The Large Tomb
Editors/Proofreaders: TaintedDreams, Namo-Namo, Skythewood, JcqC, Nigel, SifaV6
The worker team led by Parupatra, “Green Leaf”, departed from those caught up in expectations and excitement and looked at the surroundings from the top of the main tomb’s entrance stairway.
As if everything in the graveyard had been covered by winter snow, there was nothing alive and everything seemed dead. There was only silence and starlight. The team asked him when they finished climbing the steps.
“Elder, don’t you think it was a wasted opportunity? We could have left searching the surface to other teams.”
“That’s true. No matter the team… except for that bastard’s, there shouldn’t be much difference in abilities. Anything we can do, “Heavy Masher” or “Foresight” can probably do as well.”
Parupatra interrupted his comrade and continued.
“But didn’t we get the right to be the first searchers tomorrow? We aren’t going to be missing out on too much. Plus, by tomorrow, the survey of the inside should be finished. The last team to go in would miss out on all the loot, and in the worst case scenario, get stuck in the base camp with guard duty.”
“It’s too risky to be the first ones to go into an unknown location. They are going to be our little canaries. I hope they return unharmed.”
Parupatra turned around with cold eyes. His gaze was fixed on the place where the workers who entered the tomb had been standing. His sublime disdainful expression was not befitting the usual jolly and fluffy man nicknamed the “elder”. Those who didn’t know much about him would be surprised, but his comrades knew.
The old man named Parupatra was a very cautious man. He was the kind of man who would check a bridge twice before crossing. That was how he had managed to survive as an adventurer for such a long time, and he had even vanquished a dragon once. Conversely, he had also missed out on many opportunities due to his cautious nature. However, because he had never lost a single comrade so far, all his teammates trusted his decisions.
Although life was the most precious treasure of them all, there was still some lingering regret that they might be missing out on the loot.
“This is a chance to find some really amazing items. Isn’t that worth the risk?”
“You’re not wrong, but take a look at this cemetery. Don’t you think this is too clean? If something is cleaning this place, a monster might pop out to say hello. It’d be best to let the other teams find out what kind of monsters there are. Personally, I don’t really like requests like these. There’s too many unknowns.”
A teammate carefully responded to Parupatra’s complaint.
“But you took it anyway.”
“That’s because the other teams took it as well. In the worst case scenario, we’ll leave them behind as bait while we run away.”
The team stepped off the stairs.
“Is that why you suggested searching the surface? So we can run away in case we hear their screams?”
“That too. But I think of this as a gamble… Like you said, we might miss out on the loot. If we had more information, it might be safer, but we don’t know if the benefits will outweigh the risks. If you are right, I apologize.”
“Don’t worry about it, elder. We all trust you. After all, in most cases, you were right.”
“Plus, even if we miss out today, we can find other jobs to make money. You said it yourself, as long as you’re alive, opportunities to make money will always be there. So there’s no need to dive in recklessly.”
“How nostalgic. That was from when we were still young.”
“Haha, you sure you aren’t still young?”
“Don’t joke like that, elder. You shouldn’t be the one saying that.”
The team headed to one of the small crypts smiled bitterly.
“But I should have discussed this with you guys before making a decision. I’m sorry that I went ahead and decided by myself.”
“Well, you couldn’t help it in that situation. Plus, elder is our chosen leader. If our trusted leader decided so, we’ll follow.”
“…You guys don’t look too happy though. Why is everyone smiling so bitterly? Well, either way. Let’s finish the survey quick and if we have some time left over, let’s ask Momon for another spar. This is an excellent opportunity for you guys, too. So how about it?”
“I vividly remember the two of you sparring. Indeed, it was a duel befitting of an adamantite-ranked adventurer.”
“…Even amongst the adamantite ranked adventurers, there are many kinds of people. Right now, “Eight Ripples” in the Empire is not truly an adamantite ranked party. Someone like Momon would be a proper adamantite ranked adventurer. A man who achieved something I could never do.”
“Hahaha, don’t worry too much about it. If I was still in my prime, I would have been jealous, but now I’m just an old man. I’m not particularly shocked. I’ve seen a few adamantite ranked adventurers in my time, but Momon is a special one even amongst them. I feel that he’s the real deal.”
“Of course. So you guys should ask him to check out your swordsmanship. If you choose to keep adventuring after I die, that kind of experience will prove invaluable in future.”
“I can’t imagine elder dying. Maybe there’ll be a nice retirement.”
“Right. Elder will probably live long like Paradyne.”
“Hahaha, no, that’s too much for me. He’s on a completely different level.”
“What a wonderful team.”
A woman’s voice came out of nowhere. The only women that were with them were the two from Hekkeran’s ‘Foresight’ and the three elven slaves from Eruya’s ‘Tenmu’. But the voice sounded different from any of theirs.
Everyone turned around with weapons ready.
Several women stood at the top of the mausoleum stairs they had just descended. There were five of them. They were unbelievably beautiful, but that was also what made it so strange.
Everyone wore maid’s clothing, but their clothing was unlike any they had seen before. Those clothes had a metallic shine about them, just like armour.
“Who… are you? I’ve never seen you before… Hmm, is there a secret tunnel just like I expected?”
“Women? They are just as good-looking as the beauty of ‘Darkness’… They don’t look like ordinary people.”
“They don’t seem like an enemy… But, not likely to be hired by same people who hired us…”
“What should we do, elder?”
His comrades asked Parupatra while keeping their eyes on the women. Negotiating with them would be the best option, but there was no way it could end that well.
“We have the same numbers… It could be even?”
The opponents’ strength must be equal or just a little above theirs. The reason why they hadn’t attacked when all the workers were gathered must have been because they were not strong enough to take on everybody at once or because they thought it might have been a trap. The reason they finally showed their face must be because they were confident they could win against Parupatra’s group.
Parupatra sweated less and less as he got older but in this moment, his hand that was holding the spear was wet.
“Even so, to put a maid in a cemetery… Someone has questionable taste.”
In an instance, the comrade who had been joking just now shivered, his face pale and his brow full of sweat.
Parupatra also felt a sudden chill come over him, but the reason he had goosebumps all over was not just because of the temperature.
The coldness in the eyes of the maids who were aligned on top of the stair was clearly visible under the moonlight. It was almost as if their eyes were shining
“..…They need to die.”
“They don’t deserve a quick death. They need to suffer unimaginable pain before dying.”
A murderous aura whirled around the maids. The whirlpool of emotion was so strong, it made one wonder if the world might be collapsing around them.
The maid who looked to be the one in charge clapped lightly.
“We were ordered to let none return alive, so killing them is a given. But it’s nice to see everyone being so enthusiastic about it.”
Clack. Metallic sounds resounded down the stairs, which seemed to be made of marble. It was the maids’ high-heels, which resembled greaves.
Parupatra’s comrades backed off as if they had been pushed back. Considering their opponents carried no weapons, they were most likely magic casters. On top of that, the opponent held the advantage of the high ground. They could not afford to keep standing around in wide and open areas without any cover.
For Parupatra and his team, closing the distance was advantageous. For the maids, it was the opposite. But why were those maids coming down the stairs? Were they planning to use ‘Flight’ if the situation got dangerous for them?
Watching the maids, who appeared emotionless as if they were wearing masks as they regally descended the stairs, Parupatra’s team gathered behind the warrior’s shield and discussed the next step.
Clack. Making an even louder noise, the maids stopped about halfway down the stairs.
“Now, I’ll introduce myself first. I am the Pleiades’ sub-leader, Yuri Alpha. I think this will be a short meeting, but please take care of me. If we decided to deal with you ourselves, it would be over pretty fast, but due to certain circumstances, we can’t deal with you personally. How unfortunate.”
A lovely voice rolled out like a bell ringing in the wind. The unbelievably beautiful maids’ smiles were overflowing with an attractiveness that could make any man fall in love in an instant.
Parupatra was a former adventurer and had seen many things in his career as a worker. Amongst them were beings that possessed beauty beyond a human being, such as elves. Even so, he had never seen such beautiful women before. It was enough to make one’s jaw drop.
Their contemptuous tone and the sense of superiority which flowed through their words could only be the arrogance of the incredibly powerful people that hid underneath those pretty faces. It was an attitude that did not sit well with men who had braved countless dangers and were confident in their skills. It almost made them want to scold the maids.
But considering the circumstances, it was likely that the maids were stronger and nobody was keen on fighting them. Plus, one of their comrades had been stunned with killing intent and had yet to snap out of his fear.
Perhaps the best option was to retreat to the adventurers—especially Momon—and bring them in as reinforcements.
“Then I shall introduce your opponents.”
Yuri clapped her hands. As if responding to the clapping noise, which travelled surprisingly far, the cemetery shook.
“Come out, Nazarick Old Guarders.”
The ground had split behind them and several skeletons showed up.
Is this a pincer attack?! Wha…
Looking up the stairs, the maids were hostile, but didn’t seem to want to fight in person. They appeared to be spectators. He couldn’t ignore them, but they didn’t seem to want to attack, just as they had announced.
Parupatra concluded that the true enemies were the skeletons at the rear and turned around to face them.
Skeletons by themselves weren’t really a difficult opponent. Even if hundreds of skeletons attacked Parupatra’s team, they would be able to clean them up easily. Compared to that, the eight skeletons that had sprouted from the ground were nothing.
But there was one problem.
Parupatra’s comrades gulped and unconsciously took a step back.
The atmosphere around them was different from regular skeletons. Even their equipment was different. They wore magnificent breastplates befitting of some country’s royal guard, held kite shields with an emblem in one hand and various kinds of weapons in the other. On their backs were composite long bows, and all their equipment had a magical glow to them.
There was no way skeletons armed with magical items would simply be regular skeletons.
“Just what is that?”
“Not even you know, elder? I’m not sure… but maybe it’s a sub-species of the ‘Skeleton Warrior’.”
“Sub-species? They don’t quite look like ‘Red Skeleton Warrior’, either…”
A never seen before and unknown opponent would always evoke fear. Especially if they were armed with magic weapons with special effects.
“—Considering how many of you there are, I believe this will be a sufficient number. Please put some effort into it, and show us how far you can run.”
“It’s an honour to face undead like these. But…”
Parupatra thought objectively.
It would be difficult to have too many undead armed with so many magic equipment. Their plan was probably to send out the strongest from the start. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have waited for everyone to come inside and split up.
“—This is the tomb’s ultimate strength, right? Do you really think you can stop us just with this?”
When Parupatra looked up, Yuri looked around as if she had been taken aback.
Bullseye. They had been setting up this trap ever since they started talking to us.
The smartest way to use their ultimate strength was to divide and conquer. Considering the chances they might not run into the enemy, the best strategy was to wait by the entrance, where everybody had to pass through when they were physically and mentally exhausted from searching the tomb.
The opponent’s plan was obvious as well. She probably said “let’s see how far you can run” to encourage them to start running away, so that she could strike from behind, which would be an advantageous position for her. The enemy would need to fight several more times even after this, so they would want to conserve their strength as much as possible. Then there was only one thing to do.
“If we take down all the skeletons here and break through, it’s all over. Am I wrong?”
For the sake of the teams that would come behind them, they needed to destroy the Nazarick Old Guarders. They might be rivals, but comrades on a mission were still comrades. Furthermore, if the other side had predicted that they would flee, staying and fighting would have the least chance of falling into a trap. If their opponents were too strong, they still had the option of calling over Momon as a last resort.
“To think we would become the canaries instead… How should I say, it gives me a headache. But do you guys think that’s all of them?”
“It’s hard to imagine any more undead armed with that kind of equipment lying around.”
“This is the place any intruder must go through. Tactically, it makes sense to position the strongest force here. They know more about this place than us, and I doubt they would make the mistake of splitting up too much of their force.”
“…No, there’s bound to be some more inside the grave itself. But what’s there would probably be lower class undead.”
“Elder… let’s run. They’re dangerous. Really, really dangerous.”
“Our escape route was closed the moment they pincer attacked us. Even if we fly, we’ll probably get shot down with arrows. We need to make our stand here! There is no other way than defeating them head on!”
Amidst Parupatra’s shouts, a voice, part surprised and part patronizing, came from above.
“Well, I guess there is that way of breaking through. We’ll cheer for you, so please start.”
As the words faded, the Nazarick Old Guarders began advancing.
Yuri and company had troubled faces as they “cheered them on”. They were unable to hide their surprise at the unexpected way the situation unfolded. They had not anticipated this at all.
“Hey, are they for real?”
“Cocytus-sama was surprised as well.”
“IF tHiNGs gO On liKE This… iT wON’t pRocEEd aS pLanNeD.”
A hammer swung through the air while Yuri and her companions looked on.
“Looks like he’s not gonna make it. He’s gonna die!”
The moment Lupusregina spoke, a man received a strike to the chest and fell.
The sound of metal being crushed and the sound of something heavy falling could be heard clearly even amidst a fierce battle.
The first casualty was the human warrior. The Nazarick Old Guarder that wielded a hammer imbued with ‘Lightning’ did not even celebrate his kill and simply moved in search for the next target.
“Cleric-san~ If you heal him fast enough, he won’t die.”
CZ shook her head at Yuri who sounded a little worried.
“...No point. Instant death. Also, the formation collapsed because of him.”
The two Nazarick Old Guarders which the warrior had been holding back advanced, with one heading towards the cleric and the other marching towards the rear of the formation. The cleric had been fighting against two from the start, and now he had to fight one more. He no longer had the room to use his magic. The only thing he could do was to try to dodge the attacks coming from three directions.
Even Parupatra, who was doing rather well for himself, was fighting against three opponents and could not help the others.
“The rogue just doesn’t have the firepower. Don’t they have some kind of trump card in their back pocket?”
Now the rogue who had to fight while defending the arcane magic caster had to take on one more opponent and he had already been facing two. A rogue’s light weaponry was unable to deal a decisive blow against a Nazarick Old Guarder— an opponent who was clad in heavy armor and an undead, who had no particular weak points. He tried to dodge with his nimble body, but against the tireless undead, resistance was futile.
“He’s looking over here with such a sad expression~”
“Should we wave to him?”
“tHAT mUch SHoulD be fIne.”
“If it’s okay~!”
Lupusregina waved her hands at Parupatra with an enthusiastic smile.
“It’s because Lupu distracted him.”
“Fuee~ Is it my fault, then?”
“...Yes. Your fault. But cheering is good. … Go team.”
“Yes. I hope they fight just as enthusiastically.”
Every maid nodded at Yuri’s words.
In the battle with Parupatra’s worker team, the Nazarick Old Guarders had completely dominated the fight from the beginning. Yuri and the maids almost felt sympathy for the workers while spectating a game that could only be described as a one-sided massacre.
Before the battle started, they had snickered at the useless bravado from the workers, but watching this boring fight, they could not suppress their yawns and started cheering for Parupatra’s team.
“If it’s this one-sided, I really don’t know what to say.”
“...No hidden card?”
“Weren’t they trying to use summoning magic just before?”
“The 3rd tier one?”
“Isn’t that too weak to be considered the trump card? But trying to make a wall with summoned monsters was a good idea”
“I agree! If they weren’t constantly getting attacked, they might have had time to strategize and rebuild the formation~.”
“BUt tRYiNG to UsE fliGhT, NoT a gOOd plan aS wRINkley Old MaN sAiD.”
“Not sure if he was trying to escape or just planning to cast magic from the air…”
“...Priority target. No cover at all.”
The arcane magic caster had already taken a critical injury and was collapsed on his side. If someone was free, they would have used either healing magic or a potion to bring the magic caster back into the formation, but everybody was too occupied. As a result, the only thing the rogue could do was protect him from being dealt the finishing blow.
“But why did they think there would be only that many Nazarick Old Guarders?”
It was a mystery.
Did they think of everything in a way that was convenient for them? It wasn’t because they were stupid. It might have been some human self-preservation method to gather courage and prevent themselves from falling into despair.
“It looks hopeless.”
“Seems so. It looks like it will end soon.”
“OthER sTratEgieS liKE deFeNDinG unTiL tHe otHEr tHieveS REturNeD mIGHt HavE beEN gOOd, toO.”
Everyone looked at Entoma with a cold expression.
“Why’d ya figure they can return?”
“...Brought it on themselves.”
“It would be too much for them to try to leave the Great Tomb of Nazarick.”
A pain-filled voice and something collapsing echoed out. The combat maids looked towards the source and spoke in voice filled with disappointment.
“aH tHe roGUe feLL As wElL.”
“Seems like it’s gonna to be over soon~.”
“We should have let them beg for their lives at the stairs…”
“But they were really confident. I thought they had something up their sleeves.”
It wasn’t sure if the rogue had sprayed it, but the pungent smell of fresh blood wafted all the way to where maids were standing.
“Leave it be.”
Yuri stopped her.
The order from the master was to retrieve the bodies of everyone incapacitated, dead or alive. They could not do something as rude as presenting the body after insects had gone through them.
“I’ll ask Ainz-sama for it later, so be patient for now.”
“But won’t we be in trouble now? Originally this was to test how effectively they could take out the ones trying to run away.”
“Looks like it! That’s why lots of strong undead are hiding by the wall.”
“SEeMs CoCYtUs-sAma cALcuLaTEd hE woULD cAtCh tHEm eaSILy.”
“...To attack head on. Unexpected.”
“It’s what happens when you don’t analyze your opponent's strength properly. As for the ones still alive, let’s heal them up and send them off to the interrogation room. For the dead ones… let’s report to Ainz-sama.”
Thus, Parupatra and his team disappeared from the world that night.
“Start attacking again!”
Greenham’s shout echoed through the crypt filled with the stench of mould and death.
The room was about twenty meters wide and five meters tall. Amidst the room filled with light made by a magic caster and torches dropped on the ground, were the silhouettes of humans.
Along with Greenham, “Heavy Masher” was cornered. The interior was filled with lesser undead such as zombies and skeletons.
Their numbers were stupendous.
Greenham and a warrior holding a shield held back the tide of death from spilling onto the rear of the formation.
A zombie swung its arm at Greenham’s full plate armour. Even if it was an undead that was stronger than the average human being, it still couldn’t dent the steel armour. The rotten hand exploded and foul-smelling splotches of flesh clung to the armour.
The skeletons were the same. With only rusted weapons, they couldn’t get past the full plate armour imbued with magic. Perhaps one might get lucky and pierce the plate, but that was why it was imbued with magic.
Greenham swung his axe horizontally and took one down, but more undead rushed to fill the gap. The horde closed the distance as if to trample them with numbers.
“Damn it! There’s too many of them!”
