Enri’s Upheaval and Hectic Days
Editors/Proofreaders: Ferro, TaintedDream, Namorax, Skythewood, SifaV6,
NoirX, Rockgollem, JcqC, ZackTan
Enri Emmot rose before the sun came up to make breakfast. There was a lot of food to prepare, and she wasn't as good a cook as her deceased mother.
Counting Nemu, Enri herself and the nineteen goblins loyal to her, she had to make breakfast for twenty-one people. Cooking for two more on top of everyone’s would make twenty-three in total. Preparing that much food was a lot of work, and could be considered a battle in its own right. Enri trembled while looking at the vast quantity of food in front of her and realised that it would all be gone in one meal.
“This is nearly six times as much as before…”
After taking a deep breath, she rolled up her sleeves, psyched herself up and got to work.
She sliced the vegetables up quietly, and then the meat. The process had been engraved into Enri's brain by now.
Although Enri was not especially talented at cooking, the fact that she had learned to cope with such an enormous task in such a short time was a textbook example of how diamonds were made under pressure.
Nemu woke from the sound of Enri making breakfast and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.
“Morning, onee-chan. Let me help too!”
“Morning, Nemu. I'm good over here, but there's still that thing I asked you to help me take care of yesterday…”
Unhappiness flashed over Nemu's face for a moment, but in the end, she didn't complain, although she did droop her head and replied “‘kay” as she followed Enri's request.
Enri stopped halfway through the cutting.
Her heart ached.
Nemu was ten years old now, and she had been a lively and spirited girl once. After that incident, the formerly naive and carefree Nemu became slavishly obedient to her sister, without any of the playfulness or tantrums of children her age. She was a good girl now — so good that it hurt.
The smiling faces of her parents appeared in Enri's mind. Although several months had passed, the wounds from that incident had not yet healed.
If they had died because of illness, she could have prepared herself for it. If they had died from an accident or a natural disaster, she wouldn't have hated anyone else for it, and maybe she would not have been scarred either. But her parents had been murdered in front of her eyes, and her heart was now filled with resentment. There was no way she could feel otherwise.
Enri squeezed her eyes shut. If there was someone nearby, then she could work hard so they would not see her weakness. But when she was by herself, the loneliness reopened the wounds in her heart.
“―Isn’t that right?”
Even when she opened her eyes, her parents' smiles still floated before her. She replayed the tender moments of the past in her mind.
After the tender memories came the turmoil in her heart. Driven by her hatred for the people who had murdered her parents, Enri slammed with all her might at the hunk of meat with her cleaver and split it in half.
However, since she used too much force, she also chopped a divot out of the block, which made her furrow her brow in frustration.
If the blade gets chipped, it’s going to be hard to fix...… I'm sorry, k-kaa-san.
Enri thought as she apologized for damaging the cleaver that was her only link to her deceased mother.
She gently ran a finger along the edge to make sure it was fine, and at that moment, the door beside her, which led to the living room, opened up.
The person who entered was not human, but someone shorter — one of the demihumans commonly known as goblins.
“Morning, Ane-san. Today's our turn to… what's wrong?”
The goblin paused in the middle of a perfect bow to turn concerned eyes to Enri's hands.
Enri was a mere village girl, but the goblins served her without hesitation because she was their summoner.
After that incident, when the villagers had wondered if they needed to take shifts standing guard, Enri remembered the horn she had been given and used it to summon the goblins.
The villagers were initially surprised and afraid of the goblins since they had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, but they calmed down when Enri told them that she had summoned the goblins with an item from their savior, Ainz Ooal Gown. Needless to say, this was because of the gratitude and trust they felt towards Ainz. Thereafter, the work the goblins had done was enough for the villagers to put aside their suspicions and welcome them from the depths of their hearts.
“Good morning, Kaijali-san, I just used a bit too much force with the cleaver…”
As one of Enri’s summoned goblins, Kaijali, looking like a bear awakened from its winter hibernation, furrowed his eyebrows and put a concerned expression on his face before saying,
“That's no good, you need to take care of that cleaver. The village doesn't have a blacksmith, so we can't repair our equipment either.”
“Is that so…”
“Well, it's alright. We'll think of a solution when the time comes.”
Kaijali spoke in an earnest, yet cheerful voice while he helped make the breakfast. He drew a smoldering wick from the pot he was holding, and with a practiced manoeuvre, lit the stove. The deft ease with which he turned a faint ember into a roaring blaze was evidence of his skill.
But they can't cook… Why is that?
Goblins could not prepare even the simplest meals. Since they ate raw meat and vegetable without a complaint, she thought they might like raw food more, but it became clear that they preferred cooked meals ― although they could still stomach raw food without trouble.
Is it because summoned beings don’t know how to cook?
A mere village girl like herself had no answer to this question, and with that she threw herself into her work once more. Fortunately, the cleaver's edge was still intact.
Eventually, breakfast was ready.
There were a wider variety of dishes on the table compared to the days when her mother was cooking.
For example, there was meat. Although the local rangers often shared their kills in the past, the amount they could bring back was nothing compared to now. The reason why they had so much more meat now was because the villagers had expanded their area of activity.
The Great Forest of Tob provided its bounty to them in the form of firewood, wild vegetables and fruits to eat, animals for meat and fur, and even medicinal herbs.
Although the forest was rightfully regarded as a treasure trove, it was also home to wild beasts and monsters, which could make their way back to the village. As a result, the forest was not a place where that the villagers could casually enter. Even the experts like professional hunters were forced to skulk like bandits on the edges of the Wise King of the Forest's territory. However, with the disappearance of the Wise King of the Forest and appearance of the goblin troop, the situation had changed radically.
The greatest change was that the villagers could now easily enter the forest and harvest its resources. The goblins were a key factor in this; meat, which had previously been hard to obtain, could now be easily acquired, and their tables were decked with fresh fruits and vegetables. As a result, the food situation in the village had dramatically improved.
In addition, since the goblins were Enri's subordinates, they delivered the lion's share of their kills to her home.
In addition, one of the newest additions to the village was a ranger who had made contributions to the provisions.
She was a woman who used to be an adventurer in E-Rantel. For various reasons, she moved to this village, and was learning the ways of the hunter from the ranger who was living in the village. As she had been a warrior during her adventuring days, her skills with the bow were excellent, and she could bring down even the biggest game with a few arrows. It was partly because of her efforts that the distribution of meat in the village had improved.
The improved standard of living brought changes, which were reflected in the villagers' bodies.
Enri curled her biceps, flexing her muscles.
Her gains were quite impressive.
Ah, I feel so pumped~ they’re getting even bigger…
The goblins praised Enri at every opportunity with phrases like “Ane-san's totally ripped!” “Yeah, pump it up again!” “She's too swole to control!” “The goal is six-pack!” “Nice cut!”. They most likely meant well, but as a girl, it was difficult to accept such compliments.
If I ended up like how the goblins described, it wouldn't be good…
Enri swept the goblin's idealized, hyper-muscular final form of herself from her mind, and began serving breakfast.
That too was a tedious task. While the goblins wouldn't quibble over a small difference in portion size, the amount of meat in their soup was a huge issue. Enri ensured that everyone's dishes and bowls had a similar amount meat before moving onto the next task.
Sweat was dripping from her forehead by the time breakfast was ready.
“Then, let's call everyone and Nfirea over.”
“I’ll go! Let me do it! I want to do it!”
As Enri turned around, she saw Nemu standing behind her with eyes alight.
“Have you done your chores?” Her sister nodded by way of reply, and so did Enri. “Really? Then go get Nfi―”
“No! I want to call the goblins!”
Enri had no idea how to answer her little sister's sudden outburst. Kaijali nodded gently to Nemu, presumably indicating that he would entrust her with that task.
“I'll leave that to you, then, I'll go get Nfirea.”
“That's more like it! A capital idea! Ane-san, let me go with you.”
Although this would leave the house empty, Enri wasn't bothered by it. After all, there had never been any issues with thieves breaking in before.
Together with Kaijali, Enri left the house just after Nemu did.
The wind blew in Enri’s face, carrying with it the scent of the grass and warmed by the gentle light of the morning sun. Enri took a deep breath, and when she turned to look at Kaijali, he was breathing in the scent as well. Enri couldn’t resist laughing at the sight, and Kaijali scowled, trying to regain his lost dignity with a fierce expression. Perhaps the Enri of the past would have been afraid, but Enri was used to life with the goblins now, and she knew this was just how he smiled.
On this refreshing, cool and clear day, Enri proceeded to the house next to hers.
It had been left ownerless from the tragedy that had befallen their village recently, and had become the home of the alchemists from E-Rantel, the Bareares.
The house was occupied by two people, Lizzie Bareare, the wizened old woman and her grandson, Enri’s good friend Nfirea Bareare. The two of them spent their days cooped up in the house, processing herbs to make potions and other medicines.
Not working closely with other villagers was a good reason to be isolated, and in the worst case scenario, to be kicked out of the village. But it was different for those two.
In every village, an apothecary ― someone who could prepare medicines in case of disease or injury ― was indispensable. They could be said to be important enough that the villagers would plead, “you don’t need to do anything except make medicine for us”.
This went double for a place like Carne Village, which had no access to priests who could use healing magic. For larger villages, priests would double as the village apothecary.
Priests would charge an appropriate fee for their healing magic. Or rather, it might be better to say that they would need to charge the fee. If the villagers could not afford to pay, then they would offer up their labour instead. For those who lacked the ability to even do that, the priests would use medicines compounded from herbs, since herbal cures were less expensive than magical healing.
One of the goblins in the village was a cleric, and he could heal minor wounds with ease, but the villagers had come together with the opinion that he should save up his power for an emergency, unless someone was very badly hurt . Not to mention, the cleric’s healing spells were very limited and lacked the ability to heal diseases or neutralize poisons.
Even so, despite the vital job they performed, the villagers didn’t dare to go near them.
The reason for this was abundantly clear as one approached the Bareares’ residence.
Enri scrunched up her nose, as did Kaijali. The house they were approaching was wreathed in an acrid odor. All things considered, it wasn’t actually that bad, but it still felt awful. The smell released from crushing up herbs might be off-putting, but ultimately it was only the scent of plants, and was not dangerous in itself.
Breathing through her mouth, Enri knocked on the door.
She knocked quite a few times, but nobody answered the door. Just when she thought nobody was home, the sound of someone approaching came from the other side, and after a lock was hastily fumbled with, the door opened.
She did not want to react with her expression or words, but the smell coming from inside the house was truly horrific.
It was painful.
A harsh, stinging pain seared her eyes, nose and mouth. Worse still, the vile stench from inside the house suggested that the miasma around the house was nothing more than what had leaked out from inside.
“Good morning, Enri!”
Nfirea’s eyes, which were visible from between the gaps in his long hair, were wide open and blood-shot. He must have stayed up all night for alchemical experiments again.
She did not want to open her mouth to speak when she was enveloped by the eye-watering gas, but it would be rude not to return a greeting.
“G-good morning, Enfi.”
She felt her throat dry out as she said that.
“Ah, good morning, Kai… Kaijali-san… Huh, it’s morning already? I was working so hard I didn’t notice. Seeing the sun makes me realize how the time just flew by… ahhh, I’ve been doing so many experiments recently, I need to get out of the house.”
Nfirea stretched like a cat and yawned.
“Looks like you’ve been burning the midnight oil, huh―”
Enri was about to add “breakfast’s ready, come over with your Obaa-chan”, but Nfirea interrupted. Or rather, instead of saying he interrupted her, it might be better to say that she was overwhelmed by his boyish enthusiasm.
“It’s amazing, Enri!”
Nfirea rushed up to her. His work clothes reeked of that same stinging odor which filled the rest of the house. Although Enri wanted very much to back away from him, she forced herself to endure it, because Nfirea was her dear friend.
“What, what happened, Enfi?”
“You’ve got to hear this! We finally managed to perfect the procedure for brewing a new type of potion. This is going to change the world! Even though all we did was to mix the herbs that we gathered into the solution, we managed to produce a purple potion!”
The only reply he received was a “Hah?”
Enri had no idea how this was amazing. Was the potion purple because they infused purple cabbage into it?
“And it can cure wounds! The healing speed’s on par with alchemically-refined potions!”
Enri raised his hands, showing off his delicate, slender arms that were unmarred by injury. Enri thought, “I have bigger biceps than he does”, but Nfirea didn’t stop there.
“Which is to say!”
“Yes, yes, that’s wonderful, tell us about it later.”
Kaijali spoke as he took a step forward.
“Ani-san here looks like he’s been sleeping too little and partying too hard. Maybe he’s high or something? Ane-san, let me take care of this. Why don’t you go back first?”
“Will it be all right?”
“Sure it will. I’ll splash some cold water on his face and when he calms down, I’ll bring him over. If you take too long, others will get worried. Say, what about Obaa-chan?”
“Obaa-chan’s still got her head buried in her research… I don’t think she’ll be coming for breakfast. I’m sorry, you went through all this trouble to prepare breakfast for us…”
“Ah, don’t worry about it. I was thinking that Lizzie-sama would probably be doing that.”
Situations like these had come up quite a few times already, so that wasn’t a surprise.
“Then, Ane-san, you should head back first.”
With that said, there was nothing to do but leave.
“Then, I’ll leave him to you.”
As he watched Enri leave, Kaijali turned a cold stare on Nfirea.
“Do you know what you just did? The only time a girl listens to a man talking about what he likes is if she likes the person. If she doesn’t like that person, then that blabbering’s only going to turn her off!”
“…I’m sorry, I just thought that since we made that amazing discovery… but it was really amazing! Revolutionary, even!”
Kaijali interrupted the motor-mouthed rant with a chopping motion. Clearly, Nfirea had not gotten the message he was trying to convey.
“Look, Ani-san. Are you alright with this? You’re in love with Ane-san, aren’t you?”
Nfirea replied with an “Mm,” and nodded his head vigorously.
“Then you have to make her the most important person in your heart. More important than your potions.”
“…I get it. I’ll try.”
“Do, or do not. There is no try. You need to win her heart. Me and the rest of the lads will do our best to support you. Plus, it’s not just us, even imouto-san agreed to help you out. I hope you get yourself together and do your part, Ani-san.”
“If you’re just waiting for her to say “I like you” first, then more likely than not, someone else is going to snatch her away! You’ve got to work up the courage to tell her how you really feel.”
That line pierced Nfirea’s heart like a dagger between the ribs.
“Still, despite everything I said, looks like you’ve been doing pretty well on that front yourself, Ani-san. Used to be you couldn’t even say a word in front of her. Now you can carry on a normal conversation, right?”
“That was because I didn’t have much chance to talk with Enri unless I came around to gather herbs… Now that I’ve moved into the village, I’m around her a lot more.”
“That’s it, that’s the spirit. All that’s left is to gather your courage and step up to the plate. Maybe you should show off your strength first. According to the villagers, strong men are still the most popular. Well, for the forty-nine year old women in the village, anyways.”
“I’m not too confident in my arm strength. Maybe I should do more farm work or something?”
“Nah, what you should be using is this, Ani-san,” Kaijali spoke while gently knocking on his head.
“Settle things with this. And then work your magic. If me or one of the lads think what you said was good, we’ll pose like this. That’s when you’re going to say or do something that’ll make her fall for you instantly.”
Kaijali posed to show off his shoulder muscles. They bulged mightily under his skin.
“Kinda like that. And if you need a more impressive demonstration…”
Next, Kaijali flexed his pectorals. Although he was quite short, his athletic, muscular body attested to the fact that he was a born warrior.
Nfirea wondered Why these kind of poses? But he couldn’t actually say that, because he’d already accepted Kaijali’s goodwill. Still, there was one question he wanted to ask.
“I… I’m curious, why are you guys doing this? I mean, I know you’re Enri’s subordinates and you’re loyal to her, but I don’t understand why you’re helping me.”
“Well, that’s simple,” Kaijali replied with an inscrutable expression on his face. In a tone better suited to coaxing little kids to behave, he replied, “That’s because we all want Ane-san to be happy. And from where we’re looking, you fit the bill. So the faster you two get married, the better.”
“N-no need for such a rush! T-the two of us can slowly reduce the distance between us, right?”
“…Wrong, actually. I mean, don’t humans take a long time between getting pregnant and having kids?”
Nfirea’s eyes went wide and his face turned bright red as the conversation suddenly jumped to the ultimate expression of male-female relationships in the form of pregnancy.
“T-that would be about nine months?”
“Hm, then it would take a really long time for about ten pups ― I mean, ten kids, right?”
“Ten?! Isn’t that a bit much?!”
Five children were the average for a farming village family. In tough times when it was hard to survive to adulthood, this number would go up. In the city, this number was usually less, with the help of priests to cure diseases or the use of contraceptives.
So, a woman to giving birth to ten children wasn’t a bit much, it was way too much.
“What’re you on about? Ten’s pretty normal for us goblins.”
“We’re not goblins!”
“Alright, point taken, our races have our differences… but still, you gotta have lots of kids to make Ane-san happy.”
“…All right, I can’t deny that she might be happy with a house full of children… but it still seems kind of wrong…”
Nfirea was at a loss for words as he saw Kaijali looking at him with his head tilted at an angle. But on the whole, he was still grateful for their assistance. .
“Then, let’s head out, Ani-san. I hope you make a move soon. Although keeping her waiting for too long might cause problems… well, I think a steady, tactical advance on the main objective is a strategy worth pursuing.”
“Where did you learn all of this?” Nfirea shook his head. “Oi, Obaa-chan, I’m going to Enri’s for breakfast, what about you?”
The reply that came from the house was a refusal to Nfirea’s question.
Most likely, she was in the middle of repeating an experiment, and had no time to bother with trivial things such as eating.
Nfirea could relate to that feeling.
The alchemical tools and other paraphernalia in the house were of an extremely high grade, and they didn’t know how to use most of them. The maid in the service of the great magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown had brought them over. The two of them had been ordered to use these materials to produce new potions and alchemical items. Oh, and the maid had even brought some sort of cure-all herbs.
When he asked her about the solvents and the proper usage of the instruments, all he got in return was a “figure it out yourself su~”, which didn’t help things.
So, the two of them had foregone food and sleep in their ceaseless quest to learn how to use these devices for experiments. It was a slow process, but they had finally made some progress. Of course, they had made mistakes as well ― Nfirea had been guilty of lots of those ― but the past two months had been some of the busiest moments in Lizzie’s long life. The fruits of their labor stood on the table, that bottle of purple potion, which Lizzie examined endlessly and filled Nfirea with excited joy.
“I’ll take care of the food, then,” Nfirea spoke as he closed the door behind him. Then, turning to Kaijali, he said, “Let’s go.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Although everyone was supposed to eat together, Enri’s house wasn’t anywhere near big enough to accommodate them all. As such, they usually ate outside when the weather was good.
Because they were outdoors, a certain amount of rowdiness was expected and tolerated. Had they been inside, it might have been unbearable, but even under the present circumstances, the situation had quickly turned aggravating.
“That’s why I’m saying, Enri-nee-san is going to be my wife!”
“Hey, punk, are you forgetting the agreement we all made not to touch Ane-san?!”
“That’s right, if you try and pull a fast one on us then I’ll make my move too!”
“You what mate? I was first!”
Several goblins kicked over their chairs as they suddenly stood up, and some even jumped onto the table. Suppressing her anger with sheer force of will, Enri spoke in a gentle tone.
“Everyone, please settle down.”
That had about as much effect as a snowball on the sun. The rancor in the goblins’ eyes had not abated in the slightest.
“Just give it up, lads. The victor has already been decided. Behold, this hunk of marvelous, radiant meat!”
One of the goblins, Kuunel, raised up his spoon to prove his point, displaying a piece of chicken meat that onlookers might well have mistaken for a pea. It was nothing more than a tiny bit extra that Enri added while portioning out the food to everyone.
“I finished my meat, yet there was more at the bottom of the soup! Do you have anything like that? I didn’t think so! This is nothing less than the proof of love!”
“You must be kidding me! That’s nothing more than a piece of meat Ane-san mistook for a chunk of vegetable!”
“Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on your part? Maybe the “meat” you ate was just potatoes or something, and the actual meat you got was that miniature thing. You’d better watch out, it’s proof that Ane-san doesn’t like you. Plus, my god clearly told me, “You must make Enri happy.”
“Isn’t the god you believe in an evil one, Cona?!”
Half the goblins were standing, and the other half were seated and squabbling, fanning the flames of conflict. Even Nemu had somehow joined the squabbling party. Only a few people weren’t participating in this battle royale. Those people had their heads lowered to the table, and the most prominent one of them was Nfirea.
“…Powdered ruby… arcane feathers… ashwood pestle… mor… mortar… tar… tatas?”
Nfirea was muttering to himself as he spooned the food into his mouth, but the food in the spoon hadn’t even reached his mouth before it went back to the bowl. His eyes weren’t visible due to his long hair, but in all likelihood he was walking on the thin line between dreams and reality.
“Enfi, are you alright?”
The goblins were still arguing, and although it probably wasn’t safe to leave them alone for too long lest the conflict spiral out of control, Nfirea was really out of it, and she couldn’t ignore him. He was most likely suffering from sleep deprivation, judging by the way he’d begun wobbling the moment he sat down, as though he’d fall over to his side at any moment. When he actually started on breakfast, he looked like a zombie, completely bereft of life or animation.
“Ah… don’t… worry… about… me… Enri…hu…”
“Hey, Enfi, get it together!”
“Weren’t you the one who said ‘Nemu was mai waifu’ and all that earlier?”
“That was then, this is now. I only just realised it recently. I used to think since Nemu-san was ten and was about the same height as us, that she was of a marriageable age. But humans… they only consider them adults at fifteen!”
“Eh? Is that true….? Ane-san isn’t a species like hob-human??”
The goblins leapt from topic to topic with incomparable speed. Enri wanted to ask them what a ‘hob-human’ was, but before she could open her mouth, the goblins had already gotten tired of the discussion and started a whole new argument for everyone to participate in.
“Ah! You stole my bread!”
“My wolf’s still hungry, don’t be such a tightwad!”
Although Enri was shouting at this point, her voice still couldn’t carry over the racket the goblins were generating. Spoons and plates were flying, while shouts and angry roars rose and fell like waves in a storm-tossed bay. Of course, everything being thrown was empty, because none of the goblins would even dream of wasting the food Enri made for them. Still, it was utterly inexcusable.
Steeling herself, Enri furrowed her brows and took a deep breath.
“Don’t wolves eat meat? Just because you’re higher level than me, don’t go thinking I can’t whup you fist to fist!”
“Fist to fist, you say? Since you’re so hungry, how about a knuckle sandwich?”
And just as Enri stood up, everyone immediately returned to their seats and calmly resumed their meal as though nothing was wrong.
“ALL OF YOU, QUIT MAKING A RACKET!”
Enri’s furious bellow echoed across the silent air above the breakfast table.
Surprised, Enri looked all around, but the only thing she could see were the goblins looking at her with expressions on their faces which said, “We were all quietly having breakfast, is that a problem”, or “being suddenly shouted at for no reason at is really vexing”. After standing silently for a while, she plopped back into her seat, red-faced.
The first to break the silence was Nemu. Then, unable to contain herself, Enri followed suit, clutching her stomach as she laughed and then the goblins joined in as well.
That flawless coordination and timing could not have taken place without careful discussion and preparation. It was quite amazing how seriously they prepared for prank like this.
“Ah, that was just weird. Were you all planning to make fun of me from the start?”
Even though she was tearing up because she was laughing too hard, Enri made a show of being angry and asked.
“Of course, Ane-san. We wouldn’t argue about things like this for real.”
“That’s right, Ane-san.”
The goblins were unrepentantly blathering on, deflecting Enri’s questions with jovial expressions on their faces. In response, Enri focused on Kaijali, turning a fierce stare on him. Under her stern gaze, Kaijali wilted, averting his eyes as he responded in a small voice that abdicated all responsibility.
“You see, how do I say this… we thought Ane-san looked a little down.”
Several nearby goblins shrank away, their heads lowered as they looked around uncomfortably without saying a word.
“That’s because… we’re all Ane-san’s bodyguards.”
“We put a lot of thought in how to look good as your escort.”
“That’s right, that’s right. Now, Ane-san and Nemu-san, stand here, in the middle, like this…”
“Eh? I have to go over too?”
“Of course you do, now, the two of you, raise both your arms like this, that’s right, in a totally cool and awesome way…”
Even if she gave them the benefit of the doubt, this pose made them look like frogs stretching their arms out to the sky.
“Look, I understand your good intentions, and to begin with, you don’t need to be my bodyguards… right, Enfi?”
Enri turned her head to her childhood friend sitting beside her for aid, but found that there was nobody there.
She had a bad feeling about this, but still shifted her line of sight down just a little bit… and found that Nfirea’s head was resting face down in his bowl of soup.
Enri immediately scooped up the toppled Enfi, crying out as her face turned pale. Cona quickly rushed over, and peeled Nfirea’s eyes open with his fingers.
“…He’s just asleep. If you leave him like this until noon, he should be all right.”
“Enfi… what am I going to do with you?”
Enri was thinking that she should return Nfirea to his own bed. So she hefted him onto her back, and began heading out, leaving behind such conversational gems as “Shouldn’t their positions be reversed?” “Nemu-san, you can’t say these things… “ “Ani-san, you…”
After the wheat was harvested, the tax collectors would come around the village.
Enri was obviously worried about how she was going to explain the presence of the goblins in the village.
Should she say they were summoned beasts, or that they were her henchmen, or maybe she should say…
Enri had the feeling that they were always concerned about her.
It wasn’t limited to worrying about her safety, they were thinking about her feelings too. What could she do for these goblins?
What could she do for these rowdy and reliable new members of her family…
♦ ♦ ♦
Using the still-clean back of her hand to wipe off the sweat trickling down her neck, Enri bundled up the weeds she had just finished cutting. The large pile of shredded plant matter gave off the fragrance of freshly-cut grass.
Her body was tired from working long hours in the field and the way her sweat-slicked clothes clung to her body made Enri uncomfortable.
To lift her mood, Enri stretched herself out.
As she did, her eyes swept across the sprawling fields.
The wheat they’d planted had grown slowly but steadily, and as the harvest season approached, the wheat would slowly turn golden. Although a wheat field painted gold was a beautiful sight, the weeding work before that was both essential and annoying. If it wasn’t done, that golden field would also be a very lonely one.
Her labour now was entirely for the sake of the harvest to come.
She straightened her body to let her stiff muscles loosen, and to let her tightly-wound body relax. The wind felt refreshingly cool on her skin that had been overheated from long hours of field work.
The wind also brought the sound of a commotion from the village to her ears.
It sounded like something banging on something, and shouts for getting people to combine their strength as one. These were sounds that had never been heard before in the village. At this moment, the village was working to turn all manner of plans and ideas into reality.
Of these plans, the ones with the highest priority were the wall surrounding the village, and the construction of the watchtowers. It went without saying that all these were projects were intended to turn the village into a fortress.
Carne Village stood at the edge of the Great Forest of Tob, and the forest was the home of many wild beasts, or in other words, dangerous territory. It would be impossible to live in peace without the protection of sturdy walls.
However, Carne Village was laid out in neat rows of houses radiating from a central square in all directions. Without anything like a wall in place, anyone could easily enter the village. Until recently, the village had been peaceful and the wild beasts did not enter, even though it was right next to the forest.
That was because the mighty creature known as the Wise King of the Forest had continually expanded its sphere of influence, and as such, no beast dared move around in the forest near the village. So the village defenses were comparable to a wall of steel.
And then, all this changed due to human intervention.
The knights of the Empire attacked the village and killed her parents. As a result, nobody in the village held on to the hope that things would go back to the way they used to be.
In contrast, the goblin troop leader, Jugem, had proposed the fortification of the village as a countermeasure against such a scenario. Once he mentioned that the goblins would be unable to protect the village if it was attacked again due to lack of their number, the motion immediately received unanimous approval from all parties concerned. This was because even now, many of the villagers were still having nightmares that woke them from their sleep.
The first step was to dismantle the unoccupied houses and use them to build a wall. Of course, those materials were insufficient on their own, so they would have to enter the forest to cut down trees for lumber. Since entering the forest’s depths might mean encroaching on the Wise King of the Forest’s territory, their harvest area had to proceed along the outskirts of the forest toward the distance.
Naturally, the goblins were the ones who provided security for the wood-cutting villagers.
As a result of them taking on that task, the villagers’ distrust of the goblins had almost completely disappeared. Part of that was because human knights, who were of the same race as themselves, had attacked them. Even if they were of the same race, they had tried to take the villagers’ lives. In contrast, the goblins worked under Enri to contribute to the village, even though they were of a different species. The decision of which side to trust was no longer one which could be easily settled by deciding along racial lines.
And the most important reason was that the goblins were strong. They could serve as warriors to take on the duties of sentries, and when people were hurt, the goblin priest Cona could heal them.
It was difficult to despise goblins like these.
In this way, the goblins managed to establish themselves in the village in just a few short days and quickly became an indispensable part of village life. This could be seen from the house the goblins lived in; no consideration had been made of the fact that they were from another race, and a large house had been built close to Enri’s own home in the middle of the village.
Although the villagers and the goblins had worked together on the village defense plan, there simply weren’t enough hands to make the work go quickly. As such, in the beginning they had only built simple fences.
As fate would have it, the Wise King of the Forest, who kept the monsters at bay from the village, became a follower of a certain black-armored warrior and abandoned its territory. Although they had managed to complete the fences with great effort, the villagers could not take joy in their accomplishment, but instead sighed about their rotten luck.
However, a sturdy wall now defended the village.
The cause for this turn for the better was the labor wrought by the stone golems that had been brought to the village by the beautiful maid that served the village’s savior ― Ainz Ooal Gown.
Golems were inexhaustible constructs; when given an order they would silently execute it, and their strength far outstripped that of a human being. Although their lack of dexterity meant that they could not perform certain tasks which required precision, their participation in the work had enabled it to proceed with an unbelievable speed. With the effort of the unsleeping and untiring stone golems, the construction of the wall practically flew along.
They could accomplish the tasks which the villagers and goblins could not, such as chopping down trees and transporting them in large quantities, digging pits, or laying the foundations for the walls. What should have taken years to accomplish in theory had instead been finished in a matter of days, and the constructed wall was even bigger and sturdier than expected.
It wasn’t just the walls either; even the construction of the watchtowers had been sped up. Their current task was to complete the watchtowers on the eastern and western flanks of the village.
“Ane-san, I’m done here.”
Enri’s thoughts were interrupted by the goblin assisting her in the weeding, a goblin called Paipo.
“Ah, thank you.”
“No, no, it’s nothing Ane-san should thank me for.”
Although Paipo waved his dirt and grass-stained hands to ward off Enri’s thanks, Enri still felt that she owed the goblins a debt that could never be repaid.
After losing her parents, Enri was in a dire situation, where tending her family’s plot by herself would be impossible. She wanted to ask the other villagers for help, but given the overall lack of manpower in the village, it was already hard enough for every household to take care of their own crops. With the help of the goblins, that problem was easily resolved. In addition, she was hardly the only one the goblins had helped.
Turning to the direction from which her name was called, Enri saw a busty woman standing by a field. Beside her was a goblin.
“Thank you so much, Enri-chan. Because of Goblin-san’s help, the field work’s almost done.”
“Really? That’s wonderful. It was their idea to help out with the village chores, so if you want to thank someone, you should thank them.”
“Ah, I’ve already thanked Goblin-san. He said that he was only your subordinate, so he hoped that I would thank Ane-san as well.”
Hearing the word “Ane-san” made Enri furrow her brows, which was quickly followed by faked laughter to drive it off.
The goblins themselves had suggested that they should help the households who had lost farmhands in the attack, and the woman before her was one of those people.
There was no way the villagers would shun the contributions of the goblins. In Carne Village, the opinion of the goblins was so good that statements like “goblins are even better neighbors than humans” were commonly heard.
“Speaking of which, are there any other goblin-sans around? I wanted to treat everyone to a meal as thanks.”
“The others should be patrolling the village or helping the people who just moved into the village. But since obaa-san asked, then I’ll make sure to tell them.”
“Then I’ll leave that to you, Enri-chan. When the time comes, I’ll make sure everyone gets to enjoy a feast made with all my skill. In the meantime, I think I’ll make lunch for Goblin-san first.”
“Really? Then, since I’ve been invited, it would be rude to refuse. Ane-san, though I’m sorry that I can’t join you, I’ll be having lunch at Morga-san’s place.”
Enri nodded, and the woman headed back to the village with the goblin in tow.
“If the newly-arrived people realised that you guys are not bad people, that would be great.”
“Well, a lot of them didn’t look happy to see us. After all, in their hearts we should be the enemy.”
“Apart from our village, treating demihumans as the enemy is the norm, right…”
“That’s why we’re sending so many people to help the villagers with their work. It’s not easy.”
“But, but we’ve cleared up a fair bit of their suspicions. I just saw how they can greet you normally.”
“About that, well, quite a few of these people are like the villagers and have memories of family members who were attacked and died. Or rather, the memories they bear might be even heavier than that.
Although Carne Village had been devastated by the attack, about half of the villagers managed to survive. On the other hand, a lot of the other villages which had been attacked by knights had lost a large portion of their people.
When Carne Village began taking in immigrants, many of the ones who came were survivors of those villages.
The two of them fell into silence.
Enri stretched her waist once more and looked to the sky. Although the lunch bell hadn’t rung yet, it seemed like it was about time. They had worked enough of the field to take a break as well.
“Then, shall we have lunch?”
Despite his scary looks, Paipo managed what was instantly recognizable as a smile.
“That would be great, Ane-san’s meals are always delicious.”
“Oh, they’re not that great,” Enri replied, slightly embarrassed.
“No, no, I’m serious. Helping Ane-san in the fields is one of the most hotly contested positions among us. That’s because we get to eat your delicious lunches.”
“Ahaha, then should I make lunch for everyone as well? Like breakfast?”
There were quite a few reasons why it would be hard to. For instance, there was a difference between lunch for three and lunch for twenty. Just slicing the vegetables would become a chore in itself. In addition, she had to make sure everyone had sufficient portions, which would be a tiring task. That said, in comparison to the amount of hard work the goblins had put in and the praise they had received in turn, it was nothing at all.
“Oh, no, we couldn’t impose on you for that. Plus, enjoying Ane-san’s handmade lunch is something like a special privilege for the one who wins the right to help you.”
Enri could only smile back in response to the diminutive demihuman. Although she knew the goblins decided who would take the job via rock-scissors-paper, Enri didn’t know if she was cooking something that actually deserved all the praise.
“Then, shall we break for lunch?”
“Ah, it’s wonderful…”
Paipo’s words were interrupted halfway as he looked to the distance with his keen eyes. With a deep breath, the formerly relaxed and cheerful little demihuman became a veteran warrior in an instant. Enri followed Paipo’s eyesight into the distance.
What they were looking at was a goblin riding a black wolf. They seemed to glide across the plain as they approached the village at high speed.
Of the goblin troop that Enri had summoned, twelve were level 9 goblins, two were level 10 goblin archers, one was a level 10 goblin mage, one was a level 10 goblin priest, two were level 10 goblin wolf riders and one was a level 12 goblin leader. In total, there were 19 goblins.
Kaijali from this morning and Paipo who had helped with the chores were level 8, while Kiumei, who was wearing leather armor and carrying a lance, was a level 10 goblin wolf rider.
The goblin riders’ job was to patrol the plains and act as scouts. The riders periodically returning to the village to deliver reports was a common sight.
”…Looks like it.”
However, Paipo’s tone was very somber. It made her think that something bad had happened.
“…He’s back a little early. He should have been prowling the forest today… did something happen?”
After hearing Paipo’s explanation, a surge of unease rose in Enri’s heart, and she feared that some bloody disaster awaited them.
While the two of them waited in silence, the large wolf Kiumei rode on arrived in front of Enri. From its rapid breathing, she could guess how much of a hurry he had been to get back here.
“What’s the matter?”
Hearing Paipo’s question, Kiumei bowed to Enri from on top of his wolf while replying, “Something’s happened in the forest.”
“I’m not too sure, but I think it’s like before. A whole bunch of unknown guys are moving towards the north.”
“Are they knights?”
Enri unwittingly interrupted the two of them. Even though she was powerless to change anything, she still could not ignore the conversation. She still could not forget her fear when the village had been attacked.
The “whole lot of unknown guys heading north” they talked about was referring to the tracks they found of thousands of people on the march to the north. Although the prints were similar in size to those of humans, they were made by bare feet, so in the end they had concluded that those people were not humans.
“I don’t have any conclusive evidence, but I think it’s different from that time. If you ask me, I’d say something’s happening deep inside the forest.”
“Is that so.”
Hearing that, Enri couldn’t help but sigh in relief.
“…Then, I’d better go report to the boss.”
“All right. Thanks for your hard work.”
“It’s a pleasure to serve.”
After waving to the two of them, Kiumei spurred his wolf on and departed. Enri and Paipo watched him enter the slowly-opening village doors.
“Then, shall we go back, too?”
After washing their hands beside the well, Enri and Paipo had just reached home when they heard a young girl’s voice.
“Welcome back, onee-chan.”
Along with the voice came the sound of rock grinding against rock. Following the sound to its source, Enri saw Nemu turning a millstone behind the house.
A pungent smell came from the millstone. Although it was similar to the smell that had clung to Enri’s hands just before, it was several times more intense, enough that one could smell it from some distance away.
Nemu was used to the smell, which was all well and good, but Enri’s eyes almost teared up as the odor assaulted her. Paipo, standing behind her, seemed unaffected in comparison. It remained to be seen whether that was because the smell only had an effect on certain species, or because it would be terribly rude to make a face like that to his mistress’ little sister.
“I’m home. How’s things? Did you grind it up like I told you?”
“Mm, I did. Have a look.”
Following Nemu’s line of sight, she saw that the herbs that she had piled up before she had left the house had been reduced to a small handful.
“Aren’t I great? There’s not much more left.”
Before she had left the house, Enri had asked Nemu to help her grind the herbs into a paste. That was because some herbs had to be dried to be preserved, but others needed to be shredded to be preserved.
“Uwah, Nemu’s been working really hard!”
Enri opened her arms to praise Nemu, and a smug expression blossomed on Nemu’s face. Whether she had been praised by Nfirea, or simply because she wanted to help her sister out, Nemu had diligently and quickly accomplished her tasks.
Herbs made up a major portion of Carne Village’s income. It could be said to be the one specialty export that didn’t require much manpower for a frontier village .
Given that it was a crucial method for them to obtain valuable currency, all of Carne Village’s residents knew at least a little about herbs and where they grew.
Enri silently considered for a moment. The herbs from Carne Village were incredibly profitable. However, they could only be gathered within an extremely short window of time before the flowers bloomed, and could only be treated as a temporary income at best. Although all the places they knew had been fully harvested, if they just delved a little bit into the forest, they might be able to find clumps of herbs which had not yet been touched.
Of course, those woods were where the wild things were, and they were hardly a place where people like Enri could just stroll into for a picnic. However, now they had the goblins and Nfirea's broad experience as a herbalist. If only she could get their help, they should be able to make a great deal of money.
After some hesitation, Enri spoke of her plan to Paipo.
“I want to go to a new place to pick herbs, could you come with me?”
Logically speaking, there was no need for Enri to go herself. All she needed to do was to ask the goblins, who could take care of themselves, to go into the Great Forest on her behalf. However, the goblins she had summoned had a strange weakness.
That was to say, they had no aptitude at all for herb-picking, butchering animals, and that sort of work.
Similarly to how they handled cooking, even if one handed goblins a sample of a herb, they would not be able to match it up with identical herb in front of them. The surprising thing was, it was as though they were born unable to do that sort of thing, or even learn it, as if someone had removed the capacity to do so from them.
Therefore, if they were assigned to pick herbs, the goblins needed to have someone else with them.
“It should be all right, but it might be a little difficult for Ane-san to come with us.”
“Hm? Why’s that?”
“Well, like Kiumei said, there’s some kind of change in the depths of the forest. If that’s the case, the inside of the forest would be in a state of chaos now.”
Seeing the surprised expression on Enri’s face, Paipo patiently explained himself.
“Even the cautious ones would want to expand their territory. If that’s the case, then for a while, their territory is going to overlap with the others, and that’s going to cause all sorts of havoc. Simply put, the chances of meeting a monster’s going to increase, and so will the danger. And if you’re unlucky, you might even run into something outside the forest. Ane-san’s fearless and cool, but there’s no need for you to personally walk into danger.”
“Is that so…”
Although she wasn’t quite sure about the fearless and cool part, that was probably the goblins way of talking her up among themselves, Enri thought.
“There was also that big movement earlier. What happened there?”
“I don’t know. Originally, we should have sent someone familiar with the Great Forest’s conditions to investigate. …but if we go, the village’s defenses will be weakened…. ah, got it! Why not hire adventurers to check it out?”
“That could be difficult,” Enri said, knitting her eyebrows. “According to Enfi, the cost of hiring an adventuring party is very high. Although the lords of E-Rantel will subsidize some of those costs, it’ll be very hard for a village like us to pay for adventurers out of our own pocket.”
“Collecting lots of herbs and selling them afterwards should help with one part of that problem… otherwise, all we can do is sell off the items we got from Gown-sama.”
She had received two horns from Ainz Ooal Gown. Although one of them had disappeared after she used it, the other was safely hidden in Enri’s home.
“Forget about that, Ane-san. We’d rather you just blow the horn instead.”
“Of course, there’s no way I’d sell it.”
Enri didn’t want to become the sort of despicable person who would sell off a gift given out of goodwill. There also existed the possibility that it might not even be possible to sell it off, so she decided not to do so. Even now they were still benefiting from the generosity of the maid who had brought the golems to the village. She would never commit such an ungrateful deed.
“But that’s going to be problematic. The herbs can only be gathered in this season, so although it’s a bit dangerous, I still have to…”
Enri smiled to Nemu, who had a worried expression on her face. She didn’t want to hurt the last surviving member of her family, nor did she want to pass up this chance to make lots of money. Although, when she considered her priorities, that was clearly a mistake. Rather, she should bet her life for the good of the entire village and repay the goblins who considered her their mistress.
I need to earn more money and see what kind of gear I can buy for the goblins. Full body armor looks like it could protect very well. Speaking of full body armor, there’s that gentleman in the black-colored armor… what was his name again?
Although she didn’t know how much armor and weapons cost, she was fairly certain that it wouldn’t be a small sum. At this moment, Paipo held out his hand in front of Enri, indicating that she should hold on a little.
“Erm… although this is just my personal opinion, maybe you should talk it over with the boss? Ane-san doesn’t need to make the decision so early. I don’t want to be scolded by the boss because I opened my mouth without thinking. Plus, I think Ani-san would like to get his hands on herbal ingredients too.”
Just as Enri’s troubles were filling her head, an adorable gurgling sound came from beside her. Turning to look, she saw Nemu looking at her with a frown on her face.
“Onee-chan, I’m hungry, let’s go eat.
“Mm, sorry. Then, wash your hands after we pack up. I’ll go get things ready.”
Nemu’s response was full of energy. After taking apart the millstone, she scraped the accumulated green paste into a small urn. Enri returned to the house, wondering what she should make for lunch.
Enri stood before the Great Forest of Tob. Of course, she was not alone. Beside her were the assembled members of the Goblin Troop.
The goblins were equipped with chain shirts, round shields and sturdy machetes, which hung from their belts. They wore brown-colored tunics under their armor and furred leather boots on their feet. On their belts were bags for small items. One could not say they were under-geared.
The fully-armed goblins made their final checks of their personal equipment. They topped up their waterskins and made sure their machetes were sharpened.
Everyone was well-geared, but they carried little baggage. That was because the plan was to swiftly complete their work, and not to mount a long expedition in the forest.
Not everyone in the troop was assigned to Enri’s protection. Their objective was to thoroughly scout the surrounding area and further verify the information the goblin wolf riders had collected. That is to say, they were to carefully observe the current situation within the Great Forest. In order to protect the village, the goblins had decided to scout its surroundings and the hinterlands.
Only three goblins would accompany Enri.
Them, and one more person: Nfirea. He had made his preparations too, dressed in suitable clothing for collecting herbs in a forest. With Nfirea around, the herb harvesting trip would definitely be a success.
Perhaps he had sensed Enri looking at him, and turned around, asking “What’s the matter?” Although Enri had waved her hands as though to say “nothing, nothing,” one of the surrounding goblins took notice and drew closer to Enri’s side.
He was a goblin whose body was so muscular and athletic that it would be hard for bystanders to think that he was a goblin. His torso was protected by a crude, but practical breastplate, and the greatsword he used was sheathed on his back.
This was Jugem, the leader of the goblins, named after a fairytale goblin ranger called ‘Jugem Juugem’ by Enri. As an aside, there were other named knights who did battle alongside the goblin ranger, and their names were also used for the other goblins.
“There shouldn’t be anything wrong… what’s the matter?”
“No, really, it’s fine! I was just looking at him.”
“That’s great, after all, once you’re in the forest, you can lose your life over even a tiny slip. If anything’s wrong, anything at all, you tell me.”
“That’s right, Ane-san. Just like we agreed before, we’re all scouting the forest, so if anything happens and we can’t get there in time… it’ll be okay, right?”
Jugem’s brutish face contorted with what looked like an expression of worry, and he glanced at Enri’s face. Seeing that, Enri smiled and replied to him.
“It’ll be fine. We won’t go too deep, and they’ll protect me.”
“That’s good to hear…”
Jugem followed Enri’s line of sight to the three goblins ahead of them. Then he shouted.
“Oi! You punks! You’d better not let Ane-san take so much as a single scratch, got it?!”
The three goblins, Gokoh, Kaijali and Unlai, responded with a hearty shout.
“And Ani-san, you’ll be taking care of Ane-san too, right?”
Enri suddenly noticed that Kaijali, for no apparent reason, was flexing his muscles in a front double biceps pose.
“You mean I should take over from here?… kah! Of course! You can count on me to protect Enri!”
For a moment, Enri imagined Nfirea showing his shiny teeth as he radiated self-confidence through his smile. His attitude now was very different from his usual one, and to be honest it felt kind of gross. However, that was probably just his excitement about trekking into the forest.
Just like a little boy, Enri smiled, feeling like she was his big sister.
“Thank you, Enfi. I’ll be in your care.”
Strange, is he doing a side chest pose now…? What’s with that?
“Ahhh, that again… oh, about that, I prepared a bunch of alchemical items that I made myself, so leave it to me!”
After seeing Nfirea’s second sparkly smile, the smile fell off Enri’s face.
“Uh… mm. You go do that.”
“Ah, well, it’s been settled… although. Honestly speaking, even if we weren’t doing this dangerous job, this…”
Jugem turned to look at Enri, showing her a sour expression. Enri was starting to get a little annoyed after hearing this question again after answering it so many times in the village, but because he was only asking out of concern for her, she couldn’t just ignore it.
“That might be true, but the fact remains that without the herbs, we can’t get any money…”
“How about animal skins? We can get those.”
“That’s not a bad idea, but herbs are the most valuable.”
Animal pelts and medicinal herbs were in completely different price categories. The difference was comparable to that between the heavens and the earth. Granted, some especially rare animals had skins that were worth a fortune, but those were few and far between.
“If Ani-san could share his…”
“We’re combining the accounts of the Bareares and ourselves. We work together and split the benefits. We can’t just take it all for ourselves.”
Helping each other in difficult situations was a keystone of village life — as such, it was only expected that eighty percent of their income would be earmarked for the community’s benefit. This was also why greedy and selfish households could not be established, because such behavior would never be permitted. Self-sufficiency was a strict requirement.
The two of them started looking away from Nfirea, who was quietly saying, “Kaijali-san, please read the mood and stop making those weird poses…”
“If that’s the case, then it’s definitely… and like that too… well, if you lived with Ani-san, you could certainly pool the wealth… but… looks like nothing’s stopping that…”
Jugem’s words gradually lost their force. He knew that he couldn’t stop Enri from entering the Great Forest.
Although Enri didn’t want to make things difficult for Jugem and the others who cared for her, she would not be swayed from her course.
After all, she had decided to venture into the forest despite knowing its dangers because she had heard Jugem say, “We can’t repair our gear”.
Whetstones helped, of course, but caring for and repairing metal weapons required the services of a professional blacksmith. Which meant that a subtle danger threatened all the goblins. If their equipment deteriorated, it would mean their lives would be in danger. The maintenance of their battle gear was essential.
What could she do for them, who had pledged their lives to protect hers? She couldn’t just hide in safety and enjoy the fruits of their labour. Just as they had given their all for her, she too had to do everything she could for them. That was Enri’s decision.
The goblins weren’t just Enri’s bodyguards, they were the village’s protectors. If she decided to press that point, she could probably extort the required money to equip the goblins from the villagers. However, Enri decided to give up on that idea.
No matter what, Enri was simply trying to repay the goblins’ service through her own efforts. This expedition was the proof of that.
“Normally, the safest thing to do would be to confirm the area was free of danger before you went in…"
Interrupting from behind was the goblin mage, Dyno.
She was an arcane magic caster who wore a humanoid skull for a helmet.
In her hands was a staff that was even taller than herself, made of simple, gnarled wood. She dressed in some form of exotic full-body tribal costume that managed to emphasize her meager bust. Her face seemed softer than those of the male goblins. Enri could recognize this because she was their mistress, but normal people probably wouldn’t be able to pick up on those details.
“However, you can’t confirm it’s safe, can you?”
“Mm, that’s right. Sadly, we can’t do that. The most we can do is confirm that the forest seems peaceful, but even that needs time. And if we want to find out when tensions are going to run high again, that’ll take even more time.
If they did that, they would miss the opportunity to gather the desired herbs. After hearing Dyno’s words, a firm conviction gathered in her eyes and she made her reply.
“It’ll be fine, we won’t go too deep.”
After hearing her repeat that answer several times, Jugem realized that he couldn’t change Enri’s mind. Instead, he looked to the three goblins who would travel with her. What he told them was the same as what he had said to them before.
“We won’t be able to protect Ane-san, so you guys are going to have to do it for us. You’d better keep her safe! And Ani-san too!”
“It would be safest if we’d all stuck together as usual. Splitting up our fighting strength is just asking for trouble.”
Dyno muttered under her breath.
“If we did that, then we’d be forced into reacting to the enemy, right?”
“That’s right. If any of the monsters coming to the village decide to settle down in the forest, getting rid of them for good would be extremely troublesome. Once they build a nest, they’ll never leave. Even if we chased them away, they’d come right back after a while.”
Since the balance of power in the forest had changed, reconnoitering the Great Forest ― especially the area surrounding the village ― was critical.
This was the first pass. The first pass implied that the danger was the greatest. As such, they could only arrange for three people to be Enri’s escorts.
“Good. Well then, let’s move! Finish up here and meet up with Ane-san!”
In response to Jugem’s call, the goblin troop thundered their assent.
♦ ♦ ♦
The interior of the Great Forest.
Although they had only travelled about a hundred and fifty meters in, the temperature had fallen by several degrees. This was simply because no sunlight shone in here. That said, the interior was not completely pitch-dark, and Enri could still see what was happening around her. It was like being in a room with the air-conditioner turned up to full blast. In this way, Enri and the other four members of her party advanced into the forest.
At the moment, the forest was dominated by silence. Apart from the gentle sounds of the tree branches swaying and the occasional cries of birds or beasts, there was nothing else. The footsteps of Enri and her companions echoed loudly. The other team led by Jugem had already gone deeper in, and they could no longer be heard.
Enri and company formed a roughly triangular formation as they advanced into the forest. In the center of the formation were Enri and Nfirea.
It was very difficult to maintain a wide formation in the forest. Normally, they would have gone single file, but in order to protect the two of them the goblins had insisted on doing things that way. They lost speed as a result, but that couldn’t be helped.
As they moved deeper inwards, Nfirea began looking up and towards the north.
He was looking for the treasure sleeping in the dense forest — medicinal herbs.
Enri was not a novice to herb-gathering. A girl her age would know all about herbs that could be taken orally or smeared on an affected area, or the ordinary herbs used as ingredients for potions. However, in this field she was completely outmatched by Nfirea. Not only was he thoroughly familiar with medicinal herbs, he even knew which ones were useful as bases for alchemical compounds.
“Found any rare herbs?”
Of all the questions Enri had asked, this seemed like the one he had been waiting for. The surrounding goblins took their poses.
A double bicep flex again… is that the latest trend or what?
The tilt-headed Enri did not notice the faint expression of annoyance on Nfirea’s face.
“Why didn’t I tell them to stop posing… it sucks to have no courage. Then, is there a brown moss over there?”
As it turned out, there was brown moss growing where Nfirea had pointed.
“That’s Bebeyamokugoke. Mix some with a healing potion and it’ll slightly improve its effects.“
“Oh, really? I thought it was just a simple patch of moss and missed it. Without Enfi, I probably would have ignored it completely. As expected of Enfi.”
“Really now, Ani-san’s pretty amazing. Is it worth a lot?”
“It’s worth quite a bit of money… ah, wait. Don’t pick it. What Enri and I are aiming for is worth even more. If we can’t find it, then we’ll pick this on the way back.”
“I see. Yeah, we got it. Speaking of which, to Ani-san, this forest must be like a treasure trove, since it’s so easy to make wealth. Ah~ with Ani-san I feel much more at ease.”
“This sort of thing—”
The surrounding goblins’ poses changed.
“Yes, hm, well, it might actually be like that. One thing’s for sure, people travelling with me won’t have a hard time. I’m pretty confident of that.”
“Mmm. Enfi can definitely do that.”
An awkward mood flowed through the sleeping forest.
“Then, Ane-san, is that all?”
“Hm? Kaijali-san, what do you mean?”
“Hm? No, I actually, nothing… ah… come to think of it, there’s a question I forgot to ask. What sort of herbs are you looking for?”
“We didn’t tell you? It’s a herb called Enkaishi. Afterwards we’ll let Nemu grind it up.”
“Ah, so that’s what it is. Got it. Although, even if you describe it to us, we won’t be able to tell the difference. Then, let’s move on.”
Step by step, they ventured further into the forest. As they went on, their noses started itching from the thick scent of the forest’s fragrance.
There was no sign of human activity here at all. Immersed in this place, Nfirea felt like this was a world where humans were weak and tiny. Then, he opened his mouth to speak.
“Let’s start looking around here. We’re looking for places with lots of shade and humidity… are there any water sources nearby? That herb grows near them. There’s no sign of monster activity around here, what a stroke of luck.”
With his vast experience as a herbalist, it was unlikely for Nfirea to make a mistake.. The goblins and Enri replied in approval.
The group put their things down and the burden on them decreased greatly.
“Ahhh… Ane-san, could you go give Ani-san a hand?”
“Ah, yes, that’s right. Enfi must have his hands full by himself.”
Enri walked over to where Nfirea had put down his luggage and assisted him in his labors.
“No problem, Enfi. Although, now that I think of it, all this specialist equipment is amazing. You need so many things…”
Out of the corner of her eyes, Enri could see the goblins nodding in a wordless “very good, very good” manner. Although she was surprised by why they were so happy, she eventually decided that her first priority was getting the job done.
“Then, let’s start the search!”
With a throttled “Oh!” to keep the noise down, they began. The goblins watched the perimeter, while Enri and Nfirea began gathering the herbs.
Although Enri had been prepared for the work to be difficult, they were fortunate and soon found growths of Enkaishi. The dense sheets grew thickly in the cracks of tree trunks.
“It’s over there. We found where they grew right away. As I thought, it’s best when I’m with Enfi.”
“No, it’s nothing like that. We’re lucky we found it in a deserted area. If there were monster tracks, it would be pretty nasty.”
To the two humans, the large quantity of herbs, while not exactly a treasure in its own right, was akin to a small mountain of coins. Enri desperately fought the desire burning in her heart. This place was dangerous, it was better that she put her greed aside and worked to steadily complete the job.
However, Enri knelt down, and began to pluck, minding the roots of the herbs.
Enkaishi’s medicinal value resided in its roots. But you couldn’t just pull the roots out like that. Grasses like these were incredibly hardy, and they would grow again as long as the roots remained. It seemed a shame, but depleting this patch of herbs (which had been quite a challenge to find in the first place) by overharvesting it would be like killing the goose which laid the golden egg.
A strong odor seared her nose as she did the picking, but since she was used to that sort of thing, the smell didn’t impede her work. Compared to Nfirea’s house, this smell was like heaven.
She plucked the herbs stalk by stalk, holding the harvest under her armpits to avoid crushing it by accident, and then carefully placed it into the bag. If the goblins came to help, they would probably have finished faster, but they were too busy watching their surroundings. Enri wasn’t nearly stupid enough to take them off their sentry duty to help her.
In comparison, Nfirea’s harvesting methods were like poetry in motion. He swiftly pulled them out of the ground without pause, in such a way that didn’t damage their potency as medicine. This technique would even impress fellow professionals in his field.
Enri silently watched Nfirea, who was staring at the herbs with a diligent expression on his face. The face that had become so familiar looked like someone else’s before her.
…He’s a man now.
Nfirea suddenly raised his head. He must have sensed the stoppage in Enri’s work.
Although she’d done nothing, Enri still lowered her head in embarrassment.
“Ah, well, I think Enfi’s amazing…”
“Really? I didn’t think it was that fantastic. I’m only a dabbler when it comes to herbalism. This level is about par for the course.”
“…Is that so.”
The conversation ended thus, and in the slow passage of time, the stock of herbs in their backpacks grew. After filling up slightly more than half of their packs, the goblins crouched next to the two of them, as if looking for somewhere to hide.
Seeing Enri’s surprised face, Kaijali silently gave a hand signal. This was an emergency. Enri, who understood, pricked up her ears. From the distance came the sound of plants being trampled underfoot.
“Something’s coming. It’s coming for us… or rather, it’s advancing and most likely it’s going to end up here, so we need to get away from here for a bit.”
“…Then, we won’t need the noisemaker decoys?”
“That’s right, Ani-san. It’s better if we don’t have to use those, it feels like things will go bad if we do. Now let’s move.”
The five of them began moving away from the direction of the sound, hiding in the shadow of a nearby tree. They didn’t go further because they didn’t want to chance making noise on nearby vegetation. If the other party was just advancing forward, there was no need to risk discovery like that.
Since the tree wasn’t very big, it couldn’t hide all of them. The most they could do was crouch at its roots and hope they weren’t too obvious.
Like this, the five held their breaths and prayed that the source of the sound would turn in another direction. But unfortunately, this did not happen, and the figure making the noise finally came into Enri’s field of view.
A tiny gasp of surprise escaped from Enri’s mouth.
It was a ragged-looking little goblin.
His body was covered in tiny wounds which bled profusely. His breathing was rapid and uneven, and the smell of his blood and sweat spread throughout the area.
Even though goblins were already smaller than humans, this goblin was small even for another goblin. To Enri and the goblin’s trained observation skills, they came to the same answer of “child”.
The goblin child looked fearfully to his rear, in the direction where he had come from. There was no need to listen up for the sound of trampling plant life that followed from behind him. From the looks of things, they were hunter and prey.
He frantically moved his spasming feet, taking cover in a patch of shade different from Enri’s own.
Gokoh had not even looked at Enri as he interrupted her. Those unrelenting eyes were fixed on the direction where the kid had come from.
Just over ten seconds later, the hunter revealed itself.
It was a huge magical beast that resembled a black wolf. The reason why they could instantly tell it was no ordinary wolf was because of the chain wrapped around its body. The serpentine chain did not hinder its movements at all, as though it were merely an illusion. And two horns sprang from its head.
Nfirea muttered the name of the beast to himself.
Although it could not possibly have heard him to answer, the barghest barked like a dog. Then — its face twisted. It was an evil grin that no mere beast could ever make. It slowly looked around its surroundings and its eyes settled on the tree where the goblin child had hidden.
Just like the beast it resembled, the barghest had a bloodhound’s scenting ability. There was no way it could not sniff out the goblin child who had bled so much on the way here.
From the look of things, the reason why the goblin had managed to get here wasn’t because he could resist the barghest. Rather, it was because the barghest was a sadistic creature; or maybe it was because it was a hunter that liked to play with its food.
Suddenly, the barghest stopped moving, surprise knotting its face, and it stared at the place they had gathered the herbs from.
Enri pulled her face back. The others quickly followed suit.
Behind the tree trunk, Enri opened her hands. Her skin was green and speckled with stray bits of plant matter. Beside her, Nfirea did the same thing.
The sap and juices from the herbs we picked…
This was the same sort of thing that Nemu was soaked in when she ground up the herbs. Although those with numbed noses (like themselves) wouldn’t mind, but the powerful stench still hung in the air. Her heart raced, and Enri thought it was annoying.
“It’s started moving. …Is it coming this way? Hasn’t noticed us, has it?”
Unlai, with his ear on the tree to listen, flashed a querying hand sign.
“…are you telling me it can’t use its sense of smell?”
“What do you mean, Ani-san? Don’t monsters have very sensitive noses…?”
“It’s because of that,” Nfirea said as he explained himself.
The key point was that because it had an extremely sensitive sense of smell, the stench floating in this area was particularly effective against it. The barghest had confused the scent of Enri’s hands and bag with that of the already-harvested areas. Even better, the smell had covered up their original scent.
It was also possible that the barghest had torn up the herbs to smoke the goblin child out.
Although the powerful stench was everywhere, if they fled in haste, the displaced air from where they were fleeing might catch the barghest’s attention.
“Then, let’s use the kid as a sacrifice and be done with it. We don’t know how strong this barghest is, and engaging it without prior knowledge would be too risky.”
These cold words made Enri look at Gokoh’s face.
However, these words were logical ones. The goblins put Enri’s personal safety as their top priority. With that in mind, avoiding combat with that magical beast was only to be expected. They would sacrifice one of their own kind for that without a second thought.
The words he said, judging by their conviction, were not mistaken at all.
However, Enri hated this sort of thing. Even if they were of different species, not helping someone you could help would disgrace herself as a human being.
Who knew, if she had not been a silly village girl who had never known a goblin attack and lacked a sense of danger, she might not have thought that way.
Enri looked around to the others. The goblins knew Enri’s wish. They just didn’t want to speak it. After that, Enri looked to Nfirea.
“Haa… I’ll help. Who knows, that goblin child might become a valuable source of information. If we don’t find out why he fled here, it might end up causing danger to the village.
The goblins knitted their brows.
“Is there a chance you might lose?”
“Certainly. But if that’s a barghest, we’re in luck. Greater barghests are pretty strong. But from the look of that guy’s chains and the size of his horns, I don’t think he’s of that type. If it’s just a barghest, we’re sure to win.”
“Wait a minute. Ane-san is going to stay here, right? You should avoid danger.”
Enri swallowed. She knew what she was saying was only to satisfy her ego, and her foolish words would endanger not just herself but the others around her. But even so, Enri still opened her mouth to speak.
“…If we abandon someone we could have helped, it would be as bad as tormenting him ourselves. I don’t want to be like those people who harm the weak. Please!”
Kaijali, who had been watching Enri’s earnest expression, sighed in defeat. At the same time, the monster’s strange bark rang out. They could clearly hear the sound of mocking laughter within it. In response came the goblin child’s pitiful wail.
There was no more time for confusion or debate.
“It can’t be helped. Get him, lads!”
The goblins took the lead in jumping out, followed by Nfirea.
Enri felt a terribly wrenching pain in her heart as she watched the warriors who went into battle to fulfil her wishes.
All she could do was watch them from behind.
Then, Enri thought, at the very least I should stay here and watch them, without allowing myself to lose focus for even a single moment.
The four who had leapt out saw the barghest pressing the goblin child down beneath it. The goblin child sported new wounds but was not dead yet, because the barghest had the bad habit of toying with its prey.
The barghest’s movements stopped, and it stared at the group of people who had jumped out and then at the goblin child. Perhaps it was afraid that its prey had led it into a trap.
“Hey hey, come on boy,” Unlai said, pointing to himself with his thumb. “Want to play? I’ll play with you. Come on.”
The barghest growled, full of menace.
In a natural, flowing motion, Kaijali drew the machete at his waist. The other goblins followed suit.
“No need to think so much. I’ll teach an old dog like you new tricks. How about we start with ‘play dead’?”
As a response to the goblins’ taunts, the barghest squeezed the goblin child it was stepping on, and he let out an angry growl.
Although it couldn’t speak, its actions made its intentions clear. Make a move and I kill the brat. However―
“Very good! Go ahead and kill him!”
The three goblins ignored the barghest’s taunt, and stepped in with growls of their own.
This unexpected response brought confusion to the eyes of the barghest.
The barghest could not have known that the goblins had not shown up with the intention of saving the goblin child. They were only here because of Enri’s wish, and their attitude was “as long as we tried to save him, it’s good enough”.
Since they had shown themselves for a confrontation, if they didn’t kill the barghest their precious Enri might get hurt. Because of that, they needed to finish off the barghest for good. So if the goblin child was murdered, if that wasted their opponent’s first action and let them seize the initiative, then the goblins would gladly let the kid die.
Seeing itself reflected in the blades of three machetes, the barghest understood that it could not use its hostage against them and stopped moving. It was confused as to whether or not it should kill the boy it was pinning down.
Taking his life would be easy. It would be gone in one bite. However, if it did that, there was no question that it would be hacked to pieces by its enemies’ weapons.
The threat to its life led the barghest to its decision.
Ignoring the goblin child, the barghest leapt at the goblins to meet their attack.
A barghest was heavier than a goblin. The barghest was hoping to pin its foes under itself and finish them off by ripping their throats out with its fangs.
However, this was a poor choice.
The targeted goblin easily twisted out of the way of the attempted attack, and at the same time the other two goblins on the left and right slashed at the barghest with their machetes.
One blade was deflected by the barghest’s chains, but the other ripped into its body, sending blood everywhere.
At the same time, a small hurled vial shattered after hitting the tip of the barghest’s nose.
The vile miasma which now clogged its eyes and nose drew an agonized howl from the barghest.
And at that moment, three more jolts of pain ran through its body.
It could sense that it was in trouble from the outflow of blood alone. The barghest wept, its vision shaky and blurred, and made its move. Its target was the one who had thrown the vial ― a human.
However, the barghest had only taken a few steps when its feet stuck onto something below and could not move.
Looking down, it saw that the ground was covered a bizarre glue-like liquid. The bizarre liquid was not absorbed by the earth.
“The glue won’t hold it for long! Take it down in one blow!”
In response to the human’s voice, the goblins shouted their battlecries and charged. In addition, the human released a powerful spell from its direction.
The barghest had used all its strength to try and pull its feet from the ground. Although its movements were slowed because its feet were still coated with adhesive and dirt, it was still able to fight.
Watching the goblins close in for the kill again, the barghest used its superior intellect (compared to a regular beast) to accept the fact that “these goblins were mighty foes”.
It acknowledged that these were different from regular goblins in one crucial way ― they were enemies who could kill it.
This barghest knew three methods of attack. Goring, piercing its foe with its horns. Biting, knocking its foe down and raking it with its claws. Unlike stronger barghests, it did not have any special abilities. But in truth, it had an ace in the hole.
This tactic would completely abandon defense, and if the barghest failed, it would be doomed. But now wasn’t the time to worry about holding back. It had to make full use of what could be the last few seconds of its life.
The barghest howled wildly, checking the advance of the enveloping goblins.
The spell from behind, cast by the human, made the goblins’ armor glow brightly. The barghest panicked, predicting that it was some sort of enhancement spell, but the goblins in front of it simply grinned.
Maybe it made them reckless, but with their armor reinforced, the goblins advanced as one. Perhaps it might be called a foolish move, but then one could also say it was a brave step forward to quickly end what could be a long battle.
That was what would have happened — if the barghest had not expected them to do this.
If a barghest could change its facial features as easily as a human, it would have smiled to itself.
The chains on its body made the sounds of a snake. Then, the chains binding the barghest suddenly came to life.
The thick and crude shackles began spinning with tremendous force.
The special ability ‘Chain Cyclone’ would severely wound the goblins, if not kill them outright.
The barghest was giving this its all. This was a big move that could only be used once a day, and after the chains were used it would be unable to use them as armor for at least ten seconds. The risk was high.
The unexpected attack threw off the goblins’ dodge by a second. This was a fatal mistake. However―
A thunderous order cut through the air before the chains could.
The barghest that had bet everything on this attack looked to the other human, who had shouted, and its eyes widened.
The goblins who should have been too late to evade it had nimbly dropped to the ground, as though the voice had injected them with a fresh dose of vitality.
The barghest stared at the commander who stood behind the magic caster.
And then, the barghest’s forelegs and one rear leg were severed from its body. It howled in pain. It tried to recover its chains, bare its fangs, threaten them, but the goblins were having none of that.
“Ani-san, no need for the magic support. For safety’s sake, just put up an alarm around this place.
The barghest, which knew it had already lost, was desperately trying to get away.
Its normally limber body was now cumbersome and slow. That was only natural considering that three of its four legs were now stumps. Even so, the barghest wanted to flee with all its might.
But the goblins thought otherwise.
Sticky blood coated the grass all around and the stench of iron drowned out the odor of the plants.
The goblins looked to the goblin child from where they were standing, bloodstained machetes in hand, knee-deep in the gore and viscera spilling from the corpse of the barghest.
The kid had been hurt badly and had lost the strength to flee, but he still forced his body upright against a tree.
“Hey, who are you guys? Which tribe are you from?”
The goblins looked at each other, wondering how to respond to the questions of a kid who was half frightened and half suspicious.
In each other's’ eyes, they wordlessly discussed the strategy for what kind of attitude would yield the most benefits and what kind of information they should reveal, but Enri felt that there were more pressing matters than that.
“We need to take care of his wounds first. What can we do, Enfi?”
The kid was hurt very badly and he had already lost a lot of blood. Left alone, he would definitely die. Although Enri had no idea how to help him, she was hoping that her childhood friend would know what to do.
“The most normal herbs can do is stop the bleeding, it won’t help against blood loss. However…”
Nfirea began rummaging through his pouch.
“There’s the newly-created healing potion. I wanted to hand it to Gown-san, but… could you show me your wounds?”
Nfirea walked forward, withdrawing the potion vial from his robe.
“W-wait, what’s this dangerous-looking liquid? Is it poison?”
Hostility flashed across the kid’s frightened face as he saw the purple potion. From Enri’s point of view — perhaps even Nfirea’s point of view — this was a natural reaction. The potion looked too much like poison for him to not be on his guard. However, the goblins were very upset by the child’s words, and they immediately stalked over to him.
“―Oi, punk. Ane-san’s the one who decided to save you, along with Ani-san. You’d better watch your words to the people who rescued you. That’s for your own good too, got it?”
The kid turned to look at the blades brandished before him. Although he was only a child, he still knew that it would be a bad idea to anger the goblins in front of him. He sagged visibly, like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
Enri felt that it would be better if they didn’t have to intimidate the kid, but she knew the goblins had their own rules which they followed. It wouldn’t be a good idea for her to butt in with her human sensibilities.
“I-I’m very sorry.”
“Ah, it’s all right. Don’t worry.”
As he answered, Nfirea was smearing the potion on the kid’s body. The wounds were visibly closing up.
“Uuuoooh! What’s this? The color’s so gross but it’s so amazing!”
The kid felt the stares of the surrounding goblins on him and trembled.
“Ah… no, I, ah, th-thank y-you very m-much...”
“Oh, looks like the punk has some manners after all.”
“Very good. This way, I can tell Gown-san that the experiment was completed without a hitch.”
Nfirea looked around, fumbling for approval. Enri and the goblins, who got what he meant, nodded to him.
The potion Nfirea created was made from the materials provided by the great magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown, who was the savior of Carne Village. Not only was there no need to spend money on research fees, but he even provided all the necessary ingredients. With that in mind, the meaning and value of the potion that he had created was plainly obvious.
The fact that Nfirea had decided to use it on his own was a major problem, but perhaps he could pass it off as a practical evaluation of the potion’s effects.
If I explain it to Gown-san after the fact, he’ll probably allow it… experimentation is the fundamental principle of pharmacists, anyway.
“You, you used me as a guinea pig!”
Unable to read between the lines, the kid gasped in shock, while Enri and Nfirea grinned in response. A reaction like this was only natural from someone who didn’t know the full details of the situation.
Although the two of them had at least managed to smile at the reaction, others present were not so forgiving. The goblins present could not moderate their rage, and spat utterances like, “that little bastard!” and so on.
Enri held out her hands to try and calm them down. This reaction was only natural for a clueless kid, and because he was a kid, it wouldn’t do to overreact.
“Well, if Ane-san says so… anyway, we should get moving. Who knows what other monsters will be drawn by the scent of blood.”
“And, although we won… Ane-san. Please don’t do this sort of thing again, okay? Our job is protecting you.”
“What a mess. Still, hearing Enri’s voice like that really scared me.”
“…Well, it’s because of that voice that we’re fine ― oi, brat, you’d better not run off. We have a lot of questions to ask you and if you don’t want to go home in pieces you’d better answer up truthfully.”
“―Ane-san, this is for the village’s sake too… get over here, kid.”
The kid got up, slowly and painstakingly. His wounds were healed, so they shouldn’t impede his movement, but his stubborn resistance made his movements slow.
Gokoh, whose machete was dyed red with blood, spat on the ground.
Enri turned to Nfirea for help. However, he silently shook his head. As she turned to look at the goblins, she saw that there was steel in their eyes, and with it, silent approval of their colleague’s actions.
“…Ane-san, don’t worry, I won’t kill him. I just want to ask him some questions about what’s going on. Besides, don’t you think he’ll die if we left him here?”
It seemed as though the question was aimed more at the goblin child than Enri herself. He seemed to get it, and the resistance in his heart faded away.
“I got it… I won’t run off…”
“That’s good. Then we’d better get moving. Kid, can you confirm that there’s only one of those barghests?”
“…I can’t. Apart from them, there’s several ogres too. I don’t know if any of them chased after me. And I’m not a kid, I’m Agu, the fourth son of Ah, the chieftain of the Gigu tribe.”
“I thought that ‘Kid’ was enough for him…”
“We’ll discuss that later. It’s not like it’s important enough to argue about it now. Since Agu wants us to use his name, maybe we should, in order to build trust between us?”
“Ani-san’s really mature. Then let’s gather our things and go.”
In accordance with Kaijali’s words, the group set off in silence while watching their surroundings warily. The heavy atmosphere that hung around them was almost visible to the naked eye.
Although Enri wanted to lighten the mood with conversation, the forest was not a place for humanity. She could not act lightly here, especially considering that there might be further pursuers after them.
♦ ♦ ♦
The tension that had filled their bodies seemed to melt off as they stepped out of the dark, shadowy forest, and was replaced by a gentle, idle feeling. In that moment, they felt that they had finally returned to the world they were used to.
Nfirea, walking beside Enri, sighed in relief with an “Uwah~”. ·
The goblins’ movements had lost their tense edge, but Agu’s expression still looked stiff. He seemed confused by the sunlight and the wide spaces, and it showed on his face. He was a long way from the shadows of the forests where he had grown up.
“There, the village is there.”
Agu’s face scrunched up as he followed Enri’s finger to the distance.
“What? That wall? It feels… feels kind of like that Monument of Destruction.”
“Monument of Destruction?”
“That’s right. It’s a scary new place in the Great Forest. Anyone who goes near it will perish. They say there’s undead there too.”
“You say everyone who goes near it will die, but you sure know a lot about it.”
“…while the Monument of Destruction was still under construction, the brave ones from our tribe went there and saw skeleton monsters building it.”
“Did you know about this?”
“No, I’m sorry, but this is new to us too. If we go too deep into the forest we might meet enemies even our boss can’t defeat. So we try not to go too far.”
“…Hey, which tribe are you three from? You’re stronger than any goblins I’ve ever seen before, so where―”
Agu sneaked a glance at Enri, and then mumbled something about ‘Usually humans are…’ to himself.
“Do you serve the humans?”
“Is that weird? Isn’t it normal to work for someone who’s strong?”
“But strong people… no, I mean, I’ve heard that humans as a race have strong members and weak members… but you’re a woman, right? And the one with his hair covering his face is a man, right?”
Enri got an answer she could accept from Nfirea, who was muttering beside her.
“Enri, I think this child has never seen humans before. At most, he knows what his fellow goblins told him. Also… is it really so hard for goblins to tell us humans apart?”
“Well, our clothes… are different….”
“Like I said, he doesn’t know things like that. Don’t all goblins wear the same thing? Of course, sometimes there’s civilized goblins with a country of their own, but he’s not one of them.”
Enri understood, but as she thought about it, she realised she hadn’t answered Agu’s question yet.
“That’s right, I’m a girl.”
“So are you a magic caster?”
“No, what’s wrong?”
A profoundly disturbed expression appeared on Agu’s face.
“I’m the magic caster. An arcane magic caster.”
“…You two are husband and wife, right?”
The two of them exclaimed in perfect harmony.
“No, I mean, in some races, the wives can use their husband’s power and authority… is it not like that?”
“No, no, it’s not like that at all!”
The surrounding goblins seemed to want to say something in response to Enri’s adamant refusal, but all that anyone saw them doing was sagging their shoulders in silence.
“Then… what’s going on? How come that woman’s the strongest?”
“We call you a kid because you don’t understand why. Ane-san’s strength isn’t something that can be seen with the eyes.”
Enri wanted to deny that, but Agu’s earnest eyes looking at her exerted a pressure that left her unable to speak. While Enri was confused, Kaijali asked a question.
“Then, another question for you. Why were you being chased by those guys? What happened?”
“…Say, can this wait until we get back to the village?”
And the one who answered Enri’s suggestion with a, “That’s right~ That would be a better idea, -su.”
― A woman who hadn’t been with them all this while.
Everyone exclaimed in surprise, and looked to the source of the sound.
What they saw was a stunning beauty. She was a woman with twin braids and brown skin. She was dressed in what she called her maid wear, and she carried a strange-looking weapon on her back.
She was a suspicious-looking individual, and at the same time a familiar one.
She was a maid serving under Ainz Ooal Gown, the savior of Carne Village, and she had been responsible for delivering the alchemical items and apparatuses to the Bareares as well as commanding the stone golems. Her cheerful and carefree attitude made her very popular with the villagers.
However, she had a habit of appearing out of nowhere like she had just now. The villagers believed that it was only natural that a maid in service to a great magic caster should know magic of her own, and Enri had shared that opinion too. Even so, appearing like that all of a sudden was still frightening.
“Lupu-san, w-where did you…?”
“Really now, En-chan, I’ve been following behind you guys from the beginning~su. Strange, didn’t you guys notice? I thought everyone was ignoring me because I had no presence~su”
Although she sounded like she was kidding, her tone was very serious. Enri looked around for help from the others.
“Then ― Lupu-nee, could you stop playing around?”
“Uwaaaa~ people think I’m just a joker~su. Guys, please remember me~ ahh, I was just kidding anyway~su. Don’t mind, don’t mind~su.”
Silence resumed, until someone sighed tiredly with a “Haaaa.”
“Well, not like there’s anything wrong with that. So who’s this little goblin? …Could, could it be!”
Enri felt the goblins between her and Lupusregina swapping annoyed looks.
“Fufu — Enfi-chan, you got cucked by a goblin? Fufufu.”
While everyone’s eyes went glassy and lifeless, Lupusregina was laughing it up.
“What’s all of this then~su. A pure, innocent boy’s love, trampled just like that~ su. Ah, what a riot~su! Fuha! … All right, enough kidding around, what really happened?”
Agu’s body trembled fiercely, as though he had seen some kind of monster.
Although, Enri could understand why. Lupusregina’s cheerful expression changed ceaselessly, like a high-strung person under stress. As the smile changed, it revealed the true face of Lupusregina beneath, which was horrifying in how far it differed from the her initial expression.
“Aw, don’t worry, I won’t eat you~su. It’s okay-su. C’mon, tell onee-chan all about it~su”
“Lupu-nee. We should talk about this later. Didn’t you agree on that?”
“Oya? Hm, I definitely recall saying something like that~su”
“…Ah! I hope Beta-san can hand this potion to Gown-sama. It’s newly developed, but its effects have been tested and proven.”
“…Oh? Enfi-chan finally made it?”
“That’s right. Unfortunately, it’s not completely red, but I think we’ve made significant progress.”
“― Well, that’s great. I’m sure Ainz-sama will be very happy to hear it.”
With that, Lupusregina’s attitude seemed to have become that of a normal person, and not the flighty, carefree girl from before. However, that expression only lasted a moment. In the next, she was back to her old self.
“Ahhhh, how exciting— Really, I picked a great day to visit~su. Also, no need to call me Beta. Lupusregina will do -su. Just for you~”
With the (apparently) high-spirited Lupusregina in tow, they entered the village gates.
The villagers didn’t say anything when they saw the unfamiliar goblin child. One could say that they weren’t nervous, but it could also be said that they trusted Enri. She might have become something like family to the goblins who protected the village.
They went through the village and past Enri’s home. Their destination was the goblin’s house.
“Excuse me for a bit. I’m going to call Brita-san over to listen to what Agu has to say.”
“Sounds like a plan, Ani-san. She’s entered the forest while training to be a ranger, so it might be better if she were there to listen to the kid. …So what should we do, Ane-san?”
Enri panicked briefly, not having expected her name to come up during the conversation. With no particular reason to oppose it, she simply nodded her head.
“Mm. Well, it’s not so much that it’s might be better, but that I hope she hears what he has to say. See you, Enfi.”
With an ‘Understood’, Nfirea left the group behind.
“Although waiting here’s fine… maybe I should make drinks.”
“Great idea~su! I’m thirsty~”
“…Lupu-nee, aren’t you a maid? That means you know how to make delicious drinks, right?”
“Welp, I’m the maid of Ainz-sama, and the other Supreme Beings, soooo... I don’t want to work for anyone else ~su. I just want to laze around su~. Let’s not talk about work and all that other stuff.”
“Is that so… well, that’s a shame.”
Although Unlai and Lupusregina’s conversation seemed quite normal, Enri could still feel a chill run through her.
As they walked and talked, they reached the goblins’ house.
This was a place with a wide courtyard where you could raise and let wolves run around, capable of housing almost twenty people. It was a large building where they could train with and maintain their weapons.
The goblins opened the door, and led the way for Enri and Lupusregina.
“Fueeee- I didn’t know there was a place like this~”
“Hmmm? Lupusregina-san, you’re not coming in?”
“Yup yup~ Can’t go in without an invitation. Well, it’s just a matter of etiquette, it’s not like I can’t really go in. I guess the only other one with such a weird legend is flatchest-san~”
“That’s right, En-chan. It’s the name of a tragic beauty. Well, it wasn’t as though that person couldn’t really go in. Legends, myths folklore —Weeeeeeell, let’s not talk about that any more~ We’re here to listen to what this goblin has to say, right?”
“Ah, yes. Then, drinks… ehm, how about herbal juice and fruit juice? There’s black grass tea and Hyueri water…”
Agu and Lupusregina looked completely baffled by Unlai’s question, so Enri helped explain for them.
“Hyueri are citrus fruits, you cut them open and infuse them into water and it tastes clear and good. Black grass tea is a little bitter.”
“I’ll have a Hyueri water, then.”
“Hyueri juice for me too~”
“Got it. How about Ane-san?”
“I think I’ll have the Hyueri water too. And… how about washing hands? Even if our noses are used to it…”
“Ah, that should be all right. Oi, kid— I mean, Agu, you come over here too. Gotta clean yourself up. And bro, sorry about this, but you mind putting away our dirty weapons?”
“Is it alright?”
“Of course it is. Not like he can do anything. Our rules here are very simple.”
“If that’s the case… let’s go.”
Kaijali left the room with three sets of weapons.
“Agu, come over here quickly.”
“Why do I have to wash? Will it make me pretty?”
Enri noticed that Agu’s hands were very dirty; there weren’t clean by any definition of the word.
“Your opinion is irrelevant. This is the owner of the house telling you to wash up. Or are you saying you’re going to defy the owner in his own house?”
Agu puffed up his cheeks, and plodded over slowly to Enri’s side.
Enri poured the water from the large tank into the pails. After preparing four sets, she stuck her hands into the unexpectedly cold water and started to wash up. The green on her hands melted away like snow in the sun. By the time she was done, she brought her hands in front of her face. The stench was gone.
Enri looked around herself. Gokoh and Unlai were washing their hands too, and the water was dyed red by the barghest’s blood.
Next, she looked to Agu, but what she saw left her dumbfounded.
Even a child would know better than to wash up like this. He stuck his arms into the water, waggled them around a little, and that was that. He didn’t even dry himself off.
Although Enri had already washed off the plant-scent on her hands, Agu still reeked of torn leaves. For forest goblins, a scent like this was a form of self-defense against magical beasts with keen sense of smell. As such, they might have never developed the habit of washing themselves thoroughly.
“You do it like this.”
Agu made an annoyed face as Enri tried to teach him. However, he thought of his own position and what the other goblins had said earlier and grudgingly, he started to thoroughly clean himself.
“That’s right, you’re doing great…”
“Hey, after this, use this to wipe your body. Make sure you get all the blood off.”
Agu didn’t look happy about it, but he still cleaned himself with the damp towel.
“So we just dump the dirty water outside?”
“Yeah, just like that. Ane-san, go have a seat. We’ll take care of the rest.”
With that, Enri headed to the nearby table. It was surrounded by chairs since so many goblins lived here. As she chose a place to sit, she suddenly realized how tired she was. Her arms and legs were like logs, and her head was heavy.
Although part of the reason had been gathering herbs, what had really worn her out was the battle against the barghest.
All I did was watch… Enfi and the goblins were fighting, but they can still be this active… looks like I’m never going to be a warrior… or rather, Enfi’s gotten really strong…
Even though she knew that her childhood friend could use magic, she hadn’t expected that magic to be so powerful.
As she thought of her suddenly-different childhood friend, Enri’s heart swelled with an emotion she couldn’t put into words. It seemed to be surprise, but then again it seemed like something else entirely.
A clear sound brought Enri back to her senses, and her eyes fell on the ceramic cups on the table. They were filled with a transparent fluid that gave off a citrus smell, and Enri decided to help herself to a cup.
The cool, sweet and sour taste washed over her entire body, and she felt like she was filled with energy. Agu had sat down beside her at some point, and he gulped his down in one shot and immediately asked for another.
Yet, Lupusregina didn’t touch hers.
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lupusregina-san eat or drink.
“…Hm? Something wrong? You’ve been sneaking glances my way recently. Are you in love with me? Ahhhhh, how troubling~ my, how shocking, to think that En-chan is a lesbian~su. Looks like I need to let everyone know~su”
“What— no! No! It’s not like that!”
“Wahahahaha~ Just kidding. I know En-chan likes men.”
While thinking about how to reply, Enri’s eyes narrowed into a straight line.
“Although, it’s kind of slow… hm? Looks like they’ve arrived.”
Enri turned to the door, but she had the feeling there was nobody outside.
“Really? But I don’t hear anything at all.”
Agu cupped his ear forward with his hand.
“Hey, are humans a race with good hearing?”
“That, that, I don’t know about that, but I don’t think Lupusregina-san would lie about this sort of thing… though she might… prank people a little.”
Then is she lying? Agu thought as he stared wide-eyed at Lupusregina.
“No, really, I heard them. They’re coming for sure. You’re pretty amazing.”
“Hm? Ah, that’s not the case at all. Compared to Enri-san over there, I’m nothing much.”
Agu seemed to swallow it up, and looked back at Enri with a surprised expression.
No, that’s not how it is. That smile on Lupusregina-san’s face is so damn fake! Enri wondered how she should tell Agu the truth, but before that, a knock came from the door.
Shortly after, Nfirea and a woman in leather armor entered the room.
Brita, the former adventurer, had moved into the village after Nfirea. