Butterfly Entangled in a Spider’s Web
Translator: SifaV6 and Skythewood
Editors/Proofreaders: Ferro, TaintedDreams, Namorax, Rockgollem
JcqC, Nigel, Zack
Several worker teams had already gathered on the Earl’s estate before dawn. The last team to arrive was Hekkeran’s 'Foresight'. In total, eighteen people were present. The workers gathered for this job were considered to be among the cream of their profession in the capital.
The worker teams maintained a distance between each other as they sized each other up. When the four members of 'Foresight' finally arrived, they were welcomed by the collective stares of the other worker teams. This scene could almost be considered spectacular in its own way.
"Ah, somehow I feel like I’ve seen all these faces somewhere before. Such as Beetle-san over there, didn’t I see him recently at Kattse Plains?"
"Eh? Did I not mention this in the hotel? Greenham’s team also accepted this request… Did I really not say this? Somehow I feel like I’ve said this before… In any case, the worker teams that are gathered today all possess considerable fame within the capital! Let’s have a round of applause for the deep pockets of the client."
"I think I’ll pass on that. Anyways, the ones over there are the team leaders, right?"
In the area between the separated teams, three people had gathered in the center, exchanging information.
"Greenham should be over there, it seems. No doubt about it. Well then, time to go and greet them."
"…Tch! Urgh, that guy is also there? Ah, I see. Then, the elf girls over there are… Hmph, that guy is absolutely the worst. Die, you piece of shit."
Imina practically spat that last sentence out. Although she kept her voice down, it still worried Hekkeran and the others enough that they had to quickly check their surroundings to see if anyone else had noticed.
"I know, I know, Rob. He’s going to be a colleague for this job… However, I really don’t want to see that guy’s face."
"—I don’t like it either."
"Well, if I had to pick between like and hate, I also dislike him. Even so, you still need to consider the situation."
Hekkeran, who broke into the conversation between Imina, who was showing a vexed face, and Roberdyck, helplessly shrugged.
"…Oi, oi, you still have to greet him afterwards, so don’t think about unpleasant thoughts, or they’ll show on your face, okay?"
"Do your best, leader."
Hekkeran frowned in response to Roberdyck’s encouragement, as though saying "don’t poke into other people’s businesses", and then walked towards the group of three.
The first person that greeted Hekkeran was a worker who wore a steel-blue suit of full plate armor. The design of the armor was oddly rounded, almost spherical. Due to the especially large pauldrons, the man wearing the armor appeared more like an upright beetle than a human.
However, after seeing that the helmet had a horn-like design which stuck out from the forehead, it became obvious that the armor was intended to look this way.
However, one thing that wasn’t intentional was the length of the man’s legs. They were very short. The sight of him wearing the armor was like a real rhinoceros beetle that had been forced to stand upright by children who were playing around. To put it in kinder terms, short legs like those of dwarves gave more stability. It was one of the traits which suited a warrior.
"Just as I had foreseen, thou also came, Hekkeran."
"Yo, Greenham. I thought the request wasn’t too bad so we came."
Hekkeran raised his hand as a gesture at the remaining two leaders in a casual manner. The two of them responded back without any unpleasantness. Although Hekkeran was the youngest and least experienced of the four of them here, his skills as a worker were on the same level as them.
"About your side…" Hekkeran said, after glancing over to Greenham’s team and quickly counting them. "There’s five of you. What happened to the rest?"
"Resting, recovering from fatigue. Due to our previous work being of similar nature, some of our members had to stay behind to help with the transportation and repair of damaged goods."
This man, Greenham, was the leader of 'Heavy Masher', a worker team comprising of fourteen members.
Having more members definitely had its advantages, such as having more options available in choosing how to handle each request. In particular, it provided the flexibility of being able to select the best suited members for each different request.
However, it was not without its disadvantages, such as receiving less income due to having to split the payment between more people, or running into more conflicts due to disagreements between members, which made it more difficult for them as a team to take fast action.
When taking into consideration the personalities of typical workers, it wouldn’t be unusual at all for a team to just suddenly disband. Being able to maintain full control over such a large team of workers demonstrated just how strong Greenham’s management and leadership skills were.
"Fuuhn, how tiring. How about supporting us so you can earn enough not to disappoint the comrades you left behind?"
"Thy suggestion is foolish. After we finish this job, bonuses will be given based on the leader’s performance. As unfortunate as it is, the best performance will naturally belong to me."
"Oi oi, spare me already. It’s fine to speak like you normally do."
Greenham simply grinned. Sensing that he had no intention of stopping, Hekkeran shrugged and turned towards the other man.
"I think it’s the first time we’ve met face-to-face."
Hekkeran stretched his hand out, with a "pleased to meet you" intention. The other man grasped it and shook back. He had a very strong grip.
He moved his eyes and stared directly at Hekkeran.
"—'Foresight', I’ve heard a lot about you."
It was a voice that sounded as clear as a bell, which matched very well with his appearance.
The genius swordsman that was undefeated in the arena, there wasn’t a single worker who wouldn’t recognize who he was. This man’s 'Tenmu', was in a sense a team composed purely of himself. Part of it was the reason why Imina made her previous unpleasant face.
"The sword genius who’s said to be a match for the Kingdom’s strongest, Gazef Stronoff. It’s reassuring to have your squad with us."
"Thank you. However, I think it’s about time for it to be said the other way around. That man should only be referred to as being able to match up to this Eruya Uzruth. "
"Oh. So good with words."
Eruya smiled faintly, fully displaying his arrogance. Seeing this smile, the unpleasant feelings concealed inside Hekkeran almost surfaced again.
"Well then, we’ll be relying on you inside the ruins."
"Of course. Leave it to me. It’ll be great if there are monsters that can put up a decent fight inside the ruins."
Eruya said as he tapped on the weapon hanging by his waist, producing a ‘pon pon’ sound.
"It’s completely unknown what kind of monsters might exist inside. Perhaps we’ll even run into dragons?"
"That would be quite scary. Monsters such as dragons would definitely put up a hell-of-a fight. However, victory would still be mine."
Putting up a ‘is that so?’ smile, Hekkeran was the last one to react due to forcefully having to suppress his other emotions.
Taking only the skills with a sword into account, there were rumors that Eruya could even win against orichalcum ranked adventurers. Considering this point, there was some basis behind his boasting. Having confidence was a good thing, since it was also important for workers to showcase their abilities and appeal to their clients.
However, there should be a limit to just how much one can boast.
The world’s strongest race, Dragons.
Masters of the sky, capable of producing powerful breaths, with scales that were near impenetrable, and possessing a physical prowess that was superior by far. As they age, they even became able to use magic. Having a life span that humans simply couldn’t compare with, the wisdoms that they accumulate would humble even sages.
They were the kind of existences often described in legends, whether as evil villains or as beings that aided the heroes. Just like in the tales of the Thirteen Heroes, the last opponent in their adventures was a dragon known as the 'Dragon God'. In many stories, dragons tended to be the final opponents of heroes.
Even though these existences were only used as an example during conversations, but to still be able to act this arrogantly was rather surprising. No matter how one interpreted it, Eruya’s words seemed like a joke. However he could tell that Eruya was completely serious just from the looks in his eyes. Just how self-conceited could he be?
It was still uncertain what kind of monsters would be in the ruins. Eruya’s sense of judgement would definitely be a hindrance to the overall operation of things.
It’s probably best to stay away from him.
It would be convenient if he was to perish by himself, but it would still be troublesome if the overall formation became broken. A faint smile appeared on Hekkeran’s face as he reached his conclusion, and adjusted his attitude towards Eruya, towards the direction of ‘discard after use’.
"Over there must be the members of 'Foresight'. Oya—"
The look of his eyes when he saw Imina was filled with prejudice and disdain.
There were rumors that Eruya hailed from Slane Theocracy, where humans were considered the most superior race. As an alleged citizen of the Theocracy, he had the tendency to treat those with mixed blood as lower-class humans.
For a man like that to see a half-elf such as Imina to be participating as an equal simply did not make him any happier.
It’s because of this that the rumors end up becoming so credible… However, people from the Theocracy should have a baptismal name, although there’s also been rumors that he’s forsaken it.
Hekkeran considered this deep in his heart, and said out loud just in case.
"…Oi, oi, don’t be so hostile to my comrade, okay?"
"Of course. We’ll be comrades for the same work this time. I’ll definitely be cooperative."
"I will take your word for it."
Perhaps the powerful wild child Eruya matured, but Hekkeran was still afraid that he would run amok. In short, he could feel the mental instability of Eruya. Hekkeran couldn’t relax even after giving the warning, that’s how unpleasant the atmosphere was.
"Ay, trust me. Anyway, returning to the previous topic, I don’t mind letting someone else take leadership during this trip. As long as there are no special cases, I’ll follow the orders given. If we encounter battle, I don’t mind taking the frontlines. I’ll let you guys witness my blade skills."
"Yes yes, understood."
"…Well then, I’ll be returning to my team then. If there are any problems just call me."
Eruya bowed, and walked off.
Hekkeran’s face slightly twitched after seeing a number of women following Eruya. However, showing one’s emotions here was simply unacceptable. It was not uncommon for situations to suddenly turn unfavorable after one’s emotions were exposed. As the leader of a team, this kind of behavior would be unacceptable.
Hekkeran suppressed his emotions, and removed all facial expressions.
Looking away from what he considered as trash, he greeted the final person.
"Hello, elder. I see you’re still healthy and well."
"Hoi, Hekkeran. You’re also looking well."
The sounds produced from the words said were due to the loss of frontal teeth.
Parupatra 'Green Leaf' Ogrion.
Also known as the ‘Origin’, he wore armor that looked as if it were brimming with lights reflected from green leaves wet from the morning dew. The armor wasn’t made from metal, but rather from the scales of a Green Dragon. Parupatra’s team was able to successfully hunt a dragon. Of course, from the size of the scales one could tell that it wasn’t that powerful. However, even then a dragon of that size was still an existence that posed a severe threat to adventurers and workers alike.
Furthermore, Parupatra was over eighty years old.
Typically, in this line of work, the majority of people would have retired by their early forties, sometimes even before forty. There were very few adventurers above the age of fifty. As harsh as it may seem, for a profession which is constantly surrounded by death, it’s hard to ignore the decline in one’s physical abilities.
In fact, even as a special case, when compared to his peak, the time when he was at Orichalcum rank, his skills had dropped considerably. Even so, Parupatra still hadn’t left the front lines.
Many people within the industry respected Parupatra for continuing to adventure despite his advanced age.
"Fumuu. However, that guy seems a bit dangerous."
The wrinkled face of Parupatra became tense as he spoke in a hushed voice. Hekkeran also agreed.
"That’s right. It doesn’t matter if he ends up killing himself, but it’ll be bad if we end up getting dragged down with him."
"Indeed, it’s true that guy is really strong, but his overconfidence could endanger the rest of us. He’s like a walking hazard."
Greenham also chipped in with a whispered "So troublesome to deal with". After seeing Eruya’s attitude, almost none of the workers would think otherwise.
"Also, just how strong is that guy anyways? I haven’t been to the arena recently."
"Does thee not know? I however, do—does elder also know?"
"I’ve only heard about it but never witnessed in person. I might be able to find out more if I ask my comrades. In the end, how do we define the threshold for strong? If we use Gazef Stronoff as the reference point, from what this old man currently know of… for example, ah that’s right… where would we place the Four Knights of the Empire?"
"The knights titled 'Heavy Explosion', 'Unmovable', 'Lightning', and 'Violent Wind' huh… That’s quite difficult to judge. Although it’s true that when compared against that man, the Kingdom’s Warrior Captain, the Four Knights are slightly weaker. However, the time of Gazef Stronoff being the strongest is already over. The passage of time have finally triggered the arrival of stronger beings, signaling the birth of a new era."
"Are you talking about Uzruth? Is he really that strong? Besides, I’ve never witnessed the actual strength of the Empire’s Four Knights in person… The strongest that I’ve seen so far would be the captain of the Mithril Imperial Guards under the direct command of the Emperor. He’s also quite strong… maybe on the same level as the Four Knights?"
"From what this old man knows so far, the strongest amongst all would be the Dragon Lords from the Republic. Those aren’t something that humans can go up against."
"I did hear that there were five or seven of them… Opps, let’s first get back to putting a rough estimate on the strength of Uzruth. Let’s limit it to just the swordsmen among humans for now."
"If we’re doing it this way then we’ll have to exclude the swordsmen from the Argrand Republic since they’re mostly composed of demi-humans. It’ll be the same for the Warrior King of the arena. What’s left would be the Valkyrie Knight of the Holy Kingdom who wields the Sacred Blade, but that means we’ll only be comparing sword skills in the end."
For workers, gathering information on those who were strong could be extremely important for the completion of requests. Because if they ever ended up as opponents that needed to be faced during a request, one could quickly decide how to proceed. Beyond this, it’s also natural for those who live by their swords to collect this kind of information.
That was what was happening right now. Originally, it was supposed to be a discussion on just how strong Uzruth really was, yet it was slowly turning into an information exchange of those who were strong. It was almost becoming like an argument between children where phrases like ''that guy is so strong!'' could be heard.
''While the overall skill level of those in the Slane Theocracy is quite high, I’ve yet to hear of any particularly prominent ones. Anyways, even if there are, we won’t be including divine magic casters here right?''
''Doesn’t the Kingdom also have a female warrior that is of the highest adventuring rank? How good is she?''
''Ah, that 'Boob-less Big Chest'. She’s quite strong indeed. However, I heard that she lost to the Warrior Captain during the tournament.''
''…I seem to recall that she had almost beaten an adventurer to death for calling her that. Hya, hya, hya... Such a scary woman!''
''At the pace we’re going, it’s getting more and more difficult to name more. Let’s see, the one referred to as the Dark Knight of the City Alliance, Serabright the 'Flash' from the adamantite rank adventuring team 'Crystal Tear' and Optics the 'Crimson' from the worker team 'Great Blaze of the Crimson Lotus', both from the Draconic Kingdom. Also, hailing from the Kingdom… Brain Unglaus.''
