Chapter 2: Blue Roses
Lower Fire Month (9th Month) 3rd Day, 8:02
Dressed in his white full plate armor, his sword by his side, a fully-equipped Climb stepped into the Valencia Palace.
The Valencia Palace was roughly divided into three wings, and he had just entered one of them. This was the largest of the three, where the Royal Family resided.
Unlike Climb’s dwelling place earlier, the Palace was very well-lit, collecting light from the outside in a brilliant display that seemed to make the interior sparkle.
The polished hallways were free of litter; practically spotless, in fact. The reason why Climb’s full plate armor made no sound as he walked upon it was because it had mithril and orichalcum in its construction, and it was additionally enchanted on top of that.
Along the clean and spacious hallways were the elite soldiers assigned to guard duty in the palace. They stood resplendent in their full plate armor — they were knights.
The Knights of the Empire were commoners recruited and trained into professional soldiers. In contrast, the Kingdom’s knights were usually third sons of landed nobles or others who could not otherwise inherit the family estate. However, the Crown paid them very highly, and so only first-rate swordsmen were accepted for membership. Not even nobles could sneak in through backdoor connections.
The best way to describe them would be “the King’s personal guard”.
Incidentally, Gazef’s position as Warrior-Captain was because many people opposed his knighthood, and so the King created a new appointment for him. Since then, the group of elite soldiers that he had picked and trained personally were known as Warriors.
Climb nodded slightly to them. Almost all of them returned the gesture. Only a few of them did so reluctantly; the vast majority were sincere in their courtesy. They might be nobles, but they were also men of martial spirit who were sworn to the King. Excellent warriors who devoted their lives to their King were worthy of their respect.
In contrast, Climb passed another group of people in the hallway who viewed him with open hostility.
They were the maids. Almost all of them frowned whenever they saw Climb.
Unlike regular maids, the maidservants of the Royal Palace were all noblewomen who had come here to raise their own standing. Thus, to some extent, they were of higher status than Climb. In particular, the maids who personally served the Royal Family were heiresses of high-ranking nobility. They plainly displayed their anger at having to bow and scrape before a man who was beneath a mere peasant.
It was true that Climb was lower-born than they were, so it was not hard to see why they would give him the stink-eye when Renner was not looking. Climb understood this, and he had never once gotten angry at them for that.
However, that mindset, combined with Climb’s own blank expression, made the maids think he was snubbing them and it only deepened their anger for him. Meanwhile, Climb paid that vicious cycle no heed. Or rather, it might be better to say that if he was really that careful, he ought to be able to tie off those loose ends in a better way.
Even so, Climb felt mentally fatigued after walking through this palace.
There were other members of the Royal Family in the Palace besides Renner and Ranpossa III.
As Climb saw one of those royals approach, he immediately went to the wall, his back ramrod straight, and pressed his hand to his chest in a salute.
Two people approached him. The one behind was a tall, skinny man, with a head of slicked-back blond hair.
His name was Marquis Raeven, one of the Kingdom’s Six Great Nobles.
The problem was the slightly plump man walking in front of him. His name was Zanack Valreon Igana Ryle Vaiself. He was the King’s second son, and second in line for the throne.
Zanack stopped, and his fatty-jowled face contorted.
“Oh, if it isn’t Climb. Are you going to see thart monster?”
There was only one person whom Prince Zanack referred to a monster. Climb knew that what he was about to do might well give offense to a social superior, but he simply could not let it slide.
“Your Highness. Forgive my impertinence, but Lady Renner is no monster. A gentle, compassionate and beautiful person like herself is more like the Kingdom’s treasure.”
She had solved the slave problem and proposed policies which put the common man first. If she did not qualify as a treasure, then what did? Granted, the nobles frequently obstructed her legislation and prevented most of her policies from being implemented, but Climb still knew how much she thought of the people.
This gentle woman wept before Climb whenever her populist policies were denied. What right did a useless man (Zanack) have to lecture her?
Anger flared up within Climb’s heart, and he longed to give Zanack a good punch.
They might only be half-related by blood, but they were still of the same bloodline, and he should not be saying such things. However, Climb did not allow his anger to take physical form.
Renner had once said, “My brother wants to provoke you into slandering him. I’m sure he’s trying to find an excuse to take you away from me. Climb, you must not show any weakness to my brother.”
Climb thought back to the day when he had solemnly sworn that he would never betray that forlorn look on his master’s face, she who had been abandoned even by her family.
“I never said Renner was a monster. That’s just what you’re thinking… forget it, enough with the cliched excuses. Still, to think you’d actually consider her a treasure. When she makes her proposals, does she actually think they’d be accepted? I can’t help but think that she suggests them even when she knows they’ll be rejected anyway.”
How could that be? It was impossible. This man was simply guessing wildly in his hideous jealousy.
“Your servant submits that such is not the case here.”
“Huhuhuhu… So you don’t consider that woman a monster. I don’t know if you have terrible taste or if her acting’s too good… I’d suggest you doubt her a little more.”
“How could I doubt her? Renner-sama is a treasure of the Kingdom. Of that I have no doubt.”
Everything she did was righteous. Climb could come to that conclusion because he had been watching from beside her.
“Really now, is that so? How interesting. Then, could you send that monster a message? ...Tell her that ‘while I, as her elder brother, consider you as a political tool, if you’re willing to help me, I can relieve you of your inheritance and grant you a domain on the borderlands’.”
Frustration surged up in Climb’s heart.
“...Surely you jest. I can hardly believe you would actually tell me that in a place like this, so I shall pretend that I never heard it.”
“Huhuhuhu. What a shame. Let’s go, Marquis Raeven.”
The silent man nodded from where he had been watching Climb and Zanack from the side.
Climb did not quite understand Marquis Raeven. He seemed to have drawn a clear line between himself and Climb, but he did not look at Climb the same way the other nobles did. Renner had not given Climb any special instructions about Raeven either.
“Ah, yes. Marquis Raeven agrees with me that that woman is a monster. No, it is more that we have the same vision, hence our alliance.”
“Let me say it, Marquis Raeven. Heed my words, Climb. If you were blindly devoted to her, I wouldn’t be telling you all this. However… I feel that you’ve been deceived by that monster. That’s why I’m telling you, in good faith, about her monstrous nature.”
“My Prince, forgive my rudeness, but could you tell me in what way is Renner-sama a monster? Nobody cares more for the country and the people than she does.”
“...That’s because everything she does is a waste of effort. She moves too much for too little gain. At first, I thought she was simply inept at dealing with others. Then, while discussing the matter with Marquis Raeven, I realised that she might already have accounted for that. Once I realised that, everything fell into place. If that was really the case, then she would be a woman who, while locked up the palace, could manipulate the nobles as she desired. What is that, if not a monster?”
“Certainly you must be mistaken. Renner-sama is not that kind of person,” Climb insisted.
Her tears were most definitely genuine. Renner was a compassionate woman. Climb knew this better than anyone else, given that she had picked him up.
However, Climb’s words could not move the Prince. He smiled bitterly, and then left Climb. Marquis Raeven followed behind him.
Climb muttered to himself in the now-deserted corridor.
“Renner-sama is the kindest person in our country. My existence is proof of that. If…”
Climb swallowed the following words, but spoke them in his heart.
If Renner-sama were to rule the Kingdom, it would surely become a great nation that puts the people first.
Of course, that was an impossible dream given the reality of the succession. Even so, Climb could not abandon that idea.
Lower Fire Month (9th Month) 3rd Day, 8:11
Shortly after that, Climb arrived at his most frequently-visited room in the palace.
After checking several times to make sure nobody was around, he reached out and turned the doorknob.
Entering without knocking was an exceedingly impolite course of action. However, the owner of this room had asked him to do so. His mistress had refused to listen to his protests, no matter what he said.
In the end, Climb had given in. There was no way he could win when women’s tears flowed. Still, his mistress had permitted him several exceptions to that. For instance, there was no way he could barge in unannounced if the King was present.
That said, entering without knocking was very stressful on Climb. People who do that ought to be punished. It was only natural for him to feel stressed out when he thought about that as he opened the door.
Just as Climb was about to push it open, he heard the sounds of a heated discussion through the half-opened door.
There were two voices, both female.
One of them belonged to his mistress. Climb was still standing outside the door but she had not noticed him. That was probably because she was too excited about the discussion. That being the case, Climb did not wish to dampen her ardor. Climb stood still, listening to the discussion within the room. He felt guilty about eavesdropping, but he would feel worse if he interrupted their conversation.
“—I told you, didn’t I? People have always focused on immediate gains.”
“...The crop rotation plan you were talking about, Renner… I have no idea how that will increase yields… but how long will it take to show results?”
“About six years or so.”
“And how much money will be lost in planting other crops during these six years?”
“That would depend on the crops in question. However, assuming a normal yield is 1, I think the yield would go down to 0.8… in other words, it’s a 20% loss of revenue. However, after the sixth year, the yield will go up by 0.3 forever. I’m sure the figure will be higher if we add pastures for livestock into the mix.”
“...That does sound quite tempting, but can farmers really take a loss of 20% of their income for six whole years?”
“...I think we could have the country extend interest-free loans to compensate for the 20% loss and then ask for repayment after the yields return to normal… If the yields don’t go up, then it won’t have to be repaid, or there could be some other way. The important thing is that once the yields go up, the loans can be paid off in four years.”
“That might be hard.”
“Why is that?”
“I told you, didn’t I? People prefer to focus on immediate gains, and many people want stability. A lot of people will hesitate even if you tell them they’ll be able to get 130% of their original crops in six years.”
