow behind.”
“I don’t care what you do, just keep us in mind and be careful.”
After hearing Igvarge’s annoyed response, Ainz led Narberal and Hamsuke into the forest.
Much like the forest near Carne Village, the woodlands here bore no signs of human habitation and were very difficult to traverse. However, Ainz was festooned in magic items and thus it seemed like a flat plain to him. In addition, his anxiety over Shalltear made him quicken his pace, to the point where Igvarge had to ask them to slow down.
Well, he did ask them, but his crude words were full of hostility. Narberal — who was walking beside Ainz — very nearly turned around to rebuke him, but Ainz forced her to keep quiet.
“We’re almost there, act like an adult.”
Ainz smiled under his helmet as he saw the frustrated look on Narberal’s face. By now, Hamsuke had sensed something amiss, and its ears twitched continuously, as though it had heard something.
Ainz knew what had prompted that response from Hamsuke, and so he whispered into Hamsuke’s ear:
“What? Milord, what are you—”
“—The sound of metal you might have heard is from my subordinates. Pay it no heed.”
“Yes, yes, it is. My apologies, milord.”
“By the way, have you picked up on anyone following us aside from that?”
He had ordered Nigredo to establish surveillance and had taken many other precautions besides, but he asked again just to be sure.
“No, other than that, almost nobody is following us.”
“Oi~ what’s happening up there?” asked the man who had been riding beside Ainz. SInce the team’s representative Igvarge was not asking that question, his presence here needed no explanation.
Ainz waved a hand, indicating that nothing was wrong.
The man did not seem happy with that answer, but after sensing that Ainz did not want to talk about it, he shrugged and did not press the matter.
Well, it’s not like I hate you or anything.
Ainz merely thought those words without speaking them as he silently advanced through the forest.
After they had travelled some distance, the sound of weapons being drawn one after the other came from the rear. Ainz halted and leisurely looked back.
“Is something the matter?”
“Is something the matter?! You’re on point, you should be more alert!”
This was the first time the other men showed their approval for Igvarge’s hostility.
“Oi! You, hiding over there, come out slowly!”
Igvarge was shouting at a tree which was large enough to hide a person’s silhouette.
Amidst the growing tension in the air, Ainz calmly walked over to that tree. A somewhat panicked voice called out to him, but Ainz paid it no heed.
Narberal watched like it was the natural thing to do. Hamsuke had his doubts, but he did not offer any opposition.
As he drew close to the tree, someone stepped out from behind it, as though in response. The person in question was dressed in a suit of full plate armor which was the same black as Ainz’s own. That person held a gigantic axe (a bardiche) which radiated a sickly green glow.
The commanding presence of this warrior filled the scene with a strange air. Or rather, only parts of it were filled with strangeness.
Ainz gently raised a hand and said:
“Thank you for coming all this way.”
“Thank you, Ainz-sama.”
The warrior — Albedo — bowed respectfully to her lord and master.
“—Who is she? Is she a friend of yours? And what’s this about Ainz-sama?”
These loud questions bombarded Ainz from behind, one after the other.
This was an entirely understandable reaction for Igvarge and his crew, but it was an unpardonable offense to Albedo, who was still bowing to Ainz. Fiery rancor blazed within her heart, and then she let it out, as though she planned to incinerate everything in the area with the flames of her wrath.
Hamsuke shuddered, every hair on its body standing on end, more than ever before.
Given that even a bystander had this sort of reaction, how much worse must it have been for the targets of Albedo’s fury? Their faces had turned white and oily sweat cascaded down their foreheads as they realised that their insignificant lives would be snuffed out shortly.
“Allow me to introduce you to everyone. This is my companion — Albedo.”
“Ainz-sama, I find it hard to believe that you would consider me a companion… after all, I am but your loyal servant.”
“That is true, so I take those words back. She is my subordinate; does that answer your question? Then, Albedo, commence the next step, as we planned.”
The men were still staring in stunned silence as Albedo walked towards them.
“Oh, I almost forgot. My name is not Momon. My real name is Ainz. Not that you need to remember that, of course.”
Albedo smiled smugly as she beheld the confused looks on the men’s faces. However, that smile was as icy as the grave.
“Then, Albedo… deal with them. Take one alive… no, another one might be good as a spare. The jamming is already in place, so you can go ahead and use magical communication.”