The conversation stopped for the first time.
''Brain Unglaus? Who the heck is that?''
Parupatra inconceivability asked Greenham in a surprised manner.
''Does elder not know? He’s also a famous swordsman of the Kingdom… how about thee?''
Hekkeran shook his head. It was a name that he did not know.
''I see, thou knew it not…''
Unable to hide his disappointment, Greenham used an unreliable tone as he tried to recall what he knew.
"Although this was from before, back during the time when I entered the tournament held by the Kingdom, he was the opponent I faced during the quarter-finals. The me of that time couldn’t even reach his ankles."
"Wasn’t that the tournament where Gazef Stronoff also participated in?"
"That’s right. The result was that Brain Unglaus lost to Gazef Stronoff. However, a match between the strong can truly be described as spectacular. It was almost like a perfect textbook play for swordsmen, how they deflected and parried each slash, how they decided the angle of one’s swing based on the given situation at hand… et cetera. Those can only be described as eye openers truly showing you the depth of swordplay."
For a man like Greenham to be saying this, it definitely showed just how skilled that Brain Unglaus must have been in order to be able to fight evenly against the strongest warrior known in the Kingdom. His skills would definitely be first class.
Hekkeran sighed. It appeared that there were still plenty of strong guys out there that he didn’t know of.
"Fumuu… Well then, between Unglaus and Uzruth, which one would be stronger? Tell us your thoughts."
"Uzruth." Greenham answered "If compared against the Unglaus of that time then the winner definitely would be that guy. It was only recently that I watched some of his battles in the arena, so I’m sure of it."
"So in other words, Uzruth would have been able to match evenly against the Kingdom’s Warrior Captain of back then? Is he really that strong!? Otto!"
Due to over excitement, Hekkeran accidently raised his voice and had to suppress himself.
"I see. Unglaus huh. Looks like I was able to gain a bit more information about the Kingdom… Oh that’s right, have you guys heard? Doesn’t the Kingdom now have its third adamantite ranked adventurer team?"
"Of course, I’ve already heard, elder."
"Ah, sorry. I haven’t heard."
"Hekkeran… Thou ignorance could bring much harm to thy team. "
"I already know that. However, it’s really difficult to gather information on those of the same profession as us within the Kingdom. It’s also a waste of money."
"Hya hya hya. So courageous. This old man does not dislike that!"
"Elder, I wish to hear thy opinion on this. I’ve heard lots of rumours about Momon from ‘Darkness’, but some of them are just ridiculously outrageous. For example, being able to successfully subjugate a Gigant Basilisk with only two members and without the support of any healers."
"Uwah, aren’t those simply false rumors?"
Even for adamantite adventurers, to be able to defeat such a strong opponent like the Gigant Basilisk with only two people was simply near impossible.
"Does thou also agree, Hekkeran? The more information I gather, the more dubious the whole thing seems. Even regarding the information on the event that happened within the Kingdom’s capital, the rumors were that they defeated a demon with a difficulty rating of over 200 in just one hit. In my opinion, it seems more likely that the Kingdom’s Adventurer Guild deliberately spread wrong rumors out of personal interests, just to gain additional adamantite ranked adventurers.”
"That’s possible. The appearance of new high ranking adventurers is definitely an amazing thing. However, would the Guild really do something like this? They’re very strict on certain things, that’s why they’re called a guild."
"In that regard, it’s a bit different in each city depending on the Guildmaster who’s in charge. Back when this old man was still an adventurer, the Guildmaster that was in charge of my city was the absolute worst. I ended up punching him straight in the face. Hya hya hya! I’ve been a worker ever since that incident."
Parupatra laughed happily.
The story behind why Parupatra became a worker was extremely well known. It might be reasonable to say that there shouldn’t be any workers within the Empire’s capital that didn’t knew it. This was something that was often brought up by Parupatra after he gets drunk.
"Having said this much, I don’t think it’s likely that the Guild would do this kind of stuff."
"In that case, you think it’s true then?"
"It’s hard to believe. Even when I try to think about it rationally, a difficulty rating of 200— it’s already hard enough to imagine just how terrifyingly strong that would be, to be able to defeat that kind of opponent in just one hit is simply impossible. Even if that was possible the probability would have to be extremely low. Could it be that the event happened more like this, a super high difficulty rating demon appeared and countless teams tried to subjugate it, and the final blow was delivered by the 'Darkness'?"
"If you say it like that, then it sounds a lot more believable."
"I think it’s possible. It wouldn’t be that strange for someone within the adamantite rank to be that strong. The skill range between adamantite rank adventurers can be extremely big."
"So Hekkeran and I are of the same opinion, but elder thinks it really happened as told, is that right?"
"Hya hya hya. I do think of it that way."
"Seeing in person beats hearing a hundred tales. Now I want to meet him at least once… yet at the same time I don’t."
Just as the two of them were about to agree to what Hekkeran had said, the sound of someone getting hit, followed by the cries of a woman, interrupted their conversation.
The workers that were present quickly focused their attention on the source of the disturbance. Some had already drawn their weapons and entered their battle state.
The source of the scream, which came from Eruya’s direction, was one of Eruya’s female companions, who was laying on the ground. Considering the situation, it seemed that Eruya was the one who had sent her flying. His face was distorted with rage, while a fearful expression could be seen on the woman as she begged for his forgiveness.
While desperately trying to suppress the feelings that fluctuated within his chest, the first thought that flashed in Hekkeran’s mind was his comrade—he hurriedly cast a glance at Imina.
Having made up his mind, Hekkeran eliminated the expressions on his face and remained where he was. However, the pressure that was emitted from Hekkeran suggested that if anything further happens, he would definitely be the first to strike out.
Hurriedly, Hekkeran signaled to Roberdyck and Arche, instructing them to stop Imina from taking any independent actions.
Personally, Hekkeran felt the same way as Imina. However, right now he didn’t have the right to meddle in other team’s affairs. Of course, if he really wanted to, there was nothing stopping him from taking action. It was just that he would then be required to take responsibility. Because of reasons like this, the other teams also didn’t show any signs of wanting to be involved and simply expressed their disgust.
In the end, Imina was finally able to come to her senses, and suppressed her emotions. She made a rude gesture towards Eruya’s back and spat on the ground.
"…It seems he can only match his swords skills with the Kingdom’s Warrior Captain. It would be great if he could also match his personality, but that’s just asking for too much. Well then, let’s just end the useless chattering here."
"…I agree. Since Hekkeran has already arrived, it’s time to decide on the most important thing."
"Since that guy has already backed out from this it’s just between the three of us, but who will take the overall command of this operation?"
Suddenly everything became quiet.
There were four worker teams here. The amount of combat potential from the combined four teams could already be considered as something remarkable, however if not properly commanded, much of it would be wasted. No matter how many arms one might possess, if one was unable to make use of them in harmony, it’s no better off than having just a single arm.
Managing multiple teams with a diverse range of personalities was already a difficult enough task to accomplish, to do so without receiving any complaints was even harder. Mistakes that occurred when giving commands could directly result in failure. And if the leader prioritized his own team first, then he could even end up being the target of everyone’s resentment.
To make it clearer, it’s a responsibility that requires ability, yet comes with more demerits than merits.
Knowing this, the leaders quietly waited while studying each other’s expressions. After nearly one minute of silence, the tired Hekkeran made a suggestion.
"Honestly, I think it’s better not to do it this way."
"This will only delay the problem. What if it gets messy once the battle starts?"
"…I propose we dost take turns. This way dissatisfaction can be kept to a minimum. We can also discuss this further after we arrive at the ruins."
Thus Greenham’s proposal was accepted by both Hekkeran and Parupatra.
"In that case, let’s use the arrival order to determine the turns."
"What do we do with Uzruth’s 'Tenmu'?"
"It doesn’t matter even if we skip that guy’s turn. After all, he isn’t capable of leading in the first place."
"I can only agree, elder. In that case, the first one to take leadership will be me, 'Heavy Masher', the one who proposed this system."
"We’ll be in your care then, Greenham."
"I’ll be relying on you, young one."
"Understood. However, the likelihood of us encountering dangerous monsters inside the Empire’s territory is almost zero. It’s only when we are in the Kingdom, near the Great Forest, that problems may occur."
"Ah, we should have reversed the order."
The two of them quietly laughed as Hekkeran face palmed himself when he stated that. However, their laughter quickly stopped when they noticed a man was walking towards them.
Light finally started to shine within the Earl’s courtyard when his butler made his appearance. Walking with his back straight and tightened, the butler walked in a manner which reflected the standing of those who served the Earl.
Arriving in front of the workers, the butler stopped and bowed. Although no-one returned his bow, the butler didn’t seem to mind and started speaking.
"Time is up. On behalf of the earl, I would like to express his gratitude to everyone here who accepted our House’s request. There will be two representatives from our House who will be coming along for this trip. Including the adventurers hired for the security of the carriages and a few other things, all together there will be six additional people. The destination is the unexplored ruins located near the border of the Kingdom—from the structure it appears to be a tomb. The designated period for investigation is three days. Additional bonuses will be given out after the Master has confirmed the received goods discovered from the ruin. Are there any questions?"
The details that were given by the butler were almost the same as the initial request. The only new information was that adventurers would be guarding the carriages.
Many were interested in the details about the chosen travel route, but as workers, one quickly learned to differentiate between which questions were allowed to be asked and which weren’t. It was clear that this was something the Earl did not plan to reveal, otherwise it would have already been made public.
If it was a clean request, they would have hired adventurers instead. Since it was dirty work, the requestor obviously wouldn’t reveal everything. Some things were simply safer not to know.
"…Well then, I will be leading everyone to the carriages we have prepared."
Without saying any words, the entire group followed the butler.
Hekkeran’s 'Foresight' was at the very back of the group.
"That eru-shit, he’s much better off dead. How about it? Should we do it?"
Unable to tolerate Eruya any further, Imina whispered this to Hekkeran.
"Although I’ve heard plenty of rumors before, but seeing it really shows just how despicable that man is."
"—Absolutely the worst."
The remaining two members also couldn’t hide their disdain.
To 'Foresight', this type of opinion came naturally. Since they’ve already made the woman Imina into their comrade, the things that Eruya did were unforgivable.
In Eruya’s team, except for himself, every other member was female. They were also elves.
If it was just that, then Imina and the others wouldn’t be expressing as much contempt. However, they did have their reasons as to why they considered Eruya as the lowest of the lowest lowlife.
The female elf members only possessed the bare minimum of equipment, their clothes were made from the plainest fabrics available, without any defensive capabilities. Furthermore, their short-cut hair revealed the stumps which showed the remains of what had been the distinctive long ears that elves normally possessed.
The reason why they, Eruya’s team members, were in this state, was because they were slaves bought from the Slane Theocracy.
Slavery also once existed within the Empire, but during the previous Emperor’s rule, many things were changed. Although they were still referred to as slaves, the meaning became completely different. However, nothing had changed for the demi-human slaves such as the ones fighting inside the arena.
The elf slaves that belonged to Eruya also fell under this category.
The Baharuth Empire, Re-Estize Kingdom, and Slane Theocracy, the percentage of human citizens living in these three countries could almost be calculated as 100%. Compared to other countries, these three clearly displayed more disdain towards non-human races. Because of this, even those who were half human—like Imina—had experienced difficulties.
The only exception were the dwarves. The Azellerisia mountains spanned the border between the Baharuth Empire and the Kingdom of Re-Estize, and inside these mountains existed the Dwarven Kingdom. As long as the Empire still maintained trade relations with the Dwarven Kingdom, the rights of Dwarves were protected.
"I do feel sorry for these elves, but right now isn’t the time to save them."
Imina sighed deeply, deep inside she was aware of that, but her feelings simply couldn’t be let go so easily.
As Imina began to walk ahead, Hekkeran and others hastened their pace to catch up. What they saw once they caught up to the main group made their eyes widen in surprise.
Two carriages had been prepared for the journey to the ruins. There was also a group of people surrounding the carriages. They must be the adventurers that had been mentioned before. The plates hanging from their necks were all brimming with a golden radiance.
However, what had surprised them wasn’t the carriages nor the adventurers, but rather the horses.
The sound of surprise could also be heard from amongst the other workers.
With four pairs of legs, Sleipnirs were much larger in size compared to normal horses. Due to their superior muscle strength, endurance and mobility, Sleipnirs were regarded as the most versatile type of magical beast for travelling across lands.
Of course, the cost for one was also astronomical, enough to match the price for five or more battle horses. Even for aristocrats, it was uncommon for one to possess them.
Each carriage was pulled by two Sleipnirs. When taking into account the possibility of losing these horses during the adventure, the people that were aware of their worth couldn’t help but appreciate the generosity of the Earl. Or maybe he simply feared that normal horses wouldn’t have enough strength to pull all the treasures that would be found sleeping inside the ruins.
The others must have thought of this as well. The sound of people swallowing their saliva could be heard.
"Please make use of the carriages provided. Provisions have already been placed inside. For the safety of the carriages, as well as the security of the camp sites, we especially hired adventurers. Also, please be aware that they’ve signed an agreement stating that they will not enter the ruins."
Suddenly thinking ahead, Hekkeran left his comrades and headed towards Greenham.
"My bad, Greenham. There’s something that I wish to discuss."
"What’s wrong? What do you wish to talk about?"
"It’s about the pairing for the carriages, can you help me not being in the same carriage as 'Tenmu'?"
"En? Ah, I see. Thou unease is understood. It’s reasons to do with your companion right? In that case our team will pair with 'Tenmu' instead."
"Sorry about this, you’ve helped me a lot."
"Don’t worry about it, we’re all in it together as companions during this job. It would be bad if something happens before we even start the investigation. If—"
"—Is it really okay for us to be relying on these gold ranked adventurers? What do we do if the campsite was overrun before we come back? Or if monsters manage to break through the security perimeter of the campsite?!"
Suddenly, a voice as loud and clear as a burning fireball could be heard by everyone, causing Hekkeran and Greenham to turn their focus elsewhere.