“I… don’t get it. It worked really well on the test field…”
“Maybe the experiment went well, but you still can’t guarantee that it’ll succeed.”
“...Well, it’s true that we didn’t foresee every possible condition while conducting the experiment, so we can’t be absolutely certain of the results. If we had to consider soil quality and the weather as well, the experiment would have become too big...:”
“That’s troubling. I don’t know if that 30% increase is a minimum figure or an average amount. Either way, it’s not very convincing. You need to guarantee profits, and that they won’t lose out in the short term.”
“How about subsidizing the 20% shortfall for the six-year period?”
“The Noble Faction would love that, because it would weaken the King’s power.”
“But, if we can guarantee a big return after six years, the Kingdom will grow stronger too, right?”
“That also means that the opposing Noble Faction will become stronger as well, while the King’s side will have 20% lower yields. The nobles of the Royal Faction won’t stand for it.”
“Then how about asking the merchants…”
“Those big traders? They have their own politics among them. If they help the Royals too readily, it might ruin their relationship with the Nobles.”
“There sure are a lot of problems… Lakyus.”
“...And they all come up because you’re not good at forward planning. Well… I do understand it’s hard to get a proposal passed when there are two huge blocs within the country… What about just implementing it under Crown territory?”
“My brothers won’t approve.”
“Ah, you mean those ret… those gentlemen who left their wisdom in their mothers’ bellies for your sake.”
“...But we don’t have the same mother.”
“Ahhhh, then they left it in the King! Still, it’s pretty bad when even the Royal Family isn’t united…”
The room fell silent, which told Climb that the discussion was over.
“Ah, you can come in. Can’t he, Renner?”
Climb’s heart lurched as he heard those words. He was surprised that she had sensed his presence, but at the same time, he had been somewhat expecting that.
He slowly opened the door.
A familiar sight filled Climb’s eyes.
The room was luxurious but not tacky, and there were two blonde-haired maidens seated at a windowside table.
Both of them were beautiful young ladies in complementary dresses.
One was the owner of this room, Renner.
The other one sat opposite her. Her eyes were green and her lips were pink, and she was in radiant health. While her looks fell short of Renner, she exuded a charm of her own. If Renner sparkled like a gemstone, then she glowed with vitality.
Her name was Lakyus Alvein Dale Aindra.
It was hard to tell given the sheer pink dress she wore, but this woman was the leader of one of the two adamantite-ranked adventurer teams in the Kingdom, and Lakyus’ closest friend.
She had racked up a considerable tally of accomplishments at the tender age of 19, and the fact that she had attained the coveted rank of adamantite must be due to her astounding talent. Climb felt the stirring of jealousy in the depths of his soul.
“Good morning, Renner-sama, Aindra-sama.”
“Good morning, Climb.”
After greeting them, Climb made to move to his designated location — behind and to the right fo Renner — but a voice halted him.
“Climb, not there. Here.”
Renner indicated the chair to her right.
Climb found this very strange. There were five chairs arranged around the circular table. That much was normal. However, three cups of tea had been poured.
One was in front of Renner, another was before Lakyus, and one more was in front of the seat beside Lakyus — not the one Renner had indicated. Climb looked around, but he could not find any trace of the third person.
Climb was surprised, but he looked at the chair anyway.
Renner’s orders to Climb had caused a great deal of strain for him, be it in a commoner sharing a table with their master — a member of royalty — or in barging into a room uninvited.
Climb looked pleadingly to the other woman for help. He hoped against all hope that she would reject the request, but that hope was promptly denied him.
“I don’t mind.”
“I told you before, didn’t I? Call me Lakyus.”
Lakyus looked to Renner.
Lakyus appended what sounded like a heart to the end of her sentence in sickly-sweet tones, to which Renner replied with a note of mock complaint and a smile.
Of course, that was if a curl of the lips which was not matched by her eyes counted as a smile.
“Aindra-sama, please don’t tease me.”
“Fine fine fine. You really are a stick in the mud, aren’t you, Climb? You should learn not to get hung up on details like her.”
Faced with Renner’s look of surprise, Lakyus froze in an incredibly fake way before exhaling with exaggerated intensity.
“Of course. Well, Climb is special, but that’s because he’s yours.”
Renner’s face flushed pink, and she clapped her hands to her cheeks. Climb had no idea what to do and looked away from Renner, and then his eyes went wide.
That was because there was someone seated in the shadows in the corner of the room, hugging their knees to themselves. She was a woman, who wore form-fitting black clothing that seemed utterly incongruous with the room’s atmosphere.
Shocked, Climb grabbed at the sword at his waist and lowered his stance, prepared to protect Renner.
“Now you’ve gone and scared Climb by taking on that stance.”
There was no caution or awareness of danger in Lakyus’s cool voice. Climb realized what that meant and let the strength drain from his shoulders.
The woman seated in the darkness sprang to her feet in an instant.
“Ah, you probably don’t know her, Climb. She’s a member of my team—”
“—It’s Tina-san,” Renner helpfully supplied.
From what Climb knew, the adamantite adventurer team “Blue Rose” was composed of five women; the leader and divine magic caster Lakyus, the warrior Gagaran, the arcane magic caster Evileye, and then the rogues Tia and Tina.
Climb had seen the first three before, but not the latter two.
So she must be… I see. Her reputation’s not for show.
Given her long limbs and her tight-fitting clothes, she looked the part of someone versed in thief-type techniques.
“...Forgive me. Pleased to meet you, my name is Climb.”
Climb bowed deeply to Tina.
“Huh? Don’t worry about it.
She waved casually to Climb, and then she silently stalked towards the table with the fluid grace of a savage beast. Then, she took a seat on the chair beside Lakyus. It would seem the tea from just now was hers.
Climb carefully surveyed his surroundings to check for another unseen female. There were only three cups of tea on the table, so it seemed unlikely, but he did so anyway.
Lakyus sensed the reason behind Climb’s gawking and said:
“Tia’s not here. Gagaran and Evileye both dislike stuffy occasions… but it’s not that stuffy, is it? I’m wearing a proper dress just in case, but I didn’t insist on them doing the same.”
Lakyus might have said that, but the fact was that etiquette required one to wear formal dress in front of a princess. Of course, Climb had no intention of saying that to the face of Renner’s friend — particularly a lady who was a member of the peerage.
“I see. Still, it is an honor to make the acquaintance of the famed Tina-sama. I hope I will have the chance to benefit from your guidance in the future.”
“Talk after you sit down, Climb.”
Saying so, Renner poured a fresh cup of tea. The tea which flowed from the magic item known as a Warm Bottle was piping hot, as though it had just been brewed.
The Warm Bottle could maintain the temperature and composition of its contents for an hour, and it was one of Renner’s favored magic items. It saw frequent use when entertaining important guests, though not at other times.
Climb knew that there was no protesting this and resigned himself. Thus, he sat down and drank his tea.
“It’s delicious, Renner-sama.”
Renner smiled, but in all honesty, Climb could not tell if it was good or not. Still, since Renner had made it, he automatically deemed it good.
Suddenly, a flat, emotionless voice spoke out.
“—That girl should be gathering intelligence today. The three of us were supposed to come here together, but in the end our Oni leader handed out work at the last minute. It’s all our Oni leader’s fault.”
Needless to say, that voice came from Tina. A frightening smile came over Lakyus’ face as she heard the words “Oni”. Climb tore his eyes away and said:
“I see… I hope I’ll be able to see her sometime.”
“Climb, Tina-san and Tia-san are twins. Even their hairstyles are almost identical.”
“So once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen the other.”
Climb did not think the matter was that simple, but he nodded in understanding.
Still, Tina stared unabashedly at Climb, making him feel uncomfortable.His original plan was just to bear with it, but then he realised that she might have noticed something about him, and so he made up his mind to ask her:
“Is something the matter?”
“You’re too big.”
He heard, but he did not understand. After seeing the question marks popping up over Climb’s head, Lakyus cut in and apologized:
“Its nothing; just an in-joke. Don’t take it to heart, okay, CLimb? No, don’t worry about it. Really.”
“...What’s the matter, Lakyus?”
Climb told himself not to be a busybody, but Renner could not seem to accept that and interjected. Lakyus had a sour look on her face as she looked at Renner.
“Really, whenever we start talking about Climb…”
“—Quiet. I didn’t bring Tia along because she’d fill Renner’s head with nonsense. So could you please understand that and not blabber on so much?”
“Yes, Oni Boss.”
“...Lakyus.What’s all this about?”
Lakyus’ face began to twitch once Renner began asking, and her expression turned depressed.
She shifted her line of sight to Climb just as he was about to butt in.
“Hm… Climb, it looks like you really favor this suit of armor.”
“Yes. This armor is exquisite. Thank you very much.”
This was about an awkward of a topic change as there could be, but Climb did not want to embarrass a guest. After going with it, he idly stroked the suit of snow-white full plate armor which his mistress had gifted him. It had been made with large quantities of mithril — and some orichalcum — and further enchanted, making it surprisingly light and tough,
Blue Rose had supplied the mithril for its construction at no charge. Climb could not thank them enough for that, however low he bowed.
Just as he was about to do so, Lakyus halted him.
“Don’t worry about it. We simply gave you the leftover materials from making our mithril armor.”
While she called them leftovers, the fact was that mithril was an extremely expensive material. Perhaps mithril-ranked adventurers might own a mithril weapon, while orichalcum-ranked adventurers might be able to afford the construction of a suit of mithril full plate. But only adamantite-ranked adventurers could give a suit to others at no charge.
