A Handful of Hope
Translators: Nigel, Ferro, Zack Tan, SifaV6
Editing: Skythewood, Rockgollem, Namorax, NoirX, TaintedDreams, JcqC
The attack resembled a flood from a broken dam. That was how furious the attacks were.
The enemy was only a mass of low-tier undead. They were nothing for Foresight to be afraid of. However, what could only be described as a human wave attack showed no signs of stopping.
Hekkeran wiped the sweat off his face after beating his tenth group of opponents since the start of the battle, a pair of ghasts.
Although he wanted to rest, there was no time for it. He gulped some water from a pouch on his waist, and signaled a retreat as he calmed his breathing down. However, or rather, as expected, the enemy had no intention of giving them any time to rest.
A group of three skeleton warriors, with a robed skeleton mage mixed into it, jumped out to block their path.
“Conserve your mana!”
In a situation like this where they could be surprised at any time, magic—which could easily deal with any situation—was a trump card they could not use casually. Because of this, they had conserved their mana as much as possible.
That being said, several of their abilities with limited uses per day had already been exhausted. This was the result of being swamped by the large amount of traps and undead.
There were skeleton archers lined up behind barred windows, and out of swords’ reach. It was difficult to deal fatal blows since the skeletons were resistant to piercing attacks, but Roberdyck was able to exorcise the undead.
He was also able to eradicate the undead that were throwing bottles of poisonous gas at them.
He exorcised the flying undead and the “floor-imitators” which glued their victims to the ground with their bodily fluids.
And he also exorcised a team of several undead that caused all sorts of status ailments such as plague, poison and curse.
All this had taken a heavy toll on his daily uses of ‘Turn Undead’, leaving him with only a few remaining uses. Conversely, they had managed to conserve other abilities as well as mana. The only tough battle had been the one with a flesh golem mixed into a battalion of undead.
“Warning! Multiple footsteps from behind!”
“Undead reaction! There’s six of them!”
Along with Imina’s warning—followed immediately by Roberdyck’s—the tension ran high. The reason why the five skeletons ahead of them weren’t attacking was probably because they were waiting for a chance to execute a pincer attack.
Hekkeran considered their next move.
Several options appeared on a list in his mind. First, they could make a pre-emptive attack on the enemies in front of them and bring them down. Or they could launch a suppressing attack on the enemies in front of them, then turn to attack their pursuers. This plan would require good observation skills to determine the strength of the forces in front and behind them, then take on the weaker group first. They could also use magic to hinder one side, then take the opportunity to break through the other.
They were all effective, but none of them could turn the situation around. In a moment of inspiration, Hekkeran decided to trust his instincts.
“Hekkeran! What shall we do?”
“Turn back! There’s a path to the side! Retreat there!”
The instant his voice rang out, Imina, who had been the rear guard, ran. Arche and Roberdyck followed her. Hekkeran was one step behind them.
The fact that Imina was running meant it wasn’t an impossible distance. Not wanting to fall behind his teammates, Hekkeran ran as fast as he could. The enemy wouldn’t let them escape easily, of course; the footsteps of several undead could be heard pursuing them relentlessly.
“Have a taste of this!”
Hekkeran took out a bag of alchemical glue and tossed it behind him.
The alchemical fluid splashed out and spread over the ground.
The results were immediate and the footsteps stopped instantly.
Intelligent undead might have made a detour, but such thinking was impossible for lesser undead. Furthermore, skeletons lacked muscles, and thus they found it very difficult to break free once they were stuck.
“More undead reactions! Four from the right!”
“It’s a wall!”
“No, it’s an illusion!”
Four ghouls grunted as they charged through the wall. Although they were scrawny undead that were little more than skin and bones, they were still a fearsome sight when attacking with their outstretched yellowed claws. That said, there was nobody on this team who would be frightened by such an attack.
“Don’t look down on me!”
Seemingly unaffected by the ambush, Imina immediately unsheathed her shortsword and swung it at the ghoul’s neck. Dirty-looking fluid oozed out of a ghoul in place of blood, and it fell. Beside her, Roberdyck swung his mace with all his might and crushed another ghoul’s skull.
Judging that it was safe to leave those two alone, Hekkeran turned his attention to the rear. They were still being chased. Should he throw another bag of glue just to be on the safe side?
Just as Hekkeran was about to toss one, the shape of a terrifying undead loomed into view.
At the same time, he noticed lightning crackling on the lich’s finger. Hekkeran was familiar with the spell in question.
‘Lightning Strike’ produced a straight line of piercing lightning, and there was only one way to dodge it.
“—Push the ghouls back!”
Neither Imina nor Roberdyck understood why Hekkeran gave this command, but they obeyed without hesitation.
A bolt of white lightning flashed across the hallway just as the four of them pushed the ghouls through the illusionary wall.
As the air shook with crackling sounds, Hekkeran felt a magic circle activate under his feet. In the next moment, they were enveloped in a pale blue light that they could not avoid, and the scenery before them shifted.
“Be careful! Stay alert!…?”
Although the ghouls had vanished and the surroundings had changed, they were still on edge from the battle. Even so, after such an unexpected occurrence, it wasn’t a surprise that they were dumbfounded for a few moments.
Hekkeran shook his head, regaining his focus. The most basic thing he had to do—although learning about their current situation was also important—was to ensure the safety of his comrades.
Imina, Arche and Roberdyck.
All the other members of ‘Foresight’ had maintained their formation as the magic circle activated, and nobody was missing.
After mutually confirming that they were all safe and sound, the four of them continued observing their surroundings.
This place was a wide corridor, dimly lit and with a high ceiling. Even a giant could walk freely through here. The flickering flames of faraway torches provided unsteady illumination and in their light the long shadows seemed to dance. Ahead of them was some kind of crosshatched portcullis, and from the square gaps in its surface, rays of white, magical light shone through. Behind them, the path stretched into darkness, and along the way, several doors opening into the corridor could be seen, lit up by torches.
With everyone remaining quiet, only the crackling of the torches could be heard.
It did not seem like they were in any danger of being attacked immediately. After they realized this, their tension eased.
“Although I don’t know where this place is, it has a completely different atmosphere to what we have seen up until now.”
The style of this place was completely different to the tomb they had just left. In fact, signs of civilisation could be seen here. The members of ‘Foresight’ surveyed their surroundings, and whilst they were trying to grasp where this place was, only Arche’s attitude was different from the rest.
“—This place is…”
Keenly perceiving the meaning behind the words, Hekkeran asked Arche:
“Do you know? Or perhaps you have a clue?”
“—I know of a similar place. The Empire’s Grand Arena.”
“Ah… indeed, you are right.”
Roberdyck grunted in agreement. Although Hekkeran and Imina did not say anything, they also shared Roberdyck’s opinion.
When ‘Foresight’ had made their debut at the arena, there was a place similar to this one when they were making their way from the waiting room to the arena.
“Then behind that should be the arena.”
Roberdyck pointed towards the latticed gate.
“That should be the case… then being teleported to this place means that… is that what it is?”
“Give me a fight to watch” was probably the intention here. Although, they had no idea who or what might be waiting for them.
“—It’s dangerous. Long-distance teleportation is reckoned to be 5th tier magic. Being able to use that kind of magic as a trap has only been heard of in stories. This site must have been constructed by someone with unimaginable skill in magic. It is not favourable for us to accept the opponent’s invitation. I suggest we proceed in the opposite direction.”
“But, if we accepted the opponent’s invitation, don’t you think there might be a path to survival? Wouldn’t rejecting the invitation antagonise the other side?”
“Both sides are very dangerous. Rob, what do you think?”
“There’s a case to be made for both arguments. But I have some doubts about what Arche-san has said. Is this really a trap laid by the person who currently resides here? Could it be that they're just using something created by an unknown third party?”
They looked at each other and exhaled in unison. There was no point in staying here and discussing the matter further. They did not have enough information and their opinions did not match, but they had to make a decision right now.
“What Rob said makes sense. Who know, maybe it was made five hundred years ago.”
“Ah, there were more advanced magic techniques in the past.”
“Are you referring to the beings that dominated the continent and whose country shattered almost immediately, of which only the capital remains today?”
“—The Eight Greed Kings. They are considered to be the ones who spread the existence of magic further through this world. If this is a relic of that era, then perhaps…”
“…I see. Then I am in favour of heading out to the arena. In any case, since we were brought here by a trap, they would not allow us to escape.”
In response to Roberdyck’s statement, everyone nodded as they resolved themselves, and began moving.
When they got close to the latticed gate, it rose upward with impressive speed, as though it had been waiting for them all this time. The first thing they saw as they entered the arena were rows upon rows of audience seats around the arena.
The arena was no less impressive than the one in the Empire. In fact, it might have been even more so, given that it was covered in lanterns enchanted with ‘Continual Light’, which lit the grounds up as brightly as if it were the day.
Everyone in ‘Foresight’ was astonished, especially when they glimpsed the audience above them.
This was because sitting there were innumerable clay figures, the dolls known as golems.
Golems were inorganic creatures created through magical means, who would obediently carry out their master’s commands once they received them. Without the need for food or sleep, and never suffering from fatigue or even the ravages of time, they were treasured as guardians and labourers. Furthermore, because their production took considerable time, effort and cost, even the weakest ones would cost a considerable amount of gold coins.
Even Hekkeran and the others, who were paid well, would find it hard to purchase a golem.
They were valuable constructs, and this arena seemed to be overflowing with them.
To Hekkeran, it spoke of how wealthy the person who owned this arena was, as well as how lonely he felt.
As though they had already come here many times before, they looked briefly at each other’s faces before silently walking towards the centre of the arena.
Reacting to Imina’s voice, all that could be seen when looking at the sky was darkness. Because the light from the surroundings was too strong, it outshone the light from the stars, but even so, there was no doubt that above the arena was a vast expanse of open night sky.
In response to Imina’s voice, they looked up, and saw the night sky. The surrounding illumination was strong and eclipsed the light of the stars, but even so, it was impossible to miss the fact that this arena was open to the night sky.
“Then, we could use flight magic to escape—”
A figure jumped from the balcony of the VIP box, in time with the voice that had interrupted Arche’s words.
The figure somersaulted in mid-air as it descended from a height that seemed roughly equivalent to a six story building, making people wonder if it might have wings as it gracefully landed upon the ground. There was no magic at work here, only pure physical ability. Even the rogue Imina had her breath taken away by the perfection of the movement.
The figure who had absorbed the impact with a mere flexing of its knees smiled brightly.
Before them stood a young dark elf boy.
The long ears which emerged from amongst the golden strands of his hair twitched slightly, giving rise to a glorious impression like that of the sun.
He was fully dressed in a suit of tight-fitting, light leather armour, made from jet black and deep crimson dragon scales, over which he wore a white vest embroidered with golden threads. A coat of arms was sewn onto the breast of the jacket.
Seeing his heterochromic eyes, Imina let out a gasp of surprise.
“—The challengers have arrived!”
The boy spoke into the rod-like object he was holding in his hand, and his amplified words resounded throughout the arena.
The arena trembled and shuddered in time with the boy’s bright and cheerful voice.
Looking around, it seemed that the golems which had remained motionless so far were stomping on the ground to make noise.
“The challengers are four reckless fools who have invaded the Great Tomb of Nazarick! And, facing them is the master of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, the Supreme King of Death, Ainz! Ooal! Gown-sama!”
The portcullis on the opposite side of the arena rose upwards at the same time as the dark elf’s voice rang out. From the darkness of the path beyond, a being stepped into the light. In a word, it would be skeletal.
A crimson radiance flickered within the eye sockets of the white skull.
It was dressed in a gown-like vestment, and because there were no muscles where the robe was cinched about the waist, it appeared too skinny for belief. Judging by the lack of weapons on hand, it was probably a magic caster of some kind.
“Ooh! And walking in behind him is our Guardian Overseer, Albedo!”
The members of Foresight held their breath as they saw the woman who followed behind like a servant.
She was a peerless vision that surpassed even the ‘Beautiful Princess’ of Darkness. Hers was a comeliness that could never be reached by human beings, and two horns curved out gently from both sides of her forehead. At her waist were a pair of black wings. They looked so realistic it could not possibly have been artificially created.
The arena quaked with stomping, as if to welcome the debut of these two new entrants, before turning into thunderous applause. It was a reception befitting the arrival of a king.
The two people approached ‘Foresight’ amidst the thunderous applause from the surrounding golems.
“—I’m so sorry,” Arche muttered. “We ended up like this because of me.”
What would follow was probably going to be the most grueling battle Foresight would ever have faced. In all likelihood, one or more of them might die. Arche probably felt that they had been plunged into such a dire circumstance was because of herself. Without her debt, perhaps they might not have accepted this task to go investigate a tomb they so obviously did not know enough about.
“Hey, hey, what nonsense is this kid babbling?”