The warrior holding a shield beside Greenham shouted with a laboured voice. Thanks to his large shield which covered his entire body, he was not injured, but the shield was covered with all kinds of vile fluids. He was smashing skeletons’ skulls with his mace, but he was slowly being pushed back.
“Where did they all come from?”
The warrior’s curiosity was natural.
Greenham’s team had searched several rooms after splitting off from the other teams at the crossroads. Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much treasure as the mausoleum, but after finding a sizeable chunk of valuables lying around, they slowly searched further. When they entered this room to have a look, the door suddenly opened and the undead started to pour in.
A zombie or a skeleton by itself wasn’t a difficult opponent, but their numbers were the real problem. Even if they fell or got trampled, they wouldn’t die, but the undead would reach the rear flank. Of course, the rear flank wouldn’t be taken out that easily either, but against this many, it was difficult to say.
With a little bit of bad luck, the front would collapse immediately. Greenham thought this, and decided to use the force he had been conserving.
“We’ll finish this in an instant. I leave it to you.”
The rear guard, which had only been slinging stones so far, started to move.
For Greenham’s “Heavy Masher”, undead like these were not really a threat. But because they weren’t a real threat, he tried to conserve their strength by keeping the rearguard in reserve. If the rear guard attacked as well, the undead wouldn’t be a problem.
“My lord, the god of earth! Please repel the evil ones!”
The cleric holding a holy symbol shouted while exuding divine power. The air filled with negative aura was cleared away and filled with freshness as if a cool breeze had just passed by. A wave of divine power, stronger than usual, swept out from the cleric.
As soon as the ability activated, the undead around the cleric turned to ashes.
Exorcising the undead usually just made them flee, but if there was an absolute difference in strength, it obliterated the undead instead. However, it was extremely difficult to obliterate large numbers of undead because it required a matching amount of strength.
As a result, over twenty undead were extinguished.
A ‘Fireball’ flew from the arcane magic caster and exploded amidst the undead horde. A pillar of flame sprouted for a moment and burned away the undead’s false life within the effect radius.
“Not over yet! 「Fireball」!”
“My lord, the god of earth. Please repel the evil ones!”
The area of effect attacks struck again and the number of undead fell drastically.
The warrior abandoned his shield, grabbed two maces and jumped into the undead horde along with Greenham. It would have been easy to leave everything to the magic casters, but the reason Greenham rushed in was so that they would conserve as much mana as possible. Especially for the cleric, who could only repel the undead a certain number of times per day. Because it was a job that was especially potent against undead, he would be their hidden card while they were in the tomb.
Greenham swung his axe at the group of zombies. Rather than blood, thick liquid came out from the cut,—it would have spurted if they had hearts—oozing weakly. From the cuts came a disgusting stench, but it was nothing they couldn’t handle.
Rather, their noses were already numb.
Along with the warriors, they attacked, attacked and attacked. They did not think of defense even for a moment. It was the kind of a charge they could do thanks to their sturdy armour supported by magic, not to mention that the undead were weak.
At times, an undead managed to strike Greenham’s head, but the armour absorbed all the shock and there was no strain on his neck. Even when he was struck on his chest or stomach, he barely felt it.
Their opponents were lesser undead. They were only a challenge because of their numbers, but since they had cleared out so many of the undead, they found a bit of breathing room once more. The warrior shouted while still swinging his weapons.
“Until now, we only fought the weakest ones, but considering their numbers, this tomb must have a lot of them!”
“Yea, also it wouldn’t be strange if stronger undead have spawned and are still crawling around somewhere! But I don’t know why they haven’t come out!”
The person who replied was the cleric who picked up the warrior’s shield while keeping an eye on the situation.
“…Perhaps all these undead were summoned. Maybe through some summoning magic or an item.”
Because these undead corpses disintegrated after a certain amount of time, there weren’t enough to fill the entire room with the bodies. These undead corpses also disappeared in a fashion similar to summoned monsters. That’s why the magic caster interjected.
“Some kind of mechanism that mass summons lesser undead? … I don’t want to think about that. Don’t make me imagine this tomb packed tight with zombies everywhere.”
Greenham replied and looked around the room while blowing away a skeleton’s head as if he was trimming a tree. The number of undead remaining could be counted with two hands, and the wide open doors showed no signs of reinforcements for the undead. The fight would be over soon.
In that moment, he felt a chilling sensation rising from the bottom of his feet.
His sense of danger told him to evacuate, but it would be too late in this situation. Even so—
“Alert! Everyone get out of the room—”
The rogue shouted as if he had the same feeling.
But it was too late. The hard floor suddenly vanished. A floating sensation enveloped their bodies and a few heartbeats later their disoriented bodies hit the ground.
Greenham heard his comrades’ pain filled voices, but stood up with his axe that he had not let go while he was falling and attacked the skeletons rolling around on the floor.
Since the undead took damage from the fall—the skeletons were especially weak against crushing damage, and thus took significant damage from falling—it was easy to mop them up.
Greenham looked around the room only after cleaning up all the undead.
They had fallen into a magic trap which made the floor disappear. Looking up, the ceiling was far above them. At least twelve meters above. Three meters above the floor was a door, and three meters above, for total of six meters, was the open door through which they had first come in. They had fallen about two floors total.
If describing the overall shape, it was like a long pillar. The bottom was shaped like an inverted pyramid, and the slope was steep enough to make someone fall all the way towards the centre if they slipped. Actually one of their comrades had already fallen down and was pinned in the middle by all the zombies that had fallen down.
It was amazing that nobody was hurt after falling from such height.
The strange thing about the layout was at about three meters up from the bottom where there was a closed door. There were four tunnels on each side, for total of sixteen.
“It’s almost like the room was designed to drown people. Like water would start pouring out in massive quantity from that door. No, even worse, it could be something like slimes.”
“I agree. We should look around that door to see if it’s safe to escape through.”
However, it was difficult to climb two floors up on a smooth surface with nothing to grab onto. The rogue could probably climb without a hitch, but for someone wearing armour like Greenham, it was impossible. Comparatively, the door on the bottom had was an unknown, and possibly dangerous, but it would be easier to reach.
Just as they were discussing how to climb, something stuck its head out from one of the sixteen tunnels. It was a bloated corpse, a “Plague Bomber”.
The reason why it was bloated was because it was filled with negative energy. It was an undead which exploded upon death to inflict damage to the living and heal the undead.
The undead built like a slab of flesh flung itself out of the tunnel. It hit the floor with a disgusting sound, but the problem was what came next. Its circular body could not gain traction against sloped floor and crashed into Greenham’s team like a boulder.
“Watch out! Get away!”
“Don’t say that to someone who’s in charge of all the thinking.”
Everyone, including the magic caster who was nearly crying, barely dodged the undead as it kept rolling towards the centre of the floor. When the next plague bomber peeked out, they realized the previous one was just the first of a horde and instinctively knew what was about to happen.
“Run! This room’s going to get buried with them.”
If anyone was pushed by an undead, they would fall towards the middle and be crushed underneath the bodies. Even if they did not die from being crushed, they would be immobilized and continue to take negative damage by plague bombers exploding from their comrades’ attack.
“This trap really is evil. Someone boost me up!”
“Nonsense, then that person won’t be able to dodge any attacks.”
Even if they dodged the first attack, they would lose their balance and won’t be able to dodge the next one. Asking someone to become a boost in situation like that was cruel.
“Then I’ll use flying magic!”
“Don’t bother with ‘Flight’! You can’t haul all of us up by yourself.”
“Not that! Crap, they’re falling! I’m talking about ‘Web Ladder’.”
“That sounds good! Then to that nearest door please. Greenham, please cover him!”
“—No, don’t bother. We’re going through the door we came through! That door is dangerous!”
There was no time to ask the rationale behind why he thought the door was dangerous, but their trust in Greenham was absolute.
The magic activated and spider web spread up the wall.
This magical spider web had a strange stickiness about it. If one didn’t want to move, it would stick in place, but if one wanted it to move, it would let go immediately. It was a magic perfectly suited to use in place of a ladder.
Greenham’s team climbed with perfect movement, despite their fear.
The one who barely reached the open door first carefully surveyed the area. If they were pushed back here, then it would really be the end.
He breathed a sigh of relief. The worst case scenario had been avoided and there was no sign of undead. After he finished checking for undead, he hopped into the tunnel and pulled up the people underneath.
“We’re alive! To think we were almost crushed to death by undead, it’s got to be one of the worst kind of death out there.”
“The design of this place is just evil. My legs hurt from the fall, cast some healing magic for me.”
“I think negative energy just scratched the tip of the foot when it exploded. Really scary.”
“We were lucky. But please don’t ask magic casters to dodge attacks anymore.”
Everyone complained while catching their breath.
“Oi, Greenham, why did you want to avoid that door? I thought that door would be the real deal. They usually always have an escape route near dangerous place.”
“It was just a hunch… Do you mind throwing a useless weapon at it?”
Greenham replied with his regular tone and the rogue threw a dagger at the door. The dagger flew straight and appeared as if it would hit the door, but part of the door sprouted a tentacle and deflected the dagger.
“That’s… a “Door Imitator”! No, considering the colour of the tentacle, it might be an undead Door Imitator. A monster that restrains the opponent with sticky tentacles while attacking them.”
“Che, it was a double trap? So evil. But you saw through it.”
“It was a hunch. No, to be precise, I simply chose the known over unknown. Plus, that door was at a position where it would keep taking negative energy bursts. Non-living objects like doors would take less damage from the bursts, but I wondered why they would make a door down there. Now, let’s move…”
Greenham closed his mouth in middle of a sentence. The rogue who had been talking so much just now raised a finger to his lips and was focusing on listening.