“Besides, Renner asked me. How could I refuse?”
“—You refused to take my money. I had some pocket money saved up…”
“...It’s not right for a princess to spend her allowance, don’t you think?”
“That’s separate from my domain’s income. I just wanted to use my own money to make Climb’s armor.”
“I figured you wanted to use your own money to make a shiny new set of full plate for Climb—”
“...If you knew, then why did you give it to me for free? Lakyus, you dummy.”
“Given the circumstances, should you really be calling me a dummy…”
Thus did the fuming Renner and the giggling Lakyus go back and forth, in an argument that hardly qualified as an argument.
As he saw this Climb’s face stiffened into an emotionless mask.
The fact that he could witness a heartwarming scene like this was all thanks to being rescued by his mistress. However, he could not allow himself to express his feelings.
Showing his gratitude was one thing, but behind that gratitude was a powerful emotion that could never be displayed.
That was his love for her.
Climb forcibly crushed that feeling and hid it away within himself. In its place, he repeated the lines he had repeated several times now.
“Thank you very much, Renner-sama.”
As she heard the way in which he clearly demarcated the separation between the two of them — it was a hint that master and servant were in different circumstances — Renner smiled.
Only Climb — who had observed her longer than anyone else, who had been watching her every day — could tell that her smile was tinged with loneliness.
“It’s fine. Now, I think we’ve drifted quite a ways off-topic. Let’s get back to the previous discussion.”
“Eight Fingers, you say? We were talking about how we attacked three of their drug-producing villages and burned their fields to ash. I doubt they can recover from that.”
As he heard that name, Climb mentally frowned under his iron mask.
Eight Fingers was the name of the criminal syndicate writhing about in the darkness of the Kingdom. His beloved mistress had taken action to suppress them.
It was not hard to imagine the miserable fate of a village which relied on drugs to survive when their fields had been burned down. However, they were a necessary sacrifice to eliminate the drugs plaguing the Kingdom.
Perhaps if Renner possessed supreme power, she might be able to do something else. However, Renner had no backers despite being a princess. All she could do was perform the cold calculus of saving those who could be saved and abandoning everyone else.
On the other hand, Renner might have been able to beg a boon of her father to attack them with authority or military force. However, Eight Fingers were deeply entwined with the nobles, and if word got out, they might well burn the evidence of their wrongdoing.
Therefore, Renner had decided to directly employ her friend Lakyus.
Climb knew this was a very risky path to take. Under normal circumstances, adventurers worked through the Guild and they were not allowed to take requests directly from clients. That was a violation of the Guild’s rules.
Granted, he did recall that the Guild could not punish its highest-ranked (adamantite-ranked) adventurers, nor could it expel them. Even so, it would still tarnish their reputation within the Guild and would surely lead to repercussions in the future. However, Blue Rose had accepted the task anyway because they loved their country that much, and because Renner was their friend.
Climb’s gratitude towards Lakyus grew as she realized that she was willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.
Lakyus decided that they should no longer talk about this any more. She opened up the bag Tina presented to her, and took out a scroll.
This was a document which nobody in Blue Rose could decipher. However, Lakyus felt that the smartest person she knew — Renner — might be able to make some head or tail of it.
“We found this scroll while burning the drug villages. It looked like some kind of written order, so we brought it back… can you understand it?”
They opened the scroll, and saw an expanse of symbols. They did not look like letters from any country’s language. Renner glanced at them, and casually replied:
“...It’s a substitution cipher, no?”
Substitution ciphers were a form of code made by substituting a letter or several letters for another letter or symbol. For instance, “a” might become “△” and “b” might become “□”. Thus, the symbols “△△□□△” would mean “aabba”.
“I thought so too. I tried swapping symbols around for hours, but I couldn’t make any sense of it. We took a man prisoner who looked like he was in charge because we suspected that he might have memorized the cipher key, and we were planning to use charm magic on him to make him decode the message for us. However… you should know that when the same caster uses the same spell on the same subject multiple times, you get poorer results. Therefore, I wanted to make good use of our first casting. So I decided to discuss it with you before using the spell.”
“I see… and the reason this was left there was because… a trap? Or something more? If that’s the case, they wouldn’t use a code that was too hard to break. Hm, I don’t think this will be very difficult.”
Renner’s words left Lakyus’ eyes wide. She could not help but exchange glances with Tina, who was seated beside her.
Unbelievable. But at the same time, they thought, “I knew she could do it.”
“Let me think… in the Kingdom’s language, the first word of any document is either a masculine, feminine or neuter pronoun… give me a moment…”
As she muttered to herself, Renner rose with the scroll and went to fetch paper and pen.
Then, she began writing out blocks of text on the paper.
“This is a simple substitution cipher of one character for one symbol, so breaking it is easy. And fortunately, they were using the Kingdom’s language. If they had used the Empire’s literature or something like that as a cipher, it’d be almost unbreakable. But this… well, once you know what one of the words means, you can just fill them in one by one. Anyone could break this if they were willing to work hard.”
“No no… well, you make it sound easy. But wouldn’t that mean you’d need to know tens of thousands of words to break the code?”
“Well, these are encoded literary references. Those usually won’t be too flowery and they can’t use words that are too complex either. So they’d have to make it simple enough that even a child could understand it. That narrows things down a lot.”
Inside her heart, Lakyus broke out in a cold sweat.
Her friend made it sound so simple, but it was hardly as simple as she said.
Still, she really ought to be able to do it… I can hardly believe such a genius really exists.
Renner had brushed it off every time they met or talked, but Lakyus had never met anyone else like Renner who deserved to be called a genius.
As Lakyus trembled internally, Renner lightly said, saying “It’s done. Just a bunch of book references,” before handing the paper to her.
There were many locations within the Kingdom written upon it, and seven of them were within the Royal Capital.
“Are these drug storehouses or other important bases?”
“I doubt they’d put such an important document in an ordinary production area… this is probably bait, don’t you think?”
“Bait? As in for a trap?”
“Hm… I don’t think so. Think of it this way. Eight Fingers is one organization, but they’re more like eight separate groups working together, right?”
“So this should be information about the other seven groups… or should I say divisions? In any case, this is a way to deliberately leak information on everyone besides the drugs division to outside enemies, in order to briefly take the heat off themselves.”
“In other words, they already gathered information on the other divisions for this… I didn’t expect them to be totally united, but this is just ridiculous…”
As an adventurer, the notion of betraying one’s comrades frustrated her.
“While we were already going to do that, we’d better not act too hastily, or else it might turn out badly for us.”
After seeing her friend (Renner) nod, Lakyus asked again:
“So what should we do about that brothel? I’ve heard it’s a really vile place where one can experience anything they desire.”
Lakyus felt her anger build just by mentioning it.
Bastards. Those scum who can only think with their dicks ought to be killed!
When she recalled what she had learned about the brothel in question, she was no longer a noble heiress, but a bold adventuress, and the curses welled up from inside her heart. The meaning of the phrase “anything they desire” went without saying. It was certain that no few people — men and women both — had been murdered for entertainment.
In the past, when slavery had not yet been criminalized, there were quite a few such bordellos operating in the underworld. However, thanks to the friend before her, the slave trade was now illegal, and those establishments had faded like dust on the wind. This particular location might well be the last illegal brothel in the Kingdom.
For that reason, they would not shut down easily. One could imagine what sort of determined resistance awaited them. After all, it was a tainted paradise for those people with crude, unspeakable desires.
“Say, Renner. Since we can’t deal with them through the law, why not have us force our way in and expose their crimes? It’ll be okay as long as we find evidence, right? If the slave-trading division really is running that brothel, then breaking them will be a huge blow. Plus, depending on where the evidence points, we’ll be able to teach a painful lesson to the nobles who are in league with them.”
“You might be right, Lakyus. But if you do that, won’t it inconvenience your family… the Alvein family? I find it very hard to act because of that. The same thing goes for the other members of Blue Rose… but having Climb barge in there alone seems almost impossible…”
“Your servant deeply regrets his lack of strength.”
As she saw Climb bow in apology, Renner reached out a hand to take Climb’s own, and smiled.
“Forgive me, Climb. That wasn’t what I meant. It’s the only underworld brothel in the Royal Capital, so nobody could take it down by themselves. See, I trust you most of all, Climb. I know how hard you work for me. However, don’t do anything which might get yourself involved. This isn’t a request, but an order, okay? If anything happened to you…”
Even Lakyus, as a woman watching from the side, was moved by the tears of the ravishing beauty before her eyes. Then how about Climb?
He tried his best to put on an emotionless front, but he could not. Those flushed cheeks said everything for him.
Were a bard to give a title to this moving scene, said bard would surely name it “The Princess and Her Knight”. Yet, Lakyus felt a twinge of fear. She thought that it ought to be impossible, but if Renner were doing this on purpose, then she would be a vixen of truly unimaginable proportions—
What am I thinking? Why am I doubting my good friend? Besides, hasn’t everything that’s happened up till now proven that she’s not a petty little schemer? If I can’t even trust someone like her — someone with the title of “Golden”, who crusades for justice — then who can I trust?
Lakyus shook her head, and spoke. That was also to dispel the frightening notion in her head.
“Ah, yes. Tina’s investigations have uncovered several leaders in the slave trades — several nobles with links to Cocco Doll. However, we haven’t verified their guilt yet, so it’s too early to take action right now.”
Renner and Climb reacted to one particular name among the list Lakyus recited.
“That man’s daughter is one of my personal maids.”
“Hm? Well, I don’t think she was sent there as a spy because they’re on guard against you… but still, I can’t be sure that she’s just a maid looking to promote herself.”