“Yes. Taking on this work was a group decision. This isn’t your fault. Don’t you think we’d still have taken it even without your personal problem?”
“That’s how it is, so there’s no need to be worried.”
Hekkeran and Roberdyck smiled as they spoke, and Imina patted Arche’s head.
“Well then, although planning is hopeless at this stage, we should still have a discussion. Arche, can you identify that undead?”
“—Seeing that it seems intelligent, perhaps it’s an upper-class skeleton-type?”
The skeleton in question, Ainz, waved his hand before them. The movement looked as if he was wiping something.
The sounds disappeared. In an instant, the golems’ movements stopped, and once more they were subjected to the almost deafening silence. Hekkeran bowed sincerely to Ainz, who was slowly turning to face them.
“Firstly I would like to apologise, Ainz Ooal…dono.”
“…Ainz Ooal Gown.”
“My apologies. Ainz Ooal Gown-dono.”
Ainz stopped and raised his chin, as if he were waiting for an inferior to continue.
“We wish to apologize for entering your tomb without permission. If you can find it in your heart to forgive us, we will gladly offer the appropriate compensation to atone for our transgressions."
Time passed in silence. Then Ainz sighed. Of course, as one of the undead, Ainz had no need to breathe. But he did so in order to get his message across.
“Is that how you do things where you come from? After someone else eats in your home and leaves waste behind which sprouts maggots, would you actually show him more mercy than a swift death?”
“Humans are not maggots!”
“They are the same. At least, they are to me. Or, not—perhaps humans are even lower than them. If a maggot is born, the fault lies with the fly. You, however, are different. You were not forced along, nor did you have any particularly compelling reason to come here, but purely for the sake of greed, you attacked a tomb which might have had people living in it, with the intention of plundering its treasures!”
Ainz’s laughter echoed through the coliseum.
“Ah, do not take it to heart. I am not blaming you. It is only natural for the strong to dominate the weak. I have done it myself and I do not consider myself an exception from this rule. It was precisely because there might be someone stronger than me that I was on guard… Now then, the time for idle banter is over. In accordance with the principle of the strong feeding upon the weak, I shall claim one thing from you.”
“No, actually, there’s a—”
“Silence!” Ainz declared in a voice which allowed no interruption. “Do not upset me with your lies! Now then, you shall pay for your foolish mistake with your life.”
“What if we had permission?”
Ainz froze. Apparently, that had gotten through to him.
Hekkeran was surprised that a single sentence could have had such a great effect, but of course he did not let it show on his face. Just when all seemed lost, a ray of hope had shone through the darkness. Clearly, he had to seize it.
It was a still, small voice, almost on the verge of fading away.
“Utter nonsense, it’s nothing but a bluff. What do you gain from angering me?”
His unease was spreading, and even the dark elf boy beside him was starting to look uncomfortable. When he turned to look at the last person, goosebumps broke out all over Hekkeran’s body.
The beauty behind them was still smiling. But she radiated a murderous intent that beaded Hekkeran’s brow with sweat.
“And what if it was true?”
“…No… no… it’s impossible. Absolutely impossible. You should all be offerings dancing in the palm of my hand…”
Ainz shook his head and fixed Hekkeran with a gaze that seemed to bore right through him.
“But… however… I… yes, that’s right, just in case, I will hear you out… who gave you this permission?”
“Don’t you know him?”
“He didn’t leave his name, but he was a pretty big monster.”
Hekkeran desperately thought on where the safety lines to evade danger were hiding.
It was a question that only a person paralyzed by indecision would ask, because only by asking could a person know what was true or false.
It was a purely human attitude, Hekkeran thought. It wasn’t the reaction of a monster, but of a coward. This was a good chance.
“Tell me what you saw.”
“…He was very very very big…”
As Ainz descended into another round of introspection, Hekkeran reflected that they had avoided danger yet again, and breathed an internal sigh of relief. He gestured to his colleagues with small movements of his fingers, telling them to find an exit. Ainz would not act without confirming the truth or falsehood of Hekkeran’s words. This was all the time they had to think of how to get out of here.
“Did he say anything?”
Who knows, someone might have used a charm or dominate spell or some other special ability…
“Before that, I hope that you can guarantee our safety.”
“What? …If you have indeed gained the permission of one of my friends, then your safety is assured. Do not be afraid.”
A new word—friend.
Hekkeran analyzed the information he had just obtained. From the events of the negotiation, he had learned that Ainz Ooal Gown had friends, which he was currently not in contact with.
The secret of trickery was to expose the information your mark wanted, and then force him into a mistake.
“…Well? Why so quiet? Then let me hear what the person you met said to you.”
Up to now, the deception had worked. Then, this would be the next time. His palms sweated profusely.
“He said to give his regards to Ainz in the Great Tomb of Nazarick.”
His fidgeting suddenly stopped. Hekkeran noticed, and an “oh crap” expression spread across his face.
“…He said, to give his regards to Ainz?”
Hekkeran steeled himself. After all, words spoken could not be taken back.
Ainz laughed when he heard Hekkeran’s answer. This was not a happy laugh. It was a laugh that could be best described as volcanic.
“Hah… well, so much for that. Though really, when you think about it calmly, there were bound to be holes aplenty in that story.”
Ainz’s movements stopped, and he turned to look at Hekkeran. The crimson fires blazing in his eye sockets turned dark, consumed by the black which surrounded them and reducing his pupils to points of red light. Hekkeran and the others took a step back, as though Ainz’s mere line of sight was exerting physical pressure on them.
Within that glare was the purest rage.
“YOU TRAAAAAAAASSHHHH! YOU DARE! YOU DARE TO TREAD YOUR FILTHYYYYYY! YOUR FILTHY BOOTS INTO THE NAZARICK THAT I, THAT WE, MY FRIENDS AND I, CREATED!”
So intense was his fury that Ainz was struck speechless. His shoulder blades moved as though he were breathing, and he continued.
“AND YOU! YOU DARE USE THE NAME OF ME, OF MY FRIENDS! YOU DARE USE IT TO TRICK ME! YOU SHITS! DO YOU THINK THAT CAN EVER, EVER BE FORGIVEN?!”
Ainz was shouting in a furious tone.
It would not have been a surprise if his anger had gone on forever. However, his rancor suddenly vanished, and he returned to his usual calm.
It was a sudden change, as though the emotion had simply been switched off. The abrupt change was enough to make Hekkeran and his team, who were facing off against Ainz, think that something was amiss.
“…Although it made me angry, the fault does not lie with you. Of course you would tell an outrageous lie to preserve your lives. To tell you the truth, I’m still very mad… I guess I’m still too willful. Albedo. Aura. And all the Guardians who can hear my voice, everyone, cover your ears!”
The absolute beauty and the dark elf boy listened intently. The boy stuck his fingers into his ears, while the beauty delicately covered her ears with her hands. This was without a doubt to show that they were not going to listen to what he said.
“From the beginning, I was opposed to this plan to invite filthy thieves into my Great Tomb of Nazarick. But that said, I understand that this was the best method and I accept it.”
Ainz looked back up, and regretfully shook his head.
“Well, that’s all. Rant over. As a final mercy, I wanted to grant you an honorable death as a warrior, but now I’ve changed my mind. Now I will dispose of you like the thieves that you are.”
While talking as though it were somebody else’s problem, Ainz shed his gown.
Naturally, there were bones below. A dark red orb floated under his ribs, emanating a feeling of dread. He had nothing equipped besides his pants and boots… No, there was one more item. There was a leather collar around his neck, with a chain, broken halfway down, dangling from it.
A strange sound came from above them.
Looking up, they could see the upper body of a silver-haired girl leaning out of the VIP box. She was immediately pulled back by an arm wearing what looked like a blue gauntlet.
“…What the hell is she doing?”
“I’ll go scold her later.”
By the time they had managed to recover their senses and focus them back onto Ainz, he had produced a black sword and a round black shield out of nowhere.
“Then, I’m ready over here. Let’s get started.”
He stance had his feet slightly spread out—it was a fighting stance.
“Albedo and Aura, you can remove your hands now.”
The two people addressed reacted immediately, and returned their hands to their sides.
“I’m in a very bad mood now. To think I would encounter fellows like this. So I’ll toy with them without killing them, and I’ll leave the disposal to you. Now, let’s begin.”
As Hekkeran stared down the sword-and-shield-equipped Ainz, Hekkeran’s first thought was that his opponent was not a warrior or a swordsman. If pressed, he would say that he was like a monster, the kind who would use their excellent physical abilities to overwhelm their opponent.
Both his posture and stance looked like those of an amateur. But he radiated a heavy pressure, appearing larger than life.
For a being like this, the deadliest move they could make might be to simply attack.
“Not coming? Then, allow me.”
Ainz rushed over as he replied.
His was a frightening speed that shrunk the distance between him and his foes to nothing in an instant.
He followed it up with a grand slash downwards from above.
The attack had openings all over it, but it had great destructive power. In the hands of a mighty being with incredible physical ability, it was a sword strike that could kill anything it hit.
Taking it would be very dangerous.
Hekkeran came to this conclusion in an instant, as he sensed the high-speed blade descending on him. A hard block would turn this into a contest of power, and he knew that he would be overwhelmed if he pitted his strength against Ainz.
That being the case, there was only one option—
Ainz’s sword struck down into the ground, the lingering echo and vibration of steel against steel fading into the air.
—Parry the blow and guide it away from his body.
Normally, an attacker would be thrown off balance after being parried, and this would be a prime chance for a counterattack. But Ainz had not even moved. It was as though he knew that particular sequence of events was going to take place, and he had reset his stance to its original position.
Hekkeran realized that he had made a big mistake.
No good! I underestimated him! But, the only thing I can do is fight on!
He aimed at Ainz’s head. The martial art he used was—
“「Twin Blade Strike」!”
The two swords inscribed gleaming arcs in the air as they scissored toward Ainz’s head. Normally, bludgeoning weapons would be more effective against a skeleton-type enemy like Ainz, but Hekkeran was more proficient with slashing weapons, and not nearly as confident with blunt weapons.
His main objective was to try to inflict some damage on Ainz. He flurried as many attacks as he could against Ainz, not caring if they hit or missed, in the hope that at least one of them would get through and strike him.
The twin swords sped toward his opponent’s head.
An average person would have taken it full-on.
A first-rate opponent might have only been scratched.
Then what about an elite opponent?
Ainz interposed his shield in the path of the swords. Normal people would not have been able to accomplish it, but with overwhelming physical strength and speed, it was possible.
As the shield blocked the two strikes, Arche’s spell sent a white bolt streaking towards Ainz. At the same time, while the sound of clashing metal still rang in the air, Roberdyck cast a spell to augment agility.
Ainz did not even bother looking at Arche. The missile of light flicked and faded out of existence before it even managed to touch Ainz. A shocked expression appeared on Arche’s face.
“Spell immunity? But from where?”
In response, Ainz swung his shield at Hekkeran’s face.
“A shield bash, is it!”
The widely-known basics of fighting skills resounded in his head. Hekkeran decided to turn this danger into an opportunity, and made his move. He aimed at the belly, reasoning that the bulk of the shield would create a blind spot in the defense.
However, Ainz easily swept his weapons aside with the black sword.
He saw through it!
His eyes followed the wall-like shield as it approached, and he barely evaded the blow by the skin of his teeth—and then an armored boot kicked at him from below.
Hekkeran would not have been afraid of a normal kick. However, through their brief exchange of arms, he was fully aware that due to Ainz’s incredible strength—despite having no muscles to speak of—any attack he made could kill him in a single blow. Taking the hit was tantamount to taking a mortal wound.
Hekkeran rolled away in a panic. Without Roberdyck’s support, it would have been impossible. The vacuum in the kick’s passing sliced off several of his hairs, and a chill raced up and down his spine.
Imina launched two arrows from her bow. Because she had cried out, it was not a sneak attack, and Ainz casually avoided it.
The arrows flew past him, having missed their mark.
To begin with, arrows were not effective on skeleton-type monsters like Ainz. She had hoped that he would not bother with evading them and casually take the hits, but it seemed that was not going to happen. The arrows she had loosed had flattened heads, like a spade; they were specially-designed magic arrows which would do bludgeoning damage. If they had not been avoided, they should have been able to strike a telling blow even on skeletal opponents.
At least, that was how it was supposed to happen, but even if that was not the case, there was nothing to regret. Hekkeran took the opportunity to stand up and slightly widen the gap between himself and Ainz. Imina’s cry had also been to give Hekkeran the chance to rise to his feet.
“「Twin Blade Strike」!”
The two slashes were easily deflected by the single sword. The shock of the parry sent tremors through Hekkeran’s hands.
What a troublesome guy, is this what happens when you give warrior training to a monster with superhuman abilities? Just how strong is he?
The price of repeatedly using certain-kill moves was the rapid draining of mental stamina. His brain felt like it was screaming from his exertions, so Hekkeran decided to back away.