Just as the shock from hearing Ainz’s calm and dispassionate orders began filtering into the minds of Igvarge and his people, Ainz continued his instructions:
“Take their corpses back to Nazarick. If they’re strong enough, we can use them for experiments in making high-tier undead.”
Albedo slowly raised her weapon, the gigantic axe.
There was no murderous intent or hostility in that action.
That was only to be expected. After all, to Albedo, chopping off the heads of inferior lifeforms (humans) was little more than cutting the leaves off a daikon.
If this were not Ainz’s order, she might not even need to swing her weapon to verify her calmness.
Igvarge and his party might not have understood the situation, but they still knew they were in danger, and they raised their swords in preparation to fight.
Bathed in looks of shock, Ainz merely shrugged.
“Ah, sorry about that. I misspoke back in the guild; when I said ‘Following me is certain death’, I actually meant ‘If you follow me, I will kill all of you’.”
Thus did Ainz pronounce their death sentence.
“I warned you, but you would not listen. These are the consequences of your choice. Accept them with dignity.”
Igvarge and his group chose to retreat.
The reason why they had all immediately fallen back without so much as verifying the plan with hand signals was because they understood the vast difference between their respective battle strengths. In addition, they did not retreat as one, but they split up to flee, in order to maximize their chances of survival.
Their reaction was outside the scope of Albedo’s predictions, and she was a moment too late to respond. Although her physical attributes far exceeded those of Ainz, chasing an enemy through the forest was still quite troublesome.
She chased down her first target in an instant, and rendered him unconscious with a capturing-type skill.
Albedo’s keen hearing picked up on the sounds of metal mixed with the wails of the fleeing men. However, she could not get an accurate fix on their position due to the trees blocking her line of sight. In addition, people without metal armor would only make noise when they stepped on grass or twigs, which only made it harder for Albedo to pinpoint their location, given that she lacked levels in ranger and rogue-type classes.
Albedo shook her head and sighed. Then she issued a command:
“Mare, deal with those two. Ah, right, eliminate the man who was disrespectful to Ainz-sama.”
Back in the Guild, he had understood to some extent that Momon was a better adventurer than himself, but Igvarge was unwilling to acknowledge that fact.
However, when he personally witnessed the commanding figure of Momon’s majestic riding beast — the ancient, legendary monster known as the Wise King of The Forest — he had no choice but to accept it. Anyone who could tame such a creature by strength alone was clearly far beyond mithril-rank.
As he realised that what they had discussed in that room was true, Igvarge’s heart filled with anger.
I don’t know what country you’re from, but don’t get in my way. I can give you information if you want, but in exchange, go stand aside and wait.
To Igvarge, it was as though someone had trespassed in his territory.
He and his group had trained hard to fulfil their dreams, had slowly climbed the ranks after countless close brushes with death. It was only natural that they would be unhappy when somebody cut in all of a sudden and jumped several ranks.
He would pull Momon down if he had the chance. He would ruin Momon’s reputation with false rumors. That was what Igvarge had in mind when he had chosen to set out with Momon.
This was also why — when Momon’s black-clad companion showed up and declared she was going to kill Igvarge and his group — he could fall back with no hesitation at all. Though he was afraid, he still moved faster than anyone else. He was driven by the malicious desire to spread bad news about Momon — about Ainz to the Guild.
Serves you right, I’ll make it back alive for sure and then I’ll disclose everything about you to the world!
He did not know how Momon was connected to the Vampire. However, he was sure he could steer the rumors in that direction
Though he knew that terrible weapon might scythe down on him at any time, though he knew his life might be in danger, Igvarge laughed, unable to suppress the emotions surging up in his heart.
He did not care about his comrades at all. No, if they became decoys that let him live on, so much the better.
I will reach the top. I will attain the orichalcum, then the adamantite rank, and become a renowned hero.
There was no need for anybody strong beside himself. His companions were all stepping stones on his climb to the summit. He would be the true hero who saved the world, like the Thirteen Heroes of the past. This was the dream Igvarge had had ever since he heard the saga of the Thirteen Heroes in his youth from a bard in his village.
But then, there was a man who was going to stand in the way of his dreams — was going to surpass him and his team. Worse, he was doing it as a part-time job. That was unforgivable.
He ran and he ran and he ran.
The fact that Igvarge could run at top speed through the forest without his face turning red or panting was proof that he was indeed a mithril-ranked adventurer.