Eruya’s words were directed towards the butler. However, he didn’t bother concealing his voice. It was as if time suddenly froze, the movements of the adventurers who were moving the luggage stopped on cue.
Naturally, for those who are aiming towards the top, it was obvious that the path became longer and steeper the further one travelled along it. Although it didn’t matter how far one could reach at the end, the effort required to get to where they were now wasn’t something that could be achieved easily. Their feelings after hearing what Eruya had said could only be described as unpleasant.
The profession of an adventurer was a highly competitive one, to have one’s ability doubted—especially by the commissioner—could heavily impact their future career. It would then be necessary to display their strength.
Regardless of whether they were an adventurer or a worker, to be able to fearlessly dish out these words, the speaker must at least be at a powerful enough position which allows them to get away with it. As such, Eruya did not seem to mind the current atmosphere at all, and continued on.
"Well, I have to admit they’re at least good enough to qualify as luggage lackeys, but when it comes to keeping everything safe, I’m not so sure."
Give me a break, please. It wouldn’t be good at all if things turn ugly. Those guys are also restraining themselves due to already being hired…
The workers currently present were all as strong as mithril ranked adventurers. In other words, stronger than those adventurers. However, there were still certain things that one should definitely not say, based on the given circumstances.
Can someone give him a beating so he can shut up?
The atmosphere amongst the workers also started to tense up as the majority of them began to glare at Eruya in disapproval. Looking around, Hekkeran hurriedly rushed to the side of Imina. It wouldn’t be good if blood started spewing.
However, the person that made the next move wasn’t a worker.
"You must be Uzruth-sama. I do not believe there will be any problems."
"…Is that under the assumption that we will also help in securing the campsite?? If it’s like that then I can still accept your reply."
"That’s not it. It’s just that we requested the aid of someone stronger than those of you present—Momon-san."
As if responding towards the words spoken moments ago, a warrior clad in full plate mail stepped out from one of the carriages. Due to the helmet he was wearing, his face could not be seen.
"Please allow me to introduce everyone. Reaching the rank of adamantite with the power of only two people, the adventurer Momon-san from the 'Darkness'. His teammate Nabe is also present. With these two to protect the campsite, this arrangement… I hope everyone is satisfied?"
The atmosphere suddenly became completely different. To adventurers and workers, the one standing in front of them was one who had reached the peak of their profession. Under the presence of the strongest, every worker, regardless of who it was, kept quiet.
Seeing how the workers reacted to the appearance of an adventurer of the highest rank, the mood of the other adventurers improved. An affectionate smile emerged on the face of the leader of the adventurer team as he conversed with the warrior in black.
"Please let us handle the rest. In the meanwhile, could Momon-san continue the exchanges with the workers? Also, please take over the role of leadership and advise us on the security plans for the rest of the trip."
"Understood. Although I am still lacking, if your team have no problems with it, I will accept. However, I will still be relying on you guys as the main security force. Your team contains more people. It will be more convenient for us to assist instead."
"No! What are you talking about!? You’re not lacking at all! Doing it that way will drag Momon-san—"
"No, your team will still be tasked with the main security. Do make use of us. Now then, Nabe."
Having ended the conversation there with a voice which carried the hint of a faint smile, Momon walked down the stairs from the carriage. The person following behind Momon was a woman of astonishing beauty.
Usually, when a beautiful woman appears, there would always be some kind of commotion. However, things became very different if the level of beauty was overwhelming. In the presence of a truly beautiful woman, the only thing one could do was have their eyes stolen.
"Hekkeran. That person…"
"Aye, Rob. I was thinking the same thing. We saw her at the North Market. Over there… Momon of the 'Darkness'. Having only one companion. If it’s like that, it seems like the rumor of defeating a Gigant Basilisk wasn’t as big of an exaggeration as I had initially thought."
"Giga—! About that, is that true?"
"Seems like it. There’s also a rumor that they defeated a demon with a difficulty rating of over 200 using a single attack. I heard this from Greenham."
"—That can’t be real right? A difficulty of over 200 is beyond the limit of human capabilities. That isn’t a territory humans could ever reach… Could it be that you misheard 100 as 200?"
"Even if it’s like that, it would still be amazing. Yet somehow I get the feeling that it really did happen like it was said in the rumors. At least, that’s how I feel."
Even though it was only a brief moment of conversation with the gold ranked adventurer, the personality of Momon seemed to have been made clear. It was consistent with what the people expected of adamantite ranked adventurers. The impression given off by Momon was that of a likeable man.
"Before we begin the exchange… there’s something I wish to hear from you guys."
Momon’s voice wasn’t particularly loud. However, the impression that one received when hearing the sound of his voice was that of majestic grandeur.
"Why have you decided to go to the ruins? Because you’ve accepted the request? However, different to how the Guild can sometimes force adventurers to take a request, there’s nothing preventing you from rejecting this request. What is your reason for deciding to go?"
The workers exchanged glances at each other, hesitating on who should respond. In the end, the first to speak up was someone from Parupatra’s Team.
"That’s obviously because of money."
The perfect answer to the question. There was no other reason. The reason why the workers hesitated to answer wasn’t because the question was hard, but rather, they were trying to determine Momon’s true purpose of asking such an obvious question.
After confirming that every worker agreed with the given answer, Momon continued to ask.
"In other words, the reward offered from this request is enough for you guys to risk your life for?"
"That’s right. The amount offered was enough to entice all of us. Also, bonuses will also be given if we discover additional treasures from the ruins. Isn’t that enough for us to bet our lives on?"
The one who responded was Greenham.
"…I see. So this was the final decision you guys made. Understood. Looks like I’ve asked a pointless question. Please forgive me."
"What you asked wasn’t particularly offensive… Please don’t mind."
"Hya hya hya. Looks like you are done with the questions. In that case, could this old man also ask something?"
"Please go ahead, senior."
"I’ve heard many rumors about you. Whether they’re true or not, this old man wishes to find out for himself."
"I see. Seeing something in person beats hearing a hundred tales huh? Alright. I’m fine with it. Then allow me to, no, allow us as the security guards to demonstrate our worth. In what manner would you wish to do this?"
"About that, obviously it’s to have you face off against an opponent right?"
Everyone present suddenly focused their attention towards—
"—Of course, it’ll have to be the one who proposed it. This old man himself."
"What? So senior wishes to choose himself? …I will apologize first then, but I’m not a man who is used to holding back when fighting. Although I may not have the intentions of wanting to cause injuries, I do not have enough confidence that I can control my strength properly—are you still fine with this?"
"Hya hya hya hya! As expected of the adamantite rank! This old man has already decided on taking the risk. I won’t blame you for anything that happens."
A faint laughter could be heard from underneath Momon’s helmet.
"That’s expected, senior. This is the difference in in battle strength—I’m strong. Stronger than everyone present. That’s why I’m adamantite ranked."
Overwhelming conceit, and an attitude as if looking down from above. However, not a single bit of unpleasantness was felt by the workers present. This was obviously due to the impressive pressure emitted from the man called Momon. His words were accompanied by an overwhelming pressure which gave the impression of staring at death itself, thus the words felt as if they contained the power of persuasion.
"…Aye, really amazing."
Most of the people in the audience couldn’t help but let out their voice due to the emitted pressure.
There were many women that fall for strong and powerful men. In terms of respect and admiration, many men were also fascinated by the strength of the strong. Like moths attracted to flames, the people living in this world of blood and steel couldn’t help being mesmerised by that irresistible charm, even though they were aware that they would get burned if they got too close.
"Hya hya hya! Looks like there won’t be anyone here objecting to you being adamantite ranked! Although I’ve said it this way, since it’s a rare opportunity, I will still carry on despite knowing that I will lose. The carriages over here are in the way. Can we use the empty area over there instead, butler?"
Having received the permission from the butler, Parupatra took the lead and went over to the empty courtyard. All of the workers followed. The adventurers and the butler also came.
"Judging from what Elder had said, it seems like we won’t be able to witness much."
"—That man seems really strong."
"Uun, not just strong, more like outrageously strong. It feels as if he’s stronger than any of the other adamantite-ranked adventurer teams in the Empire."
"Seems like it. The only reason the adventurer team ‘Silver Canary’ has the adamantite rank is because all of their members are people with rare professions. Although they possess strange abilities, their actual strength isn’t quite up there yet. 'Eight Ripples' made it to where they are mainly due to relying on their numbers and spectacular teamwork."
'Silver Canary' was a team lead by a Bard who had reached the heroic tier, while its members had many strange professions. 'Eight Ripples' had been founded by nine members, but due to their numbers, they were often regarded as a team whose individual members were not at the adamantite level yet. However, if it was about teamwork, they were known to excel beyond everything other adamantite-ranked teams could achieve.
Nevertheless, all of them were considered as having achieved the impossible feat of ascending into the realm of adamantite-bearers.
Whispers of such discussions could be heard from the team members from behind.
The contents of the discussions wasn’t only limited to the previous remarks. If one listened carefully, many things could be heard. The most discussed topic was how long Parupatra could last, things like that. There wasn’t a single person who believed he could defeat Momon. The primary reason for that was that the man known as Momon had emitted an amount of pressure only those of the adamantite rank would be able to create, even if it had been only for a brief moment.
While Hekkeran was deep in thought, someone walked up to his side. Considering the metallic sounds that were produced, it was obvious who it was.
"What does Greenham think about the upcoming fight between the two?"
"Although I feel bad to say this, but I just can’t see how Elder can win. At this point, what’s left is simply to see to what extend Elder can take it to, that’s all. Does thee plan on going next after Elder?"
"No way, please give me a break. What about you?"
"I will also give up. I’ll be satisfied with just witnessing the strength of a superior warrior. However, I hope to be able to receive some guidance on the sword during this trip."
"I’m also thinking about doing that— Oh!"
Arriving at the courtyard, Momon and Parupatra began to back away from each other as they started readying their stance.
Parupatra’s gaze was definitely not something an ordinary old man would be capable of making, they were definitely the eyes of a warrior who was used to combat.
The atmosphere gradually changed to one filled with killing intent, the peacefulness surrounding the courtyard no longer exists.
As the audience was watching, the tension created a feeling of anxiety and some of them even started to sweat.
"…Oh my, not good. Elder seems to be completely serious."
Greenham, who was standing by Hekkeran’s side, unconsciously exposed his true self.
"Against an opponent of the adamantite rank, it’s understandable for him to go at it as if his life is on the line—"
While replying, Hekkeran shifted his line of sight towards the warrior in black, trying to put himself into the elder’s position, and gasped.
He couldn’t feel a single thing from Momon.
Both of his hands were lowered by his sides without showing any signs of taking any defensive actions, meeting the bloodlust head on as if it was nothing. It was completely as if he was facing against a harmless child holding a sword, that kind of feeling.
"Ahriya! Amazing! Confronted with that kind of killing intent and not showing any signs of reaction. It’s impossible for him to not notice this amount of bloodthirst being emitted, could it be that he’s reached the very peak of the warrior, the ultimate mental state of nothingness!?"
"Swordless Heart? Or has his mental state reached the Realm of Cloud and Water? To be able to stand so fearless like that when there’s that much of a difference between the weapons of the two, he must really be confident of his skills… really, how terrifying. "
The spear in Parupatra’s hands was a magic item made from the tooth of a dragon, whereas the weapon that Momon was holding was a wooden staff borrowed earlier from one of the adventurers. No matter how you look at it, it was definitely not imbued with any kind of magic. Weapons imbued with magic could increases their sharpness, boost the user’s abilities and provide various additional effects. Looking at nothing but the weapons, Parupatra had an overwhelming advantage.
"No, I don’t think so. Although it’s true that there’s a strong difference in terms of weapons, Momon-sam’s armor should be well above Elder’s in terms of magical properties. Also, the additional magic items equipped should be better as well. The overall difference isn’t that large, but Momon-san should hold the advantage."
"Don’t you think it’s a bit early to come to a conclusion? I’ve heard that the number of magic items in Elder’s possession is far greater than what most adamantite-ranked adventurers could possibly have.. Elder has been adventuring for a long period of time, and has completed countless requests. If we consider just the amount of payment he’s received, no-one in the Empire has more than him!"
"No, no, wait up—"
"The one that should wait should be—"
While the two of them were still arguing, the tension within the courtyard had reached its climax and the first sparks of battle finally started to appear.
"Well then, let’s go!?"
"There are still important things that needs to be done after this. Don’t make it too hard for yourself and come at me, senior—"
Without even finishing the sentence, Parupatra charged towards Momon with a speed that most people would never imagine an eighty-year old man to be capable of. Smooth and with strength, he completed the action with such fluidity that his opponent Momon still hadn’t raised the staff in his hands.
"「Dragon Fang Thrust」!"
Hekkeran’s eyes widened in surprise at Parupatra’s sudden use of a martial arts at the very beginning of the fight.
A consecutive two-hit piercing attack with the spear bending like the tooth of a dragon. On top of dealing additional damage based on the attributes imbued by user, this martial art technique also included a homing effect which increased the chance of dealing critical damage. Using ‘Piercing Strike’ as the base, this technique was something Parupatra had created forty years ago. A well-balanced technique known by many and even now a lot of people were still studying it.
In addition to the ‘Dragon Fang Thrust’, Parupatra layered an additional ‘Blue Dragon Fang Thrust’ on top, which caused extra lightning damage.
Just what is that old man thinking! Even though we have healing magic at hand here, who really goes all out like that?
The effect of the used martial arts was that even a minor scratch would cause a considerable amount of lightning damage. It was most suited when fighting against opponents wearing armor made of metal. His decision to use this attack showed Parupatra’s seriousness.
However, for an attack that was known to be troublesome to deal with for those wearing metal armor, Momon easily avoided it like it was nothing. His actions made it seem as if he was wearing an armor as light as feather. The sluggish movements that normally should have been caused from when wearing full body armor did not show at all. What made it even more surprising was that instead of making excessive movements like leaping backwards, Momon was able to evade the incoming attack with minimum effort while standing still.