“Indeed. Looks like we’ve policed the information quite well. Climb, you also have to keep that in mind.”
“Then, let’s discuss what to do about the locations we’ve learned from the coded orders. Renner, would you mind lending me Climb? I’d like him to tell Gagaran and the others that they may need to move out for an emergency.”
Lower Fire Month (9th Month) 3rd Day 09:49
Climb walked along the main street of the Royal Capital. Climb blended perfectly into the mass of humanity, given that he had few distinguishing features about him.
He did not wear his distinctive suit of white armor. While he could use certain alchemical items to change its color, he was not that attached to it. Besides, there was no need to go around in full plate armor while walking on the streets.
As a result, he dressed lightly, wearing a chain shirt under his clothes. Only the longsword at his waist marked him as visibly different from the average citizen.
He looked like a patrolling soldier — a city guardsman — or a mercenary when outfitted in that way. Some people would avoid him, but they would not clear out of his path in the way they would for someone in heavy armor.
Anyone in such a panoply ought to be an adventurer. It was not so much that they needed the protection as the publicity.
Dressing in an eye-catching way was not a strange thing for adventurers, because it helped promote themselves. Some of them even favored unique and provocative fashions to make a strong impression on others. Thus, word would spread and their reputation would build. In other words, dressing oddly was something like a trademark of adventurers.
However, there was no need for high-end adventurers — like the members of Blue Rose, whom Climb was going to visit — to do so. At their level, they would make conversation just by walking along the street.
Soon, he saw an adventurer’s inn along the road. Said inn had a stable and a large yard for sword practice. Its beautiful exterior promised an equally exquisite interior, and the guest windows were fitted with pieces of clear glass.
This was the Royal Capital’s most expensive inn. It was a gathering place for adventurers who were confident of their skills and able to pay the onerous bills.
Climb opened the inn’s door, paying no heed to the guards which flanked it.
The drinks bar cum dining hall occupied an entire floor, but it was sparsely populated with adventurers, considering its size. This clearly showed the rarity of high-paid adventurers.
The clamor within the inn quieted for a moment as several curious gazes were thrown in Climb’s direction. He did not mind, and looked around the interior.
Most of the people in here were powerful-looking adventurers. Just about everyone here could defeat Climb with ease. Every visit to this place made Climb realise how tiny he was.
He resisted the urge to fall into despair, and his eyes focused on a point within the inn.
In front of him — in the innermost depths of the inn — was a round table. He looked at the two people seated around it.
One of them was tiny, dressed in a long black robe which covered their entire body.
Their face could not be seen. It was not because the light was insufficient, but because they wore a strange, full-face mask set with a bloodstone. There was a narrow crack running along eye level, but that did not even reveal the color of the eyes underneath it.
Then, there was the other person.
If the first person was a midget, then this one would be a giant. Seeing this person brought the word “boulder” to mind. Indeed, that person had a stout and massive body, but that girth was not born of obesity.
That person’s arms reminded observers of logs, while the neck which held the head up seemed as wide around as a pair of a woman’s thighs. The head which sat upon that neck was squarish in shape. The heavyset chin — currently clenched closed — and the way that person’s eyes surveyed its surroundings reminded one of a carnivorous beast. The blonde hair upon that head was trimmed short for the sake of practicality.
That person’s chest bulged mightily under their clothes, as though on proud display. Said chest resembled nothing so much as thoroughly-honed pectoral muscles. Put more clearly, this was no longer a tender feminine bosom.
This was the adamantite-ranked adventurer team composed solely of females — Blue Rose.
The two of them were members of Blue Rose. One was the arcane magic caster Evileye, while the other was warrior Gagaran.
Climb approached them. One of the people he was looking for nodded, and then bellowed huskily:
“Yo, cherry boy!”
The gazes that had been slowly drifting away all focused on Climb once more, but nobody mocked him. Instead, they turned away once more, as though in sympathy for him.
They did this because they knew that even for mithril or orichalcum-ranked adventurers, showing the slightest bit of disrespect to Gagaran’s guest was not so much bravery, but foolhardiness.
Climb bore the insult and approached steadily.
No matter how many times he pleaded with her, Gagaran refused to address Climb by his proper name. That being the case, the best course of action he could take was to give up and pretend he did not care.
“Good to see you again, Gagaran-sa — san. And Evileye-sama.”
He arrived before the two of them and bowed.
“Oh, it’s been a while. What, come to sleep with me, have you?”
Gagaran jerked her chin, indicating that he should take a seat. There was an evil, savage grin upon that square face of hers.
Climb simply shook his head blankly.
Gagaran said the same thing every time, to the point where it had become something like a form of greeting. However, she was not joking in the slightest. If Climb answered “yes”, even in jest, she would immediately drag him into a singles’ room on the second floor. Climb would be helpless before her irresistible arm-strength.
Gagaran, who prided herself as a “cherry picker”, was such a person.
In contrast to Gagaran, Evileye faced stoically forward, her face unmoving. Perhaps she was eying Climb under her mask, but he could not be sure of that.
“No, that’s not it. Aindra-sama bade me come.”
“Hm? Leader did?”
“Yes. I come with a message. ‘You might need to move out in a hurry. I’ll explain the details when you get backl’. However, Aindra-sama wishes the two of you to ready yourselves and prepare for action at any time.”
“Understood. Still, you’ve gone to a lot of trouble for such a small thing.”
Gagaran’s face lit up with a broad smile, and Climb remembered that he had something else to tell her.
“Today I had the good fortune of sparring with Stronoff-sama. The move you taught me then — the big downward chop — met with Stronoff-sama’s approval.”
Gagaran had taught him that blow in the practice yard behind this inn. Her face split with a grin, as though she had been the one who had been praised.
“Oh, that move? Hehe, not bad, kid. Still…”
“Yes. I won’t be satisfied with just that. I will continue to practice and seek perfection.”
“You’ve got to keep training, of course. But you should also think about what to do if someone counters that move. Think of a move to continue from it.”
Was it coincidence, or merely a unity of opinions from a pair of first-rate warriors? What Gagaran had said was much like Gazef’s own feedback. A look of surprise came over Climb’s face at the similarity of their words. Gagaran seemed to have read his reaction the wrong way, and laughed, “Of course, you have to use that chopping move I taught you as as a finishing blow, otherwise it’s meaningless.”
Then she continued: “In truth, you need to pick a move from all the others out there that has universal applicability. However, you can’t do it.”
Gagaran’s words hinted at Climb’s lack of talent.
“Therefore, you need to develop a way to attack at least three times in combination. That combo must be one that keeps your foe from counterattacking, even if they manage to defend against it.”
“Of course, that won’t work when fighting many-armed monsters. But against humans, that ought to be enough. While you’ll be in trouble once your opponent sees through your attack patterns, it ought to be effective the first time you face any foe. Hammer them, hammer them and keep hammering them.”
“Understood,” Climb nodded heavily.
This morning, he had only managed to get one hit in on Gazef. On every other occasion, Gazef had seen through him immediately and he had been counterattacked in turn.
Then, could he lose confidence because of that? Of course not.
Could he allow himself to fall into despair because of that? Of course not.
It was the opposite.
It was precisely the opposite
A mere commoner like himself had been able to come that close to the strongest warrior in the Kingdom — no, the surrounding countries. Climb knew that Gazef had not begun to show his true power, but to Climb — who had been walking a pitch-black path with no light in sight — it was a tremendous dose of encouragement.
It was like telling him: Your efforts were not in vain.
As he thought about that, he fully understood what Gagaran was trying to say.
He was not confident that he could develop a good combination attack, but he was willing to try. A flame had been lit in the depths of his heart. He was determined to become stronger, so that he could draw out more of Gazef’s strength the next time he sparred with the Warrior Captain.
“...Right, I think you asked Evileye about something before, didn’t you? Something about learning magic?”
Climb glanced at Evileye. At that time, she had merely laughed at him from under her mask and the matter had been forgotten. Asking her the same thing now, when nothing had changed, would only yield the same answer.
A muffled voice reached his ears.
Her voice was quite surprising, even without removing the mask she wore. The mask she wore was not particularly thick, so it should have been easy to make out the qualities of her voice. However, there was no way to tell Evileye’s age or any emotional inflections from it. At the very most, he could conclude that she was female. It was an emotionless, even voice that sounded both old and young at the same time.
That was probably because Evileye’s mask was magical. But why did she have to conceal her voice?
“You have no talent. Work hard somewhere else.”
She did not allow him any room to respond, as though there was nothing else to be said.
Climb knew her meaning very well.
He was not talented in magic. No, that was not all.
No matter how hard he practiced his swordplay, how many times he bled and blistered and callused his hands, he could not reach the level he longed for. Low walls which a talented individual might soar over were like insurmountable barriers to Climb.
However, he could not give up on working hard to surpass that unbreachable limit. Since he had no talent, he had to hope that his unrelenting effort would help him improve in some way.
“You don’t seem happy with that.”
Having sensed the emotions under Climb’s iron mask, Evileye continued:
“Talent is an inborn ability… Some people say that talents are like buds before they blossom, and everyone has talent… hmph. To me, that’s just wishful thinking, something idiots use to comfort themselves. Even the leader of the Thirteen Heroes was the same way.”
The leader of the Thirteen Heroes. According to legend, he was just an ordinary person, weaker than anyone else. However, he continued swinging his sword even when injured, and he eventually became a hero who was stronger than anyone else. He was a mighty being who could grow without limit.