Ripples coursed through Igvarge’s heart; big ones.
Where is this place? I circled around because I was afraid they would have set up an ambush near the horses… eh?
Igvarge felt that this was right, and his sense of direction told him that much. However, his sixth sense said otherwise. He would not get lost even if this was his first time in any particular forest. However, for some reason, he was still uncertain of his location.
I must be imagining things, he thought. However, this did not feel like his imagination at all. However reluctantly, he had to acknowledge that this was real.
“...Am I lost? But… how could a forest stalker like myself get lost?”
Igvarge’s vocation was one which specialized in outdoor movement. In a sense, the woods were like his back yard. However, a strange, unsettling feeling filled him. This forest now seemed like the gaping maw of some vast carnivorous beast.
“It’s just like a maze…”
Unease and anxiety welled up inside, as a change came over the forest which should have been completely familiar to him.
—-He heard the sound of quiet rustling.
Igvarge recalled the black-clad executioner from just now, and jerked his head back to look at the source of the sound. He saw a child’s head poking out from behind a tree.
That child was a Dark Elf, closely related to the Elves, who were humanoids which lived in the depths of the forest.
Why is there a Dark Elf here?
He had heard that the large settlements of the Dark Elves were located in the great forests to the south, where no man had set foot. Dark Elves were the sort who lived far away from civilized areas. In that respect, they were different from the Forest Elves, who traded with humanity.
There was something strange about this Dark Elf, who was also a child. It filled Igvarge’s heart with doubt. Just then, the child nervously stepped forward.
It’s a girl.
She was dressed in female attire, and the frightened look on her delicate, beautiful face aroused Igvarge’s sadistic desires. Although he wondered if this girl had been sent by Momon, the two of them had completely different attitudes, and so he laughed the idea off as impossible.
More importantly, if this girl was a Dark Elf that lived in this forest, she would surely know a safe route out of it. In addition, if that black-armored woman caught up to him, he could use the girl as a hostage. With that in mind, Igvarge decided to try and get the girl to obey him, and so he took a step forward.
He intentionally pitched his voice low, filling it with notes of menace, and startled the Dark Elf girl into taking a step back.
“Ah, I, I’m sorry…”
Igvarge chuckled coldly as he saw the nervous look on her face. He was confident that his plan would work.
“No need to be sorry. There’s something I want to ask you, so come over here.”
“Uh… uhh… about that… I, I’m sorry.”
A question mark seemed to appear over Igvarge’s head as he wondered why she was apologizing again. However, the ebony staff in the Dark Elf girl’s hand had already swung towards him.
The vegetation turned to snares, which securely bound Igvarge’s entire body.
He trembled in shock.
How could a mithril-ranked adventurer like himself fail to stop the magic of a brat like her?
Even after struggling with all his might, the plants refused to budge. As anxiety and panic filled his heart, Igvarge raised his voice and shouted:
“You - you little bitch! If you don’t let me go, I’ll kill you! Oi!”
The Dark Elf nervously lowered her head and advanced toward Igvarge.
It was then that Igvarge realised her outfit was quite exceptional. Both her clothes and armor were masterfully made, of the sort which Igvarge himself would not be able to acquire. In addition, her eyes — the memory of something an Elf friend of his had once said surfaced hazily in his mind.
However, before the memory could fully take shape, a shadow fell across his face.
The girl forcefully swung her staff.
Though her face still looked afraid, there was no emotion in her eyes. She did not feel anything about what she was about to do to Igvarge. It was as though her fearful attitude was just an act she had been directed to put on.
He superimposed the form of the girl before him over that of the black-armored woman from just now.
“Wait, wait a minute! What are you trying to—”
♦ ♦ ♦
Albedo arrived just as Mare’s staff fell on the man’s head. His helmet deformed under the impact of the staff and the skull below caved in, while his eyeballs popped free of his head from the force of the tremendous impact. His head was thoroughly smashed, like a watermelon during a suikawari game at the beach in summer.
“Thanks for your hard work.”
“Ah, about that, Albedo-sama, it, it’s over… is, is this fine?”
Albedo removed her helmet, and smiled to Mare as he looked up nervously to her.
“It was perfect. Granted, it was a somewhat messy way of killing him, but it’s fine. Ainz-sama will surely praise you for this.”
The delighted Dark Elf looked to the corpse, and then Albedo asked:
“How about the other one?”