"Impossible! Just how good are his kinetic vision and physical capabilities?"
Parupatra responded immediately with another martial art.
That old fart is going way over the top! Has his brain already become a fossil?
"「Dragon Fang Thrust」!"
Using the same technique as before, Parupatra struck once more at Momon. The blade of his spear was brimming with a white layer of coldness which came from the ‘White Dragon Fang Thrust’ he used this time.
A four hit consecutive attack that didn’t give the opponent any breathing room—
A commotion could be heard from amongst the audience watching.
Of course. Even an attack like that wasn’t able to land a single hit or scratch on Momon’s armor.
Parupatra quickly leaped away to create some distance from Momon. Sweat started to build up on his forehead. It wasn’t from exhausting his stamina, but rather from the sheer amount of mental pressure he received during the face off against death.
"—Stronger than Hekkeran."
"Obviously, Arche. Don’t use me as a comparison. What you’re seeing there is the highest of the adventurers. The absolute peak of everything. The power of an adamantite-ranked adventurer."
"Well then, looks like it’s my turn to attack."
Momon slowly raised his staff, entering a stance. In contrast, Parupatra rested his spear on his shoulder, relaxing his posture. He was giving up, having completely lost any will to fight.
"Magnificent. I give up, I resign. Forget about winning, this old man can’t even put a scratch on your armor."
"…Is that so."
Towards Parupatra who announced his loss, the majority of the audience gave off a "uooooh" sound as they sighed. It was without a doubt, an overwhelming victory by Momon, as if he was an adult who played around with a child.
Discussions such as “which martial-arts-school did the footwork technique used by Momon belong to?” started to appear as the overly excited audience began to share their thoughts with each other. Not caring about these things, Hekkeran and Greenham walked towards Parupatra who was busy wiping away his sweat while conversing with Momon.
"Already done, senior?"
It feels as if the atmosphere and speaking tone suddenly changed.
"…I thought you wanted to display your real ability."
"…hya hya hya. That would be too much for an old man like me. What I’ve shown is already my real ability, Momon-dono."
"—Ah, my apologies for being disrespectful."
"No need to apologize, but to be honest I am quite sad about it. Also, you don’t need to be so modest with your words. What we old timers respect is strength and not who has lived longer. To be treated with so much respect by someone as overwhelmingly strong as you just doesn’t make me feel good."
"…I see. So be it then. However, to just end it here like this without letting me even take a swing leaves a bad aftertaste for me. If there’s going to be a next time, I’ll be the one to start. Well then, I will have to get back to moving the luggage."
"There are other people already working on it. You shouldn’t need to be doing that right?"
"I do not think so. No matter what kind of status I have, when a task is assigned to me, I must still finish it properly."
Having said that, Momon turned around and headed back towards the carriages. Following him was the woman possessing peerless beauty. Hekkeran and Greenham whose path crossed by couldn’t stop their eyes from being glued to them once more.
Entranced by the silhouette of the larger than life’s back of Momon.
"Hya hya, you’re making the face of a man wanting to ask questions."
"—Elder, what was your thoughts on this?"
Parupatra’s wrinkled face started to distort, as if wanting to smile bitterly.
"Very strong. No, that should be as expected due to being adamantite ranked. However, I never imagined to what extent that was. The moment we clashed, I got the feeling that no matter how I attack, I would never be able to hit him."
Hekkeran had the exact same feeling. Every single attack of his would probably be evaded by the man named Momon, and then the counterattack would come. Even if he was able to land a hit after using the best tricks he could think of, the image of his attack being repelled by that armor still appeared in Hekkeran’s mind. Parupatra, who experienced it firsthand, must have received an even stronger impression.
"So that’s… the adamantite rank huh?"
"That’s right. That’s the so called adamantite level. A realm where only few can ever reach. Aahh, truly magnificently stunning. A height that you cannot reach and touch… Well, are you guys satisfied from witnessing this?"
"Without a doubt! Thanks to being an observer, I was able to see the whole thing in detail. If I had been the one fighting, I would have never been able to calmly observe everything. Although I have to apologize for saying this to Elder, but personally, I really wanted to see the Momon-dono the moment he was about to attack."
"That wouldn’t have been possible. Momon-dono never had the intention to attack in the first place. He didn’t even show any fighting spirit. Most likely, it was just as he had said, that he wasn’t used to holding back. If he had really attacked, Elder most likely would have lost his life."
If it was said like that, it would indeed sound quite arrogant. Elder Parupatra was also a warrior of considerable strength, a veteran that should not be underestimated.
However, it was exactly because having achieved it showed just how strong adamantite rank adventurers truly are.
"That can’t be helped. There’s a huge difference in strength between this old man and that person. Even though I was quite unhappy about it, there is nothing I can say after he was able to evade all of these attacks like nothing
That was what it meant to be strong.
Choosing a weapon that he wasn’t familiar with, where the weight and balance was completely different, showed just how much confidence he had in his own abilities. The difference between the two was just that big.
With a final sentence of "so tiring, so tiring", Parupatra turned and walked away towards the carriages.
As Parupatra’s figure gradually got further and further away, Hekkeran heard him utter the following words.
"Even during my prime I was unable to reach that level, so that is the adamantite rank huh… too distant to ever reach."
Parupatra’s figure seemed much smaller when compared to that of Momon’s, which gave off an overwhelming pressure.
"So that’s the highest rank… adamantite."
"Yeah. Truly amazing."
Only the sound of agreement could be heard from those two.
On a stone-paved road in Arwintar, a carriage sped by like the wind.
The creature pulling the luxurious carriage was an eight-legged beast, a Sleipnir. Two skilled-looking warriors were seated on the front platform, on the roof of the carriage. The area where the luggage was usually stored had been modified to seat a group of four magic casters and archers, who were watching the surrounding with wary eyes.
It could be described as a mobile stronghold traveling under high security in broad daylight. And of course, the one riding inside was of a fittingly high status.
Just by looking at the emblem on the side of the carriage, which consisted of three overlapping staffs, everyone with a certain level of knowledge/culture would be able to tell who was sitting inside and who the owner of this carriage was. As such, the knights standing guard did not make any sound.
There were three men inside the carriage. All of them wore robes and were dressed like magic casters.
Although all three were famous figures within the Empire, even among them there was a clear difference in their attitude and status. The white haired elderly man clearly had the highest status among them.
Similar to how Gazef Stronoff was renowned as a warrior, there was no magic caster who was more famous than this man. This elderly man was the most powerful magic caster in the Empire, ‘Tri Arts’ Fluder Paradyne.
Opposite Fluder were two of his disciples, both of whom could use magic up to the 4th tier.
As though he could no longer endure the heavy atmosphere after setting off from the Imperial capital, one of the disciple sheepishly said:
“Master, what should we do about his Imperial Majesty’s orders?”
Silence took over the carriage once again. The moment they thought that was the case, Fluder answered in a deep and calm voice.
“If his Imperial Majesty wishes it, we as his vassals can only carry out his orders and begin our investigation. However, it is too risky to investigate using magical means. Should we start by studying the archives or conducting a demon summoning? In the end, we still need to gather information.”
“Are you saying that even you do not know, Master?”
Fluder closed his eyes and opened them several seconds later.
“My knowledge is lacking. I don’t know anything about the powerful demon Jaldabaoth.”
About one month ago, a group of demons assaulted the Kingdom’s capital. According to the intelligence they gathered, the commander Jaldabaoth and his maid servants were horrifying beings from another plane of existence.
Because of the demon crisis, the annual invasion against the Kingdom hadn’t been launched this year. Thinking normally, the Empire should have taken advantage of the situation and attacked the Kingdom while they were still exhausted from the demon invasion.
However, there were two reasons why the Empire waged war against the Kingdom.
The first reason was to exhaust the resources of the Kingdom. Unlike the Empire that formed standing armies, the Kingdom conscripted their soldiers. Hence, the Kingdom would lose in terms of quality every time the Empire mobilized its forces, so they had to make it up with the quantity of their troops. That was the reason why they picked the harvesting seasons to wage war. The farmers would be conscripted and unable to harvest their crops, which was a long term plan to sap the resources of the Kingdom.
The other reason was to weaken the power of the nobles within the Empire. During the war, they imposed special taxes on nobles who opposed the Emperor and drained them of their money. If they refused, they would be would be charged with treason. In the end, the only difference was tightening the noose on their necks or killing them for expressing a wrong idea.
As those were the reasons, the Kingdom which was already spent from the battle could be left alone— that was the conclusion of Emperor Jircniv. He had pulled the fangs of most of the nobles anyway.
However, there was still one problem.
Where was Jaldabaoth now, the one who committed atrocities befitting the title of a demon? And what kind of existence was this being that created such calamity?
It was only natural for the order to investigate Jaldabaoth to fall on Fluder, the most outstanding magic caster in the Empire.
“And the one who defeated Jaldabaoth, ‘Dark Hero’ Momon and his team mate ‘Beautiful Princess’ Nabe. How fascinating. And the mysterious magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown. Are all the hidden heroes starting to make their move? Maybe a fierce battle similar to the fight against the demon god two hundred years ago will happen once again.”
“...Will that really happen?”
“I have no idea, but only a fool would make preparations after the fact. Being ready before it happens is the action of a wise man.”
The carriage finally reached its destination.
The vast territory was surrounded by thick, high walls with several watchtowers overlooking it, guarding against dangers coming from both outside and inside. Multiple chosen knights —from the elite 1st Knight Order that was the best out of the eight Knight Orders of the Empire— formed teams with magic casters and made regular patrols.
Up in the sky were the personal guards under the direct jurisdiction of the Emperor, imperial air guards mounted on flying beasts, and even high-level magic casters using flight magic.
This was the symbol of the Empire’s might, and the place where past emperors had invested the most efforts in, the Magic Ministry.
Production of magic equipment for the knights, development of new spells, raising the standard of living through magic experiments, the essence of the Empire’s magic knowledge was all here. And the man who was overall in charge—although someone else was the minister of magic—was Fluder.
The carriage moved through the territory, and finally stopped before the innermost tower.
One common thing about the various buildings they passed by was the large number of people entering and exiting. However, there was hardly anyone going in and out of this tower. In contrast, the security at the entrance was beyond that of the other buildings.
First was how the security knights looked. They were not from the 1st Knight Order that could be seen everywhere in the vicinity.
They wore full plate armor imbued with magic, holding magic shields and had magic weapons hanging at their waist. Their crimson capes, sewn with the emblem of the Empire, were magical as well.
The imbued magic might not be that powerful, but such equipment was not something normal knights were outfitted with, even in the Empire.
These elite knights were the Imperial Earth Guards under the direct command of the Emperor.
The magic casters beside them were equally formidable. They were veterans and proficient in battles, emitting an aura that could rival veteran warriors.
And there was more. Four 2.5m tall stone golems guarded the entrance. With no need for food nor rest and never lazing off, they were most suited for security.
This place, which had a security system that was on par with the one protecting the emperor, only allowed entry to magic casters who had reached the latter half of their 3rd tier magic studies, those with special circumstances and magic casters proficient in research.
After responding to the most respectful salutes of the knights and magic casters with a gentle wave, he entered the tower. He reached the top of a bowl shaped space after going through a straight passage. Many magic casters were working hastily. The highest ranking magic caster rushed hurriedly to Fluder.
“Did something happen?”
“Nothing to report, Master.”
After gulping, the disciple squeezed out an answer that bore both good and bad tidings.
Fluder nodded with a complicated expression as he looked at the thirty disciples he had personally trained— known as the chosen thirty disciples. The most renowned one was his deputy in charge of this place.
“Is that so, we couldn’t link it to natural occurrence?”
“Yes master. We couldn’t link it to the existence of the lowest tier of undead, the skeleton. Right now we are conducting experiments by placing it next to corpses to see if zombies will be raised naturally.”
Fluder stroked his long beard as he watched the scene developing before him.
There were dozens of skeletons performing farm work.
Raising hoes and swinging it down. The movements of all the skeletons were perfectly in sync. If one were to look from the side, they would only see one skeleton moving.
The movement was synchronized so perfectly that it looked just like a tactical RPG. This was the true nature of the grand project the Empire was conducting in secret. ‘Using undead as labourers'.
The undead had no need for nourishment or rest, and would not become tired. Low tier undead weren’t sentient, so they could only perform tasks as ordered and couldn’t do anything complicated. However, if there was someone giving instructions from the side, the problem would be solved.
Deploying the undead to the farms would yield great benefits, such as reducing the manpower required and a price drop for farm produce.. Farmlands could be expanded, and injuries and death to humans could be prevented. It wasn’t too much to say this was a grandiose project.
There were similar proposals that used summoned monsters or created Golems as manpower, but after considering the cost, efficiency and optimization, the use of undead was considered to be the best choice.
But those who opposed it —especially the group led by priests— were of the opinion that using the undead which were the manifestation of the hatred of life, was corrupting the souls of the dead.
It was different when you looked at it from the viewpoint of the religious.
Even if the undead were risen from the corpses of criminals, according to religious teachings, the sins of the criminal were absolved the moment they were executed, and turning them into undead was desecration. It would be hard to convince those who thought that way.
If they were facing troubles with food, with many dying from famine, it would be easier to persuade them. However, the food supply of the Empire was ample and there were no problems in terms of labourers as well.
And that was the reason why the priests opposed this project.
However, the goal of this project was the strengthening of the Empire’s military might. By leaving the production lines to the undead and freeing up the manpower for other areas, it would eventually lead to a larger pool of people from which excellent knights could be drawn.
What was left was the unease of the human labourers over job security, and the doubts over the obedience of the undead. Also, in places with a large number of undead, the balance between the dead and the living might crumble, leading to the creation of even more powerful undead. It was an obvious source of unease for people who listened to the sermons of the priests.
This facility existed in order to conduct experiments and dispel such unease.
“The underlying reason is still not clear, huh?”
“Yes, my humble apologies, Master.”
Why do the undead rise naturally. Finding out the underlying reason was important for the future.