“He was talented, but it just hadn’t flowered yet. It’s different from your case. You’ve worked so hard, but that’s all the talent you’ve shown… Not everyone has talent, and the difference is blindingly obvious between the haves and have-nots. Therefore… I won’t tell you to give up, but you ought to know your limits.”
Evileye’s stern lecture was followed by a brief silence. In the end, Evileye broke it.
“Gazef Stronoff… he’s a good example. People like him would be considered talented. Climb… do you think you can make up the difference between the two of you with effort?”
He could not answer. His training today had made him realize that he was nowhere near that league.
“Alright, maybe he’s not such a good example… still, the only person I can think of whose swordsmanship approaches his was among the Thirteen Heroes. Gagaran here is good, but she can’t beat Gazef.”
“...Hey don’t compare him to me. Gazef’s a man with a foot into the realm of heroes, y’know?”
“Hmph. You’re a heroic woman too… although the woman part is in doubt.”
As soon as Evileye’s voice trailed off, Gagaran laughed and answered:
“Oi oi, Evileye. These heroes in question are monsters with unique abilities that have surpassed the realm of humanity, right?”
“...I do not deny that.”
“Then I’m still human. Just an ordinary person who can’t reach the realm of heroes.”
“Even so, you’re still talented. You’re not an untalented person like Climb. Climb, you shouldn’t be fixated on trying to grasp the stars.”
Climb knew — better than anyone else — that he lacked talent. Even so, hearing her repeat you have no talent, you have no talent was very depressing. That said, Climb had no intention of changing his life’s goal.
—This body exists for the Princess. For her, I will—
Perhaps she sensed a martyr’s resolve from Climb, but in the end, Evileye scoffed from behind her mask.
“...So you’re not giving up, even after I’ve said all that.”
“Foolishness. Utter foolishness.”
She shook her head forcefully, unable to understand him.
“Moving forward while clinging to an unreachable dream will set you on the way to destruction. You know that, right? I’ll tell you again — you need to know your limits.”
“You may understand, but you don’t care at all, do you? The word foolish does not even begin to describe men like you. You’re the type who dies early… and someone will weep for you when you do, am I wrong?”
“What’s this, Evileye? You’re bullying Climb because you care about him?”
Evileye rounded her shoulders as she heard Gagaran speak. Then, she turned to Gagaran and grabbed her by the lapels while shouting:
“Will you shut up, you beefcake bimbo?!”
“Hey, you know I’m right, right?”
Gagaran was content to let Evileye hang on to her while she replied nonchalantly. Evileye was speechless for a moment, and then she sank back into her chair.
Then, she turned the topic back towards Climb.
“Start by learning about magic. Once you know more, you’ll be able to understand how magic-using enemies think. You’ll be able to pick a more correct course of action that way.”
“Won’t learning all those spells be a bit much for him?”
“Of course not. The fact is, there aren’t that many spells which magic casters use. Just focus on the commonly-used ones. If you can’t even do that, then you should just give up,” Evileye muttered.
“Besides, he’ll only need to study up to the 3rd tier. That shouldn’t be a problem.”
“...I say, Evileye. We all know spells go up to the 10th tier, but nobody can use magic of such a high level. Yet you know about it. Why’s that?”
Evileye had a schoolmarmish look on her face as she fiddled around under her robe. Climb suddenly realised that the sounds around them seemed further away now. It was hard to describe, but it felt as though there was a thin film surrounding them.
“Don’t panic. I just used a pointless little item.”
Climb did not know that the activation of that item was a sign of how worried she was about being overheard. All he knew was that Evileye intended to answer Gagaran’s question in strict seriousness. Now that she had gone to that extent, he sat up straight in his chair.
“In ancient myths — little more than legends — there was mention of beings known as the Eight Greed Kings. They were known as people who had stolen the power of gods, and the tales speak of how they once ruled this world with that absolute power.”
Climb had heard the story of the Eight Greed Kings. While they were not too popular, given that they were only children’s tales, anyone with a little bit of knowledge would know of them.
In summary, the beings known as the Eight Greed Kings appeared 500 years ago. Some said that they stood as tall as the heavens, some said they looked like Dragons, but in any case, the Eight Greed Kings devastated the nations in an instant, dominating the world with their power which could move mountains and part the seas. However, their desires ran deep, and they fought each other for their possessions, resulting in their mutual extinction.
This story was not popular for obvious reasons, but debate raged over whether or not it was merely a children’s fairytale. Climb personally felt that it had been greatly embellished. However, a small group of people among the adventurers believed that the Eight Greed Kings existed — and that they commanded powers beyond those of any in this modern age.
The proof of that was a city within the deserts far to the south. Rumors said that it was the capital built when the Eight Greed Kings conquered the continent.
As Climb lost himself in his thoughts, Evileye continued speaking:
“Apparently, the Eight Greed Kings possessed numberless powerful magic items, and the mightiest of them was called the [Nameless Spellbook]… at least, that’s what people call it. That’s the answer to everything.”
“Ah? So those spells are recorded in that book?”
“Indeed. They say that the Eight Greed Kings of legend left that unimaginable powerful magic item behind, a book which records all the world’s spells. Also, they say that due to some kind of magic, even newly-developed spells appear within its pages as well.”
Climb knew of the Eight Greed Kings, but not of this tome. He had a rough idea of how valuable this item truly was, but he remained silent and listened.
“We know of the existence of 10th-tier spells because of this item. Of course, there aren’t many people who know of the [Nameless Spellbook] itself…”
“Will, will you be searching for that [Nameless Spellbook]?”
Climb only asked that question because he knew that they were top-class adventurers.
Evileye snorted, as though to say, Don’t be ridiculous.
“Hmph. They say that the book is defended by powerful magic and nobody can touch it but its rightful owner. Apparently, it’s worth as much as an entire world, which is a hint as to how dangerous it really is. I know my limits, so I don’t desire it. I’d rather not die in a stupid way like the Eight Greed Kings.”
“Your leader is said to wield one of the weapons belonging to a member of the Thirteen Heroes… does she feel the same way?”
“...That’s something else entirely. However, I only heard about it from someone who saw it before, I’m just unclear about the details. I think we’ve drifted off-topic, but that’s that. Do you get it now, Gagaran?”
After that, Evileye looked somewhat puzzled, which was quite rare for her, and then she said:
“Climb. Don’t forsake your humanity in the pursuit of power.”
“Forsaking humanity… you mean like the demons in stories?”
“That’s one way. There’s also becoming one of the undead, or a magical being.”
“Normal people can’t do that.”
“Which is true… but after you become undead, your mind often twists to go with it. When once you only acted to fulfil a passionate dream… the changes in the body are echoed in the soul, and you become a terrifying monster.”
The voice from under that mask was typically devoid of emotional inflection, but now it was tinged with a hint of regret. Gagaran noticed how Evileye was staring into the distance and deliberately spoke up in a bright voice.
“Well, the Princess would probably faint if she woke up and saw that Climb had become an Ogre.”
Evileye had probably sensed the good intentions behind Gagaran’s words. Her voice returned to its usual emotionless pitch.
“...Indeed, that’s a way too. Transmutation-type spells can briefly allow you to change into another species. I’ll be frank — they’re valid options for improving your physical attributes.”
“I think I’ll pass on that.”
“If you simply desire strength, then changing into another species is quite effective. After all, the human body is hardly exceptional, and the same abilities are more effective when one’s basic physical attributes are improved.”
That much was obvious. Between two evenly-skilled opponents, the one with the better physical attributes would have the advantage.
“The fact is that many of the Thirteen Heroes were nonhumans. By the way, they’re called the Thirteen Heroes, but there were more of them than that. However, only 13 of them made it into song and story… the battle against the Demon Gods was one that crossed all racial boundaries, and certain human-centric people didn’t want to let the other species shine too much in the heroic sagas.”
Evileye seemed to be making a dig at certain people. Then, her attitude changed, and she continued in a nostalgic tone.
“The Warrior-Captain of the Air Giants and his Axe of Cyclones, the Elf Royal Family who bore the special characteristics of the ancestral Elves, and the Black Knight who wielded the Four Swords of Darkness — the original owner of our leader’s Kilineyram — was also a human with demon’s blood.”
“The Four Swords of Darkness, huh…”
Black Knight, one of the Thirteen Heroes, was renowned for possessing four blades; the Evil Sword Hyumilis, the Demon Blade Kilineyram, the Sword of Decay Crocdabal, and the Deathsword Sfeiz. One of those blades was in the hands of Lakyus, the leader of Blue Rose.
“The Demon Blade Kilineyram, created by condensing infinite darkness, is said to be the mightiest of the four… I have a question, is it true that if it unleashes its full power, it could project enough dark energy to swallow a country whole?”
“What are you talking about?” Evileye asked in a confused tone.
“I once heard our leader muttering to herself when she was alone. She held her right arm and said, ‘only a woman who serves the gods like myself can suppress its demonic power with all my will’ or something like that.”
“I’ve never heard of anything like that before…” Evileye tilted her head in surprise. “Still, if the owner says that, it might be true.”
“Then is there really a Dark Lakyus, born from the dark side of her spirit?”
“Nah, I just happened to hear her muttering to herself again. Don’t think she noticed me, so I decided to take a listen, and in the end she ended up saying, ‘If you get careless, this being of blackness born of the source of all darkness shall take over your body and release the Demon Blade’s power’ or something. Sounded pretty bad.”
“This… well, we can’t rule that out. Some cursed items can control their owners’ minds… things would be pretty dire if something like that happened to Lakyus.”
“I felt that she was trying to keep it a secret, but this is something big, right? So when I asked her straight up, she blushed and told me not to worry about it.”
“Hm. It must be pretty embarrassing for a priest — who should be the one removing curses — to end up falling victim to a curse herself. Perhaps she doesn’t want us to worry? Does she really intend to bear that burden by herself?”
“I didn’t see her act like that again after that… but think about it. Didn’t she start wearing all those meaningless armor rings on all her fingers after obtaining the Demon Blade?”
“I thought she put them on to be fashionable… do you mean they’re sealing-type magic items or touchstones of some sort?”
Climb could no longer pretend to be unmoved, and he frowned.
From what he had seen and heard, Lakyus might well be under the control of an evil magic item. He became even more worried as he thought about where he had just been..
“...Will Renner-sama be in danger?”
Evileye stopped Climb before he could rush out.
“Don’t worry. I doubt the situation will deteriorate. She won’t be taken over unawares, even if the power of darkness threatens to take her over. We’ll have to take the fact that she didn’t tell us as a sign that she’s confident of controlling it herself. I’m certain she has the mental strength for it. Still… I didn’t expect the sword to have that kind of power. Even I’ve never heard of that before.”
“Should we talk to Azuth for safety’s sake?”
“I’m not too happy about asking a rival for help, but… well, she is his niece, so we should let him know, at least.”
“Hm, then shouldn’t we do that right away? We still need to track him down too.”
“Mm. We should just prepare ourselves to back Lakyus up at any time.”
“After all, it takes an adamantite-ranked adventurer to stop another.”
“—Hm? Ahhh! That reminds me, Gagaran. I heard that a third adamantite-ranked adventurer team was formed in E-Rantel.”
“What? Really? That’s the first time I’ve heard of it… did you find that out when you went to the Adventurer’s Guild this morning?”
“No… ah, yes. Sorry. I forgot to tell you. Their team seems to be black.”
“Black? I thought we’d have brown or green after blue and red.”
“Well, black is one of the colors of the Six Great Gods. Nothing strange about that. Who knows, the next one might be white.”
“I’m no fan of the Slaine Theocracy. Actually, didn’t we have a big fight with one of their special ops units?”
Climb sensed that he had overheard a pretty dangerous topic, but neither of them paid him any heed as they kept talking.
“Gagaran, you hate them? ...Well, they did try to kill me once, but I understand how they’re thinking. Or rather, their sworn mission is to defend all of mankind. Isn’t that proper, from the perspective of humanity as a species?”
“Hah? So you mean it’s alright to massacre innocent demihumans and Elves for that goal?”
There was a clear look of disgust on Gagaran’s face, and the flames of anger burned in her eyes. Evileye bore her anger, and shrugged.
“There’s quite a few human nations around here, like the Kingdom, the Holy Kingdom, the Empire, and so on. But did you know, Gagaran? The further you are from here, the fewer human-led nations there are. All of them are countries composed of demihumans or species that are superior to mankind. Did you know that some of them even trade in humans as slaves? The reason why there aren’t any of those countries around here is because the Slaine Theocracy has been going around and exterminating any demihumans that pop their heads up.”
Gagaran’s anger went out as she heard Evileye’s words. Still, she was frowning as she replied:
“Well, demihumans were always physically superior to mankind anyway. If they banded together and developed culture, humanity wouldn’t be able to deal with them.”
“Basically, all humans should think highly of the Theocracy. It’s true that they’re ruthless, which is a demerit, but even so, nobody else has done more for mankind as a whole… of course, whether or not someone the few they abandoned could say the same thing is a different matter entirely. Besides, it’s quite likely that they were the ones who originated the Adventurer’s Guild.”
“Who knows? There’s no telling if it’s true or not, but the possibility is very high. After all, the Adventurer’s Guild was founded after the battle with the Demon Gods, when humanity’s strength had been greatly diminished. I suspect they were preserving their power and wanted to aid the various nations without causing friction, and thus they set up that organization.”
Silence filled the table after the discussion ended. Unable to bear it, Climb spoke up:
“Forgive my interruption, Evileye-sama. You said that new adamantite-ranked adventurers had emerged; do you know their names?”
“Hm? Ah, right, I mentioned that. I think one of them is called… Momon. He’s their leader, a warrior called the Dark Hero. They haven’t picked a name for their team yet, but everyone calls them ‘Darkness’.”
“I see. How about the other members?”
“I heard her’s paired with someone called Nabe, an arcane magic caster known as the Beautiful Princess.”
“Huh? Just the two of them? What’s up with that? Are those idiots so confident in their abilities that… no, it’s because of those abilities that they’re adamantite-ranked. Are they hiding some kind of secret weapon? Is that it? What accomplishments do they have to their name?”
Climb leaned in to listen as well. This was an adventurer team which had obtained the adamantite rank. They must have embarked on all manner of adventures which would set people’s hearts aflutter. He was burning with anticipation even before hearing a single word.
“All this was done within two months… first, they eliminated the thousands of undead which showed up in E-Rantel. Then, they exterminated the Northern Goblin Tribe Alliance, found rare herbs in the Great Forest of Tob, slew a Gigant Basilisk and eliminated a band of undead that had escaped from the Katze Plains. In addition, I hear they defeated an incredibly powerful Vampire…”
“A Gigant Basilisk…” Climb repeated in a breathless voice.
It was a huge monster that was almost ten meters long, like a cross between a lizard and a serpent. It had a petrifying gaze attack, its bodily fluids were a poison that could cause instant death, and its hard, thick skin rivalled mithril in toughness. It was a terrifying being, so being able to defeat a monster like that — which could destroy a town — was a perfectly sensible reason for being promoted to adamantite rank.
However, there was one problem with that —
“That’s… amazing. Still, did they really do it with just the two of them? Surely just two people, being a warrior and an arcane magic caster, wouldn’t be able to deal with a Gigant Basilisk, right? Doesn’t seem possible to me.”
—Indeed. It was almost impossible for just two people to do it, especially if they were a warrior and an arcane magic caster. How would they heal themselves? How could they resist its petrifying gaze, its toxic bodily fluids and its other special attacks?
“Ah! Sorry, I can’t really say it was just the two of them. I hear they subdued the Wise King of the Forest by force and made it their minion.”
“...The Wise King of the Forest? What manner of beast is that?”
Climb recalled the name from various heroic sagas and similar stories. However, it would be terribly rude to interrupt right now.
“I don’t know the details either, but apparently it was a magical beast which inhabited the Great Forest of Tob since times of old. It possesses matchless might. My colleagues once… yes, I don’t think they encountered it when they went to the Great Forest 200 years ago.”
Evileye shrugged as she mentioned the figure of 200.
Such a number would not be anything out of the ordinary for Forest Elves, but given her attitude, Climb could only conclude that it was a jest of some sort.
“Oho. Then, how credible are these stories? They’ve probably been spiced up or something, right?”
It was always like that. Sometimes a tale was accidentally exaggerated in the telling, or corpses were so badly dismembered that one could not get an accurate body count, and sometimes adventurers just wanted to brag for fame. Thus, these stories often ended up embellished.
In contrast, Evileye erected a finger and wagged it with a “tch tch tch”.
“Well, these stories seem pretty factual. The E-Rantel incident in particular, where that man threw his greatsword and slew an undead Giant, then carved his way through a thousands-strong horde of undead. These reports came from the surviving guardsmen and their accounts all tally up. Thus, I doubt there was any exaggeration of his exploits. They eliminated the masterminds behind the undead horde and the corpses have been verified, and they destroyed a pair of Skeletal Dragons before that.”
Gagaran was speechless, and Climb asked her:
“Even you would have trouble with them too, am I right, Gagaran-san?”
“If it was just several thousand Zombies or Skeletons, it’d be fine. I could smash my way through those. Even the two Skeletal Dragons might be doable. But I can’t say the same for the masterminds behind the incident. I’ve no confidence of being able to deal with them if I didn’t know their abilities.”
“There are unofficial opinions which state that they were from Zuranon.”
“Really, Evileye? Ah… if it was their Disciples, then I’d be out of luck. It’d be really hard to beat them after fighting so deep into hostile territory. Make one little mistake, get poisoned or paralyzed, and the show’s over for you. How did the two of them heal themselves? Potions, maybe? Who knows, that Momon warrior might be able to use divine magic like our leader. Or perhaps that Beautiful Princess girl could use it.”
“We can’t rule that out,” Evileye nodded in agreement.
“Still, a Gigant Basilisk… Yeah, I’ve got nothing. Enemies like that are too much for warriors… for any close range fighters, actually. I’ve got the power of Gaze Bane on my side, but it’d be really risky without backup.”
“Heard that, Climb? In other words, Gagaran can’t do it by herself. In other words, it’d all be up to that Nabe woman. Maybe you could do the same if you were paired with her… could you?”
“Ah, it’d be easy if she was as strong as Evileye. If it were you, you could take care of it yourself with long-ranged combat, even without getting serious, am I right?”
“As if I’m that great. I’d have to show my true power.”
“Well, with you around, the only thing I’d have to handle would be the Skeletal Dragons… no, that’d mean I was just relying on your strength. If I were grouped with an orichalcum-ranked magic caster and we split up… yeah, not going to happen.”
Climb found this very surprising.
Was Evileye really such a powerful magic caster? Under normal circumstances, adventurer teams ought to be made up of members of equal strength, and they ought to be able to adventure together. Why was there such a big discrepancy here?
“I doubt that would be the case. I know your strength very well, Gagaran-san. I’m certain you won’t lose to those people.”
“Uhyo~ that’s high praise. Alright, wanna do it?”