Of course, Ainz would not permit that.
“As if I would let you escape!”
Ainz charged. That was only to be expected—backpedaling was slower than forward motion.
Just as he was about to be overtaken, something whistled through the air as it flew past the side of his face.
A high-speed arrow came from behind Hekkeran’s back, hidden by his body. Naturally, a normal person would not have been able to avoid it. However, against Ainz with his superhuman reflexes, it was still not enough.
A brilliant flare of light burst in front of Ainz. Whether he resisted it or not, the spell would blind him for a moment, but it seemed pointless against Ainz. All it did was annoy him.
Ainz clicked his nonexistent tongue at Hekkeran, who had closed the gap thanks to his augmented strength and dexterity.
Arche and Roberdyck’s support spells had solidified Hekkeran’s defense.
Having evaded Hekkeran’s attack and deflected his swords, Ainz was about to riposte once more when another arrow flew into his face.
The casual ease with which Ainz evaded the arrow by simply turning his face was befitting of the ruler of the tomb, and of a monstrous swordsman.
Hekkeran used the brief opening made by the support fire to back away, and sweat coursed down his body from the brief but intense combat.
He already knew this, but Ainz Ooal Gown was very strong.
His physical abilities were completely untouchable by human beings. Worse still, he had the technique to make full use of his superhuman strength and speed. His observational skills could see through feints. He had the measure of every member of Foresight. Combined with his resistance to magic and the enchanted sword and shield he bore; he was everything a warrior wanted to be.
But there was a reason they could stand toe-to-toe with a being like this.
To be fair, he had been hard-pressed to hold his ground. If he had misread the angle of the falling sword and missed his parry, his swords would have been ruined and he would probably have suffered a fatal wound. A small mistake in estimating the speed of the black sword would have resulted in him being sliced neatly in half. The fact that all his coin tosses had come up heads was nothing short of luck.
Yet, there was an even more important reason beyond this.
That reason was teamwork.
It was precisely because they were all working together, and were intimately aware of what each of the others was thinking, that they could move and act like a single organism.
This was how the united group ‘Foresight’ could stand against the mightiest individual, Ainz Ooal Gown.
A faint smile lifted the corner of Hekkeran’s mouth.
Until now, Ainz had been untouched. Certainly, he was very strong. But he was not invincible.
With this conviction in his heart, he swung his twin swords.
Hekkeran’s sword strike, the fastest his augmented body could produce, was deflected by the round black shield. The arrow flying in was interdicted by the black sword. Arche and Roberdyck made use of this opening to enhance Hekkeran even further.
Ever since Ainz had clicked his tongue, his hostility toward them had been rapidly weakening.
After considering whether or not to press the attack, Hekkeran decided to back down and calm his frenzied breathing. The undead Ainz would not get tired no matter how long or how hard he fought, but a human like Hekkeran and the others would become exhausted. Dragging the battle out was a bad idea. He had to rest whenever he got the chance.
“So… as I thought, I still couldn’t deal a decisive blow. I thought had the advantage in strength, skills and knowing what you could do, but when I’m actually engaged in battle, I’m still feeling some anxiety… something like, why haven’t I taken any of you down yet?”
Ainz shrugged his shoulders in annoyance. Hekkeran, who was watching from opposite Ainz, did not feel particularly irritated by his patronizing tone.
Truthfully speaking, this was the advantage of working as a team. Hekkeran smiled as though he had been praised.
In the midst of all this, the beauty who had been silent up till now finally spoke.
“Ainz-sama. Perhaps we should end playtime here.”
“Forgive my rudeness, but I find it hard to believe that you would permit continued freedom to these base knaves, these thieves who dared use the name of the Supreme Beings to deceive you. Perhaps it is time for you to grant them mercy?”
“Hey, Albedo. If you talk to Ainz-sama like that—”
“—No, Aura. That is a good point.”
Ainz shook his head.
“And that is enough. I have gained sufficient experience from this battle.”
“Truly marvelous. As expected of the Overlord who rules me.”
“Hah, is it now. Well, this is certainly cause for celebration. Although I know you’re humoring me, praise from a warrior whose skills far exceed my own is still pleasing to me.”
“I would not dream of deceiving you with false praise. I meant every word of it.”
“Is that so? Then thank you. Cocytus can evaluate me later, and I still need to hear your opinions on future training sessions like this.”
After nodding a few times and looking very satisfied with himself, Ainz turned back to ‘Foresight’.
The air between them had changed, and Hekkeran had a bad feeling about it.
His instincts that had carried him through many life-and-death situations were screaming to him: there is great danger here.
“Then, playing around with swords is over. Now is the time for a different kind of amusement.”
Ainz cast aside the sword and shield he was holding, and they vanished before they hit the ground.
Discarding one’s arms was the universal sign of giving up the fight. However, Ainz’s attitude did not betray even the slightest hint of capitulation.
This was not a gesture of surrender.
Unable to figure out what Ainz was thinking, Hekkeran was filled with confusion.
“…What are you going to do?”
At this, Ainz smiled. Or rather, he seemed to smile.
He slowly spread his arms. It was an action that resembled an angel reaching out to the faithful, or a mother welcoming her child into her embrace; a loving acceptance of what lay before him.
“You don’t get it? Then let me put it in terms you might be able to understand,” Ainz laughed. “I’ll play with you, so give me your best shot, humans.”
The mood had changed—
He had forsaken his weapon and his shield. That should have meant he had been weakened. But Hekkeran had the feeling that the Ainz before him now was more powerful than before. Indeed, it seemed as though his body had physically grown in size before their eyes, so oppressive was his presence.
A being that grew stronger when abandoning the sword.
When you thought about it, only two answers remained. One would be that he was one of those warrior monks who honed their bodies into living weapons. But if that were the case, his fighting style from earlier—the way he evaded attacks—didn’t seem polished enough for him to be one of their number.
Then, the alternative—
“He’s a magic caster?”
The voice belonged to Arche, who had reached the same conclusion Hekkeran had.
That was it. This was the question at hand. The being before them, Ainz Ooal Gown—was he a magic caster?
It was understandable that they had not considered that earlier. Who could have imagined that any magic caster could have fought on even terms with Hekkeran, the party’s strongest and most skilled fighter?
Magic casters—especially arcane magic casters—had weaker bodies than warriors. After all, if one had time to train one’s body, one could easily spend that time on learning magic. As such, magic casters who could fight on par with warriors were nonexistent.
That was simple common sense.
A being who could turn that wisdom on its head—who could have imagined such a being would be standing in front of them?
As such, Arche’s voice carried the hope that it was untrue, and the desire that her hypothesis would be rejected. Because if it were true, that would mean that Ainz was far more confident in his skills as a magic caster than he was as a warrior.
What that meant, nobody needed to say out loud.
Even casting a few spells could greatly improve battle performance. As Hekkeran had been demonstrating, several enhancement spells made a dramatic difference. But if that was the case—
“Did you finally realize it? How foolish you lot are. Well, it’s only natural to expect this level of intelligence from you miserable vermin, who track your filth into my—no, our Nazarick.”
However, as long as Arche was around, Hekkeran and the others could deny it.
“Arche! Is this guy a magic caster?!”
“No! I’m sure of it! At least, he’s not an arcane magic caster!”
“Hm? And what is that supposed to mean?”
“—I can’t sense any magical power from your body.”
“Ahhh. So, you use detection spells, then. How rude.”
Ainz showed Hekkeran and the others his hands. As one might expect of an undead, there was nothing of them but bones. He spread his fingers to show that each of them, on both hands, was wearing a ring.
“Once I remove this ring, you will understand. I also lent it to my subordinates.”
Saying that, Ainz removed a ring on his right hand. And then—
It was the sound of vomiting. Sticky fluid spilled onto the floor of the arena, and a sour, rancid stench wafted up around ‘Foresight’.
“What did you do?!”
Imina glared at Ainz, from where she had rushed over to assist Arche. Ainz seemed a little uncomfortable, but still answered in a displeased tone.
“What do you mean, what did I do to that girl? There’s a limit to how rude you can be, throwing up when you see someone’s face.”
Arche was shouting, and tears were leaking from the corner of her eyes.
“This guy is a mon—uuuurrrrrggghhh!”
Unable to endure it, Arche threw up again. In that moment, Hekkeran understood why she had vomited.
Ainz had done nothing to her. Rather, she had been unable to withstand the combination of terror and stress caused by seeing the enormous magical power surrounding Ainz, and so she had thrown up.
And that meant—
“—We can’t beat him! His strength is on a totally different level! Even the word monster can’t describe him!”
Arche began wailing as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
“No way no way no way—”
Imina tightly hugged Arche to her chest. The girl was violently shaking her head as though she had gone mad.
“Calm down! Roberdyck!”
“Got it! 「Lion’s Heart」!”
Under the influence of Roberdyck’s magic, Arche managed to recover from the panic which had gripped her. Like a newborn deer, she rose unsteadily on shaky legs, using her staff as a crutch.
“—Everyone, we have to flee now! That’s not a being humans can beat! It’s an unbelievable monster!”
“Yeah, I get it. When he removed the ring, the entire world seemed to change. I felt it raise goosebumps all over me.”
“Yes. Powerful wouldn’t nearly be enough to describe this monster.”
The alertness level of the three of them had gone through the roof. The stared at Ainz with nerves wound even tighter than before. Theirs was an expression that understood that even an instant’s loss of watchfulness would spell their deaths.
“It looks like they won’t let us run.”
“The moment we show them our backs, we die. Although I have the feeling that just averting our eyes would be enough.”
“We need to buy time or we won’t make it.”
Of course, Hekkeran wouldn’t be baited by Ainz, who was lazily scratching his skull with one long finger. The enemy’s fighting power vastly exceeded that of any being which had ever existed. That meant they could only count on one thing.
When Ainz began casting a spell—a magic caster was most vulnerable when reciting an incantation. If he used a silent spell, then the game was up, but even so, that was a tiny possibility which existed for them.
As though drawing a bow taut, Hekkeran gathered his strength within himself.
“Then I will go. 「Touch of Undeath」.”
“What kind of magic is it? Arche!”
“I don’t know! I’ve never heard of it before!”
The black fog which covered Ainz’s right hand was an unknown magic which put them all on their guard. Hekkeran tensed his legs, ready to dodge at any time. His companions behind him were also wary for an area-of-effect attack, and began spacing themselves out.
Instead, Ainz began walking towards them.
Hekkeran’s eyes went wide. It was a totally unguarded and defenseless movement method. Those were not the movements of a man that was a skilled warrior. He knew was that it was a trap, but he didn’t know what Ainz was aiming at.
Is he trying to use magic for something… or was that spell a close-range type? Or was it a defensive type?
Hekkeran was familiar with the more famous spells, but Hekkeran was not a mage by profession, and couldn’t understand Ainz’s intentions.
Imina’s angry cry pierced the air, as did the arrows she launched at Ainz.
Using a special technique, she had launched three arrows at once, but Ainz deftly knocked them from the sky with a bony hand.
“…You’re in the way.”
It was a small but cold voice.
The red blaze in the empty eye sockets flickered, but it was only Hekkeran, who was up front studying Ainz’s every move, who noticed it.
Just as the bad feeling struck, Ainz’s form vanished.
Hekkeran turned, trusting his instincts. In his eyes, he saw his companions’ shocked faces. However, there was no time to explain. Especially to Imina. Ainz was standing behind Imina, slowly reaching his hand out to her.
Imina! She didn’t notice! I need to—no, this isn’t the time for such useless actions!
As he used a martial art to move at top speed toward Imina, a twinge of confusion ran through Hekkeran.
Was it wise to protect Imina?
Compared to Arche and Roberdyck, who could use support spells to enhance people, Imina’s usefulness and importance were relatively low. The best way to increase their survival rate was to discard the stumbling blocks at their feet.
This was the wrong thing for a leader to do. Even though this was almost equivalent to betraying his comrades, Hekkeran did not slow his steps at all. Emotion overruled reason in this matter.
He wanted to save Imina. That was all.
An image of Imina lying on his bed appeared in his mind’s eye. He smiled bitterly to himself, because in a life-and-death situation, all he could think about was her curveless body.
Even so—he put even more power into his feet.
This was the strength of a man who wanted to protect his woman.
Hekkeran’s sudden charge created confusion, and thus an opening. Before Ainz could touch her, Imina was knocked out of the way.
Ainz was deciding which should be his priority—reducing their pain, the small whimpering voice in his head was saying—the man who had appeared in front of him, or the woman who got away.
“Hey! It’s me, dumbass!”
He followed up his yell with a martial art.
First, he used ‘Limit Breaker’. There would be a price to pay, but it increased the amount of martial arts he could activate at the same time. Next was the technique which made his body feel like something was being broken inside it, ‘Dull Pain’. After that was ‘Physical Boost’, ‘Iron Fist’ and the augmented ‘Twin Blade Strike’.