The place said to be covered in fog throughout the year and only cleared up when the Kingdom and Empire clash in battle, the cursed place known as Kattse plains. Where some of the strongest undead, like the Skeletal Dragon which was immune to all magic, appeared with incredibly high probability.
Although the Empire had plans of annexing the region around E-Rantel under its rule, it was reluctant in taking the place where the undead rises at such a high rate. Hence, they needed to figure out how long it took for an undead to rise, which would definitely help in controlling them. It might even be possible to stop the emergence of the undead once and for all.
“Is that so, I understand.”
Leaving his relieved deputy in charge aside, Fluder started walking around the bowl shaped room.
When he reached the door on the opposite side, the number of disciples following behind Fluder increased.
In front of the door opened by the knight guarding it, the line of people continued advancing. It was a passage like before, but the presence of humans was gradually draining away. The air smelled like dust and the light seemed to be losing the fight against the darkness.
The passage with the disturbing aura extended straight ahead and connected to a staircase that spiraled down. As they passed through the doors along the way, the time between the clatter of boots which echoed in the tower was rather short. They only went five levels below ground. However, the heavy atmosphere made it seem longer.
The reason wasn’t simply because they were underground. This was evidenced by the tense expressions of everyone, including Fluder, due to their nervousness.
At the lowest level, everyone’s faces were twisted, the tension was so high it was no surprise to say that they were ready for battle.
Everyone was focusing on a set of heavy doors. It was a door that seemed to be separating another world. To keep it from being destroyed or opened easily, it was fortified with several physical and magical defenses. It was a door that must never be breached.
The numerous sets of heavy doors they passed on their way here was telling of the danger in this place. Those doors were meant to buy time if something dangerous were to happen here, and also had the underlying meaning of segregating this area.
Fluder warned his disciples with a stiff voice.
“Do not be careless.”
The warning was short and simple, which was telling of how terrifying it was.
The magic caster who followed him nodded deeply. Fluder repeated his warning every time he came here. Even though they knew what was in there, their expression didn’t ease.
Sealed in here was the ultimate undead. If it was unleashed, there was no question a horrible tragedy would befall the Empire.
Several people started casting protection spells. It wasn’t just physical defense spells, they cast mental protection magic too. After ample preparation time, Fluder looked at his disciples once again to gauge their resolve.
After nodding, he chanted the unsealing spell.
With the power of the spell, the heavy door opened slowly with a ‘gong’.
Something akin to cold air spilled out from the dark interior, and several of the disciples tightened their shoulders due to the cold. Even with magic items to protect against the environment, the hatred for life from the thing inside was enough to send a chill down their spine.
The sound of someone gulping was exceptionally loud.
In response to Fluder’s voice, the disciples made multiple magic illumination lights, driving away the darkness within the room. The receding darkness seemed to be hiding outside the light, making the surrounding even darker— that’s how it felt.
With Fluder taking the lead, the group walked towards the room where the aura of death lingered.
Part of the reason was its narrowness, and the room was illuminated immediately by the magical lights.
What lay within was a giant pillar that reached the ceiling. That tombstone-like object was very prominent. However, there was something bound by chains that drew even more attention.
It was completely bound by chains that were thicker than a thumb. The ends of the chains were secured by boulders, and large cast iron balls were tied to each of its limbs.
It was impossible for any being to move in such a situation. These excessive restraints reflected how wary they were of this opponent. That was why some of the group were still uneasy despite seeing the thick chains. They were certain that this being could shatter its bonds and gain freedom easily.
It had the appearance of a knight wearing a black full plate armour, but the armor was very different compared to the equipment of humans.
The first prominent feature was its massive body. Its height was easily over two meters.
Next would be its black full plate armour. On it were engravings that reminded people of blood vessels, and spikes that symbolized violence were everywhere. Demon-like horns sprouted from its helmet, and the face could be clearly seen. Inside the helmet was a rotten face. The hollow eye sockets glowed bright red from its hatred of the living and its thirst for carnage.
That was not a living being, but something dead. That was the only way it was possible for it to radiate such hatred for the living.
One of the disciples who had come here for the first time mumbled the name of the legendary undead. Having been relegated to the realm of legends, the name of this undead was not well known.
The red glow in the eyes of the Death Knight glimmered, its gaze seemed to be licking the magic casters before it. No, the instantaneous action shouldn’t be noticeable at all. However, the aura that made them tremble gave the magic casters the illusion it was looking at them.
The ones accompanying them could at least use 3rd tier magic, a group of elites, but right now, they couldn’t stop their teeth from rattling.
Even with the mental protection spells in place, the fear didn’t stop welling up. The fact that no one had attempted to run away showed that the magic was still effective.
“—Control your will. A weak soul will be greeted with death.”
Fluder warned as he approached the Death Knight. In response, the Death Knight unleashed its bloodlust and exerted strength through its limbs.
The chain creaked as if they were moaning, but its body only moved slightly.
Fluder reached out towards the Death Knight.
Magical light drove back the darkness, and the sound of Fluder chanting magic echoed. A modified version of ‘Summon Undead 6th Tier’, Fluder’s original magic.
The magic was cast—As though it was melting into the surroundings, Fluder’s soft voice withered away.
In contrast, the eyes of the Death Knight were still filled with the hatred of the living. Anyone could tell the spell was a failure.
“...We still can’t control it, huh.”
Fluder’s voice was filled with regret. Even after five years, he could not establish control over this undead.
This monster had been discovered in the Kattse Plains, where the undead roamed.
A squad of the Empire’s knights encountered and engaged it as part of their purging mission, even though they had never seen this type of undead before. Seconds later, they realized this was out of their league. The faces of the Empire Knights, known for their discipline and strength, were filled with terror and despair.
An overwhelmingly one sided fight—the opponent was too strong.
After mowing down dozens of knights like grass, the knights realized the limit of their abilities and started to retreat.
And of course, they couldn’t leave a monster like that alone. Especially after they witnessed the killed knights turning into undead ghouls, it was easy to imagine the spreading damage if they gave their opponent time.
After a series of debate, the top leaders of the Empire decided to send in their ace— the greatest combat unit of the Empire, Fluder and his disciples.
And the result was the capture of the Death Knight, with Fluder and his team obtaining victory. However, Fluder only won because the Death Knight did not have any way of countering flight magic. By utilizing carpet bombing—repeatedly throwing ‘Fire Ball’ from above— to weaken the Death Knight’s movement and defeated it. Captivated by its power, Fluder captured and transported it to this place.
Right now, it was bound by multiple spells, magic items and methods— They invested in all sorts of ways to dominate the undead just because Fluder wanted to control this Death Knight.
“What a pity… If I can control it, I will surpass that magic caster and become the greatest ever in history.”
Surpassing one of the Thirteen Heroes, the necromancer Rigrit Bers Coural. Surpass her by leaps and bounds.
Actually, Fluder wasn’t obsessed with the pursuit of power. What he was after was to peer into the abyss of magic. This was just a process towards his ultimate goal.
However, his disciples didn’t know and consoled him.
“I think Master has already surpassed that hero.”
“That’s right. The Thirteen Heroes are a relic of the past. They couldn’t win against Master who is at the cutting edge of new magic techniques.”
“I also feel that Master had already surpassed the Thirteen Heroes. If Master could control the Death Knight, the Empire would gain the greatest fighting power.”
“They say the power of one could not defeat the power of many, but that is just because the power of that individual is still too weak. This Death Knight is truly the strongest being.”
No one could see Fluder’s wry smile since he was standing at the very front. Only the eyes of the Death Knight saw it.
“Even Master couldn’t dominate… this Death Knight. Just how powerful is he?”
“That… remains unknown. Theoretically, it could be dominated. Does anyone have any idea what are we lacking?”
After some time, the answer was still silence.
The undead could be dominated through magic, but the only one who succeeded in doing so was one of the Thirteen Heroes. Fluder was powerful enough to dominate undead that had a rather high level and he was powerful enough that he might just be able to dominate the Death Knight before him.
However, that was just in theory, dominating the undead requires a rather complicated process. Basically, the control and destruction of undead should be done by priests using the power of god. By using magic in place of the power of god, it was natural for all sorts of problems to arise.
“...I don’t mean to offend Master…”
One of the disciples spoke in a heavy manner, and Fluder gestured for him to continue.
“Maybe Master isn’t powerful enough? This Death Knight might exist because it had been summoned by magic of the 7th tier...”
“That is a good observation.”
“I heard the adventurers use numbers to gauge the difficulty level of monsters. How about using that?”
“But their gauge is very vague, I heard that the age and size of the monsters will render the numbers meaningless.”
Another disciple spoke.
“Apart from unknown monsters, there is nothing clearer and simpler than that. And since they represent the accumulated experiences of the adventurers, they shouldn’t be too far off.”
“Wouldn’t that be meaningless to a legendary monster like the Death Knight?”
“By the way Master, does the secret book chronicling countless monsters mention such a monster?”
“No.” Fluder stroked his beard. “Leaving the complete Eryuentiu aside, the version open to the public is useless.”
One disciple asked another a question. Their voices were soft, but it seemed loud in the quiet room.
“What is Eryuentiu?”
“Isn’t that the name of a city?”
“I heard about that. But what a queer name.”
“Ahh… I looked it up once, it means ‘the tree in the center of the world’ in an ancient tongue.”
Warning the disciples who were speaking casually, Fluder knocked his staff on the ground. This was a place imprisoning a legendary level undead, not some place where you could let down your guard.
Obeying the warning of the master of the room, ‘silence’ returned. The only sound was the squirming of the Death Knight as it tried to break its bonds.
“Regrettably, there is nothing else we can do here. At least for today. Let’s go.”
After receiving several relieved replies, Fluder started moving away from the Death Knight..
Even Fluder had a different pace comparing his arrival and departure. With the pressure of the Death Knight’s gaze on his back, he unconsciously sped up. It was the same for the disciples.
Walking ahead, Fluder remembered the name one of his disciples had mentioned.
The capital of the nation founded by the Eight Greed Kings, and also the last city that remained. At the same time, it was a city guarded by thirty guards equipped with overpowered magic weapons.
If he had a magic item from the Eight Greed Kings, Fluder was sure his magic skills would rise another level. It would never fall into the hands of others, the only exception being the few items the Thirteen Heroes had been allowed to take with them.
A dark flame flickered in Fluder’s heart.
The Thirteen Heroes. Heroes of the past. Fluder was someone who could rival them, but they received permission while he didn’t. He didn’t understand what he was lacking.
Fluder waved away the flickering flame and consoled himself. His current status and what he had achieved was on par with the accomplishments of the Thirteen Heroes. No, in the hearts of the Empire’s magic casters, Fluder had already surpassed them in status.
But the dark flames of jealousy couldn’t be extinguished so easily. He was not jealous of their power, talent or strength, but of their chance to peek into the abyss of magic before him.
Fluder was the best magic caster. This was a fact acknowledged by everybody, and the only ones that could be compared to him were the Thirteen Heroes of the past. However, he couldn’t dominate the Death Knight, and could only use—according to rumours —six of the ten tiers of magic.
He was far from reaching the abyss of magic.
And he was old.
Fluder was a mental spell magic caster using one of the system of the Wizardry-based class— Forbidden Arts. By using spells that were taboo, he stopped his aging. Of course, it was a complicated spell considering Fluder’s level of training, but he forced it through by using a combination of ritual and spells.
However, his method of making the impossible possible had a flaw. Fluder, who shouldn’t be aging anymore after casting the spell perfectly, could still feel himself aging slowly.
It was still manageable for now, but with the passage of time, his end would come one day.
That’s right. Fluder would die before seeing the abyss of magic.
If someone else had done so before him, he might be able to arrive at this stage earlier, but with his lack of predecessors, he had to pave his own path.
Fluder looked at the disciples around him.
The ones walking on the path paved by the figure known as Fluder.
With fuel added to the flames of jealousy, the fire burned brighter.
He, the most talented one of everyone present, how much time had he taken to reach the stage his disciples were at? No, without even thinking about it, he was definitely older than those disciples of his. Someone who was taught and the pioneer who paved the way, that was how wide the difference was.
Why didn’t he have a master?
Fluder tried changing his way of thinking.
—That was fine too. Leaving his name in the history books as a pioneer. The magic casters who reached new heights after Fluder would need to thank Fluder for their achievements. His disciples were his treasures. If there was just one person who become greater than I am, it would be attributed to my power—
As he thought about that, Fluder remembered a disciple he once had. If it was that girl, how far could she go?
“—Arche Eeb Rile Furt.”
An excellent child. Learning 2nd tier magic at such a tender age and so close to 3rd tier. If she had continued, it was possible that she would eventually reach Fluder’s realm one day. But in the end, she gave up being a disciple…
Back then, he had only thought how foolish and disappointing it was.
“Such a pity.”
Maybe he allowed a big catch to get away.
Where is that child now? He thought about searching for her. If she could use 3rd tier spells, it was possible to guarantee a certain level of status for her.
That might be so, but he had a job to do right now.
Fluder uttered the code word and the heavy door opened.
After coming out, the disciples around him took deep breaths with the same frequency. The air where the aura of the Death Knight lingered was too heavy. If they did not do this, it would be unbearable.
A low, rough voice sounded out. That was one of his disciples, a renowned adventurer. Due to his experience, he had been appointed the deputy director of the security within the Magic Ministry.
“...What is the matter? Is something wrong?”
“No, nothing is wrong, just that some adamantite-ranked adventurers were requesting an audience with Master.”
Fluder looked at that man strangely.
They hadn’t made any appointments. As the finest magic caster in the Empire, Fluder had all sorts of duties on top of his research, and was a very busy man. If someone sought an audience out of the blue, he could only shake his head. Only the Emperor could see Fluder as he pleased.
That might be so, but it was too early to reject them. Adamantite level adventurers were heroes, not people that could simply be ignored. That was the same for Fluder. They were one of the few sources he could obtain rare artifacts from, so he couldn’t treat them lightly.