“Ah, w-well… he’s been taken care of. I, I dragged the corpse behind a tree...”
“Is that so? Beautifully done. Then, Mare, can you help me bring the corpses back to Nazarick?”
“I... I got it.”
Albedo smiled once more to the smiling boy who was giggling as he held his bloodstained staff. He was such an honest boy.
Still, he would do well to be more open.
“It is finished, Ainz-sama,” Albedo said, her helmet held at her waist. Ainz nodded as he heard this. Now, there were no witnesses to Shalltear’s identity. With his armor gone, Ainz felt quite at ease as he replied:
“Good work. How about the recovery of the bodies?”
“I have already asked Mare to send them back to Nazarick.”
“I see. Well then, that problem’s taken care of. Sadly, they were killed by the Vampire, so we, the survivors, must continue pressing on.”
“Understood. Then… Ainz-sama, what is that trembling creature which cowers under your cloak?”
Ainz turned, and found that as expected — although it was quite hard to understand why such a large creature would do such a thing — Hamsuke was clinging to his cloak. Its large, beady eyes were moist, and its fur stood in terror. Of course, it was Albedo which it feared.
“Think of it as my pet. I have named it Hamsuke.”
“What! That thing actually has the position coveted by all the denizens of Nazarick?!”
“...Hm? ...Ah, Hamsuke. This is Albedo, my faithful servant who rules my domain of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. In other words, she is your boss. Go, introduce yourself to her.”
“This lowly one is, as milord has already said, known as Hamsuke. I place myself in your care, Albedo-dono.”
“...Pleased to meet you, Hamsuke.”
“All right, introductions are over. From now on, I will be going onward with Albedo. Narberal, return to Nazarick with Hamsuke and Mare… and pay attention to the object I put in your mouth.”
Narberal’s reply was quite energetic. Hamsuke swirled the object it had received in the graveyard within its mouth, and it asked Narberal in a garbled way:
“Un-understood, milord. And — this thing is really noisy! I have an important question to ask! Quiet down in there! Then, this one has a question to ask… Narberal-dono, will this one be in danger? Will this one be eaten up?”
“Since you are now Ainz-sama’s pet, you will not be eaten without authorization. I will inform everybody; there is no need to worry.”
Ainz’s face did not move, but he was smiling. It would seem that letting them travel together in E-Rantel had improved their relationship.
“All right, then let’s go, Albedo.”
As Narberal and Hamsuke watched, Ainz and Albedo headed toward Shalltear’s location.
“Ah, yes, Ainz-sama. The corpses of those men reminded me of the words you spoke to me in the Throne Room. Shall we recover the corpses of the man and woman which you eliminated last night, Ainz-sama?”
“Well, about that…”
Just as he was about to repeat what he had told Narberal last night about, “we need to pin the blame on them as the masterminds of this incident”, Albedo continued speaking and interrupted him.
“They might have learned something while fighting you, Ainz-sama. Since there is magic which can bring the dead back to life, the best course of action would have been to immediately recover the corpses. Or was there some special reason for doing otherwise?”
Ainz’s breathing stopped — no, he had not needed to breathe in the first place.
Albedo had hit the nail on the head.
Resurrection magic existed in this world; in other words, dead men could tell tales, better than what any autopsy would say.
Ainz recalled the events of that night. He thought about his real identity, the name of Nazarick, and Narberal’s abilities. That man and woman knew it all, especially that woman.
This was too fatal of a mistake to be written off with the word “mistake”.
All he could do was hope that nobody could use resurrection magic, but according to the information gained from the Sunlight Scripture, there were people within the Slaine Theocracy who could use such magic. In addition, there was a high chance that top-ranked (adamantite) adventurers possessed spells like that, and high-ranking officials in a country might secretly command people who were capable of such magic.
If that were the case, the higher-ups in E-Rantel would look for people to use magic on them once they concluded that the deceased possessed such important information. Given that what they had done would have shaken E-Rantel, it would be natural for said higher-ups to want to know more.
Ainz felt his nonexistent heart beating at a breakneck pace.
What should I do now?
It went without saying that he had to recover the bodies as quickly as possible. However, who should he send?
Ainz had told Narberal not to bother with the corpses. Should he publicly tell her that was a mistake?
...No, I shouldn’t say anything.