His greatest attack was born from these.
His twin swords glowed.
Hekkeran was counting on the fact that Ainz would be used to his sword attacks from their earlier exchange, so the sudden change in speed would confuse his senses and make it harder to evade. It was the foreshadowing of a strike which would end the battle in a single blow.
Ainz did not react to it.
Just as he imagined his swords slicing into the defenseless skull, the sensation which travelled up his hands was definitely not the feeling of steel cutting into bone.
He had had similar experiences during his adventures as a worker.
He’s immune to both slashing and piercing attacks? What kind of monster is he?!
As Hekkeran tried to retreat in a panic, he felt an icy-cold sensation enveloping his forehead. It was Ainz’s hand. Hekkeran felt like he had been clamped in a vise, wanting to escape yet unable to move.
“Imina! He’s immune to slashing!”
Hekkeran tried to shrug off the intense pain and report what he had learned to his colleagues. While he was grasped by the head, he felt his entire body being lifted up. Although he hammered the hilts of his swords into Ainz’s arm, the grip on his head showed no signs of loosening.
“Wrong. It doesn’t matter if you use piercing, slashing or bludgeoning—none of the weak attacks you can muster can do so much as put a scratch on me.”
“…That… what? The hell, what kind of con game are you running? That’s not fair!”
“He’s lying! Imina, if that were true, there would be no reason to fight at all. He must have some kind of weakness!”
“—I won’t fall for it!”
“It’s truly sad when you can’t even believe the truth that’s right in front of you. I would have imagined that you would have realized from the melee battle, and the conversation we had, that you were nothing more than useful test subjects. Did that little skirmish we had give you the hope that you could actually win here? Consider that my mercy to you in the hell that is to come.”
“What kind of mercy is that? You piece of shit, you goddamn bastard, let Hekkeran go!”
The arrow arrived at the same time as her voice. However, Ainz simply remained still, and the pain in Hekkeran’s forehead continued unabated.
“Do you really want to do that? You might hit this man.”
The pain had Hekkeran gripped in terror, the terror that at any moment his head might be crushed by the hand holding it. Although he struggled, Ainz did not shift a millimeter. It was like attacking a steel block—the only thing Hekkeran hurt was himself.
“Did that hurt? Don’t worry. I won’t kill you like that. A miserable little thief like you does not deserve that mercy—「Paralysis」.”
His body was frozen. No, it wasn’t frozen, it was paralyzed.
“Hmm, if I used ‘Paralysis’, then maybe ‘Touch of Undeath’ was kind of a waste.”
Hekkeran heard the words, but he did not understand them.
Imina’s bowstring hissed as she sent a continuous stream of projectiles downrange, but the only response was quiet laughter.
“So, how far can you… no, please, struggle as much as you want. That will only deepen your despair.”
Hekkeran’s mouth would not move to make the sounds he wanted.
This was an opponent they could not simply evade just by running away. But fighting would be even more foolish. This was especially true given that once the vanguard was taken down, the battle line would collapse.
“Then, who will be next? Of course, you can all come at once, but that would be too boring, no?”
Imina turned to look at Hekkeran, who was lying on the floor of the coliseum.
He wasn’t dead. But he looked like it. There was no way she could save him from the clutches of the logic-defying monster known as Ainz Ooal Gown. But even so—
“—You idiot! Just by common sense, you should have abandoned me! You dummy!”
She was angry.
“Idiot, idiot, idiot, stupid idiot! You moron!”
“…Directing abuse to a man who so gallantly risked himself to protect his comrades is only going to upset me, you know.”
It was a statement that showed a complete lack of understanding for Imina’s feelings. Then again, their opponent was a monster; trying to make him understand human emotions would be impossible.
“I already know that! I don’t deserve such a great leader!”
She took a breath.
“But still! You’re still an idiot! Running on your emotions like that!”
Don’t be confused…
Imina thought to herself. She was trying to suppress the feelings of a woman who wanted to save her man.
She had to abandon Hekkeran and bring this information back. She had to tell the outside world about these ruins, about the fearsome monster which inhabited it, and depending on how things went, they might even need to assemble a punitive force to deal with it.
Two hundred years ago, the Demon Kings that inhabited the barren continent must have been beings like that.
It felt as though the world she was living in had been touched by myths and legends. It clearly couldn’t be like this, but some part of her, deep in her heart, was insisting that this was just a dream.
Legends, huh? It sounds so bizarre when you put it that way. It’s heroes that ought to be fighting a monster like this—
Inspiration struck in a flash.
That was it. The ones who battled the demon gods were the Thirteen Heroes—they were heroes. Then, the only one who could fight Ainz was also a hero.
“Give Hekkeran back! If we don’t return by the stipulated time, the strongest people in the world will force their way into this tomb! If we can return unharmed, you can use us to negotiate!”
“What is this, lies again?
Ainz sighed, a silent haah sound. Sweat beaded on Imina’s brow, that was genuine.
“No, I’m not lying.”
“—Albedo. Is there anyone who could be considered strong on the surface?”
“There are none, I believe she is just spouting meaningless lies.”
“It’s not a lie!”
The girl behind Imina was shouting.
“The adamantite-ranked adventurer Momon from “Darkness” is there! He’s the greatest warrior of them all! He’s stronger than you!”
For the first time, Albedo appeared perturbed. She looked to Ainz, panic written on her face, and lowered her head to him.
“M-my apologies! There is such a being! P-please, forgive me!”
“Mmm… ah, yes, I didn’t even notice, Albedo. Momon of ‘Darkness’, hmm. About him… forget it, it’s not important. He cannot defeat me.”
He had been acting like a demon king until now, but the way he was slumping his shoulders suggested that he was hiding something. Exactly what he was hiding, nobody could tell.
“Momon is strong! Stronger than you!”
“…Ah, well, that’s hardly grounds for negotiation, Give it up.”
Ainz waved his hand lazily to dismiss the topic.
“Now then, shall we start again?”
The time for idle chatter was over.
Roberdyck shouted, and Imina agreed.
“Look up! This is probably the outside! If you fly, there’s a chance you can escape! Run, even if it’s only you! We’ll try to buy you some time, a minute, no, ten seconds!”
“Now that is an interesting idea. Aura, open the exit. I will humor them.”
Ainz pointed at the direction Roberdyck and the others had entered from. Aura leapt up, the bottoms of his shoes glowed, and his body disappeared.
“Now then, Aura has gone to open the gate. Go ahead and flee. Abandon your comrades. Who was the one who wanted to run again?”
Ainz extended his hand. His skeletal face could not display any expressions, but from his gesture, it was clear enough. If he had flesh, it would have been twisted into an evil smile. It would have been a smile that eagerly anticipated these comrades to fall into infighting.
Workers were different from adventurers; they formed parties based on the power of money and useful relationships, and in a situation like this, the odds of them fleeing would be quite high. However, Foresight was different.
“Arche, run now!”
“Yes, run,” Imina smiled. “You still have your sisters, right? Then leave us and go. That’s what you should be doing!”
“How could I? This is obviously all my fault!”
Seeing that Ainz had no intent to press the attack, Roberdyck walked over to Arche, and then withdrew a small leather pouch for her to hold on to.
“It’ll be fine. We’ll beat that monster Ainz and then come right after you.”
“When that happens, you’re buying the drinks.”
Imina also drew forth a small pouch for her to hold.
“Then, go. Use the money I left at the inn as you wish.”
“…I’ll hold you to that. Then, I’ll be going first.”
Of course, none of the three actually believed it.
Defeating the being called Ainz, whose power was far beyond their imagining, was something they could not even hope to do. Arche knew that this was their final farewell, and she was choking back her tears as she cast her spell.
“There are monsters in the sky that might still catch you even if you run…”
Ignoring Ainz’s warning, Arche’s spell took effect. She looked to her comrades one last time, and then took to the air without another word.
“…Ah, is that how it is. Well, it’s less tiring than running,” Ainz said in a casual way.
“However, it’s quite remarkable that you decided it without fighting with each other. I thought I would see your disgusting true selves on display here.”
“You would never understand. It’s because we’re comrades.”
“That’s true. Dying to protect a comrade is not a bad thing—”
A flash of insight struck Imina.
“—Were your comrades the friends you spoke of?”
“Your comrades must have been exceptional individuals, no? Then, our relationship is as close as theirs, and yours.”
The evil atmosphere vanished as though it had never been, and Ainz continued in a quiet tone.
“Greater love hath no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends—so it was written in the Gospel of Mark.”
“…It’s all right if we die. However, for our sake of the bond that we share, that you yourself, and your exceptional comrades shared, please let her go.”
Ainz hesitated for several seconds, and then shook his head.
“There will be no mercy for thieves like you. All that awaits is suffering upon suffering upon suffering, followed by death. But for the sake of the lives that you are willing to throw away for your comrade, you may bid her farewell. Shalltear.”
Ainz carelessly showed his back to them, and called out to the VIP box. There was no chance he would be hurt, and it showed in his attitude.
No, that was the reality of it. There was no attack they could use which would work. This was mere fantasy after understanding the truth of things. The two of them had no method which could wound the monster called Ainz. Because of this, they could calmly turn their heads back. At the very least, they had to buy Arche the time to flee.
Although they had no cards to play, they still had to do it. Imina and Roberdyck exchanged looks, and nodded.
On the other hand, a girl’s voice came from the VIP box in response to Ainz’s voice.
She was a human girl with hair that gleamed like platinum. Although the two of them were filled with anger, they could not help but be captivated by that beauty, their eyes drawn to the girl who possessed it.
Suddenly. the beautiful girl shifted her line of sight to look at the two of them. Her eyes were an entrancing crimson. Imina felt as though they were squeezing her heart. Similarly for Roberdyck, he was having trouble breathing with the crushing pressure on his chest.
Even after the girl’s eyes left her, Imina still didn’t feel like she could move freely.
“Shalltear, teach that child the meaning of terror. Teach her the gulf between the sliver of hope for escape that she clings to, and the inescapable reality that awaits all who dare invade the Great Tomb of Nazarick. After that, do not cause her any pain, but slay her with the deepest and sincerest mercy.”
The girl—Shalltear—smiled to Ainz. However, when Imina saw that smile from the side, a chill ran down her spine. Her instinct told her that this was a monster draped in a very beautiful skin.
“Do enjoy the hunt.”
“That was my intention.”
Shalltear bowed deeply to Ainz before setting forth. Every step she took was one closer to ending Arche’s life, but even if Imina knew it in her mind, there was nothing they could do about it. Imina and Roberdyck were both unable to move.
Shalltear walked past them without any sign that she had noticed them, without paying them the slightest bit of attention. Perhaps Foresight could close the distance between themselves and Shalltear immediately if they ran after her, but she seemed so far away.
“What’s this? Still not coming? If you have time to talk, you have time to fight… How unexpectedly honorable of you.”
He was not looking down on her. His sentiment was genuine. In response to it, Imina’s fighting spirit recovered somewhat.
“Wait! A question, please! What happened there, where is the mercy in that?”
“A priest… then, I will tell you. In my Nazarick, a death without further suffering is mercy enough.”
Silence descended upon them. They would no longer speak with words, but weapons.
“Let’s go, Rob!”
With an uncharacteristic battlecry, the charging Roberdyck brought his morningstar down on Ainz’s face. It was a strike that considered nothing but the full use of his strength. It was precisely because he thought that Ainz would not evade it that he put all his might into the blow.
Although Ainz took a strike made with all of Roberdyck’s strength, he did not react with pain as expected. Roberdyck followed up his attack, reaching out with his bare hand.
“「Cure Moderate Wounds」!”
The healing spell was targeted at Ainz. When exposed to healing-type magic, undead would take damage instead. However, like the attack spell Arche cast earlier, it vanished uselessly against an invisible wall.
Imina tensed her bowstring as she cried out. Then—she loosed. Although Roberdyck was next to Ainz, she was not nearly bad enough to actually hit him. Rather, at this range, there was no way she could miss.
Yet—the arrows struck Ainz, and fell to the ground without doing any damage whatsoever.
It was the same tactic as earlier.
As expected, the voice came from behind.
Before Roberdyck could finish, Ainz’s hand gently settled on Imina’s shoulder. There was no hint of enmity in that gesture.
However, it had a telling effect. All the strength in her body vanished, and she slumped to the ground. Although her mind was fully functional and conscious, her body felt like a puddle of immobile, insensate slime.
“What did you do to her?”
Roberdyck asked his question in a trembling voice, as his eyes went from Imina to Ainz, who stood by her side.
“Was that a surprise? It’s nothing special.”
Ainz proceeded to explain in such a way as to break Roberdyck’s spirit.
“It was almost the same as just now. After casting a silent ‘Time Stop’ I moved over here and cast the same spell I used on that man, ‘Touch of Undeath’. And then, I just touched her.”