“Is it an honoured visit from the ‘Silver Canaries’? Or esteemed guests from ‘Eight Ripples’?”
He stated the name of the two adamantite ranked adventuring partiers within the Empire.
But the disciple shook his head.
“No, it is a two man team known as ‘Darkness’. They showed their adamantite plate as proof.”
The famous adventurers team ‘Darkness’ from the Kingdom. With just the two of them, they had accomplished numerous hero level tasks. They had even taken on Jaldabaoth during the Royal Capital’s crisis and defeated him.
Why were such figures visiting him? He had several questions, but the idea of discussing magic with the high-tier magic caster ‘Beautiful Princess’ made him threw his doubts away.
However, as a vassal of the Emperor, he still remembered the task assigned to him by his liege Jircniv.
He would ask about that after his meeting with them. As he thought about that, Fluder said to his disciple:
“Please show our guests in. I will be right there after tidying up.”
“Ah, there really are ruins here, that surprised me. I didn’t think they were bluffing when they offered that kind of payment, but it’s still hard to believe there are ruins to be explored in the middle of the plains.”
His comrades watching the ruins agreed with Hekkeran’s monologue.
Although the ruins appeared to be a cemetery, the ground seemed be sinking slightly into the earth, as if the entire area was depressed inwards, giving the impression like that of a basin.
The reason it was unexplored was probably because of the grasslands all around it. There was nothing like the relics of an ancient city to draw the eyes of adventurers to it. Another thing was the existence of several knolls in the vicinity that appeared to be hiding the existence of the ruins, making it hard to notice. Although the roof of the building in the middle protruded just a little, it couldn’t be seen if you didn’t view it from this spot.
Some of the earth surrounding the ruins had fallen off, revealing part of the walls. That was why the ruins had been discovered. That was what the representatives of each team concluded.
“That seems about right. By the way, I’m getting a little excited. The possibility of uncovering amazing things by exploring the ruins are really high.”
“Who knows? Well, there are no problems with this place. At least there aren’t any dangerous monsters. Rather, what made me uneasy was the place the client marked out as the base camp.”
Setting up camp was the best choice for a place like the plains.
The site was enclosed by hills and couldn’t be seen from a distance. If they paid attention to the usage of lights, it would be difficult to notice their presence.
And that was why—it seemed scary.
“But really, why did our client know of a place like this?”
The best guess would be that this area was the most suitable spot for setting up camp, and the ruins were spotted by the client when they made camp. That made the most sense.
However, that gave rise to new questions. Why were they were setting up camp in such a far off place? Furthermore, it was a noble from the Empire camping within the territory of the Kingdom.
“—I heard there’s a large underground organization in the Kingdom. I think it’s called Eight Fingers. They seem to be a troublesome bunch.”
“They seem to have secret dealings with the Empire. They possess substantial power within the Kingdom, but it would be problematic to investigate further. I heard someone from my thieves’ contacts complain about it.”
Imina pressed down on her hair that was being blown by the wind and Arche followed suit. Roberdyck mumbled.
“I heard something about drugs. Those are good if used appropriately. However, the people who turn it into a way to enslave the weak, are really off putting.”
He couldn’t help raising his voice a little.
After all, Roberdyck had become a worker in order to help the weak.
“This has nothing to do with the request this time, so let’s stop the baseless assumptions. Anyway, Arche’s investigation concluded that the client is fine, right?”
Arche mumbled that the investigation might not have been thorough enough to dig up anything carefully hidden, but agreed.
“Everyone, you all understand right?”
“Of course. I won’t say it before the other teams. After all, the workers might have accepted a secret request from the Eight Fingers. The other teams might be related to that organization, but we can’t make baseless accusations. At least, not before this request is completed.”
“I don’t know how much blood and tears our money’s been stained with.”
“—No matter how dirty it is, money is money and we have to live off it.”
After glancing at Roberdyck, Arche breathed in deeply to cool herself off.
“—Sorry, I said something rude.”
“No, I am the one who almost blurted out something impolite, I beg your pardon.”
“—Please don’t mind me. You didn’t say anything after all. Please keep it in your heart. I value money more than my conscience, but—” Arche raised her hand to emphasize what she was going to say next. “I won’t let my comrades do anything unethical. I’ve already witnessed several people die because of their greed.”
“I believe you, Arche.”
Arche nodded and no one said anything else. They could communicate their thoughts without words. It was because they had quarreled like this several times before, that they had come to trust each other.
“So what do you think? My gut feeling is that the possibility of that cemetery being under the control of something is high.”
Hekkeran stared at the grass that had been neatly trimmed. The statues of angels and goddesses could only be described as beautiful, and were obviously maintained regularly.
On the other hand, the trees sprouting everywhere gave it a gloomy atmosphere.
The arrangement of the cemetery wasn’t orderly, but scattered messily like the teeth of an ugly witch, which contrasted strongly with the cleanliness of this place.
Something was taking care of this area. And it was not a normal being. An ominous chill gnawed at their stomachs.
Hekkeran waved away the chill and focused on the gigantic structure. There were four crypts at each point of the compass, with a large and elegant mausoleum sitting right in the middle. The eight warrior statues around the crypts were large, giving off a menacing feeling that anyone who came near and desecrated this place would be executed.
“The landscape around here is very well kept. I don’t even see any moss. Someone is performing his duties seriously here, but what kind of person is he?”
All the teams—except Tenmu—thought it was strange when they read the request description.
Now that they were here and confirmed that there was nothing but plains around the area, it didn’t make sense for a cemetery to be built here.
The first thing would be the cemetery’s location. Building such a luxurious cemetery in such a far off place was baffling. It was too inconvenient.
If this was not a place to mourn the dead but to monument to immortalize the legend of great man, it would be understandable. That had been done before after all.
However, if that was the case, it felt unnatural for the historical facts and legends pertaining to the tomb to be lost. After comparing the research of all the teams, nothing related had been found, meaning there was a high chance it had been scrubbed from the history books.
That was too unnatural.
The feeling that something was out of place here stuck in their throats, becoming the reason why they were furrowing their brows.
“If there is someone here, it could become a grave matter. What should we do then?”
“...It would be annoying to drag innocent people into this.”
“—The team representatives discussed this earlier. There are no records of ruins situated around this area. Since the nearest village is far away, the possibility that normal people are living here are low. Most likely, they’re either illegal squatters or monsters. Considering the lack of footprints, they probably don’t require food, or they can provide for themselves from within the ruins. We have insufficient intelligence on hand, speculating further would lock ourselves into a fixed perspective and limit our minds. So let’s stop the speculations here.”
Normally, the discovery of ruins would be reported to the administration of the country through the Adventurer’s Guild. The discoverer was granted a limited amount of time to explore it. Due to this rule, in ruins not discovered by a national body or the Adventurer’s Guild, killing illegal squatters was tolerated.
This was in accordance with the saying of rather letting a thousands innocent die than letting a single guilty person go free.
It might be an overly brutal policy, but humans were fragile beings in this world. That’s why it was troubling for unknown things to build a nest near humans.
In fact, twenty years ago, a group known as Zuranon occupied a ruin and conducted horrifying experiments, which led to catastrophic results. The information about this was scant, but a small city was destroyed.
This was a rule to prevent something like that from ever happening again.
“Well, it should be undead as usual. If this place is occupied by the undead, it will be bad if we don’t wipe them out and drive away the negative energy with holy power.”
“It is worse than you think. If we leave the undead alone, there is a chance of a more powerful undead rising. That is the reason why there are powerful undead in ruins.”
“If an abandoned golem is carrying out the last order of its master and tidying the place up, that would be a godsend. One less thing to worry about. What is the plan after that?”
“—I think Hekkeran should have gone in my stead.”
“Don’t worry about it. The other leaders didn’t go either right? Send the best person for the job, right?”
Arche sighed in response to the winking Hekkeran.
“—Anyways, once night falls, all the teams will move together. We will go in from the four sides and gather at the large mausoleum in the center.”
“I see, we will be spotted easily if we do it in broad daylight.”
They had a clear view of the surrounding area and saw no signs of surveillance or travelers. It didn't seem to be a problem to invade it now, but they should prepare for the unexpected. Moving in the dark was safer.
Although the operation began at nightfall, they might be able to gain further information by continuing to observe the ruins. They had limited time to complete their job, but the time used here would be well spent, at least according to the brains of the operation.
It wouldn’t have been a surprise if they had spent several days observing the site.
“Wouldn’t it be safer to scout the place with ‘invisibility’?”
“—We considered that, but there is a chance things might get hairy anyway, so we might as well do it together. Even in the worst case scenario, we will at least find out something.”
There were numerous ways to detect invisibility, so it was not a perfect spell. If the workers approached after using magic and were detected by the security of the ruins, the level of security of the opponent will rise even if they don’t know who the intruders might be. If they screw it up, they might not be able to infiltrate the place for days.
To avoid that from happening, they came up with the plan to move in at the same time.
Hekkeran nodded in understanding. There were flaws, but the plan was still balanced between the risk taken and the chance of completing the mission.
“I hope they give us some time to rest.”
“—Is that so. ‘Darkness’ and ‘Screaming Whip’ will take care of security. To play it safe, we will take turns standing guard. We will go in the order we arrived at the Earl’s home, two hours each.”
“Got it, so we are going last.”
“—That’s right. We will take the stage at the very end.”
Arche turned her head and shrugged after saying that.
“Thank you for your hard work.”
Roberdyck nodded at Arche.
“—How tiring. It took so long because that scumbag suggested invading via brute force. It took a lot of effort to convince him. He really doesn’t know what coordination means.”
“Ahh, that sword genius-san…”
“Calling him a shitty bastard would be enough.”
In the face of Imina’s murderous words, Hekkeran smiled wryly and changed the topic.
“Well then, let’s go back to camp and wait for our turn.”
“Agreed. It probably won’t rain for the time being, but it would be too late to prepare if it does. Imina-san, you’re up next, don’t keep showing that scary face.”
“Okay, ah, how infuriating. I really feel like stabbing him. Let’s set up camp far away from them.”
“It is fine as long as it is around the assigned spot.”
To be honest, it wasn’t fine, but it would be worse if they were too close to each other and started quarrelling.
Turning their backs to the ruins, the four of them started walking.
“—But the more I think about it, the more baffling it is. I don’t understand why the Earl would give out such a request.”
As they turned back because of those words, they found Arche had stopped to stare at the ruins.
“I couldn’t find anything about the reason, or the period these ruins were built. It’s like they suddenly popped up. The statues resemble those from the period before the Demon Gods Uprising, but have a more eastern feel about them. And the cross shaped tombstones… I don’t understand it at all.”
After listening to Arche’s mumbling, Hekkeran suppressed his smile and excitement with great effort.
“Which means the chance of finding something just as interesting is high, correct?”
“That’s correct. There must be frightening things inside.”
“...There will probably be horrifying undead inside, everyone.”
“—Uwah~, how scary.”
“—Too fake, Hekkeran. That doesn’t sound like me at all. And imitating my voice is creepy.”
“Ah, sorry about that.”
“But—it will be interesting.”
“Yup. Why does this cemetery exist? Who is entombed here? It stimulates my curiosity and thirst for knowledge.”
“I agree. Discovering the unknown is exciting.”
“—And finally money. It would be great if there is plenty of it.”
Hekkeran was satisfied by the smiles of his companions. There were times they did dirty work for money, but that wasn’t something they could talk about happily. Doing adventurer-like jobs suited them better.
Arche might not join in their adventures after taking custody of her sisters. It would definitely take some time to find another member to replace Arche, and more time was needed to adjust their team work. It was necessary to choose jobs that had lower difficulty.
This might be the last and hardest job they would take as a team.
From now on… Like adventurers… it would be nice to explore the unknown by taking on requests to adventure …
Hekkeran looked towards the sky that extended everywhere.
♦ ♦ ♦
As night enveloped the world, the workers came out from their well hidden low tents. For secretive individuals like themselves, it was time to go to work.
The adventurers began preparing food.
After lighting the kindling, which was a white, solid material, coal was added into the flames. The light from the flames were concealed by the effect of ‘Darkness’. ‘Darkness’ concealed the brightness, but not the fire itself. In the darkness, the flame boiled water extracted from the Infinite Waterskin.
The boiling water was poured into wooden bowls. The travel rations placed inside lost their shape and became fragrant soup. After adding hard bread, this was the food that was served to all.
The rest was up to their personal preference.
Although the bowl only had yellow soup—which workers liked for its nutrition and storage life, some people added thin slices of meat, other condiments, or they drank it as it was.
Everyone stopped after having a bowl. Considering the job ahead, this amount was too little.
However, eating something too heavy would definitely affect the mission. Eating nothing would be dangerous as well. No one knew when they could eat again.
The emergency food supply was also limited, since bringing too much would affect their agility. There was a need to gauge it precisely.
After handing the empty bowls to the adventurers, the workers put on their backpacks.
As the adventurers watched on, the workers started moving together. The adventurers were in charge of the base camp’s security and would not be taking part in the infiltration of the ruins.
After climbing over the hill, they spread out around the ruins. They had already prepared countermeasures if they were discovered during this phase.
A lot of people wore full plate armour, so their movement would be slow and the noise would make covert operation impossible, but that had already been taken into account. For people who could use magic, it was possible to overcome such trivial matters.
First, they would use ‘Silence’, a spell that negated noise within a certain area. Both the sound of armour and footsteps would not be heard.
Next would be ‘Invisibility’, which rendered the target undetectable by normal vision.
As a precaution, an ambusher with the ‘Silence’, ‘Invisibility’ and even the ‘Hawk Eye’ spell cast on him was watching the surroundings from the sky. To quickly deal with problems, he was armed with special arrows that had numbing effects.
After these two preparation phases, the groups reached their destination.
Here was where it officially began.
They descended from the hill onto the ruins several meters below. After exploring the surface, they would meet up at the large mausoleum in the center. And they needed to do so within the effective time of ‘invisibility’.
To minimize the chance of unexpected things happening, there was a need to follow each other’s footsteps. However, it would be difficult to tell everyone’s position when it was dark and everyone was invisible.