He should avoid saying anything that might lower their faith to him further as long as he did not know why Shalltear had betrayed him. He had to remain calm in a situation like this.
Ainz now knew why the superiors in his company were unwilling to admit their mistakes. With a prayer in his heart, he made a decision.
“...Indeed, that is correct. However, I do have a special reason for leaving those bodies be. Calm yourself; everything dances within the palm of my hand… the matter of Shalltear aside.”
“I see! As expected of you, Ainz-sama. I see you have already anticipated the developments I had in mind. It seems I have spoken too much, and I apologize for that. Come to think of it, why did you not use resurrection magic at all, Ainz-sama? It would allow you to question dead humans and the like while gathering information.”
A very off-key squeak of surprise escaped Ainz.
“Did I not mention it? Then, have you heard of Demiurge’s healing experiments?”
“Yes, I have. Sever all four limbs. heal them with magic, those experiments, right?”
“Indeed. Then, another question for you. Do you know where a resurrection spell has to be applied?’
“Is it not on the corpse?”
“...I don’t think so… hm, at least, I don’t think so, no?”
Albedo went silent alongside Ainz, and then her eyes sparkled.
“Ah! It seems I misspoke. Ainz-sama, you are correct. It is not on the corpse, but the soul!”
“Indeed. In Demiurge’s experiments, the severed limbs vanished and grew from the body once more. Now, when you cast a spell on the soul, what will happen to the body?”
In YGGDRASIL, one could choose to come back to life at one of four locations when casting an XP-draining resurrection spell.
The first was at the corpse itself. The second was at the entrance of the dungeon or other location. The third was in a nearby safe town. And the fourth would be at a designated respawn point within a guild base or other stronghold.
That being the case, where would people in this world come back to life when resurrection magic was cast on them?
The scenario which Ainz most wanted to avoid was the fourth kind, coming back to life at a designated home point. If Nigun came back to life in the Slaine Theocracy, Ainz would have essentially resurrected an enemy, filled him full of useful information, and then kindly released him back into the wild.
This was why he could not conduct experiments with resurrection magic, but in return it had led to these undesired consequences.
“I see, so that’s how it is. We must take note of these things. As expected of you, Ainz-sama — I am awed by your keen insight.”
As he watched Albedo lower her head in admiration, Ainz immediately shook his head and replied:
“Pay it no heed. Although, I do need to find a place to contact an experiment like that… hm. Then, once we’re ready, we’ll set out.”
Under Albedo’s guidance, Ainz strode into the forest.
♦ ♦ ♦
The two of them reached a large clearing within the woods.
One could say this scene was filled with a rustic charm, but in the middle of it stood something that was completely out of place here — a person in a suit of crimson full plate armor. It was a fantastic sight as it glittered under the sunlight, but the stink of gore it gave off ruined the atmosphere.
It was Shalltear.
She looked exactly like what he had seen on the [Crystal Monitor], right down to her seemingly-unchanged posture. For a moment, Ainz wondered if he was still looking at her image.
However, it felt real enough. The reason was that was the stench of blood carried to him by the wind.
Ainz breathed in and out repeatedly. Of course, his body could not breathe, so he was just going through the motions, but perhaps he felt something which might have led to those breaths.
“Shalltear,” Ainz said to her.
He felt that his voice should have been stern and commanding, and yet the words he had spoken were hoarse and quiet and pathetic.
Yet, there was no response.
Before he called out to Shalltear again, Ainz carefully sized her up.
Shalltear was not ignoring him. Rather, her crimson eyes were open and vacuous, giving the impression that there was no consciousness there.
Albedo, who was standing beside him, grew furious at Shalltear’s attitude.
“Shalltear! Not only do you not have an explanation for your deeds, but you compound it with rudeness to Ainz-sama—”
“Albedo, shut up! Keep quiet! Don ot move! Do not approach Shalltear!”
Ainz’s harsh words stopped Albedo in her tracks as she was about to advance on Shalltear. This was a tone he very rarely took with the NPCs made by his friends, but on this occasion, it could not be helped.
That was how shocked Ainz was by Shalltear’s current condition.
“...Could this be… is it even possible? ...Unbelievable.”
Ainz compared scenes from his past to the Shalltear he saw before him, and shock ran through him. At the same time, his emotion suppression kicked in, allowing him to make a calm decision and realize that the possibility he had in mind was the most likely one.