When Greenham listened, he could hear an irregular clacking sound, like something tapping the floor.
Everyone turned towards the tunnel where the sound was coming from.
“Probably an enemy… right? I was hoping they would let us take a break.”
“Yea, and there’s only one. No signs of trying to conceal itself either. It would be good if this was the last one…”
Everyone slowly raised their weapon. The warrior standing in the front received his shield and hid half his body behind it. The magic caster readied his glowing staff to launch an attack at any moment towards the direction sound was coming from. The cleric readied his holy icon and the rogue aimed his bow.
Clack, clack. The sound gradually became louder and the opponent showed itself.
Old, but luxurious robes covered the limbs, which were as thin as a young girl’s, and it held a staff in one hand. This was the source of the sound.
With only a thin layer of decomposing skin, the face had a look of fiendish wisdom and negative aura surrounded the body like a fog.
It was an undead magic caster. Its name was—
The magic caster who identified the monster first shouted.
That was right. A monster that spawns when the corpse of an evil magic caster gained unholy life. It was that kind of fiendish monster.
Greenham’s comrades immediately changed formation when they heard “Elder Lich”. No one stood in a single file and they kept their distance from each other in case of an area of effect magic.
An Elder Lich was a strong opponent. It would be challenging for a platinum-ranked adventurer, and relatively winnable for a mithril-ranked adventurer. For Greenham’s team, if one disregarded their fatigue, it was an opponent they could easily win against. Fortunately, they also had a member who was especially potent against undead, so they were confident.
Plus if the opponent was extremely far away, it would have been dangerous, but the distance between them was advantageous.
“You must be the master of this tomb.”
Greenham had come to that conclusion. Elder Liches were rulers. Sometimes they ruled over an undead horde and occasionally traded with living beings.
There were plenty of infamous Elder Liches such as the captain of a ghost ship which glided across the fog of Kattse Plains, or an Elder Lich which ruled over an abandoned castle. If it was an Elder Lich, then it wasn’t strange to think it would be the master of the tomb.
“We’ve got the right address. Lucky.”
“Although killing the owner of this tomb wasn't the request.”
“Let’s show him the power of “Heavy Masher”.”
“Kneel before the blessing of god!”
All his comrades shouted together. It was to shake off the fear of facing against a strong opponent like an Elder Lich.
Greenham tried to shout orders to his comrades filled with resolve, but was surrounded with a feeling of dread. The source of this dread was the powerful opponent standing before them, the Elder Lich.
“…What’s he doing?”
“Is he planning… for a sneak attack?”
The Elder Lich showed no sign of movement against Greenham’s team. It did not raise its staff, nor did it chant any spell, but simply watched them.
Greenham’s companions could not hide their surprise at this. Their expectations of an immediate battle had been shattered. But they also hesitated to strike first.
The undead harboured hatred for all living beings. But certain sentient undead were capable of suppressing their hatred to negotiate. If the living were to offer negotiation, it would usually end up as a bad trade, but if the undead made the first offer, there had been instances of people obtaining ancient items that had been made with now-forgotten knowledge.
It would be the best-case scenario if they didn’t have to fight a strong opponent like an Elder Lich. Perhaps it was anxious because it couldn’t finish them off with traps or perhaps it recognized their skills and was looking for a way to settle things peacefully.
Considering all these factors, it would have been foolish to attack first since it would destroy any chance of negotiation. A hard battle without an established escape route carried huge risks.
Greenham’s companions looked at each other as if they had all arrived at the same conclusion.
It was the leader’s job to talk as the representative.
“Excuse me, we believe you are the owner of this tomb. We are—”
The Elder Lich turned its grotesque face to Greenham and raised its bony finger to its lips.
Meaning: be quiet.
It was not an action fitting an Elder Lich, but nobody was brave enough, no, nobody was stupid enough to say something like that to such a strong opponent.
Greenham closed his mouth obediently. In the hallway filled with silence, he doubted his ears when he heard “that sound” again.
The clacking noise he heard not too long ago. The noise of something knocking on the floor. And six of them.
Greenham’s team looked at each other. They could not believe their ears.
And everybody descended into panic.
“Who was it! Who said that Elder Lich was the master of this tomb?”
“I’m sorry! It was me!”
“What the hell is this? How does this make any sense?”
“Oiiiiiii, how are we supposed to win against this!”
“Even god’s blessing has its limits!”
Behind the first Elder Lich, similar monsters had showed themselves. Six of them.
There were total of seven extremely strong undead magic casters.
As long as they were of the same type of monster, they had similar methods of attack. In other word, if one had a way of neutralizing their attacks, it was theoretically possible to defeat all of them. However, none of them possessed the method to do so, nor was it possible to possess such methods.
In this hopeless situation, Greenham and his comrades lost all will to fight.
“Then, let’s begin.”
Following the voice of the Elder Lich that did not show even a hint of wanting to negotiate, seven staves rose slowly. At the same time, Greenham’s shout echoed.
As if waiting for that command, all of them ran with all their strength in the opposite direction from the Elder Liches. Of course they had no time to think about what would be beyond the tunnel. They only sought to improve their chances of survival against the onslaught of Elder Liches.
The rogue ran at the front, then Greenham, then the magic caster, then the cleric and finally the warrior.
They all ran without hesitation.
A corner. Normally they would be wary of a monster around the corner, but considering the footsteps that came from behind them, there was no time to carefully look around before going. They left everything up to luck and just ran.
On the either side of the hallway, there was a door made of stone, but they were afraid of running into a dead end and didn’t bother opening it.
Loud metallic sounds echoed through the hallway from the people wearing full plate armour, which could attract other monsters, but there was no time to cast ‘Silence’.
They ran and ran and ran.
After turning corners after corners and running down the tunnel at full speed, they had lost their bearings and could no longer tell where they were. If possible, they wanted to return to the entrance, but they couldn’t relax just yet.
“Are they still chasing us?”
Greenham asked while still running. The reply came from the warrior at the back.
“Yea! They’re running, too!”
“Stop running after us! Just use flight magic!”
“If they use flying magic, then they can just attack while following us, you idiot!”
“Let’s lock ourselves in some room and negotiate…”
The magic caster shouted while gasping for air. He was the least physically fit out of all the members and looked as if he was about to collapse. Greenham decided this was not the way to go. They couldn’t last any longer.
Undead monsters like Elder Liches felt no such thing as fatigue. At this rate, they would eventually catch up and slaughter the exhausted workers.
“How are there so many Elder Liches…”
It was something that defied common sense.
“Is the master of this tomb something even stronger than an Elder Lich?!”
That was the only explanation he could think of. But did such undead exist? Greenham had no answer.
“Damn it! This god damn tomb!”
The warrior at the rear shouted while breathing hard.
As if waiting for that moment, the floor began to glow in shapes. It was big enough to surround all of Greenham’s group.
Someone’s voice rang out with what sounded like a scream—
—and then there was a floating sensation, different from when they had fallen earlier.
♦ ♦ ♦
Greenham’s vision was nothing but pitch darkness. There was something crunching underneath his boots and he felt a slowly sinking sensation, as though he was being sucked into a swamp. He had panicked for a bit, but it didn’t seem too deep as he stopped sinking after he was submerged to about his waist level.
Greenham spoke out in the realm dominated by pitch darkness and silence, like a lost child looking for his parents.
“…Is there someone here?”
“Over here, Greenham.”
The voice of one of the comrades, the rogue, rang out. He didn’t sound too far away. Probably about the same distance they were keeping when they were running.
“…Is there anybody else?”
There was no reply. It was the expected answer. Considering there was no light, the magic caster or the warrior wasn’t likely to be here. He should consider it lucky that at least the rogue was with him.
“…It seems there’s only us.”
“That means… Che, I guess you’re right.”
He looked around with taking a step forward. The deep darkness was everywhere and invoked the fear that he wouldn't be able to tell where he himself ended and where the darkness started. There was no sign of movement anywhere.
“Should we turn on the light?”
He wondered if their movement would break this silence, or activate a trap, and other negative thoughts creeped in. However, human eyes could not see in the dark and they needed some kind of light source.
“Hold on a moment.”
With the rogue’s voice, some kind of moving noise came from the darkness and there was a light.
The sight of the rogue holding a glowing stick was the first thing in view. And countless shining objects which reflected the light. It reminded him of the treasures in the mausoleum.
But that wasn’t the case.
Greenham barely suppressed his screams and the rogue looked as if he was about to have a seizure.
The light brought up countless reflections. Insects filled the entire room and the identity of the reflections were cockroaches. The room was filled with cockroaches of various size ranging from ones the size of pinky finger to ones which were over a meter long. Furthermore, they were stacked on top of each other in countless layers.
The crushing sensation and noise by his feet had been the cockroaches. Considering they came up to his waist, he didn’t want to imagine how many there were.
The room was so wide, the light did not reach to the walls. Considering the effective area of the glowing stick was fifteen meters wide, he could roughly comprehend how wide the interior was. When he looked up towards the ceiling, he could see a humongous swarm of cockroaches reflecting the light back at him.
“What… is this place?
The rogue murmured in groaning tone. Greenham could understand what he felt like. He felt if he spoke, they would all start moving at once.
“Just what is going on?”
While looking around in fear, Greenham remembered the last moment before they were teleported into the pitch darkness. He thought about the glowing magic circle and asked the rogue.