The silence felt as though the space between them had been frozen. The sound of Roberdyck swallowing was exceptionally loud in comparison,
“…He stopped time…”
“Oh yes. Anti-time stop countermeasures are very important, don’t you know? You’ll need to have them by the time you hit level 70. Oh well, you’re going to die here, so in your case, it’s largely academic.”
Roberdyck grinded his teeth.
He was lying. If only he could say that. If only he could deny everything this monster—this god—was saying. It would be better if he fell to his knees and clutched his ears to shut the words out.
He understood that Ainz was very powerful.
However, even with that considered, stopping time and the like was something that should not exist in this world.
The march of time was a flow that could not be mastered or controlled by humanity. What could he do against a foe who was capable of such a feat? Cutting down an entire forest with a single sword would be an easier goal in comparison.
Ainz Ooal Gown. He was a being that the human race could never defeat. He was a man who stood at the cusp of divinity.
He gripped his mace in both hands—
—and he felt a light tap on his shoulder.
Roberdyck’s body stopped moving. He did not have to look to know who had done it. It was Ainz Ooal Gown—that godlike being who could control the passage of time—who was supposed to be standing in front of him. When had he vanished from his field of vision?
The cold flowing into him made him feel as though he had turned into an ice sculpture. Thus, any feeling and freedom were stripped from his body.
“—It was useless, wasn’t it?”
So spoke the gentle voice which carried no trace of enmity to Roberdyck. The mace fell from nerveless fingers, to the ground—
Then, Ainz muttered as he looked to Roberdyck who had lost all will to fight.
“Well, that was a waste of effort. I think I might have actually broken a sweat.”
It was completely useless. Every tactic and trick he had tried could not do even the slightest bit of damage to Ainz.
The thoroughly defeated Roberdyck looked quietly at Ainz, and calmly asked him a question.
“I have something to ask. What is to become of us afterwards?”
“Mm? Is it because you’re a divine magic caster and you think you won’t end up in the same state as those other two?”
With that as a premise, Ainz began his explanation.
“Well then, about those two. Aura, take them to the Large Cave. Gashokukochuuou says he’s running out of nests.”
The dark elf’s ears twitched, and her eyes went wide.
“Ai-Ainz-sama! Mare! I can order Mare to go instead, right? Make him go there instead!”
“Oh, hm. Fine with me.”
“Understood! I’ll let Mare go instead!”
“As for that, I apologize. There will be no kind fate in store for them. As for you—the subordinate I sent in pursuit is also a divine magic caster, but the god she believes in is completely different from the gods you worship. When it comes down to it, I have no idea what the Four Gods you worship are. As such, I need to confirm the details on them. As their subordinates, you have names for them, but whether they’re the Four Gods or the Six Gods, these names are little more than job titles, like the Fire God, Earth God, is that it?”
“That, I don’t know about that.”
“I see… so they’re not superior beings who possess a mysterious power, they’re nothing more than great men of the past who’ve been deified—”
“—how could that be?!”
“Well, do listen. That’s just my theory. But if that were the case, if you do borrow the power of the gods to work your magic, could dead people provide it to you? Or rather, what are the gods? Do they even exist? Are you really using the power of the gods?”
“…What are you trying to say?”
“…Have you ever seen your god?”
“My god is always by my side!”
“That is to say, you’ve never actually seen him directly, then?”
“No! When we use our spells, we feel the presence of a mighty being. That is our god!”
“…And who declared that that presence to be a god? The god himself? Or someone using another kind of power?”
Roberdyck recalled the theological debates he had taken part in. There was no clear answer to Ainz’s questions. Until today, the priests still debated hotly over whether that was the proof of God’s existence.
Just as Roberdyck was about to speak, Ainz interrupted him.
“…Well, supposing these super-dimensional beings—which we shall generously term gods for our purposes—do exist, I wonder if that means they are originally colorless entities. Simply put, they are chunks of power. Because drawing on their power dyes them in a different color and changes the thing… well, they do exist in a world with magical laws, I just wanted someone to chat with someone about this. It wouldn’t be funny if there really were gods.”
“My apologies. That was off-topic. The power of the god you believe in. I think we won’t be able to learn it… so do you want to take part in a human experiment?”
“That’s right. For instance, when we alter your memories so the god you believe in is someone else, what will happen after that?”
He’s insane. That was Roberdyck’s deepest and most honest thought about the situation.
No, he’s an undead. It wouldn’t be strange no matter what he did.
Ainz took a step back, looking with deep interest at Roberdyck. That look was the way a scholar would examine a laboratory animal, and it made Roberdyck want to throw up.
“Why, why do you want to do that?”
“To prove that god exists… eh, I’m not going to bother going on with that joke. Truthfully, I want to become stronger by understanding the nature of that power. And if those beings you call gods really exist, I want to know if they have emotions or thoughts. I want to confirm that. As for me, I have never thought of myself as a chosen being. In truth, there are many others like that.”
Roberdyck had no idea what Ainz was talking about.
“Therefore, expanding military preparations is essential. Of course, it may be that no enemies exist, or if they do exist, none of them are as strong as we are. However, don’t you think that the leader of an organization shouldn’t be negligent? After all, if we rest on our laurels, we’re likely to have our feet cut out from under us when we least expect it. Confirming the existence of gods is part of that. “
Ainz shrugged as he finished.
Arche panted heavily.
Every time the grass swayed from the wind, her whole body would tremble. Like a small animal, she fearfully looked in every direction.
The surroundings were a forest, and there were many places without light. The spreading canopies of the nearby trees blocked out the light from the sky, and there was almost none on the surface.
Although this environment would normally be difficult for a human being to navigate, in lieu of illumination, Arche used the ‘Darkvision’ spell, which made her surroundings seem as bright as day.
However, even with this spell, she still needed a lot of concentration to pick out grass patches which people could be hiding in, tree trunks that might conceal enemies behind them, and listen to the branches creaking as they swayed in the wind.
As an arcane magic caster, if Arche were confronted by a monster which attacked her, she could not get rid of it by herself. Normally, she would have her colleagues to help her, but the ones who would help her, who would provide cover for her, or heal her, were all absent.
Which meant that all she could do was watch out for signs that an enemy was approaching, keep her distance, and flee. She was on edge because she was keenly aware of this fact, and it sapped her mental strength even more than normal.
Her original plan was to make it to the outside, which meant she would escape with a ‘Flight’ spell. But once she flew above the trees, she saw a gigantic flying creature in the sky which seemed to be searching for something, so she abandoned that plan.
After she confirmed the presence of the giant bat, she could not find it in herself to try and turn it into a contest of speed. That was because even though ‘Invisibility’ could fool visual senses, it could not deceive the special sensory organs of a bat.
After confirming her surroundings were safe, Arche once more flew up at a snail’s pace.
She was proceeding as slowly as possible with her ‘Flight’ spell because she wanted to observe her surroundings. If she went at full speed, she would not be able to react quickly enough even if she were on alert and spotted a threat, and that would mean she would be leaping into the mouth of any monsters which pursued her. In order to avoid this, she deliberately lowered her speed.
Finally, Arche felt the layer of magic energy surrounding her growing thin. Her flight spell was about to run out.
She slowly descended to the ground.
The question now was what should she do. Casting ‘Flight’ again would not be a problem. She could feel that she had enough mana for it. However, ‘Darkvision’ was also a crucial spell, and she also had to reserve enough mana for defensive spells in case of combat.
The 3rd tier spell ‘Flight’ was one of the highest-ranked spells Arche knew how to use. Which also meant that it was one of the most draining spells she had. If possible, she wanted to avoid using it.
Ignoring the present circumstances, even she did not know how long it would take to get out of this forest without the use of spells that would stave off her fatigue. And without the ability to fly, she could not even confirm her current location.
On the way here, Arche had occasionally risen above the forest canopy and used the big tree beside the coliseum as a landmark. If she stayed in the forest, she could not spot the big tree, and she was not able to climb trees either.
“—Where can I rest…”
Arche mumbled to herself.
If she restored her mana through sleep, she could use ‘Flight’ more often, and movement under the sun would be safer. This was particularly true for the forest, where the monsters tended to come up at night.
It might be better for her to curl up somewhere and wait for day to break, rather than force herself to carry on in the dark forest.
But Arche had no idea where the safe places were.
If Imina were here, she would probably know. And if Roberdyck or Hekkeran were around, she could rest easily even in dangerous areas. However, her reliable companions were not with her.
Arche curled up beside a huge tree, and thought of her comrades.
There had been no word from them after so long.
As expected, they had not been able to escape.
No, that was something she had known from the beginning. There was no way they could beat the ridiculous entity known as Ainz. Even so, was she a fool for holding on to the faint hope of seeing them again?
Arche sat on the ground, leaned her back on the great tree, and closed her eyes. She knew it was dangerous, but she still wanted to close her eyes.
As the memory of the three of them came to mind, she squeezed her eyelids shut.
The icy-cool sensation of the wood against her head was very comfortable. It was only after she had rested for a while that she realized just how tired she had been. Her stress turned into emotional exhaustion, and it rose without stopping.
She let her head rest against the tree.
And then she opened her eyes wide.
‘Darkvision’ painted the world of night in fresh, bright colors, but she had no explanation for what she saw in her field of vision.
Someone was watching Arche.
It was like nothing Arche had ever seen before, and her eyes seemed transfixed on the sight of the beautiful girl.
She was dressed in a velvet-soft ball gown dyed in the darkest shade of black, a garment that seemed thoroughly unsuited for her present environment. Her skin was as pale as wax. A single hand stroked her long, platinum hair, which seemed about to brush across Arche’s face.
Though she was a noble daughter, Arche had never seen a girl this beautiful before. If she were to show up at a formal dance, men would flock to her like moths to a flame, purely on the virtue of her beauty. Her crimson pupils radiated an irresistible charm that seemed to draw Arche’s soul into them.
But Arche immediately returned to her senses. There was no way someone like that would be in a place like this. Especially not someone with both feet on the tree trunk, standing parallel to the ground in utter defiance of gravity.
It was obvious that this was a pursuer sent by Ainz. Still, it was not completely impossible that she might have been a resident in the forest for a long time.
“Tag. You’re it.”
Her fleeting hopes had been utterly dashed.
Arche leapt away to open up a gap, targeting the girl with her staff. The girl seemed disinterested in Arche, and neatly walked down the tree trunk and onto the floor.
“It won’t be fun if you don’t run~”
“—if I defeat you here, I can flee more safely.”
Even as she said this, Arche smiled bitterly in her heart. There was no way she could beat any pursuer sent by Ainz, a being who existed outside the bounds of common sense.
Knowing this, the reason why she said so was to gauge the other party’s reaction.
“Then, by all means, although I can only play with you for a while.”
Her attitude said that she completely understood the difference in power between the two of them. Which was to say, if she fought Arche, she would not be playing around at all.
Arche cast her spell and began to flee. There was none of the leisurely, slow flight she had demonstrated on the ground. In one swift movement she was aloft, covering her face with her arms as she broke through the forest canopy and soared into the air.
Under the night sky, Arche looked around once more. She was on guard for the bat-like monster she had seen earlier. However, it seemed that it was nowhere around. And so, all that was left was to escape.
“Yes, yes, keep it up, keep it up,”
The beautiful voice called out to Arche, who was desperate to flee. Her heart lurched. Casting desperate glances around, Arche tried to see where it was coming from.
It was from in front and above her.
When had she—the girl from just now was there.
Bluish-white lightning leapt from her staff’s head and cleaved through the night. This was Arche’s strongest attack spell. Even though it pierced the girl, the smile did not vanish from her face.
Arche was sure of it. This was a being on par with Ainz, which meant that there was no way Arche could defeat her. The girl cheerfully spoke to Arche, who was eager to flee.
“「Come, my familiars.」”
An enormous pair of wings extended from behind the girl’s back. They were like a bat’s in shape, but far, far larger. An enormous bat flew out from behind her, like it had detached from her body. And of course, no bat with glowing crimson eyes like that could be a mere beast.
The girl smiled from beside the giant bat, whose wings beat steadily through the air. It was a smile that froze Arche’s body like ice, a smile that did not seem to belong on someone her age at all.
“Well then, do continue to flee~”
She took flight with all her strength.
She flew into the forest to lose her pursuer, and the branches scratched her body as she fled.
Since she had discarded her companions to escape, that meant she had to make it out of here no matter what. In her mind, she would do anything to make that happen.
And after a flight of who knew how long, Arche was faced with despair.
It was a wall.
An invisible wall stood in front of her.
The world went on beyond it, but Arche’s body was blocked by that wall. Arche was now two hundred meters above ground level and the invisible wall had reached this high.
Arche muttered to herself as despair seeped into her heart. She flew and felt around with her hands. But… wall, wall, wall, still a wall.
No matter where she flew, her hands told her there was something hard in her way.
“What is this?!”