Ainz addressed Albedo. He wanted to share his thoughts, and by doing so, acknowledge the reality of the situation.
“I’m sure of it now. Shalltear is under mind control.”
“Is this due to the reason you mentioned in the Throne Room, Ainz-sama?”
“I can’t be sure just yet… judging from the information supplied by the Sunlight Scripture and my own experience with this sort of thing, I’m certain this is some form of mind control. Of course, I don’t know how or why the undead Shalltear was controlled. Could this be the result of some phenomenon unique to this world?”
Ainz folded his arms, and carefully examined the bolt-upright Shalltear.
“Some mysterious person attempted to control Shalltear’s mind, but something happened before that person could issue any orders. Perhaps they were struck down just as they made their move… in any case, I’m pretty sure that was what left her standing here by herself, without any orders. However, she will probably defend herself against anyone who gets too close or who attacks her. Most evil-aligned NPCs will do just that, so don’t get too close.”
“Understood. However, we will not be able to drag her back to Nazarick like this… That will be fine as long as Shalltear’s attempted controller is dead, but if that person is still alive, it will be dangerous to wait here.”
“An accurate consideration.”
Shalltear had been mind-controlled by something. It might be something unique to this world, something that could work on the undead. If that were the case, Ainz might end up getting mind-controlled as well if he stayed here.
“Although this item is quite expensive, we’d best dispel Shalltear’s mind control soon as possible.”
Ainz’s fingers moved. One of the rings he wore, a plain and undecorated item, glowed with a silver light and displayed three meteors on its face. One could say this was the mightiest ring Ainz had in his possession.
Upon seeing Albedo’s puzzled expression, Ainz’s face — though his fleshless face could not move — was filled with a proud smile as he spoke the ring’s name.
“This is Shooting Star, an extremely rare item that allows its bearer three uses of the super-tier magic, [Wish Upon a Star].”
This was the gacha item that Ainz had spent his year-end bonus to obtain.
Amon the guild members, only Ainz and Yamaiko could boast ownership of such an unbelievably rare item.
However, this ring was less of an ultra-rare item than a cash item which symbolized foolishness, on account of how much money he had spent on the game in order to obtain it.
♦ ♦ ♦
The super-tier spell imbued within the ring, [Wish Upon A Star], was one which consumed a percentage of one’s XP to randomly generate an option for a wish. In other words, by spending 10% of one’s XP, one could make one choice. By spending 50%, one could pick from five choices.
There were many choices that could be made for a wish; according to online walkthroughs, there were over 200 of them. In addition, some wishes were more common than others; thus this was a dreadful spell which many feared would deplete their XP for nothing.
Even in YGGDRASIL where gaining levels was easy, one would still need a lot of XP to cast it, given that a magic caster needed to be level 95 before learning this super-tier spell. Thus, many people hesitated over whether or not to gamble their XP on this sort of thing.
♦ ♦ ♦
The choices one could make when casting [Wish Upon A Star] from the ring were randomly generated, much like the original spell. However, one was more likely to get useful selections, and fewer joke selections. From a certain point of view, one might say it was a better version of the spell. In addition, one would be presented with up to ten choices to pick from, and there would be no casting time. It was worthy of being called the best cash item.
Of course, it felt like a shame — and a bit of a gamble — to have to use a cash item like this. However, Shalltear was irreplaceable. In addition, using his own leftover XP would affect his use of other skills which drained his XP, so he had his doubts about going that route.
Ainz stared at his ring.
Ainz hoped that he would be given a choice to negate all effects on a given target. He had also thought of several other alternatives, but that was the most direct option which came to mind.
Very few people would pick that wish since it would also negate all positive effects. Thus, Ainz laughed at himself for thinking of it.
“Then, hear me, oh ring. I WISH!”
Of course, he did not need to speak those words to activate the item. However, he was driven by his desire to be granted the most optimal choice from over 200 available options, hence his cry. It was like how one might shout during a tense moment in a game or over a throw of the dice.
Since the magic of this world seemed to operate along the same lines as YGGDRASIL, the ring should be able to remove Shalltear’s mind control. Or rather, that was what Ainz hoped would be the case.
The scenario Ainz most feared — that the spell did not work — did not come to pass. The ring released the magic stored within it into this world… and then the red points of light within Ainz’s eye sockets shrank.