“…Was it a floor trap?”
“It’s probably not the case. Wasn’t it something else? A different spell…?”
“A teleportation type magic trap… Maybe the Elder Liches cast it?”
Teleportation magic existed. For example, the 3rd tier magic used for running away, ‘Dimensional Move’, was one of them, but the caster could only use that spell on himself. Magic like this, which could be used on other people, and multiple people, on top of that…
“There is 5th or 6th tier magic that could teleport a group of people at once, right?”
“Yea… I think so.”
“To think they could use that kind of magic…”
A being that could use 5th tier magic at the very least. It was unheard of. But Greenham could make sense of it. If there was someone as strong as that, then it made sense he would be able to rule over multiple Elder Liches at once and given that they were intelligent, they would be easier to command and control as well.
Greenham realized the true extent of danger lurking within this tomb and a chilling sensation filled his body. At the same time, hatred for the Earl who had made this request started boiling deep inside him. Of course, the people who had taken on this work were Greenham and the other workers, and they had put their lives as a betting chip despite all the risks. They couldn’t say anything about it.
But the Earl must have had some information about the tomb. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have offered such significant sum of money to gather the workers.
“Did he purposefully hold back on us? Damn it… Let’s get out of here fast. This place… it wasn’t something we should have messed with.”
“Alright, Greenham. You lead, I’ll follow you.”
The rogue didn’t seem to have noticed, or perhaps it was better if he didn’t.
The cockroaches weren’t moving at all.
Greenham looked around at the cockroaches that surrounded him. Considering their antennas were moving ever so slightly, they weren’t dead, but they did not move either. It reeked of unknown danger.
“No, you cannot escape.”
The voice of a third person sounded.
Greenham and the rogue looked around everywhere, but there was no sign of movement anywhere.
“Ah, I apologize. This one is Kyouhukou, the one entrusted with this territory from Ainz-sama. Pleased to meet your acquaintance.”
In the direction where the voice was coming from, they witnessed a strange scene. Pushing away the swarm of cockroaches, something was trying to climb up.
It was not at a range that could be reached with a close combat weapon. The rogue quietly readied his bow and Greenham tried to take out his sling and stones, but decided otherwise. He would rush across the swarm of cockroaches coming up to his waist and cut the opponent immediately.
The one that appeared after pushing through all the cockroaches was another cockroach.
But it was certainly different from rest of its species. This cockroach was about thirty centimeters tall and stood on two legs.
It wore a bright red cape decorated with luxurious golden threads around the edge and a cute little golden crown on its head. Grasped in its front leg was a scepter with a pure white gem embedded at the end.
The strangest thing of them all was despite the fact it stood on two legs, its head was facing Greenham and the rogue. If an ordinary insect stood upright, its head would point towards the sky. But the strange being in front of them wasn’t like that at all.
Greenham and the rogue exchanged a glance and decided that Greenham would be in charge of the negotiation. After confirming that the rogue had nocked an arrow and had it pointing downwards, he talked to Kyouhukou.
“Who… are you?”
“Hmm… It seems you did not hear me the first time. Would you like me to introduce myself once more?”
“No, that’s not the problem…”
Greenham realized this was not the kind of thing to talk nor ask about.
“…I’ll be honest. Do you want to trade?”
“Oh-ho, you want a trade. Since I am feeling very grateful towards the both of you, there is no reason why I can’t listen to your proposal.”
The mysterious words, “feeling grateful”, made him uneasy about what exactly made it feel grateful, but it wasn’t something they could afford to ask under such disadvantageous circumstance.
“…What we want… is for you to let us go unharmed from this place.”
“Of course, that would be something you wish for. But even if you do leave this room, you are currently on the 2nd Floor of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. I must advise you that it would be extremely difficult to return above ground.”
Greenham’s eyes opened wide at the word.
“So the door underneath the mausoleum on the surface leads to the 1st Floor?”
“Is that unusual?”
“No, I just wanted to confirm it.”
“Haha, since you were teleported from the 1st Floor, I can understand your confusion.”
Looking at Kyouhukou who was nodding at the structure layout, Greenham felt a chill running down his spine, as if an icicle was stabbing him in the back. It was fear arising from realizing his earlier theory was correct.
In other word, something had somehow used teleportation magic as a trap. What kind of magic would it be and what kind of magical abilities would it require? He was not a magic caster, but he fully realized the implications.
“…Of course, it you could tell us the way out of the tomb as well… Hmmm, no we won’t ask that much. Just let us leave this room.”
“We’ll… give you whatever you want.”
“Is that so…”
Kyouhukou nodded and appeared as if he was concentrated on thinking.
Some time passed in absolute silence. Then Kyouhukou nodded as if he understood and started talking.
“This one already has everything one could wish for in its hand. I doubt you would be able to provide what I desire.”
Kyouhukou stopped Greenham, who was about to talk, by raising its front leg and continued.
“But you seem to be confused as to why I was thanking you earlier, so I wish to provide you with an explanation. You see, my subjects are getting tired of cannibalism. To you, who will be the food that will serve as the solution, I give my thanks once again.”
The moment the rogue understood what was being said he shot the arrow. The arrow cut across the air but was wrapped around by Kyouhukou’s red cape and fell on the ground.
The room started to tremble.
Countless sounds started coming from every direction and crescendoed.
A tidal wave erupted. It was a swell of a black sea.
“It may be unfortunate for you two, but now it is time to have you for dinner.”
The gigantic tidal wave swallowed Greenham and the rogue. It was truly as if they were being swept away by currents.
While being rolled around in the black whirlpool, Greenham slapped at the cockroaches that had managed to crawl into the openings in his armour. There was no weapon that would work well against a horde of such small insects, nor did they possess a method for area of effect attacks. It was faster to use hands than anything else. Because of that, they had already abandoned their weapons which had long since disappeared.
He tried his best to struggle and wave around wildly, but due to countless cockroaches holding onto him, he could barely move. It was a movement that resembling someone drowning. The only sound Greenham could hear was that of countless cockroaches crawling about.
The rogue had already been swept away and his voice was nowhere to be heard. No, it was only natural that Greenham could not hear his voice. The rogue couldn’t speak with all the cockroaches that had crawled into his mouth, throat and stomach.
Greenham felt painful stinging sensations from everywhere on the body. It was the pain from cockroaches that had slipped inside his armour slowly eating away at him.
Greenham tried to shout but was immediately choked by the countless cockroaches flooding his mouth and clogging his throat. He tried to throw up with all his might, but cockroaches kept crawling in from the tiny opening of his mouth. Then they scrabbled around in the mouth.
As if one had crawled inside his ear, the rustling sound was persistent and loud enough to give him chills.
Countless cockroaches crawled and ate away at his face. He felt pain on his eyelids, but he didn’t dare to open his eyes. It was obvious what would happen if he ever opened his eyes.
Greenham understood what would happen to him. At this rate, he would be eaten alive by these ravenous cockroaches.
“I don’t want this!”
He screamed in desperation and the cockroaches poured into his mouth once again. They crawled, trying to move into his throat. Then something mushy, a sensation of something tumbling down into the stomach. Then the disgusting sensation of cockroaches squirming inside his stomach made him want to throw up.
Greenham resisted with all his strength. He didn’t want this kind of death.
He had worked for the status that he had attained with the single-minded goal of showing off to his brothers.
He had gathered enough money to live comfortably without having to work anymore. Thanks to his fame, he could marry a beautiful girl that one would never be able to find in a regular village. He had become a winner in life who had far surpassed the brothers who had denied him their wealth and kicked him out.
He didn’t want to die here.
“Abrrwargagh! I’ll go back alive!”
He shouted while throwing up the cockroaches he had crushed in his mouth.
“…You are resisting quite valiantly. Then I shall give you some more.”
Even Greenham’s shouts were buried underneath the black whirlpool in mere seconds.
♦ ♦ ♦
His eyes opened.
What came into his vision was a strange ceiling. It was made with stone and had white glowing objects embedded in it. He tried to look around to understand how he got there, but realized his head wouldn’t move at all. No, it was not just his head, but he couldn’t move his entire body. It was as if something was tied around his wrists, ankles, waist, and chest.
This incomprehensible situation filled him with fear and he wanted to scream, but something was stuck in his mouth, so he could not speak nor close his mouth fully.
When he desperately tried to look around by straining his eyes, a voice spoke.
“Oh my, you’re awake now?”
It was a guttural voice. It was difficult to tell whether the voice belonged to a man or a woman.
The one that appeared in his unmoving sight was a disgusting monster.
It had the body of a human, but the head of a deformed octopus. The six long, squirming tentacles attached to its head extended all the way down to its thighs.
The skin colour was milky white, like the waxy flesh of someone who had drowned. On the bloated, corpse-like body was clothing made with black leather which barely covered anything. The cloth wrapped tightly around its body, like butcher’s twine tying up a piece of meat, and it could be described as nothing but grotesque. If a beauty had worn it, it would have been attractive, but on a monster like this was nauseating.
On each hand were four webbed fingers. It had long fingernails, with strange and bizarre nail art on them.
This strange heteromorphic being turned its pupil-less milky blue eyes on him.
“Fufufu, did you sleep well?”
“Hff, hff, hff hff.”
Fear and panic. Gripped by those two emotions, he could only let out a harsh breathing noise. The monster touched his cheek softly like a mother trying to calm a scared child. But the cold and mushy feelings of the hand sent chills all over his body.