“A wall, of course.”
It was an answer to her self-directed mutterings. Arche turned around, with an idea of who she might see.
It was as she had expected. The girl from earlier. But now she had a trio of giant bats as her escorts.
“Though it seems you’ve gotten the wrong impression. This is the 6th floor of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. That is to say, you’re underground.”
Arche pointed to the world. The sky, the stars, the gently-blowing wind, the forest which stretched as far as the eye could see. Although she did not think this place could be under the earth, when it came to these people, even that might be a possibility.
“The 41 Supreme Beings, our most august creators, once ruled this place. It was created by them, and even we don’t understand all of it.”
“…They created a world? That would make them like gods…”
“That’s correct. To us, they are beings on the same level as gods. Gods with Ainz-sama as their leader.”
Arche looked around.
She had accepted it. No matter how you put it, after seeing so much, the only thing she could do was accept it.
There was no way she would be returning alive.
“Well then, not fleeing?”
“—Would it even be possible?”
“Of course not. There was never any intention to allow you to escape to begin with.”
“—Is that so?”
Arche gripped her staff tightly with both hands and charged the girl. She could no longer use spells since she was out of mana. However, even in this most hopeless of situations she still had to try her best until the very last moment. This was the duty of Arche, the sole surviving member of Foresight.
“There, there, you’ve done your best.”
The girl’s reply to Arche’s fully-determined charge was little more than bored dismissal.
“Then, your sad little escape attempt ends here... though it’s a shame I couldn’t see you cry.”
The girl easily caught the staff with one hand, and yanked it toward herself. Arche was thrown off balance and fell into the arms of the girl. The two of them ended up embracing in mid-air.
In this position, the girl buried her face into Arche’s neck. Although Arche tried to struggle, the girl who stuck to her like glue could not be shaken off. She breathed hotly on Arche’s neck, and Arche’s body quivered.
“…Mm, the smell of sweat…”
Not being able to keep one’s body clean was part and parcel of the worker’s life for Arche. This was true for all workers, adventurers, travellers, and anyone who spent time moving around outside. Even if they got dirty, the appropriate response would be “So what?”
However, she still felt deeply ashamed at being told this by a girl who was younger and more beautiful than her.
The girl’s face left Arche’s neck. A feeling of revulsion swept up over Arche as she looked into those crimson eyes. Within those eyes burned a lust for the female body, stained with the same carnal desire that men possessed for women.
“Be at ease. You will die without experiencing any suffering. Be grateful to Ainz-sama for his mercy.”
Arche wanted to respond, but instead all she felt was surprise - surprise at the fact that her body had been immobilized. It was as though those crimson pupils had stolen away her soul.
At last, Arche realised the true identity of the girl. She was not human, but a vampire.
The girl’s face drew closer to Arche’s, her tongue slipping past her lips to lightly lick at Arche’s cheeks.
The girl laughed, and despair swallowed Arche’s soul.
That only made the girl laugh harder.
Her lips split apart to her ears. The red of her irises spread to engulf their respective eyeballs.
With a cracking sound, she opened her mouth. What had once been neat, pearly white teeth were now things that made people think of medical syringes, in multiple rows like those of a shark. Her lascivious voice was laced with lewd undertones, and clear drool oozed from the corners of her mouth.
And then, terror enveloped Arche completely.
Arche’s mind lost hold on consciousness in the face of the laughing monster that reeked of blood.
The last thing that went through her mind was the faces of her two sisters waiting for her.
“Ooooooh? Fainted already? …Then there’s no need to knock you out with magic. You can embrace Death in your dreams~”
After entrusting the cleanup of the intruders to others, Ainz sat down on the throne and started up the monitor. As he browsed through the data of Nazarick, the things that he focused the most on were the changes which occurred to the total amount of funds, which were miniscule. This was mostly due to not having activated any traps that consumed a large amount of money. From the looks of things so far, today’s experiment could be considered as more than successful.
Ainz smiled—even though it was impossible to show it on his face—towards the tense faced Albedo who was waiting by his side, anxious to hear his evaluation, and praised her.
“Magnificent. Although the intruders this time were a bit too fragile from our point of view, they were considered a fearsome force in this world. And you were even able to accomplish it while keeping expenditure to a minimum, looks like from here on, I can truly be at ease when entrusting the defenses of Nazarick to you, Albedo.”
“My deepest gratitude.”
Albedo bowed her head deeply while making a relieved expression.
“By the way, Ainz-sama, was it fine timewise?”
“Not a problem. I have already heard from Pandora’s Actor, the adventurers have decided to wait another day, or until something changes within the ruins, before leaving.”
The fact that none of the workers returned even when it was morning had caused a panic amongst the adventurers, and they had hurriedly reported it to Momon—Pandora’s Actor, who suggested that they wait another day. Usually, when something unexpected happened, the most appropriate thing to do was to retreat towards a safer location and assess the situation once more from there. However, things were different due to the presence of an adamantite-ranked team.
“In that case, could I take up a little bit of your time? The truth is, I have a proposal which I hope Ainz-sama would kindly listen to.”
“What’s the matter, Albedo? Could you wait a bit? … … Okay, not a problem now.” After verifying once more on the situation regarding Hamsuke and the lizardmen on the monitor, Ainz turned to face Albedo. “What is your proposal about?”
“—Yes” Albedo glanced around at their surroundings before continuing, “It is about the things that were mentioned previously by those foolish ones, regarding the search for the Supreme Beings, what level of priority should we assign it?”
“The highest. Take any actions necessary provided they do not bring harm towards the Great Tomb of Nazarick or reveal us in the process.”
Ainz answered immediately.
“As I thought so. I understand. In that case, here is my proposal: please allow me to personally select the members and be in charge of the unit tasked with the search for the Supreme Beings.”
“What exactly are you suggesting?”
Ainz’s voice deliberately became cold once more. It was because he noticed the dark emotions dwelling inside of him.
There had been opportunities to search for his comrades, but each time the plans were put on hold due to reasons such as “lack of manpower” or “lack of intelligence”.
If they were unable to find his companions even after searching every corners of the world, thoughts like this were the reason why Ainz could not make up his mind. Rather than knowing for sure that he was the only one left in this world, it was easier for him to hold onto the hope that through gathering up enough fame, his companions would eventually be able to find him.
“Yes. Although we were able to immediately determine that what those foolish ones had said previously were lies, I believe there will be times in the future where it will become difficult for us to judge. For this reason, I think it is necessary for us to have a unit tasked with determining the accuracy of received reports as well as for the search of the Supreme Beings. It would be much better for me to investigate them beforehand, and then report my findings to Ainz-sama.”
Ainz held his hand against his chin and muttered, “Is that so…” As he recalled his previous conversation with the workers, what he felt was not anger but a sense of emptiness. There was nothing more unbearable than dancing between hope and despair. As the head of an organisation, he had to disregard his personal emotions and make the decision to move forward whenever a decisive moment appeared, even if it was just a small step.
“Albedo, it doesn’t need to be you, right? I had hoped you could remain here to manage Nazarick for me. Regarding the need to go out and search for information… wouldn’t Mare and Aura be more suited? Since dark elves exist even in the outside world.”
“It is as you say. However, if that was the case, I cannot help but be worried that they might ‘run wild’. For example, I would imagine Shalltear would definitely recklessly rush out if information regarding Peroronchino-sama was found. I am uncertain what kind of action Aura and Mare would take if it was information regarding Bukubuku Chagama-sama instead.”
“I see…” after thinking about Shalltear, Ainz smiled bitterly. “Indeed, it seems she would act that way.”
“That is why I hoped that you would consider allowing me to form my own unit.”
“…If information regarding Tabula-san were to be found, would you also ‘run wild’?”
“Please be at ease. As someone who holds the position as the Overseer of the Guardians of Nazarick, I would never do something like that. This I promise.”
It was a lot less likely for someone like Albedo, who was both capable and wise at managing the operations of Nazarick, to run wild. Even though there had been a few odd hiccups along the way, she had been able to manage Nazarick without a problem during the times that Ainz wasn’t there, which showed that she deserved to be trusted.
“Personally, I believe Demiurge is also suitable for this task. However, he is burdened with many other responsibilities at the moment. I think it might be too much to add the task of searching for information regarding the Supreme Beings on top of the work he currently needs to deal with.”
“That does make sense. In that case, how about Pandora’s Actor?”
“Yes, as I had hoped. Please allow me to borrow Pandora’s Actor to be my adjutant for this task.”
“I see. Even within Nazarick, the two of you are among the most intelligent, so there will be less likelihood of making mistakes if the two of you handle it together… … Although there is also the task of managing Nazarick’s treasury… Very well, during the times that you require him, you may have priority in borrowing him.”
“My deepest gratitude. Also, is it fine for me to add a few more suggestions?”
Ainz raised his chin, signaling Albedo to continue.
“For the task of searching for the Supreme Beings, I would like to select only those that are capable.”
“Of course. I will provide you with the highest ranked subordinates.”
“My deepest gratitude. After that, if Ainz-sama would be so kind as to create a few undead adjutants for me, that would be most helpful.”
“That request I will have to reject. It is true that the undead adjutants that I make can reach level 90, however—”
The undead that could be created using Ainz’s special skill, the one which required the consumption of his experience points to make—Overlord Wiseman and Grim Reaper Thanatos—just one of them alone would be stronger than any NPC mercenary. However, Ainz wanted to avoid using any skill which consumed experience points for now, as he currently did not have the means to quickly regain them like he could in YGGDRASIL.
“That’s right, it’s better not to do that. Albedo will be in charge of the team; the adjutant will be Pandora Actor. The rest will be selected from amongst the monsters.”
“Understood. There is also one more suggestion that I wish to make, if possible, can we keep the creation of this unit a secret from the other Guardians?”
“How come? Would it not be better to receive assistance from other Guardians?”
“No, if the handling of the received reports was poorly managed, it might result in the leakage of dubious information before it has been verified. If that was the case, the other Guardians or those that were created by the Supreme Beings might end up wanting to come along to check as well. If the received information was a trap, it would put everyone in danger. Because I specialize in defense, it would be possible for me to get away. However, I fear it might be difficult for the others to successfully retreat.”
“A valid reasoning. Very well then, Albedo. Do as you like.”
“I express my deepest gratitude! Ainz-sama!”
Albedo bowed her head deeply, causing her long hair to hang down, covering her face.
“Good. I will be leaving this matter to you then.”
“Of-course! This secretive, specialized unit will carry out the most important order. We will definitely not allow Ainz-sama to regret his decision.”
Albedo’s response seemed a bit strange. If he had to express the feeling in his heart, it would probably have taken the form of a head tilted in puzzlement.
Well, forget it.
“Well then, select your subordinates. Pick from the newly created ones, as long as they haven’t already been assigned with other duties. How many do you need from those that are around level 80?”
“I believe fifteen will be sufficient for now.”
“Fifteen? Isn’t that a little too much…” Ainz stopped speaking and shook his head. Searching for his comrades was an important task. In that case, he shouldn’t be so stingy about it. “Ah, is that so? I understand.”
“Well then, I would like to ask for one more thing. Is it possible for me to take command of Rubedo as well?”
Ainz answered immediately.
Nazarick’s strongest individual, Rubedo. Her battle potential was well above that of Sebas, Cocytus, and Albedo in terms of pure melee combat. Shalltear would be a weakling in comparison, given the fact that even Ainz in his full equipment would most likely lose against Rubedo.
The only few that could possibly win against that one would be those stationed on the 8th Floor, and only if they were to use World class items. As expected, I don’t think they could put up a decent fight against that individual otherwise…
“The experiment to start up Rubedo has been more or less a success. I don’t plan on moving her for now. Besides that, is there a reason you require such a high amount of combat power?”
“It’s embarrassing to say, would you still like to hear it?”
“Not a problem?”
“It was rare for a chance like this to happen, so I wanted to create the strongest team.”
It was such a childish yet understandable explanation from Albedo which had caused Ainz to burst into laughter. Although his emotions were almost immediately suppressed, a mild feeling of pleasantness still lingered like ripples spreading across water.
Ainz smiled to Albedo, who had put on a troubled expression—although his facial expression did not change—and gave the following reply.
“My bad, my bad. Ah, ahem. That was amusing okay? Very well then, in that case, I will allow you to take command of your little sister.”
“Is that fine?”
“Not a problem. Go ahead and make your team. Perhaps in the future, this team of yours could even be used for other things.”
“My deepest gratitude, Ainz-sama.”
Albedo bowed her head deeply once more, hiding her face from view. Even though Ainz was unable to see her expressions, he imagined that she must still be making her usual, gentle smile. As he was about to turn his attention back onto the monitor, Entoma suddenly entered the throne room. With her back straight and upright, Entoma walked until she reached the throne. With one knee touching the ground, she bowed.
“Please excuse my interruption.”
“What is it, Entoma?”