“I’ll have to refuse.”
“That’s why you’re a cherry boy. You know, they say that it’s a shame for a man not to eat what’s been laid out in front of him. There’s no point in staying cherry forever, you know. What’ll you do when you finally get it on with the woman you like? Do you want her to say you suck in bed? Do you get off on that sort of thing? Are you a masochist or something?”
Gagaran did not wait for Climb to reply. After that, she sighed with exaggerated loudness.
“Fine, fine, I won’t force you. I’m good to go whenever, so if you want a quickie with me, just let me know… still, that Beautiful Princess nickname is pretty embarrassing. Does she live up to it?”
“I’ve heard that Nabe person is really beautiful. According to the rumors—”
Here Climb thought he sensed Evileye glancing at him; a hunch that proved to be true moments later.
“—She’s as beautiful as the Kingdom’s Golden Princess.”
Gagaran flashed a knowing look at Climb, like he was a bad boy. Climb guessed what she was going to say, and stole a march on her.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To me, nobody is more beautiful than Renner-sama.”
“Ah, that’s true.”
Her tone clearly stated, what a shame.
“Hm, I guess we’ve wasted too much time on idle chatter. Sorry for making you listen to our babbling. After this, we’ll do as Lakyus says and get ready.
Gagaran and Evileye rose, and so did Climb.
“Sorry, Climb. I really wanted to have some fun with you, but I don’t have the time.”
“Please, don’t worry about it, Gagaran-san. And thank you for your words of wisdom, Evileye-sama.”
Gagaran carefully studied Climb, and then laughed tiredly.
“Mm, alright, then. You should be going back right away, so we’ll leave our leader to you. Good seeing you around, cherry boy… oh, that’s right. You need to make sure you’re properly equipped. That thing on your belt isn’t your usual weapon, right?”
“Yes. This is a spare.”
“Something might come up. Armor’s one thing, but you’d best keep your sword by your side. It’s a basic self-defense principle for adventurers, especially warriors. Do you have the item I gave you?”
“The bells? They’re here.”
Climb patted the pouch on his waist.
“Really now. That’s good. Remember, we’re warriors; all we can do is swing our weapons. Sometimes, situations occur that can’t be dealt with using weapons. That’s when you use magic items to help you out with those. You need to obtain as many magic items as possible and keep them on you, got that? Also, make sure you have at least three healing potions on you, alright? They’ve helped me out more than once.
Climb had owned three such bottles, but he only had two on him right now.
“I understand,” he replied.
“..Well, aren’t we being nice to someone today.”
“Come on, give me a break, Evileye… sorry I delayed you. I just wanted to say, don’t slack on the preparations and be careful.”
Climb bowed deeply to Gagaran.
Lower Fire Month (9th Month) 3rd Day 6:00
Nine men and women sat around a circular table.
The heads of Eight Fingers’ eight divisions were there, but they did not look at each other. Either they studied the documents in their hands or spoke to the minions awaiting orders behind them.
It did not feel like they were from the same organization at all. Things were not yet at a hair-trigger stage, but their wariness against potential enemies was obvious enough. However, that much was only to be expected. They might be in the same organization and worked with each other, but the fact was that they mainly cut into each other’s profits with the occasional bout of what might be considered cooperation.
The drugs division was the prime example, handling all aspects of production, processing and trafficking by themselves. The smuggling and other divisions would not raise a finger to help them. Even if they did not openly oppose each other, it was common enough for them to try and trip each other up behind the scenes.
These activities — which did no good to the organization — stemmed from the fact that they had once been disparate crime rings which had banded together.
The reason why these viceroys of vice gathered on specific days for Eight Fingers division head meetings was because not doing so would be disadvantageous to them.
That was to say, not taking part in these meetings could be taken as a sign of treachery, and absent parties would thus be marked for elimination. Therefore, even those people who did not commonly come to the Royal Capital would do so just for these meetings.
Even those people who typically spent their days hiding in a safehouse would essentially come here to expose themselves. Those who were so afraid of assassination that they surrounded themselves in guards would do the same. There was a limited number of people allowed at each meeting, and so each of the participants brought two of their finest men from their own divisions, in addition to themselves.
—However, one person stood as an exception to this.
“Since we’re all here, let’s begin the regular meeting.”
As that male voice spoke, the gathered people returned to their seats and their chairs creaked.
The speaker was the host of this event, the coordinator of Eight Fingers. This man — who looked to be in his 50s — wore a holy symbol of the Water God on a necklace and had a compassionate face. He did not look at all like a denizen of the underworld.
“There are several matters which need discussion, and the first of them is — Hilma.”
The person who answered was a fair-skinned woman.
Said skin was so pale she almost looked sickly, and her clothes were also white.
She held a pipe which emitted purple fumes in one hand. A serpentine tattoo snaked up that hand toward her shoulder. Her lipstick was the same purple as her eyeshadow. In her diaphanous clothing, she was the very picture of a high-class prostitute, complete with the dissipated air which hung about her.
“Huwah~” she yawned in an exaggerated manner. “Couldn’t we have started the meeting earlier?”
“...I heard your drug plantations were attacked by someone?”
“Yes, they hit the villages we were using for production. Cost me quite a sum. We may need to cut back on the drug supply.”
“Any idea who might be behind this?”
“No. None at all… however, as a result, it’s not difficult to think of who might have done it.”
That question was enough for everyone present to understand.
“No clue. I just learned the village was attacked. Didn’t have time to find out more.”
“Is that so. Then, everyone, that’s how it is. Please raise your hands if you know anything.”
There was no response. Either nobody knew, or nobody wanted to share what they knew.
“Then, next on—”
It was a low voice. It was a male voice, and it concealed incredible power within its depths.
All eyes turned to the source of that voice. The speaker was a bald man whose face was half-covered by an animal tattoo. However, every part of him was immense. His muscular frame was evident even through his clothes, and his cold eyes were those of a warrior.
All the other division heads had brought guards along, but only he had nobody behind him. That was only sensible. What point was there in bringing a group of useless people along?
The man stared at Hilma, head of the drugs division. No, he was probably not staring; just that his razor-thin pupils appeared to be doing so.
The guard behind her lost his cool for a moment and his breathing turned chaotic. It was a reaction born of knowing exactly how overmatched he was in fighting strength.
After all, this man was a monster. He would have no problem slaughtering everyone in this room.
“Why not hire me? Do you think the mooks on your payroll can protect anything?”
His name was Zero. He was the manager of the Security Division, which handled everything from simple bodyguarding to escorting nobles. He was famous for his battle prowess, which far exceeded that of any other member of Eight Fingers. And the response to his proposal was—
“There’s no need for that.”
—Was a firm rejection.
“There’s no need for that. Besides, I can’t reveal the location of my bases to others.”
That was the end of it.. Zero closed his eyes, as though he had lost interest. Doing this made him resemble a boulder.
“That would be great. I’ll accept your proposal on her behalf.”
The speaker was a slender man. He looked limp and weak, in stark contrast to Zero.
“Zero, I want to hire your people.”
“Oh, what’s this, Coccodol. Can you afford it?”
If one considered Hilma’s business — the drug trade — to be booming, then this man’s field — the slave trade — was declining by the day. That was because the Golden Princess had made slavery illegal, and as a result he had to go underground with his business.
“That’s fine, Zero. And if possible, I’d like to hire someone on the level of the Six Arms, the best of the best.”
Zero opened his eyes again, as though his interest was reignited.
He was not the only one who was surprised. Just about everyone present was thinking the same thought.
The name of Six Arms came from the brother to the god of thieves, who had six arms. That name referred to the strongest fighters of the Security Division.
Of course, their top man was Zero, but the other five had prowess rivalling his. Rumor had it that one of them could cleave though space, another could control illusions, and that one of them was even a powerful undead being known as an Elder Lich.
If Gazef Stronoff or adamantite-ranked adventurers could be considered the mightiest warriors in polite society, then Six Arms were the greatest killers of the underworld. Hiring somebody like that could only mean one thing.
“Gotten ourselves into big trouble, haven’t we? Have no fear. My strongest subordinates will protect your assets.”
“Do forgive the inconvenience. There’s been problems with a woman who was supposed to be eliminated. Perhaps this might be an overreaction, but if that place goes down, I’ll be in a hell of a fix. Ah yes, we’ll discuss the fees later.”
“Can you send your man over right after the meeting ends? There’s something I’d like him to do right away.”
“Got it. I brought someone along; I’ll lend him to you.”
“...Then, onto the next topic. Regarding the newly-minted adamantite-ranked adventurer Momon of Darkness… does anyone know about him, or have they made any overtures towards him?”
The sound of valuable metals clinking against each other rang forth.
After ensuring that the up-ended purse was empty, Ainz began sorting out the shiny coins scattered on the table.
He placed ten silver or gold coins into each stack, and then he counted them up.
After totalling the stacks of coins several times, Ainz looked inside the purse.
It was empty, as expected. After verifying that fact, Ainz cast it aside, and then grabbed his head.
“Not enough… there’s not enough money at all…”
His illusory human face twisted in depression. Of course, the money before him was a sizable sum. An ordinary citizen could labor for decades and not accumulate this amount. However, to the master of the Great Tomb of Nazarick and its only source of income, it was little more than pocket change, a fact that made him terribly uneasy.
Ainz’s mental state would be forcibly stabilized once it was disrupted beyond a certain threshold. Therefore, he should have been automatically calmed down once the shock of having insufficient money kicked in and assaulted his psyche. However, the sum of old coins he possessed gave him some emotional leeway, and so the emotional cutoff did not trigger. Instead, he burned in the slow fires of anxiety.