It would have made perfect sense if the pungent smell of blood or rotten flesh had wafted over, but the creature smelled like aromatic flowers. This only amplified his fear.
“My, to think it’d shrink this much. There’s no need to be scared.”
The monster’s gaze was towards his lower body. From the sensation of air on his skin, he realized that he was naked.
“Hmm, mind if I ask your name?”
It tapped its slender finger on its cheek and tilted its head while asking. The pose would have looked good if it was a beauty, but a monster that looked like a drowned corpse with an octopus for a head only evoked disgust and fear.
The monster smiled at him, who could only move his eyes. The tentacles covered its mouth and its expression barely changed. Despite that, he knew it was smiling because its bead like eyes had narrowed.
“Ufufu, you don’t want to speak right? How cute. Don’t be so shy.”
The monster’s fingertip slid across his chest as if it was writing something, but all he could feel was fear that felt as if his heart was being ripped out.
“Onee-san will tell you her name F.I.R.S.T.”
It was a seductive and sweet tone of voice that sounded as if heart marks would pop out of them.
“I’m the Great Tomb of Nazarick’s Special Information Gatherer, Neuronist. Hehe, they also call me the “Interrogator”.”
The long tentacles squirmed apart and revealed a circular mouth at their base of the tentacle. Amidst rows of razor sharp teeth, a tube that resembled a tongue came out. It truly looked like a red straw.
“I’ll suck you dry with this in a bit.”
What did it mean by “suck dry”? He tried to move his panic-stricken body, but it was tightly clamped down.
“Now, now. You were captured by us.”
That was right. His last memory was of Greenham and the rogue disappearing from right in front of him. Then he blacked out and woke up to his current predicament.
“You should know where you are, right?”
Neuronist laughed before continuing.
“This is the Great Tomb of Nazarick. The place where the last of the 41 Supreme Beings, Momon— I mean Ainz-sama, resides. It is the most holy of places.”
Neuronist understood him perfectly despite his inability to speak properly and slid her hand across his skin.
“One of the 41 Supreme Beings. He ruled over the other Supreme Beings in the past, and he is very, very cool. If you look at him once, you’ll want to swear loyalty with all your heart, too. If Ainz-sama ever calls me over to his bed, I don’t mind offering my first time to him.”
She fidgeted, no, jiggled as if she was embarrassed.
“Hey, do you want to hear something?”
Like a timid girl playing with her finger, she traced letters across his naked body.
“There was this one time Ainz-sama was staring at my body. It was the stare of a male selecting a target for his hunt. Then he turned his face away as if he was embarrassed. It made my chest tighten and sent chills down my back.”
It stopped suddenly and brought its face closer as if trying to look deep into his eyes. He tried with all his might to get away from the grotesque face, but he couldn't move his body at all.
“Even though that brat Shalltear and that ugly pumpkin Albedo are aiming for Ainz-sama’s attention, I’m still more attractive. Don’t you think so?”
“Wevs E wnph mahs hoo” (Yes, I think so, too.)
What would happen if he dared to disagree? That fear forced him to grunt his muffled agreement.
Neuronist clasped her hands and looked up happily into the air. It looked like a zealot praying up into the sky.
“Fufufu, you’re a good boy. Or are you telling the facts as they are? But why isn’t Ainz-sama calling for me… Ah~ Ainz-sama… Even your abstinence is amazing…”
The way her body twitched in delight called to mind the writhing movements of a giant, squirming maggot.
“…Ha, it makes my body feel electrified. Ara, I’m sorry. I’ve been talking only about myself.”
Don’t mind me. Neuronist ignored his thoughts and continued.
“Now, should I tell you about your fate? Do you know what a choir is?”
He blinked at the unexpected question. Looking at his surprised expression, Neuronist assumed he did not know what a choir was and explained.
“A choir is a group of people that sings hymns praising god’s love and glory. I want you to become one of them, along with all your little friends.”
If that was all, then it wasn’t much. He wasn’t very confident in his singing, but he was not tone deaf either. But was this monster really talking about something like singing? He could not hide his unease that rose like the tide and eyed Neuronist.
“That’s right, a choir. Even fools like you that haven’t sworn loyalty to Ainz-sama can dedicate their voices to sing his praises. The goal is a chorus. Ah, how electrifying! It’s Neuronist’s gospel music dedicated to Ainz-sama.”
A cloudy colour spread in its revolting eyes. Was that because it was excited by its thoughts? Its fingers wiggled like worms.
“Fufufufu, now I’ll introduce you to the ones who will support you in your chorus.”
As if they had been waiting in a corner, several figures came into view.
He stopped breathing the moment he saw them. It was obvious that they were evil creatures.
Black leather aprons that clung tightly to their figures. Their skin was ghastly pale, almost transparent, and purple veins were visible as if their blood was purple.
They wore tight black leather masks with no visible openings, which made him curious how they could see or breathe. Their arms were long as well. They were about two meters in height, but their arms were long enough to reach their knees.
Each of them had a belt on their waist, with numerous tools hanging off them.
There were four of them in total.
“They’re ‘Torturers’. They’re going to help me help you sing a beautiful song.”
A dangerous premonition. He finally realized what it meant by singing and struggled to escape. However, he still could not move.
“It’s no use~. It’s not going to break from someone of your strength. They’ll cast healing magic over and over, so you can get plenty of opportunity to practice.”
Neuronist said this as though she were extending the hand of mercy to him, but she did so in the most evil of tones.
“Thnd du mus!” (Don’t do this!)
“Mmm? Why do you say that? Do you want us to stop?”
Neuronist asked softly to the man who had tears rolling down from his eyes. Then the six tentacles squirmed.
“Listen well. Because he remained, we, who were created by the 41 Supreme Beings, were allowed to exist. Our very existence is to serve him. Do you think we’ll show even a shred of mercy to some filthy thieves that tracked mud into the holy place where such an exalted being lives? Do you really think that?”
“Auf lirru gwpph!” (I’m really sorry!)”
“Hehehe, that’s right. Regret is a valuable thing.”
Neuronist picked up a thin rod from somewhere. At the end of the rod were spikes that were roughly five millimeters long.
“Let’s start with this.”
Neuronist kindly explained every little detail to the man who didn’t understand anything about the tool.
“My creator used to suffer from a little problem called ‘kidney stones’. To pay respects to that, we’ll start with this. Since it became so small, I don’t think we’ll have much problem putting it in.”
“Thnd du mus!”
Neuronist took its face closer to the man who was screaming out in realization of what would happen to him.
“We’re going to spend a long, long time together. You shouldn’t start crying, because this is only the beginning.”
Despite each team picking their own path at the crossroads, Eruya’s baseless assumption that stronger enemies would be in the deeper part of the tomb was why he chose to keep going straight ahead.
He came across countless corners and stone doors, but he silently walked on. In fact, he was bored that there was nothing happening. Not a single monster nor a trap. Maybe he picked the wrong route. Eruya thought that as he clicked his tongue.
“Move it, you slowpoke. Walk faster!”
Eruya ordered the elf who was walking ten meters ahead of him in a forceful voice. The elf had stopped every once in awhile, but after the order, she trembled a bit and started to walk again. She had been walking continuously since she came into the tomb.
She was lucky so far, but if there were any traps ahead, she would die for sure.
Rather than searching for traps, her treatment was more akin to the way canaries were used by miners. Eruya’s team consisted of Eruya and three elf slaves with distinct skills, — ranger, cleric and druid. Using someone who possessed detection skills as a mining canary was an unreasonable order to give.
But Eruya had his own reasons. It was simply that he was tired of the elf who was walking at the front.
Many would be surprised if they heard it. Not for moral reasons, but for monetary reasons.
Slaves from the Slane Theocracy were not cheap. Especially elves, whose prices varied drastically depending on their appearance or skills. Elves were normally expensive enough to make one’s eyes pop out and were traded at price far beyond the capabilities of an average person.
An elf with skills would go for around the same price as a weapon imbued with special magic. Even for Eruya, they were not something he could buy willy-nilly.
But since Eruya took all of ‘Tenmu’s payment for himself, he could make up for the losses quickly if the quests went well. Thus, he didn’t care if one of them died after he got tired of them.
Next time, I should get one with larger breasts.
Eruya thought that while looking at the back of the elf who slowly walked forward.
I like how they scream when I squeeze their breasts hard.
Because this quest was a joint operation between multiple teams, he couldn’t bed the elves for a few days. No one would have grounds to complain if he did, but jealousy could trigger all sorts of unpleasant events. Eruya had enough common sense as a worker to realize what kind of loss in profit the problems might lead to.
Eruya’s pent up lust made him harbour alternative thoughts.
No, maybe I should get someone like that woman.
The one who came into Eruya’s mind was a member of “Foresight”. The half-elf who had looked at Eruya with hate-filled eyes.
She was truly an annoying woman.
There was a small girl beside her in that party, but Eruya could understand that the small child couldn’t help but look at him with open hostility. It was common for women not to understand men’s desires, and especially for someone of her age, it would be understandable for her to have a certain disdain for sexual acts. But it was not acceptable for lower life forms to look at humans with such eyes.
Just the thought brought out the anger in Eruya’s face.
I want to beat that annoying face until it can’t resist anymore…
For elven slaves, they were broken with all kinds of methods before being delivered to the customer. There was no way elf slaves would show much resistance.