“What… is this…”
It felt as though new information was being entered into his mind — something along the lines of displeasure. At the same time, he felt like he had been connected to something vast — something like joy, perhaps. Many of the emotions Ainz had felt while he was still human washed over him.
Once the ripples of emotion faded away, Ainz realised that [Wish Upon A Star] worked differently here than it did in YGGDRASIL.
When Ainz had first learned of Nfirea’s talent, he had idly wondered if he could steal it with [Wish Upon A Star]. Now, he realized that he could have done it. In this world, [Wish Upon a Star] was a spell that would grant its caster’s wishes. Although it would still expend XP, [Wish Upon A Star] was now a spell that could make the impossible possible. In addition, by sacrificing five levels — 500% of his XP, one could grant even more greater wishes.
With that in mind, Ainz felt certain that he could dispel the magical effects on Shalltear. As triumph surged through him, Ainz shouted:
“Dispel all effects on Shalltear!”
A beat later, the lights in Ainz’s eyes grew steadily larger.
“—What, what is this?”
Albedo realised that something had changed when she saw Ainz’s agitated reaction. She uneasily asked:
“What’s the matter, Ainz-sama?”
Ainz had no time to answer. He was recalling the news he had absorbed from various walkthrough sites, his own long experience with YGGDRASIL, then combining them with what he had learned ever since coming to this world. The most important parts of that was the information concerning the use of [Wish Upon A Star], the spell which had completely overturned Ainz’s accumulated knowledge.
Anxiety and anger filled Ainz as he came to a conclusion. However, he could feel something else even through the emotion suppression that should have kept him calm — fear.
Beaten, Ainz shouted:
“We, we’re falling back! Albedo, over here! We’re retreating now!”
Ainz cast his teleportation spell, and in the next moment, a berm of earth filled his eyes. Though he was now safe at home, Ainz ordered in a panic:
“Albedo! Watch out for anyone who might have teleported after us!”
Albedo drew her weapon and stood by Ainz’s side. Ainz raised both his hands, taking a stance to deal with anything which might come.
As time passed, Ainz allowed himself to slowly relax. Albedo too stood down from her ready stance, back into her normal posture.
After he calmed down, he was filled with furious anger. His emotional peaks were automatically cut out after becoming undead, but even though they were suppressed, the anger welled up inside him once more.
“Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!”
Ainz kicked at the ground over and over again.
Since Ainz’s physical strength was far greater than normal, each kick sent forth a massive quantity of soil. If it had not rained just a few days ago, the surrounding area might have been engulfed in a huge cloud of dust. Even so, it could not quench Ainz’s anger.
“Ainz, Ainz-sama, please, be at peace…”
Ainz noticed the undercurrent of fear in Albedo’s voice, and he finally realized that his behavior was not fitting of an absolute ruler. He swiftly calmed himself down, forcefully exhaling the breath he did not possess. It felt as though he was expelling the fiery wrath consuming him through that breath.
“...Forgive me. I seem to have lost my senses for a moment. Pay that unsightly scene no heed.”
“Please do not say that. However, I am grateful that you tpok my suggestion to heart, Ainz-sama. If it is your wish that I forget ever seeing that, then I shall remove it from my mind. However — what happened? Did I displease you, Ainz-sama? If you are willing to tell me, I shall strive not to let it happen again.”
“...My anger was not directed at you, Albedo. It was because I learned that my wish did not come true, even after activating the power of the ring.”
Seeing how Albedo remained silent, Ainz knew that his explanation was insufficient, so he continued:
“...There is only one thing which can trump the power of the super-tier spell [Wish Upon A Star].”
Perhaps earlier, he might have thought it was interference from something in this world, but Ainz was confident that it was not the case. This was because he had sensed it as he activated the ring.
“It, it can’t be… that would be…”
“Yes, Albedo. There is only one thing which can do that… the power of World-Class Items.”
There were only 200 of these items in YGGDRASIL, and not even Guild Weapons or divine-class items could compare to them. The power of World-Class Items was such that even controlling the undead — who were immune to mental effects — would be a piece of cake.
Just then, Albedo though of the Guardians outside Nazarick, and how they might become targets.
He rebuked himself for not thinking of this possibility, and then Ainz ordered Albedo:
“Albedo, recall all the Guardians from the outside world immediately. We must verify if they have been controlled like Shalltear. Head to the Throne Room without delay! After that, we shall proceed... to the Treasury.”