Ainz shook his head, and divided the gold coins before him into several piles.
“First, this is additional funding for Sebas.”
The pile of money before him dwindled in an instant, and Ainz’s face twitched.
“Then there’s this pile… funds for rebuilding and financial aid for the Lizardman Village, in accordance with Cocytus’ wishes, and then…”
It was less than before, but the pile of money shifted, leaving only a few gold pieces behind.
“...This money is going towards the Lizardman Village’s expenses, so if I buy from the Adventurer’s Guild, I can use my reputation as an adamantite-ranked adventurer to open doors for me. That should make things… cheaper… so perhaps this will do?”
He recovered several coins from Cocytus’ pile.
After counting and recounting the remaining coins, Ainz muttered quietly to himself.
“...Maybe I should get a merchant to sponsor me or something… It’d be a good way to set up a regular income stream outside of adventuring.”
There were only three adamantite-ranked adventurer teams in the Kingdom, including Ainz’s own. Therefore, sometimes merchants would make requests of them by name. These jobs were both easy and profitable for Ainz, and he could easily stand to take a few. However, he had not done so until now.
That was because Ainz wanted to avoid giving merchants or adventurers the impression that his Momon persona was a money-grubber, or perhaps one who would do anything for money.
Ainz intended to build a public image of an adventurer who was loved by all, and then transfer that glory to Ainz Ooal Gown. Thus, he had to be mindful of what other people thought of him.
“Still… I’m penniless. Shouldn’t have stayed in such an expensive inn…”
Ainz looked around the opulent room.
This was the best inn in all of E-Rantel, and this was its best room. Naturally, the prices for this room were equally staggering However, this superior room meant nothing to Ainz, who did not need to sleep. How he longed to spend the money somewhere else.
The same went for his meals. However splendid the dishes which the inn prepared for him, it was all meaningless to Ainz, who could not eat them. It would be wiser to cancel the meals and save the money.
However, Ainz knew exactly why he could not do that.
Ainz… no, Momon was the sole adamantite-ranked adventurer in this city. A big name like himself could not possibly live in a flophouse where he had to take care of everything himself.
Living standards were an easy way of benchmarking people. An adamantite-ranked adventurer had to lead a lifestyle consistent with an adamantite-ranked adventurer, such as the inn where he stayed and what he wore.
Clothes did make the man, after all.
Thus, Ainz could not lower himself to stay in cheap lodgings. It was the same even though he understood that this was a waste of money.
“If they think I’m really this valuable, then the Guild ought to book me a room… hah… although, they’d probably do it if I asked…”
That said, he did not want to owe people favors. To date, whenever the guild made urgent requests of him, he would move into action immediately to make them feel indebted to him. Once he had accumulated enough leverage, he would then start calling in his markers. If he allowed people to pay off their debts with such small things, his plan would be ruined.
“Ah… there’s no money. Whatever shall I do… More requests, perhaps? But there haven’t been any good-paying jobs recently. And if I take too many on, the other adventurers will start to hate me…”
While he wanted Ainz Ooal Gown to become an eternal legend, obviously he did not want that name to become infamous. Ainz made the semblance of a sigh, them memorized that amount of spending cash he had from the pile.
“Speaking of money, what about the Guardians’ salary?”
Ainz went “Hmm” and leaned back against his chair, looking at the ceiling.
The Guardians insisted on not drawing a salary, saying that their greatest joy in life was to serve the Supreme Beings, so they would not dare think of taking payment for it.
However, Ainz felt that he should not rely too much on their goodwill. One needed to reward work done in an appropriate fashion.
While the Guardians had all indicated that loyalty to the Supreme Beings was the best reward, that statement did not sit easy with Ainz.
Perhaps that was the conceit of a man who drew his pay by showing up for work, but he felt that labor ought to be compensated.
For all he knew, instituting a salary system might lead to the fall and corruption of these pure and naive children. Even so, he felt that it held merit as an experiment.
“The question now is how I should pay them.”
Ainz’s eyes went from the ceiling to the diminished pile of gold coins on the table.
“If we consider the Guardians’ salary to be equivalent to that of a department head in a high-end company, that means they’d draw 15 million yen per year… Shalltear, Cocytus, Aura, Mare Demiurge and Albedo ought to be getting more, right? Which means I’ll have to multiply that by six. Ah, It can’t be helped. I can’t make that much money.”
Ainz grabbed his head in contemplation, and then his eyes shot open.
“Got it! I just need to pay them with something else! Maybe I could issue Nazarick-only bills — like play money, perhaps — and then fix their value at 100’000 apiece. That would do it!”
But after shouting that, Ainz’s face twisted again.
How would he make everyone use these bills?
All the facilities in the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick were free of charge. Even if he did print those bills, he had no idea where to begin using them.
“What if they were used to buy items from this world?”
After comparing the goods of this world to those of Nazarick, he could not help but wonder who would even want to buy things from the outside world.
“These facilities have been free until now, but if I start charging for them, I’d be putting the cart before the horse… what should I do?”
After pondering for a while more, Ainz hit on another bright idea.
“Got it! I’ll ask the Guardians to think of something. All I need to do is ask them what they’d be willing to spend money on. That ought to do it!”
Just as Ainz was muttering, “What a great idea” to himself, his face turned sour again.
I’m talking to myself more and more, Ainz thought.
While all this had still been a game, he knew he had been talking to himself a lot because there was nobody else around. However, now that the NPCs had gained sapience, will and self-direction, he was still talking to himself. Why was that?
Was it because it had become a habit? Or was it because—
“Because I’m still alone, huh…”
Ainz laughed in loneliness.
Of course, he was surrounded by sapient NPCs, so it was hard to say that he was truly alone. However, he still felt that way. Perhaps he was busy erasing the personality of Suzuki Satoru in order to play the role of Ainz Ooal Gown, the coordinator of the 41 Supreme Beings, whom the Guardians wanted.
Ainz sighed, and as he looked back at the coins on his desk, he heard a knocking on the door.
After a short while, the door opened. Once he had verified that it was the person he had expected — Narberal Gamma — Ainz put on a face.
Right now, the corner of Ainz’s mouth was curled up, as though he were looking down on her.
The low-level illusion which AInz was using reflected his thoughts, so it might occasionally display an expression which did not fit the ruler of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. Therefore, whenever someone else was around, and particularly in front of Narberal, he typically put on an expression which made him seem like a stern and dignified ruler. He had practiced it before the mirror many times, honing that expression to perfection.
“What is it, Nabe?”
His voice was the same faked one he always had.
“Yes, Momon sa—n.”
“There’s the old habit again. Whenever I remind you, you change for a while, so I guess I should give up on that, huh. Ahhh, no need to bow. I’m not angry, and the fact that you show respect to me… well, that’s fine too. The Guildmaster and the others seem to have gotten the wrong impression, so it’s fine. Now then, what are you here for?”
“Yes. It concerns the ore which you ordered the merchants to find, Momon-san.”
I didn’t give any orders, it was just business, Ainz grumbled inside his heart. That said, the stern expression on his face remained unmoved.
“Really now… Which location are we talking about? Have they gathered samples from all eight places?”
“My deepest apologies, but I did not ask that much.”
“...Never mind, then. We have money. Even if we don’t know where they came from, we should be able to buy them all up.”
Ainz grandly swept the coins on the desk into a pouch and tossed it to Narberal. He watched as she decorously picked up the pouch of money.
“Understood. However, may I be permitted a question?”
“Why I’m purchasing ore from various locations?”
Narberal nodded, and Ainz explained.
“I intend to throw them into the Exchange Box. Simply put, I wish to see if the money I get from the ores changes with the location.
The Exchange Box should not be affected by such things. For instance, even an exquisitely-carved statue would only count the same as an unworked lump of the same material when fed into the Exchange Box. That being the case, what if the composition — the intrinsic quality of the material varied? That was why he had purchased all those ores.
“Nabe, you know that I managed to fix a price by throwing grain into the box.”
I had to throw in quite a pile of grain before getting one measly coin, Ainz grumbled in his heart.
If that were the case, all he had to do was commence mass production. Thus, he had considered breaking ground on grain farms outside Nazarick, manned by undead or golems in order to tend large farms. Of course, actually executing that plan presented a mountain of problems in its own right.
“Understood. Then I shall make the purchases immediately.”
“Mm. However, be careful. We can’t guarantee nobody will make a move on you. If anything happens… You understand, right?”
“I will use the Shadow Demon as a meatshield. I will not think about obtaining information and prioritize safety by retreating with all due haste. I will then teleport to Aura-sama’s fake Nazarick to deceive the foe.”
“Very good. Pay attention to safety and do not travel in secluded areas or take routes which make you vulnerable to attack. Also, do not beat people half to death if they bother you or try and chat you up. In all honesty, I was quite surprised when that man wept and begged me to save him and said he was only trying to flirt with you. Also, you are not to project your murderous intentions everywhere.Crushing pickpockets’ hands might be acceptable, but do not do it all the time. Also, do not, under any circumstances, refer to humans as insects. Simply put, keep your injurious impulses in check after all, we are Momon and Nabe, the highest-ranking adventurers known as ‘Darkness’.”
Once he saw Narberal indicate that she understood, Ainz felt that there was nothing else to remind her about, and nodded.
“...Mm. That should be it. Go then, Nabe.”
Still holding the pouch, Narberal bowed before leaving the room. As Ainz watched her leave, he sighed deeply, despite his lack of lungs.
“...To think I have to make expenditures while I’m low on cash. What a pain.”