However, there was already a way to handle this.
A strange stick 30cm in length suddenly appeared on the ground. It floated in the air as though someone invisible was holding it up, and emitted a faint light after it was bent.
This special stick—a glow stick—was made in such a way that the special alchemical fluids inside would mix when it was bent and emit light. It was dropped because the effect of invisibility also included all the items the user was carrying. In order to be visible to others, it had to leave the user’s possession.
After flickering for a moment, the stick that had accomplished its purpose was destroyed. The glowing alchemical fluid splashed onto the ground, and was gone without a trace after touching the earth.
In such a way, all the teams signaled that they were ready.
It was too far to see the other teams, but four ropes simultaneously dropped down from the surface of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. The ropes had knots tied at fixed interval for easy scaling.
The end of the rope was connected to a piton knocked into the ground, with the other end swaying slightly.
If someone were able to see through invisibility magic, they would be able to spot people climbing down the ropes.
Even someone like Arche, who focused more on magic training and knowledge instead of agility, could accomplish that. Or rather, workers and adventurers needed to go through strength training to complete such tasks.
Thanks to their accumulated training and the effectiveness of the knots, none of the workers fell, and all landed safely in the cemetery.
The first objective of each team were the smaller crypts.
As the duration of invisibility expired, all the members could now be seen. The teams headed toward the crypt they had been assigned to.
Crouching down and keeping close to the tombstones, trees and statues, they ran in the dim cemetery. ‘Silence’ was still in effect so they didn’t make any noise. The warriors wearing full plate armour also did their best to hide themselves. Several shadows moved across the ground.
♦ ♦ ♦
When the leader of Heavy Masher, Greenham, got close to the crypt, his eyes widened slightly. It was even more extravagant than he had imagined.
Even though they referred to this as a small crypt, it was only small in comparison to the large mausoleum in the center. Up close, its size and majestic architecture could be clearly seen.
The white stone walls were smoothly polished. Although a lot of time must have passed since its construction, there was no sign of any damage from the wind and the rain.
Beyond a flight of three steps made of marble was a thick metal door. The door was polished so well that there were no rust at all. Even the black steel was shining.
It was clear how carefully they were maintaining the building.
—Which meant that it was confirmed that the cemetery was occupied.
While Greenham came to this conclusion, his thief comrade went in and slowly investigated, starting from the stairs.
Greenham received a signal to back away—necessary because of ‘Silence’—and retreated slowly. This was to avoid area-effect traps.
The thief searched patiently for traps. It couldn’t be helped even if he was feeling impatient.
Souls resided within the body of men, and when that body begins to rot, the soul would be summoned away by the will of the gods. That was why the dead had to be buried immediately, with underground burial as the norm, but it was slightly different for those with special status such as the nobles.
If the dead were buried immediately, they would need to dig the corpse up to confirm that the body was decomposing. To see evidence of the decomposition, the corpse would be set aside for a period of time before being buried. However, the corpse would not be placed in the nobles’ home.
What they would use would be a crypt at the cemetery. After placing the bodies there for a period of time, the priest would judge if the body was rotting and the soul had been summoned by god before burying it.
The place where the corpses were laid to rest was the communal space of the crypt. This spacious area had several stone platforms where the bodies lay in state. The scene of several rotting corpses lying in a row was creepy, but that was natural from the common sense of this world.
Things were different for great nobles who had authority and wealth. Instead of the communal crypt, they would use a family crypt passed down from their ancestors. The room where those with authority were summoned by god and their final resting place—crypts like that were owned and passed down the family as symbols of power.
It was normal to find household appliances and treasures as well. This meant the crypts were a treasure vault for tomb raiders. And therefore, it was also a place built with dangerous traps to deter intruders.
That definitely held true for such an extravagant crypt. Greenham’s thief teammate checked the place carefully.
After the thief completed some of the checks and went to the door, the sound suddenly came back.
The duration of ‘Silence’ was over. It was just the right time. The thief silently stepped in front of the door and searched carefully. Finally, he placed something like a stethoscope and listened.
After several seconds, the thief turned his head Greenham and his other teammates and shook his head.
Which meant ‘there is nothing’.
The thief himself thought it was strange and tilted his head.
It was a mystery why it wasn’t locked, but since the thief couldn’t detect anything else, it would be the vanguards’ turn next.
Greenham went to the front and the thief reached for the door. Behind them was a warrior with a shield.
Greenham pushed the door handle down and slowly opened the door. Maybe it was well oiled or perhaps the caretaker of this place did his job seriously, but the heavy door opened easily despite its appearance.
The warrior who was ready for action stood between Greenham and the door, raising his shield to defend against sudden attack or traps.
However, there wasn’t anything like an arrow being shot over. The iron door was completely open and a deep darkness appeared before the Heavy Mashers.
The arcane magic caster summoned a magic light. The brightness of the magic light could be roughly adjusted. The crypt was illuminated. With another spell, the weapon of the warrior was shining too.
What the light was shining on, was a room that could be easily mistaken for the chambers of a noble.
In the center of the room was a stone coffin normally seen in a temple. It was 2.5m long and engraved with intrinsic carvings. Four alabaster statues carved into the shape of fully armored and armed warriors, with swords and shields over full plate armor, stood at each corner.
“—Hmm, does this emblem match anything in your memory?”
“Erm, I don’t know.”
Hanging on the wall was a banner with golden edges, bearing an emblem no one had seen before. The Kingdom might be a foreign nation, but the thief and magic caster had memorized the heraldry of many nobles and kings. Since they couldn’t identify it, it was safe to assume it was foreign in nature.
“Could it be some nobles before the founding of the Kingdom?”
“You mean this is from more than two hundred years ago?”
Many countries had been destroyed by the demon gods two hundred years ago, which was why there were very few countries with more than two hundred years of history. The Kingdom, the Holy Kingdom, the Republic and the Empire were all founded within the past two hundred years.
“If that is true, why is it so well-preserved after such a long time? What is it made of?”
“It should be enchanted with preservation magic right? Maybe it was repaired by magic.”
“By the way leader. You can stop that strange way of speaking now, can’t you? We are the only ones here.”
“Hmmm…” Greenham frowned, and then relaxed. “Ahh, that’s so tiring. All that thou and art stuff, how stupid.”
“It must be hard on you. Like he said, it is fine if we are alone right?”
“Nah, I can’t do that, that stiff way of speaking makes me look like a capable worker. It’s troublesome to change midway, ain’t it? Don’t you all know my policy while on the job?”
Greenham answered his comrade’s wry smile with a wry smile of his own.
Greenham was originally the third son of a farmer working in the Kingdom.
Like the saying goes, if many people split the farm lands, after several generations, the land each person could inherit would gradually grow smaller. The farm produce each family could harvest would also decrease. That’s why the eldest son would inherit the land, the second son could work as a helper, but the third son and the others would be nothing but trouble. It was normal for them to move to the city to seek a livelihood.
However, Greenham was blessed with a good body, and it worked out well in the end. But in the end he was just a farmer and the education he had received as the reserve of the reserve was as good as nothing. That went for reading, writing and etiquette.
It was true that workers focused on ability and the execution of the assigned task, not etiquette. However, it wasn’t good for him as a leader.
He worked hard on it, but unlike the talent he had with his body, he wasn’t gifted in such a way and it was barely passable. Greenham kept his position as leader because he was highly regarded in all other aspects. However, in order to not embarrass his comrades, Greenham started speaking in that strange manner.
“‘This quirky way of speaking is normal as a way to advertise my team.” That was what he wanted the clients to think.
Despite that, people would still look down on him. However, that kind of image would still be better than a dim-witted farmer.
“Alright, break time is over. We’re moving out, lads.”
Greenham announced and everyone started moving without complaint.
First was the thief who cautiously entered the crypt to search for traps.
The rest of the group placed a thick metal bar between the doors so it would not be closed completely even if there was a mechanism which shut the door. To avoid light from spilling out, the door was half closed. While the thief cautiously inspected the room, Greenham and the others did not let down their guard. The use of light couldn’t be helped. It was entirely possible that they might be spotted.
While Greenham and the rest of the team were crouching and watching the surroundings, the thief went to the area below the banner and observed it for a moment. After making up his mind, he reached for the banner, and pulled back nervously the moment he touched it.
“There is no problem here, everyone come in.”
The thief turned his head back towards Greenham and the others as he pointed at the banner.
“...This is really valuable, made from cloth-of-gold.”
“Haaahhh!? Cloth-of-gold? Leaving this here just like that, is there something wrong with their head?”
All of them gasped in surprise. Everyone gathered under the banner and took turns touching it. The cold material under their fingers was definitely metallic.
Considering how grand it looked, the appraisal of the thief should be correct. From this size, weight and artistic value, it must be worth a fortune.
“Our client won this one. Although our, or rather, the full payment for the four teams hasn't been collected yet, there are definitely loads of treasure here.”
“Do we take it with us right now?”
Greenham answered the thief’s query.
“This is too big. And heavy. Let’s take it later, any objections?”
“No. It will be difficult to move with this in tow. As for the result of the inspection, there are no traps or hidden doors.”
“...Well then, please.”
Greenham nodded at the mage— an arcane magic caster. His companion replied by casting a spell.
“‘Detect Magic’— I can’t detect any magical traps either. We can dismiss the possibility of anyone hiding with concealment magic.”
“...The inspection is almost done, let’s head for the main target.”
Their gaze fell on the stone coffin in the middle of the room.
The thief spent a lot of time investigating and concluded that there were no traps.
Greenham and the warrior nodded at each other and began the task of opening the stone coffin. It was rather big and should be very heavy, but it was lighter than they thought. They used too much strength and almost lost their balance.
The stone coffin’s cover opened, revealing numerous sparkling lights from within.
Gold, silver and gems of various colours, in addition to numerous sparkling accessories. And more than a hundred gold coins scattered all over.
They had been expecting something good after seeing the banner, but Greenham still grinned from ear to ear at this sight. The thief who was observing carefully picked up one of the items inside— a gold necklace.
It was an impeccable piece of jewelry. It seemed to be a simple gold necklace at first glance, but on close inspection, the chains had fine engravings on it.
“...A conservative estimate would be one hundred gold coins. With the right buyer, one hundred fifty would be possible.”
The reaction to the thief’s appraisals were different. Some of them whistled while others smiled. One common point was the joy and flames of greed burning in their eyes.
“Just the half we can get will be a bonus of fifty gold. Ten gold each, that’s a scary amount of additional payout.”
“That is really… Maybe these ruins are a treasure trove.”
“Incredible. This is so incredibly amazing.”
“Really. It would be a pity to just leave the treasure here. Let’s put it to good use.”
As he spoke, the wizard picked out a ring with a large ruby on it and kissed the gemstone.
The priest stuck his hands in, picking up the coins and letting it slip through his fingers.
The crisp sound of gold coins clinking against each other were heard.
“I have never seen such gold coins before. Which time period and country are they from?”
Using his knife to lightly nick the surface of the gold coin, the thief said with a sigh:
“This is pure gold. Just the weight is double the norm, the value would probably be higher, considering the aesthetic value.”
“This is really—Kukuku…”
Laughter leaked out from the group who couldn’t help smiling.
Just dividing the loot here would not be a small amount.
“All of you, thank your gods later. Let’s take what we can and head to the main objective. Our share will be taken if we are late.”
Greenham received a spirited reply, filled with excitement and fervour.
The grand mausoleum was situated at the centre of the ruin. Giant statues of warriors that looked as if they would come alive at any moment surrounded the grand crypt like knights defending their king. Hekkeran hid himself at the feet of the warrior statue that was staring in the direction of one of the smaller crypts.
After a short while, Hekkeran noticed five men running from the smaller crypt. They moved fast yet still managed to conceal themselves Hekkeran watched paranoidly for anyone that might be spying on them or anything strange happening. Finally, after confirming the group coming this way was fine, Hekkeran sighed in relief.
He signalled by peeking out of the shadow of the giant statue and Greenham rushed over after noticing him.
“You sure are late Greenham.”
“Thank you for waiting for us this long.”
“We didn’t decide on the time to meet up so it’s fine. Instead, let’s change the location and then decide what to do next.”
Hekkeran crouched and lead the way cautiously.
A few steps later, Greenham asked.
“Just want to ask, did your team discover any treasure?”
Unable to hide his excitement and remembering how he had felt, his mouth curved into a smile and said:
“Of course, a motherload. Elder said the same thing.”
“You all as well, huh. Coming to this cemetery was the right move.”
“That’s true. I am grateful to the great men buried here.”
“Hmm. That might be so, but since we found so many treasures, should we consider the possibility that there might be nothing where the master of this tomb is buried??”
“Well, I bet there would be even more.”
“Hmm—how much are you betting?”
“Great. I will find more later and I can get a decent sum from you, too. This is the best. Ah, the problem is we would both be betting on the same thing.”
Both men didn’t make a sound as the corner of their mouth rose into a smile.
“That’s true. By the way, what is that?”
In front of Greenham, besides the feet of a giant statue, was something like a stone tablet.
Hekkeran didn’t stop, while giving Greenham his answer. The words written on it were something the first three teams that arrived before him had never seen before. They held on to the faint hope that Greenham’s team might know about it.
“Something like a stone tablet, engraved with what might be words.”
“Engrave with what might be words? Why are you being so vague about this?”
“It is an unknown language. Not the national language of the Kingdom or the Empire, or even the ancient languages around the region. It might not be human language either. But I can read the number 2.0 here.”
“Numbers? Thinking about it with common sense, it should be the year this place was built. But the number is too small.”
“Arche thinks it might be a password for something in the ruins… Well, just keep it in mind.”
“Right, let’s do that.”
After passing through the giant statues and climbing up the long and narrow tilted platform formed by the stone coffin, what they saw was an open entrance.
“The stench of the dead.”
“Ahhh. It is, I smell that often from the thick fogs at Kattse plain.”
Greenham agreed with Hekkeran with a soft voice.
It wasn’t a strong, nauseating stench, but the smell of the undead accompanied by the cold found in the cemetery.