On the other hand, if he targeted that half-elf, she would resist like a mad beast. For Eruya, it won’t be hard to break and conquer the beast, but he wouldn’t be unscathed and he didn’t have much confidence in his ability to subdue his prey alive. While he was imagining slapping Imiya around in his head, he didn’t notice that the elf who was leading the way had stopped.
“Who told you to stop? Keep walking.”
“Sob…! I h-heard a noise from there.”
Eruya concentrated on hearing while frowning at the elf. The silence was almost deafening.
“…I don’t hear anything.”
Normally he would have beaten her, but elves had superior hearing than humans. Even if Eruya couldn’t hear anything, there was a good chance elves could hear something. To confirm, he asked the two beside him.
“What about you? Do you hear it?”
“Y-yes. I can hear it.”
“It-it’s like the sound of metal clanging against metal.”
“…Is that so.”
There was no way a metallic clanging sound occurred naturally. There must be someone making that noise. In other words, his first chance for battle since entering the tomb. He became excited at the thought.
“Let’s go towards the place where the sound’s coming from.”
With the elf slave leading the way, he headed towards the place the sound was coming from. Soon, Eruya could hear the metallic sounds as well. It was accompanied by the sound of something hard striking some other hard material and the shouts of battle.
“Well, I guess it’s just the other workers. The tunnel didn’t seem to bend at any point, but I guess we’re going to run into another team.”
It was as if someone poured a bucket of cold water on his excitement. He sighed as if he had lost all motivation.
“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. I can fight as their reinforcement.”
When Eruya reached where the sound was coming from, he had a strange feeling. It was abnormal for a battle. It was like—
His curiosity was answered when he turned the corner.
It was a fairly large room, big enough to have tens of people run around freely. Inside were ten lizardmen wearing magnificent armour. They all wore collars around the neck, each with a broken chain hanging off it.
They were swinging swords at each other. They struck with screeching shouts and exchanged blows filled with resolve. It was occurring everywhere in the room. Despite having an appearance of a fierce battle, Eruya could tell this was just practice.
He confirmed it since they stopped swinging their swords when Eruya’s party entered the room.
One of the others in the room was a hulking figure with a gigantic tower shield, wearing black full plate armour with decorations that looked as if it were covered in blood vessels. And the last person was— no, the last thing would be more accurate.
It was a gigantic beast covered in silver fur, with wisdom gleaming out of its eyes.
“You have finally arrived, intruder-dono.”
There were a lot of annoying monsters amongst the ones that could speak. Magical beasts tended to attack using physical strength, but the intelligent ones often used magic.
Eruya knew he was a genius swordsman, but he wasn’t so confident in magic. He strengthened his core and resolved his heart to counter magic.
“And you are?”
There was no need to ask. If it was waiting here, then it was something that would be defending the tomb. The only question was how strong it was.
From the appearance, it could be the tomb’s master. If he took down this beast, his would be the top contribution. It would mean his team would be the best out of all the worker teams. Since ‘Tenmu’ was pretty much Eruya by himself, it would mean that he was the best worker. Even luck was an important quality for a worker.
“This king was ordered to face you here. I was suppose to test out this and that… but you don’t seem to be much of an opponent.”
He felt disappointed and annoyed at the same time.
Disappointment at the fact that the beast was nothing but a watchdog and annoyance from the fact it was underestimating him.
“To think it would be like this even before we exchange blows… You.”
The elf trembled when he called her with a low voice. Eruya felt satisfaction at the sight. That was the kind of attitude something should show towards him. Even though it had only been a few days, after spending some time with Momon, whom everyone looked up to, he had become more generous.
“What is that monster?”
“I-I’m sorry, but it’s n-not a monster I know.”
He struck the useless elf with the sheath of his sword. Eruya ignored the elf that was collapsed on the floor apologizing over and over again to study the beast.
Due to its size, facing it head-on appeared to be disadvantageous, but monsters were generally like that. And Eruya had killed numerous monsters without a problem. He felt foolish that he was scared even for a moment just because it was a beast he had never seen before. There was always need for caution, but being overly cautious and being scared was incompetence on its own.
“I’ll ask one more question. What makes you think you can win against me?”
“I can tell that you’re weak just from a glance…”
Eruya frowned and gripped his sword tightly.
“…Seems like your eyes are useless. Shall I carve them out for you?”
“You can certainly try. But my orders said it didn’t matter if I killed you here… So why don’t we start?”
That calm tone. It angered Eruya once again.
He wanted to swing his sword without saying anything, but running into the beast that did not seem worried at all would make him look like the weaker one. So he held back and scoffed at it.
“Then so shall it be, beast.”
“Then why are you just standing around like that? Do you not wish to prepare the elves over there?”
“No need. Speaking of which, don’t you want to prepare the lizards standing behind you?”
“Ah, it will be fine. They are only here to observe this king’s battle. Do not worry about them.”
“You’re brave to throw away your only chance of victory.”
“I am very grateful for your praise.”
Sarcasm didn’t work on it. Maybe it was intelligent enough to speak, but not that smart? While Eruya was thinking that, the beast twitched its whiskers and spoke.
“But I plan to kill you without any mercy, so I hope you fight with all your strength. As I said before, this is a test given to this one as well.”
“A test? A test for a watchdog?”
“Hmm~ It’s a test to see if I’ve improved as a warrior. Now, are you ready to start? I’ll leave the elves behind you alone and face only you for now.”
“As you wish.”
“This king’s name is Hamsuke! Go to the other world remembering the name of one who killed you! State your name as well!”
“…I have no name to give to a mere beast.”
“Then I shall erase you from my memory as a nameless fool!”
The gigantic figure leaped forward.
It was an unimaginably agile movement considering its size. A mediocre warrior would have been overwhelmed by the pressure of its approach and taken massive damage from the charge.
I’m different from those losers.
Eruya baited in Hamsuke’s charge and slid to the side without moving his feet.
It was the improved version of martial arts called ‘Shukuchi’, the ‘Shukuchi Kai’.
Originally, ‘Shukuchi’ could be used only to close distance with the enemy, however, this version allowed the user to move freely in any direction. The appearance of sliding without moving the feet looked strange, but it was extremely useful.
Dodging will shift one's center of gravity and break their balance. However, if one didn’t need to move in order to dodge, then one could attack immediately with the full strength of their lower body.
His sword swung down—
Eruya flew back as if he had bounced off Hamsuke’s body.
It was an extremely hard body. What looked like fluffy silver fur felt strangely hard and metallic, and Eruya felt as if he had been hit by a mace. He nearly whited out from the impact.
The moment he hit the ground, Eruya unconsciously checked his whole body to see if it could move. He had minor bruises, but it didn’t appear as if he had any dislocated bones. He could fight on.
The fact he fell on the floor and allowed the enemy’s attack to touch him incensed him the most, but the warrior in Eruya told him that now was not the time to think of such things.
As soon as Eruya stood up, he located Hamsuke and prepared to receive its charge once again by extending his sword.
Something sticky flowed from his nose. When he wiped it, he confirmed it was blood as he expected.
Hamsuke watched Eruya, who was trying to stand up, with calm eyes. It would be more accurate to say that Hamsuke was observing him.
It was different from a typical beast’s gaze of ‘Can I eat it?’ or ‘Can I win against it?’. Those were the eyes of a warrior who was trying to determine the best method to fight from the blow they exchanged earlier.
I’m a test dummy to see if a monster grew as a warrior? Not someone else, but me?
It felt as unpleasant as ever, but considering its agility, he had to admit that it was not an average monster. Within a split second, this monster had predicted that he would try to flank its attack, and launched a jumping bodyslam. It was not a particularly powerful attack, but it could only have acquired that kind of response after training extensively.
“It seems so, indeed… If it keeps on like this, I would win easily. Ah, please don’t pay this king any heed. This king has never seen a human that could win against me.”
“You should save your words until the end. Unlike a mere beast, a warrior can use martial arts!”
He thought he would win hands down. That was why he was holding back, but now, he needed to be serious.
“Martial arts! 「Ability Boost 」, 「 Greater Ability Boost」!”
These were the martial arts he was most proud of. Especially ‘Greater Ability Boost’, which was not something a person on Eruya’s level could learn.
I’m a genius because I’m able to learn something like this! I’m strong!
He swung his sword and could feel how light and smooth the movement was. The sword moved exactly as how he imagined.
Eruya smiled cynically. The next round would be his.
“Hmm~ I was taught to keep a distance when unsure of an opponent’s strength, but I have to fight as a warrior… I suppose it can’t be helped.”
Hamsuke scuttled over on its two hind legs and closed in.
“Is it going to be close quarter combat? Shall I receive your attack?”
“Don’t look down on me, beast.”
The moment it came into range, Eruya launched his assault.
Hamsuke barely deflected the sword strike augmented with ‘Ability Boost’ using its claws. Or rather, it would be more accurate to say it attempted to deflect the strike, because the sword was still headed for its arm. However, the sword had lost its force after hitting the claws and failed to cut through the hardened fur and the flesh beneath.
Eruya did not retract his sword and immediately thrust it towards Hamsuke’s eyes. Some monsters had hardened eyelids which could deflect even swords imbued with ki or aura. But Hamsuke didn’t appear to possess anything like that.
That was why Hamsuke did not allow the attack to happen.
Hamsuke dodged by twirling its body around and swung its tail at the same time.
Eruya blocked the tail with his sword, but the shocking amount of force numbed his arms.
He spotted Hamsuke twirling around once again. It meant the same kind of force would be striking him again.
Eruya jumped back. He could not determine exactly how long the tail was, but planned to close the distance with ‘Shukuchi Kai’ the moment it passed by.
But the tail he expected to pass by stopped in midair.
It was a feint. In the meantime, Hamsuke had regained its posture and retracted its tail as well. Eruya’s face twitched at the fact he missed an opportunity to attack.
He could see that the tail and the body moved almost independently from each other. It was not like the tail of a rat, but could move independently like the snake tail of a chimaera.
“You can use your tail freely, too!”
Eruya etched the details of the monster called Hamsuke into his mind and charged. Hamsuke, who was waiting for an opening, rushed forward to meet the attack.
Blade and claws clashed. Eruya was the first one to be wounded during the exchange of blows. Hamsuke, who could attack with two claws, held an advantage in its number of attacks against Eruya, who used only one sword. Close-quarters combat was turning disadvantageous. Despite having raised his physical abilities, Hamsuke was still winning. If that was the case—
He retreated immediately with ‘Shukuchi Kai’.
“Hmph, is what I say!”
Before Hamsuke could give chase, Eruya seized the opportunity, raised his sword in the air and swung downward.
“「Void Cutter 」!”
The slashing hit cut through the air and flew toward Hamsuke.
Hamsuke braced to protect its face and the strike bounced off its fur.
The strike did less damage the further away the target was. It would be difficult to inflict any meaningful damage like this. But—
“Seems like you can’t block it. This is the difference between a mere beast and a human.”
“This is certainly… troubling.”
Eruya used ‘Void Cutter’ repeatedly.
Hamsuke’s fur was hard and difficult to cut through. That’s why Eruya targeted its face and used the martial art repeatedly.
Hamsuke remained rooted to the spot but spoke through the little crack between the paws that were covering its face.
“Hold on a moment please—”
“Are you trying to beg for your life? As expected of a mere beast.”
“It’s not that — It’s so annoying. Inside this king’s mouth is — Ah, I give up!”
He couldn’t understand.
I guess it’s expected for a human to not understand what an animal is saying… It looks like it’s about to charge now.
“Ah— So loud and annoying! Let’s finish this!”
Hamsuke did not possess a method of ranged attack, so it would try to close the distance at all costs. This was what Eruya was aiming for.
It would be difficult to inflict critical damage with ‘Void Cutter’, so he needed a direct strike to deliver a killing blow. When Hamsuke showed its face like a beast and charged in, he would pin it down with a martial art stronger than ‘Void Cutter’ and keep targeting the face at close range and win.
As Eruya smiled cruelly, sure of his victory, Hamsuke’s tail moved and—
The tail struck Eruya’s shoulder like a whip at unbelievable speed.
The shoulder armour buckled and the flesh became pulp. At the same time, the sound of bones cracking could be heard and pain coursed through his body at the speed of lightning. It was so painful, Eruya staggered back while drooling.
Behind Hamsuke, the snake-like tail squirmed. It was stretched out to an abnormal length.
“My tail was too strong as expected. This was why I tried to finish with just close quarter combat.”
Eruya barely kept himself from screaming.
If he kept getting charged like this, he would lose.
“You! What are you idiots just standing around for! Use your magic! Heal me! I said heal me! Quickly, you stupid slaves! Do it now!”
One of the elves started casting her spell when Eruya yelled at them.
The pain at the shoulder faded away into nothing.
“More! Cast the enhancement spells!”
Physical ability enhancement, temporary magic boost to the sword, hardened skin, sensory ability enhancement… Even though numerous spells were cast to enhance Eruya, Hamsuke watched on silently.
With so much magic enhancing him, a smile returned to Eruya’s face.
Overwhelming power coursed through his body.
He had never lost after receiving so many enhancement spells. It didn’t matter what kind of enemy it was.
Compared to his normal self, he now swung his sword with extreme speed. He was confident of fighting evenly now.
“Since a monster and a human have different physical capabilities, I’ll fill the gap with this!”
“I was planning on fighting all of you from the start, so it doesn’t make much difference to me. This king was thinking that it will finally be a good fight!”
Eruya charged. He would crush it with the overwhelming power flowing through his body. He wouldn’t let that beast talk big anymore. While using ‘Shukuchi Kai’, he launched ‘Void Cutter’ to keep it occupied.
He swung his sword with a shout. If the fur was hard, he would only need to strike harder to cut through.
“Take this king’s 「Slashing Strike」!”
Something sharp struck his arm from above his raised sword.
Something flew into the air and struck the ground, with a liquid sound like a wet sack, accompanied by the clanging of metal.
Eruya didn’t understand.
His two arms, which had been holding a sword, had disappeared. Despite the wounds spurting blood from the severed stumps in time with his heartbeat, he still didn’t understand.
He could see his two arms tightly gripping the sword on the ground, along with the pain which was slowly rising up the ruins of his arms.
As he looked on them, Eruya finally realized what had happened.
Staggering back from Hamsuke, he shouted with a high-pitched voice.
“My arrrrrmmmmmssss! Heal it! I said heal it now! What are you standing around for?”
The elves did not move.
What reflected in their clouded eyes was the secret joy of the abused.
“Alright! Success! I can finally use martial arts! Now I can finally receive praise from my lord!”
Eruya made a splitting scream.
For a humans, which lived in this world with much stronger creatures, to adventure meant to live with constant pain. He had endured much pain until now. He had been struck with lightning, burned with fire, frozen with ice, broken his bones, bitten with fangs, been cut and beaten. But he had never lost his weapon. To lose one’s weapon in this world meant certain death. Or rather, he was confident that he could get out of any situation if he had his weapon.
And now this confidence had been crushed.
It was the first time Eruya had received such a shock since he was born.
“My arms! What are you waiting for!”
Blood spurted out profusely and he could feel his body grow colder and heavier, starting with the wounded area. The elves simply smiled broadly at Eruya’s screams, which resembled the sound of a cracked bell.
Eruya didn’t know how to express the whirlpool of emotion inside of him, but he could hear a voice that could be described as merciful.
“I truly thank thee! I don’t like inflicting needless pain, so I shall end it here!”
Sccchk, something slashed through the air.
Shortly afterward, a shock struck his face. It was the kind of pain that felt as if it had shattered every bone in his body and was enough to make him forget about his arms.
That was the last pain Eruya ever felt.
♦ ♦ ♦
With half its face gone, the corpse collapsed.
Hamsuke turned its head and slowly backed off. If he stayed close to the corpse, the elves would be wary and not approach the corpse. The elves appeared to be magic casters but could decide to use Eruya’s sword to fight. Hamsuke had no desire to stop them from doing so.
“Now, do you wish to fight as we—?”
Hamsuke mumbled his words in surprise. The elves were kicking the corpse, which Hamsuke assumed was their comrade, with sneers on their face.
“What is this? Is this the elven way of burying the dead?”
Hamsuke doubted that as it spoke. In their cloudy and dead eyes were sparks of hatred. It could only be overflowing rage.
“— This is truly troublesome.”
The order had been to use the skills it had learned so far on the intruders and to show the results of the training. But if he fought an unwilling enemy, could that truly be considered “showing the result of the training”? If they at least stood to fight, it would have been better than nothing.
“I heard that taunting is a good strategy as well… What should I say? I don’t know… I suppose it can’t be helped. I shall wait for the orders from my lord. But—”
Hamsuke turned around to face the one who was judging the battle.
“How was it, Zaryusu-dono? Did I pass?”
“Yes, it was wonderful. The martial art definitely activated.”
Hamsuke smiled brightly at the warrior who had taught him the martial art.
“This is truly a joyous occasion! Then will I finally start with the combat training while wearing armour?”
“That would be the next step. We’ll start with light armour first and then move onto heavier ones.”
Hamsuke hadn’t worn armour until now. It felt too awkward and it was hard to move freely while wearing it. There weren’t many problems when running normally, but in combat, it lost its balance when swinging its tail and could not strike accurately. That’s why Hamsuke learned from the lizardmen and imitated their training to learn to fight.
“Please watch Hamsuke become stronger for my lord! How long would it take for me to properly call myself a warrior? The Warrior Hamsuke.”
“Let’s see… if it’s Hamsuke-san, you would be able to call yourself a warrior in about a month, no, two months.”
“I think it’s pretty short. Hamsuke-san, it usually takes about a year to learn martial arts. Considering that, you’re learning pretty fast.”
Another lizardman beside Zaryusu, Zenberu, spoke out.
“Is that so?”
“That’s right. Real battle experience, healing when you’re injured, fighting stronger opponent with enhancement magic, etc. It might be hellish training, but it gets results.”
Hamsuke shuddered. The rest of the lizardmen did so too as they remembered their training so far.
“…How should I put this. I hope it’s not the kind of training that takes us within arms’ reach of death.”
“Personally, I feel you get stronger more quickly in life or death situations, but… I guess everybody is different. Plus, if the newly wed husband dies, it’ll be pretty sad.”
“Oooh! I now remember that you have married!”
“Yes, and she seems to be pregnant.”
“As expected of a skilled warrior, his accuracy is high! How many times did it take? Only twice or thrice?”
Zaryusu’s fist struck Zenberu.
“Enough. If we don’t start training again, we’ll get a good scolding. Also, what about those elves?”
“Wouldn’t it be fine to leave them like that?”
The elves which had been kicking away the corpse were simply slumped on the floor like puppets with their strings cut. There was not a hint of will to fight, so Hamsuke decided to wait for the master's command unless they tried to escape.