In response to Albedo’s harsh tone, Entoma replied “Yes” without changing her kneeling posture.
“I am here to report that it is time for Aura-sama and Mare-sama to carry out the next part of the plan.”
“Is that so? …Raise your head.”
After replying once more with a short “Yes”, Entoma raised her head.
“There’s still a bit of time left. So let’s send them off properly. It would be inelegant to do it via telepathy, so I will have to cause some inconvenience for Entoma and have her go and inform the two in person.”
Albedo quietly watched the figure of Entoma as she stood up and walked away from the throne. She then carefully observed Ainz and asked the following.
“…Ainz-sama, were you feeling unhappy? They should have arranged for a maid other than Entoma to come. I will go and reprimand them later.”
“For letting Ainz-sama to hear that rude little girl’s voice once more—”
“Ah, I wasn’t bothered at all. What’s more, I was the one who called for Entoma—wait up! Entoma!”
“Yes! Is there something I can do for you?”
Ainz made a gesture towards Entoma who was rushing back in a hurry, indicating that it was fine for her to answer from where she was.
“What happened to the other parts? Were they put to good use?”
“Yes. The head was given to a Silk Hat Demon. The arms were split between the Deadman Strugglers. Demiurge-sama took the skin. The remaining parts were given to Grant’s children to feast on. All in all, I believe that every part had been effectively utilized.”
“Is that so? In that case, it is fine. It is a hunter’s responsibility to not make waste of their prey. Any hunter would most likely have done the same. Think of this as a memorial service.”
“How…very benevolent. To be able to display such kindness to even the dirty thieves that dared to intrude, as expected of a Supreme Being. If Ainz-sama’s words were to be heard by everyone within Nazarick, they will undoubtedly be moved to tears.”
Ainz couldn’t help but feel a little distressed after hearing Albedo’s words overflowing with emotions while seeing Entoma’s eyes shining, filled with respect.
“…Umu. Well, ahem… This was just my personal view; it is not something that I had wished to force onto you guys. But from the looks of things… think of it as a form of etiquette to not waste anything.”
“Understood. In that case, we should also make better use of the others!”
Watching the two of them bow, Ainz couldn’t help but feel that somewhere, somehow, something had gone wrong, and replied with an “umu”.
The ministry of magic had several conference rooms which served as reception rooms, and Fluder was currently headed towards the one that was the most luxuriously decorated. It was the room used only when the Emperor, or those second to him, had arrived.
Before entering, Fluder checked his outfit.
The robes he wore could be considered a first grade clothing suitable even for the grand banquets hosted by the Emperor, and the perfume on his neck and sleeves had a nice fragrance as well.
Originally, Fluder did not concern himself with political or social issues. Rather, in order to concentrate on magic research, he considered everything else to be trivial in comparison. However, due to his position, he still had to maintain awareness of these things.
His own accomplishments were related to the prestige of the Empire, although this was not done intentionally.
Good, no problems.
After confirming to himself that his clothes were flawless, he knocked on the door and entered.
There were two adventurers in this luxurious room. One was a warrior clad in jet black armour, reminding him of the Death Knight he had been staring at not long ago, and at his side was a woman whose beauty caused even Fluder to be taken aback for a moment.
So this is Momon of ‘Darkness’ and the ‘Beautiful Princess’ Nabe.
“I am extremely sorry for having you wait for so long.”
Fluder gently closed the door, then felt a sense of discomfort.
He stood in front of the door, staring at the peerless beauty.
“…I can’t see it?”
Fluder’s eyes should have been able to see the amount of magical talent one possessed, but he accidently voiced his surprise since he was unable to do so.
Fluder had a natural talent to determine the tier of magic one was capable of, just by observing the aura given off by a magic caster.
Despite having heard that the ‘Beautiful Princess’ Nabe from ‘Darkness’ was an arcane magic caster, Fluder’s innate ability was unable to see any aura around her
An anti-detection spell?
This was the only conclusion he could draw, but that raised another question. Why would someone protect themselves from being investigated? Ordinary adventurers would not need to use this. It was difficult to discern one’s strength, and as a result, few people would bother taking precautions against such situations. Besides, it was rude to be casting this kind of defensive magic while meeting with someone.
Well, I was also quite rude myself for using a detection ability on them… But why did they try to hide their power level?
Fluder’s talent was quite well known, so was it a countermeasure against him? He couldn't reach any conclusions.
Addressing Fluder, who was still surprised, Momon spoke.
“Excuse me, is something wrong?”
“Hohoho, sorry for being rude.”
Fluder sat in front of Momon, but he could not take his eyes off Nabe who stood at Momon’s side.
“Ah I see, so this is what’s going on, well then let’s begin.”
Begin what? However, before Fluder had any chance to ask, Momon continued talking.
“...Nabe, I think it’s about time to remove the ring.”
Nabe took off her ring, and in that instant—
Fluder felt as if he had been hit by a storm.
He exclaimed without thinking.
Nabe radiated an overwhelming power.
This overflowing storm of pressure did not really exist. Only Fluder and others with similar abilities would feel the torrent of power washing over him.
His body shook violently, as if he was exposed to the icy north wind.
Impossible. How could it be possible? How was it possible for someone stronger than himself to exist?
But, even if he tried to deny it, what appeared before his eyes was still reality. Up until this point, his ability to perceive a magic caster’s tier had never failed him.
“7th tier... No, with the huge amount of energy pouring out, could it be... proof of the 8th tier…?”
If that was the truth, then it bordered on the realm of legends.
Fluder was already unable to speak. The 5th tier was already in the realm of heroes, and the 6th tier that Fluder had reached was a realm that nobody had ever attained before. However, someone who had easily attained the higher tiers had suddenly appeared before him.
And it was a young and beautiful woman.
Does her age not correspond with her appearance?
While Fluder was still trembling in shock, he caught sight of Momon taking off his black gauntlet, then removing one of the rings he was wearing.
In that instant, the world was dyed in bright light, and Fluder felt his consciousness fading.
What happened in front of his eyes was unexplainable. Even Fluder, who had lived for over two hundred years, someone who had reached the highest peak of magic attainable for humans, could not understand what was going on.
“What... what... how is this possible?”
Fluder felt something warm flow down his cheeks, but he did not bother wiping it off—or rather, he no longer had the strength to do so. The shock had caused his emotions to descend into chaos.
Who could have seen this coming? The person praised as the Dark Hero was in fact an arcane magic caster who had attained a level that Fluder could never reach.
“If that is the 8th tier, no the 9th tier… No! ……… What….. hoooo, god!”
The overwhelming energy released by the dark warrior Momon easily surpassed that of Nabe beside him. If he could surpass Nabe, who was presumably in the 8th tier, then what were the heights of magic that Momon could aspire to?
Fluder answered the question in his mind with his soul.
The 10th tier. Although it did exist in legends, there had never been anyone who could provide absolute proof of its existence. Someone who was in a position to do so had deigned to appear before him.
Fluder, who was standing before, knelt before Momon with tears flowing from his eyes as he spoke.
“……My faith lies in the god that rules and presides over magic. But if you are not that exalted being, then I shall immediately recant my faith, for the one true god has finally appeared before me.”
In his haste to prostrate himself before Ainz, Fluder struck his head on the ground. Yet the pain he felt was nothing compared to the joy he felt surging up from the bottom of his heart.
“I know it’s disrespectful, but allow me to kneel here! Please enlighten me with your knowledge! I want to peer into the abyss of magic! Please! Please!”
“...What are you willing to give in exchange for that?”
The voice was as cold as ice. If a hundred people heard it, they would all answer the same, but what Fluder heard was a sweet voice that soothed the heart. Even if he knew that the voice was laced with poison, what of it?
Fluder did not hesitate for a moment, even if it meant giving up his soul in exchange.
“Everything! Yes, I will offer everything to your royal being! The master of the abyss! The supreme being!”
“…Very well, as long as you are willing to offer everything, what I know will become yours. I will therefore grant your wish.”
His head still pressed to the ground, Fluder cried tears of joy. The jealousy that had frozen his heart for so long seemed to have melted. At long last, his wish from over two hundred years ago might finally come true.
The absolutely overjoyed Fluder did not raise his head, but instead crawled towards Momon’s feet and kissed them. Although he had wanted to lick it at first, he realized that his god-like master might get annoyed if he did that, so he compromised, drawing on the tiny lucid fragment of himself in the corner of his mind.
“So be it. I accept your fealty.”
“Hooo! I am very thankful!… My master!”
“Now then, I will give my first order. Deliver sacrifices to my dominion—”
♦ ♦ ♦
“Gramps! Gramps! What is it, gramps?!”
Fluder, who was recalling his past, regained his awareness after realizing someone was calling him. The shocking encounter from a few days ago still gripped his heart, and if he did not focus, his mind might take flight into fantasy again.
Fluder immediately remembered where he was, and nodded slightly to the person addressing him.
“Pardon my rudeness, your Majesty, my mind was elsewhere.”
In front of Fluder was the only person who would call him gramps, the Emperor of the Baharuth Empire, Jircniv Rune Farlord El Nix, and they were currently in the Emperor’s study.
Normally, there would not be so many people gathered in this room. The ones currently present were the Emperor Jircniv, who was accompanied by four of his bodyguards. The Empire’s highest ranked magic caster, Fluder Paradyne was there as well. In addition, even though the Emperor possessed remarkable intelligence, he had ten trustworthy ministers who were capable enough to assist him. One of the Four Imperial Knights, ‘Lightning’ Baziwood Peshmel, was also in attendance.
They all sat at their preferred places, and until recently, they had been discussing the future plans for the Empire. The papers scattered around the room spoke of how intense the meeting had become.
The young man called the Blood Emperor started talking to Fluder in a tone no one else would dare to use.
“No, don’t worry about it. It must be tiring for you to do so much work since you are getting on in years, so you might want to take it easy, but in the end it’s still a job that only grandpa can do. Sorry about that.”
“I am deeply grateful for his Majesty’s kindness. However, I am your Majesty’s loyal subject. Please feel free to give me your orders.”
Fluder, who had come so far, lightly nodded his head.
Ah, I raised a really good child, Fluder thought while looking at the beautiful face of the youth.
Fluder had been serving the Empire for six generations now.
Initially, he did not have a really good relationship with the Emperor from six generations ago. Even so, he had been a skilled magic caster at the time, so when he was recruited, he ended up reaching a prominent position even among the court wizards.
Due to this, his relationship with the imperial family had gradually become closer over the next five generations. When he first acquired the position of head magician, he started educating the Emperor’s children from the fourth generation on, but it was mainly related to magic.
Ever since the third generation, he had been instructing them in various subjects, most of which concerned politics.
And now it was the current emperor—a child that everyone adored.
Until now, he had seen many different types of emperors but none of them were incapable. All the children were talented as if they had been picked by the gods—but despite the current Emperor’s youth, his talents and abilities outshined the previous emperors by a wide margin. Even though it could be argued that Fluder had been aiding the preparations since two generations ago, the autocratic centralisation of power within the Emperor’s person had only been possible due to Jircniv’s exceptional skills
Fluder loved Jircniv Rune Farlord el Nix.
He had educated the Emperor and treated him like his own child, and Fluder believed that the Emperor treated him like a father as well.
But even if that was the case—
Fluder was still willing to abandon someone who he saw as his own child.
I wish to peer into the abyss of magic, Jircniv. I will not lose sight of that goal, no matter what I have to sacrifice for it. Even if it is an adorable child like you.
“Then your Majesty, is this why we called off the Kingdom’s invasion?”
“That’s right. The details about the devil calling himself Jaldabaoth are far more important. Gramps, have you found anything from your investigation yet?”
“Regretfully no, your Majesty. Even after the investigation, we still could not find any information about him.”
That’s right. That was how things had turned out.
“Paradyne, can’t you investigate it through magic?”
Fluder narrowed his eyes and looked at the speaker with a serious expression on his face.
“It is true that magic can be all powerful, but that is—”
“—Gramps, sorry. But if you start talking about that subject it’ll take quite long. So, it’s better to stop for now.”
“I understand, your Majesty.”
For a moment, Fluder looked dejected, and then adopted the tone of a teacher and started lecturing the people who seemed like students that kept missing the point.
“There are ways to prevent magical investigation. For instance, did you know this room is proofed against eavesdropping by magic? There are also other things that this room is protected against, and magical investigation is the least of such things.”
“…I understand. Because there are so many counter-measures, it would be difficult to do it.”
“That’s right. However, we would be lucky if the magic simply failed to work. High-tier magic casters can prepare retaliatory countermeasures to such spells. Some of them can even kill the spellcaster immediately if things go badly.”
How could someone of my ability be compared to the Supreme Being? There’s no one else more deserving of the title of Supreme Being than him. I need to prove my usefulness to him quickly….
Some people blanched with expressions of distaste as they heard Fluder talk about being killed, but he paid them no heed.