This might be a beautiful cemetery, but there were definitely undead here.
The group steeled themselves and saw a vast space within when they entered. Numerous stone platforms were placed to the left and right, on the other side were the stairs leading down. The door leading down was wide open and an uneasy atmosphere flowed out from within.
With Hekkeran leading the way, Greenham and the others went down the stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs was a burial chamber with a door on the other side. Aside from that, no other doors could be seen.
It was narrower than the crypt upstairs, but there was plenty of space. Hekkeran’s team ‘Foresight’, Eruya’s ‘Tenmu’ and Parupatra’s team were all here.
“Well then, what should we do next? Our plan was to spread out and gather information. Any new ideas after having searched the crypts?”
After speaking, Hekkeran glanced at everyone who had gathered.
There didn’t seem to be any more new ideas. Was it greed gleaming off them or merely a reflection of light? It wasn’t clear, but everyone’s eyes were lively. Everyone seemed to be filled with excitement and couldn’t wait to go in the cemetery.
“A suggestion. My team will check for hidden doors and search outside.”
That was their leader’s words, but his members seemed unhappy about it.
It was because of the treasures they saw. They couldn’t agree even if it was the opinion of their well experienced leader. They were probably imagining a mountain of treasure flying away before their eyes.
“What do you say? We did search the surface, but we weren’t that thorough. There’s a chance that one of the smaller crypts has a hidden passage inside, right? Isn’t rest of the cemetery worth surveying?”
“Elder has a point. I heard that even the Sasasharu Ruins, which bards sing of all the time, have a safe passage leading directly to the centre of the ruin just steps away from the entrance.”
“Ah, Greenham. We checked all the way up to this room, but didn’t find any hidden passages.”
“That is why I’m offering to do this. As compensation for my team taking this lesser job, how about giving me a cut of the loot you find on this floorl. Yup, how about ten percent from each team? And tomorrow, let my team be the first ones to search the floor below this one?”
“I have no objection to this proposal.”
The first to speak was Greenham. Hekkeran agreed a moment later.
“Good, we are all agreed then! What about you Uzruth?”
“I’m not comfortable with it, but since it’s just ten percent, so be it.”
The elder simply smiled at his sarcastic voice. In the end, it was Eruya who made a bitter expression after his snide attitude failed to garner any response.
“Ah, Elder. Can I ask you for a favour since you’re going to pass that way. We found a banner made with gold thread in the crypt we searched, but it looked too cumbersome to lug around. Could we trouble you to take it back?”
“I agree with Hekkeran. It might be a hassle, but could you help us out?”
“In that case, take mine too.”
Eruya gestured with his chin to one of the elves, and she took out a large piece of cloth to place it on the ground, all the while staggering under its weight.
“Understood. Aside from these, is there anything else you want me to safekeep or carry back?”
There was no answer to Parupatra’s question.
“Very well! Like I proposed earlier, my team will search the top. Be careful. It’s fine if you leave something valuable for me.”
“Haha, we can leave a couple of monsters for you, but there won’t be a single coin left behind for you.”
After a round of laughter, Hekkeran asked the others: “Shall we go?”
Everyone agreed immediately. They took a step forward. With their eyes shining with greed and anticipation, they took their first step into the unknown ruins—the great underground tomb.
The door opened and there was only one path leading deeper in. As they expected, it was kept clean and tidy.
Things like rust and moss weren’t found on the stone passage, there were some indents on the wall where human shaped figures, wrapped in burial clothing, had been placed. There wasn’t the unique scent of corpse here. Instead, there was a cold air and smell of the undead.
There were flickering bluish white lights on the ceiling a fixed distance from each other. However, since the distance between them was rather large, there was some darkness along the way. The light allowed them to move freely, but was just dim enough that they might miss something. It would feel dangerous if they didn’t have an alternate source of lighting.
“—Rob. Any undead reaction from that corpse?”
Arche thanked Rob and walked towards the corpse in the body bag, cutting open with her knife. After seeing her actions, the other team also sent out one or two members to investigate the corpse inside the body bag.
“...From this height and built, the possibility of this being human is high. A full grown man.”
“It is not wearing clothes, so it is hard to tell what time period this ruins is from.”
“But this ruins is filled with mysteries. The architecture, burial method and time period are all unknown. Maybe it is something from six hundred years ago.”
“—If that is true, this will be a historical find.”
For people doing research, this might be a topic worth discussing, but they were here to do a job.
After receiving cold stares from Hekkeran and Greenham, they hastily announced the investigation result “The time period and background of the ruins are still a mystery.”
“Understood. Shall we move on? Personally, I want to kill some monsters.”
Agreeing with the dissatisfied Eruya, the group moved ahead but stopped shortly.
Their stances were ready to draw their weapon.
Sounds of bones creaking ahead could be heard.
Due to the illumination from the ceiling, they could see the figures of the undead ahead.
After closing the distance and identifying the opponents, the workers was shaken as if they were seeing something incredible and discussed softly.
“Isn’t that too…”
“Hey, are you for real…”
“Eh? Are there only skeletons?”
The moment someone finally blurt out the name of the monster, the group couldn’t endure it anymore and burst out into laughter.
“Hey hey hey!! Isn’t sending skeletons a gone case? We have many people here alright?”
The appearance of skeletal monsters look roughly the same, so it was hard to tell what type they were.
However, it was easy to judge that these were normal skeletons from the air they gave off.
“Even if these are scouts, they should send out stronger monsters— I got it! There are either no monsters controlling this cemetery, or they are too incompetent to tell how strong we are. Or they are morons who didn’t even notice they have been infiltrated!
They couldn’t stop laughing.
“Eh, it is impossible for skeletons. Or maybe all the treasures in this ruin are placed in the crypt on the surface?”
“That would be terrible.”
For workers who were on par with mithril adventurers, skeletons were too weak. And the workers even outnumbered them.
In front of the six skeletons, they looked at each other thinking about who should go.
“I don’t want to.”
Eruya declared. It was easy to understand how he felt.
“Then I shall go.”
Greenham said and walked to the front.
The weak mind of the skeleton seemed to be thinking about something. They were probably thinking about overwhelming the lone warrior. Or maybe they were considering something else.
The skeletons attacked together and—
They were easily shattered by the swinging shield and axe.
It only took a few seconds. Maybe less.
Smashing the six skeletons and stepping on their remains, Greenham sighed as if he was tired. It wasn’t fatigue from the battle, but the fact that the first opponent in this great ruin was the too weak, the lowest tier undead skeleton.
“How brittle, just skeletons after all. That may be so, but it would be foolish to get careless. Keep the possibility that powerful undead might pop up in mind and advance with great caution!”
They straightened their faces after hearing Greenham’s words and moved on— towards the depths of the ruins. Their hearts were filled with the anticipation of the treasures lying ahead.
♦ ♦ ♦
“Yare yare, so they left huh.”
“They did. They might be workers, but we are working on the same team now, so we are colleagues for this job. It will be great if they return safely… Momon-san, what do you think?”
“—All of them will die.”
Ainz replied with a deep voice, stunning the leader of the adventurer team.
Oh no, I said my thoughts out loud—
“Eh, oh, I mean being mentally prepared for that possibility. These are unknown ruins we are talking about. There is no way of telling what dangers they will run into. Holding on to high hopes will only result in great disappointment.”
“I see, so it’s like that… Sorry for making you worry.”
... I was winging it, and he agreed with me? Well, that works great for me.
The team leader lowered his head like this because he blindly thought the words of the adamantite-ranked man were correct.
Ainz’ effort— his response filled with good intentions and friendly attitude during the journey to Nazarick paid off.
“So as we planned, I will take a break first.”
Ainz headed towards his — which was of course shared with Nabel — tent. As it was a certain distance away, some people assumed it was to keep others from hearing moans. Or rather, that was what they heard from the leader just now.
Compared to the workers, he felt more camaraderie with Momon who was also an adventurer, and shared the information he got from the workers freely.
Ainz and Nabel closed the entrance of the tent after going in. They peeked out just in case and no one seemed to be watching them. In fact, there were people who intentionally made a show of not caring.
“...Even though they said this is a love nest, not denying it outright was probably the right move. They don’t suspect anything even though our tents are further away, they don’t pay attention to this place and they don’t get close.”
There were downsides too, but the benefits outweighed the cons.
Ainz removed his helmet and revealed his skeletal face.
“Well then, Nabe… No, Narberal. I will return to Nazarick and send Pandora’s Actor to replace me as planned. If something happens in the meantime, resolve it by yourself.”
“By your command, Ainz-sama.”
“Erm. Contact me if there is anything.”
Ainz dispelled the magic that created his armor and sword, and the weight of the helmet disappeared in his hands. The sense of liberty from taking off the armour made Ainz utter “ah” in relief, although it wasn’t that hard on him. It was the same reason why he was rotating his shoulders that weren’t stiff at all. These actions were remnants of his time as a human.
The remnants of human emotions were troublesome sometimes.
If he could handle every situation calmly, the circumstances might be different now. However, if he lost all remnants of his human emotions, he wouldn’t love the Great Tomb of Nazarick as much as he did right now. The longing the human Suzuki Satoru had for his friends will probably disappear as well.
While Ainz was smiling wryly, he cast his magic. Thoughts about his remnants of humanity was gone from the back of his mind. Ainz wasn’t a talented person who could focus on two or three things at a time. He needed to drop everything aside from what he was considering.
His spell was ‘Greater Teleportation’.
Since he was wearing a ring, Ainz made it through the barrier of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, all the way to the entrance of the Throne Room.
“Welcome back, Ainz-sama.”
Moments later, a beautiful female voice welcomed his return.
“I am back, Albedo.”
The lady who bowed deeply raised her head, a blossoming smile appeared on her beautiful face. She looked straight at Ainz—as if she couldn’t see anything else.
Seeing the golden pupils filled with beams of love, he couldn’t help feeling goosebumps all over. But he couldn’t adopt an attitude unbefitting that of Ainz Ooal Gown, the ruler of the Grand Tomb of Nazarick.
Ainz suppressed the feeling that weakened during the short moment of silence, and coughed fakely.
“Just as planned, the invaders are here. No, maybe they are already inside. How are the preparations to welcome them?”
“The preparations are done. The guests will definitely be delighted.”
“I see… Albedo. I look forward to seeing their elation.”
He walked to the heart of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, the Throne Room. Albedo followed him one step behind.
Albedo had only one order regarding the invaders this time. That was to conduct a practical test for the performance of her defense system.
Where to place the POPs in Nazarick and the combination of monsters were all done by his past guild mates, and must be done really well. But given the current situation, it was hard to say that a better setup didn’t exist.
Thus it was necessary to inspect the defense system. And they could do that now.
“...The invaders are fragile, so of course we can’t test everything. But let us pray we can learn something from this.”
“I understand. I promise that I will not let you down, Ainz-sama.”
“Good. As you already know, avoid using traps that cost money like spraying poisonous gas or sudden floods of undead, try to use POPs and traps with serfs. Any problems?”
In response to Albedo’s smile, Ainz nodded.
“Very well, in the mean time, let us enjoy ourselves. What are the other Floor Guardians doing?”
“Yes. The moment Ainz-sama returned, I have instructed them to gather. Will it be fine to grant them entry according to the order they arrive?”
“Granted. The more people there are, the merrier.”
Before the throne on which Ainz was sitting down were numerous things that looked like TV screens floating in the air. Each one of them displayed a different part of Nazarick. Albedo who was controlling it to show Ainz what he wanted to see.
Next would be Albedo displaying her control over the defense net. Ainz wasn’t sure what the changes between now and before were though.
… To make full use of this training, I have to learn something from the displayed images. If there is a sharing session after this, it will be bad.
Ainz was the absolute ruler of the Grand Tomb of Nazarick. How could such a man not understand anything about the defense system compared to his subordinate?
“Just in case, I have to ask. There are no chances of triggering ‘Ariadne’, correct?”
Ainz opened his console and controlled the cursor, checking for problems as he asked.
“I don’t think there is a chance of that happening. However, I want to confirm whether Ariadne will be triggered if the invaders are locked up?”
Ainz remembered the Yggdrasil Q&A he read in the past, no, the update-log explanations by the developers.
“There shouldn’t be… that should be so… I think that’s how it was.”
Even though that was the case in Yggdrasil,there was no guarantee that this rule still applied in this world. Even the existence of Ariadne itself was not confirmed.
“What would happen if we were to manipulate the humans into doing so themselves?”
“There might be a chance it won’t activate, but considering the losses if it does I was too scared and never tested it.”
A system that checks the validity of a created base.
There was a simple way of creating an invincible fortress: By sealing the entrance, no one would be able to get in. Just burying the entire Grand Tomb of Nazarick underground would be enough. But as a game, this was not allowed.
In order to stop one from making such a base, the Ariadne surveillance system existed.
There must be a path that lead from the entrance to the heart of the base. Other things Ariadne inspected were the distance one could travel inside, how many doors there were and various other rules on base construction that were set in detail.
Dungeons that violated the rules would be flagged by the Yggdrasil system and fined. The Guild funds would be deducted gradually at a visible rate.
For Nazarick, such problems were solved by the 5th and 6th levels— They had to pay a lot to widen the dungeon to maintain it.
Ainz controlled one of the monitor which displayed the figures of the workers.
“Tch! Well then, it is finally time for them to show up. They made me wait really long.”
Feelings of unhappiness hit Ainz when he saw the images of the stronghold he made with his comrade being sullied by the dirty feet of the invaders. Although his emotions would be suppressed if it exceed a certain threshold, but it couldn’t completely keep his burning anxiety down.
“Albedo. Don’t allow any of them to escape.”
“Of course. Please enjoy watching the fate of the thieves intruding into the residence of the Supreme Beings. Also… which guinea pig should we choose for the experiment?”
“Ah, right. I sparred with this old man. I sparred with this man on the way too. This team is not suitable for training. Let’s dispose of these fellows first.”
Ainz pointed with his finger at a monitor Albedo could see.