“Taking that into consideration...”
One of the ministers took out a piece of paper.
“There’s a place which seems to be the stronghold of a magic caster who goes by the name of Ainz Ooal Gown. Since Paradyne-sama found it through magic, does it mean that the person is less powerful than Paradyne-sama?”
“That’s too naive!”
Fluder shouted out loudly as he tried his hardest to forcefully suppress his urge to smile bitterly. This showed how anxious he was.
“Your thinking is too naive. Consider that he saved Carne Village, or rather, only Carne Village. With that in mind, I placed a magical surveillance field around the entire area and it was purely by chance that I saw someone who appeared to be Ainz Ooal Gown entering them. If you forget that this was nothing more than a coincidence, you’ll regret it.”
Part of that was the truth. Taking the Supreme Being lightly was a foolish move. No, despite the fact that he also used to be like that, he realised how scary it was to be ignorant about it.
Fluder laughed on the inside at how foolish he used to be. He was truly ignorant.
He raised his hand to beg his pardon.
“Ah ha, speaking of which, gramps. What happened to the workers that broke into the suspected stronghold?”
“Although our spies, who had been tailing them, have only sent a preliminary report via ‘Message’, they estimate that the workers have been wiped out.”
Jircniv snapped his fingers, and slightly opened his eyes. He had heard that multiple skilled worker groups had been deployed, but it was quite a shocking turn of events for them to be wiped out in just one day, or perhaps even half a day.
Fluder was not really surprised since it was the outcome he had expected, but still showed a surprised expression.
“……Is that so? But speaking of which, it is information gathered through magic, and you know how unreliable that is. How much time will it take for the adventurers to return?”
“Considering that it was an urgent situation where none of the workers had returned, they should have retreated immediately, so it’s estimated that it will still take around four days in total.”
“Including the time needed to gather information from the adventurers… At least five days. So before that, we won’t be able to take any action.”
‘Message’ was not reliable, due to the content becoming less clear over long distances. Many countries did not rely on ‘Message’, for several reasons.
One of them was the tragedy in the country called Gartenbarg.
It happened in that country about three hundred years ago. It was a nation founded by humans who were mainly magic casters with cities centred around quick exchange of information using ‘Message’. But because they trusted ‘Message’ too much, when they received three falsified messages, a civil war broke out between the cities. Then it was destroyed when monsters and demi-humans invaded.
There were also other examples, such as the songs the bards sang about a man who murdered his wife based on false information.
As a result, few people trusted ‘Message’. Conversely, anyone who relied too much on ‘Message’ was thought of as foolish. Jircniv was one of the smarter ones. While he did make use of ‘Message’, he would also gather information through other sources. He would never trust only in a single spell.
“But, that Earl sure is foolish. If he had hired the workers from E-Rantel, things might have gone more smoothly. He might be dancing within my hand due to his incompetence, but too much incompetence is a problem as well. If he’s going to be the bait, he should at least do a good job of it”
“It is as your Majesty says.”
Fluder’s agreement caused Jircniv to raise a brow.
There were two reasons why he accepted Fluder’s proposal in the meeting couple days ago.
The first, would be to gain an understanding of Ainz Ooal Gown’s character.
After Fluder’s investigation, they confirmed that Ainz had not left the ruin for several days, so they considered it to be his dwelling and sent in the workers to gauge his reaction.
It was to see if he would deal with intruders in a reasonable or a harsh manner.
The annihilation of the workers spoke something of his personality.
The other objective was to sow discord between Ainz Ooal Gown and the Kingdom. Thus, it would have been much better if the workers had been hired from E-Rantel, but unfortunately, that was not an option.
He couldn’t have been that foolish, could he?
All the information the Earl had been given was about an unexplored ruin. Knowing that he was going to be delving into a ruin in the Kingdom’s territory, he probably didn’t have the courage to hire people from the Kingdom as well. Hiring workers from the Empire was thus unavoidable.
But under these circumstances, the relationship between E-Rantel and Ainz Ooal Gown, and the Re-Estize Kingdom on the whole wouldn’t deteriorate. If he wanted any hope of accomplishing his second goal, he needed to leak the information about the ruins to the Kingdom’s Adventurer’s Guild as well.
“Momon came to the Empire at the right time.”
“I agree. The information that there was an unexplored ruin as well as the annihilation of the workers will naturally flow to the Kingdom’s Guild through his report. They’ll start a more serious investigation just like the Emperor wanted.”
It was because of this reason that adventurers hadn’t been allowed to take part in this at all. Of course, they did not use the Emperor’s authority, but rather through spies leaking information to the nobles.
This case needed to be handled as a single foolish noble going rogue. They could deny the Empire’s involvement, and then Ainz’s hostility would be directed towards the Earl, while Jircniv could take a friendlier approach.
“After the Kingdom’s adventurers invade the merciless Ainz Ooal Gown’s stronghold, what will the Kingdom’s reaction be once they found out about the powerful magic caster living there? And what will the Kingdom’s Adventurer’s Guild do after they were retaliated against?”
Jircniv smiled while looking forward to his carefully prepared plans.
“I understand Ainz Ooal Gown’s strength. He is powerful enough to wipe out the worker groups. Our plan to clean up the mess with a single noble’s head. Has it been done yet?”
“Of course, it was done cautiously. No one outside this room should know of the situation.”
“Then, just in ca—What was that!?”
The shaking of the ground interrupted Jircniv mid-sentence. The windows and all of the furniture violently shook around as well, but it was different from the feeling of an earthquake. It felt more like an impact caused by something massive hitting the ground, generating a huge shockwave.
“What happened!? Go and confirm it—damn, it’s noisy. What the hell is going on?!”
Even inside the room, Jircniv could hear the screams coming from outside. This room’s walls had been made quite thick and sturdy, therefore the sound needed to be very loud or there needed to be many people screaming. Just what was happening outside to make people scream like this?
In answer to Jircniv’s doubts, a guard replied from between the gaps of the window’s shutters. He came from the central courtyard, the origin of the sound, and his face was pale.
“Your Majesty! It’s a dragon! A dragon landed on the courtyard!”
For just a moment, the atmosphere in the room froze over. They could not make sense of these words right away, or rather, they could not make sense of these words at all. Even though they knew that the guard had no reason to lie, everyone still rushed to the windows to confirm the situation for themselves.
Jircniv pulled away the curtains peering through a semi transparent window, everyone dropped their jaw at seeing the dragon sitting on the courtyard.
“W-Why is there a dragon here? Where did that dragon come from?”
“Foreign affairs minister! Did you hear of anyone who was going to disrespectfully arrive riding a dragon and land in middle of the courtyard?”
“I know of no such thing!”
“Was there an arrangement with the dragon from the Council? Is that not it!?”
“…Their appearance is completely different from what I had heard. The description from the ministry of foreign affairs should not be wrong.”
“No, the biggest problem is that the thing was allowed to get this far! The Emperor is here! What are all the palace guards doing?”
Dragons could be said to be the mightiest beings in the world, with powerful bodies wrapped in sturdy scales, a lifespan far exceeding those of human beings, as well as all manner of special abilities and magic. Of course, there were exceptions as well, and some dragons had been slain by adventurers in the past, but there were just as many cases in the past where cities and even countries had been destroyed by the flames of wrathful dragons. One such city in the south had been destroyed just twenty years ago.
For such a being to appear in the middle of the imperial palace, it was a dire emergency.
Just as Jircniv gulped while looking over the dragon, two small figures descended from the dragon’s back.
If one squinted their eyes, they could see that they were children tanned by the sun.
“They seem to be dark elves.”
Fluder calmly uttered the race of those two children.
“Paradyne! That dragon, where is it from? And where did these two come from?”
“That dragon was something even I didn’t know about...”
Naturally, the same went for the two people who had disembarked, and the dragon that had landed in the courtyard was soon surrounded by a ring of knights. Although the knights were the pride of the Empire, in the face of a dragon they did not seem very reliable. As was to be expected of the strongest living creature in the world.
Among the knights, a man holding a shield on each arm came forward.
“Oi, oi. He’s the one going out? Well, it can’t be helped… although losing him is definitely going to be a waste.”
The person who moved forward was one of the Four Imperial Knights, the ‘Immovable’ Nazami Enec.
Nazami was one of the Empire’s most powerful warriors, and in terms of defense he was considered to be the strongest among the Four Knights. But even as a warrior who could resist many types of attacks, he still looked too small and insignificant in comparison to a dragon. Those were the words spoken by “Lightning” Baziwood Peshmel, as though confirming his comrade’s death, and nobody could deny them.
“Your Majesty, please retreat!”
“Tell me then, where can we retreat to? Where would we be safe?”
In response to the minister's proposal, Jircniv snorted.
“But your Majesty!”
“I know what you all want to say. But abandoning the palace will make me a laughing stock. Even if the opponent is a dragon, which doesn’t seem to be from the Agrando Republic, and if it is making such a move knowing that I won’t escape…… then that dragon may be as intelligent as I heard them to be, it seems to know the political situation of the Empire very well.”
Although Jircniv kept the nobles on a tight leash, that was only possible with the help of the knight orders. If news spread that he had fled the capital because of a dragon, the nobles might think that Jircniv’s military power was weak, and thus band together in revolt. Although he would not lose to an unruly mob, the Empire’s national power would fall drastically.
Even if we fight or retreat, there will still be a huge loss. This sure is an annoying chess move, just what is the story behind that dragon?
In the end, the number of people in the courtyard increased again. Forty royal guards surrounded the dragon, along with sixty knights, and even arcane and divine magic casters were present among their numbers.
“Only having one hundred and twenty people sure is unsettling. Your Majesty, how about letting me join them?”
Jircniv’s eyebrows furrowed slightly. Fluder was the Empire’s greatest trump card. Yet, it was unclear if it was wise to let him deal with a dragon, whose species was known to be strong. Thus he was hesitant, but he also trusted that Fluder could safely escape back to him even in the worst situation.
But there was something Jircniv did not know.
The old magic caster had made that suggestion so Jircniv could not retreat using Fluder’s teleportation magic.
“Understood, gramps. Could you tell ‘Immovable’ to retreat as well?”
“Understood. However, I can’t estimate the strength of these people. They should be very powerful, so if you want to retreat, you should start making preparations now.”
With that said, Fluder opened the window. He flew out using flight magic and hovered in the sky.
“Now then, can everyone hear me!? I am a servant of Ainz Ooal Gown-sama, Aura Bella Fiora!”
During that exact moment, another voice echoed through the air.
“The Emperor of this country sent a bunch of disrespectful people to the Great Tomb of Nazarick where Ainz-sama lives! Ainz-sama is very unhappy, so if the Emperor does not apologise, we will destroy this country!“
Jircniv’s face twisted. How did they come to that conclusion? How did they piece together all the small clues?
As he looked back into the room, he found expressions of surprise staring back at him. Then, when they realized what Jircniv had in mind, they shook their heads.
“For starters, let’s kill everyone here! Mare!”
The other dark elf standing by his side thrusted her staff toward the courtyard. In that instant, a localized earthquake seemed to shake the courtyard. Because it was contained, Jircniv did not feel much of the strong shaking. However, the earth screamed and a complex pattern of cracks opened up in the ground, like a spiderweb with the elves and the dragon at its heart.
Except for Fluder who was floating in the air, the knights, the guards, the magic casters, everyone else was swallowed by the earth.
The dark elves must have placed themselves outside of the earthquake’s effective range, because they were unaffected. The dark elf calmly withdrew her staff, and as quickly as it had occurred, the rents in the earth were sealed once more. The spiderweb-pattern of cracks sealed themselves in the opposite manner of how they appeared, returning the ground back to when it was originally before.
The knights gathered in the courtyard just now were nowhere to be seen. It was truly a shocking conclusion.
“Good, they’re all dead! Now, if he doesn’t show himself soon, we’ll kill everyone in the city next… Since we don’t know which one’s the Emperor, we’ll just wreck this entire city and stop caring about anything! So come out, come out, Emperor, wherever you are!”
The trembling servants addressed him with pale faces.
“…I was about say that we stepped on a dragon’s tail, but in the end, the dragon came instead.”
Jircniv struggled to control his trembling. As an absolute being who wielded the authority of an Emperor, he could not afford to show fear in front of his subjects.
Ainz Ooal Gown… who is this person… … No, now is not the time to think about that.
Jircniv turned to the window and shouted.
“I, Emperor Jircniv Rune Farlord El Nix, have something to say! Dear emissaries, would the two of you like to continue this discussion inside?” He then turned his head to his servants, “Prepare the finest welcome for our guests! With haste!”
As his servants hurriedly rushed out, he looked back to the dark elves.
…I underestimated them. However, if these are just subordinates… how can I not handle them? Even so, I can’t retreat here. If they want to negotiate, then we shall have a war of words. Ainz Ooal Gown, I will break your ambitions here!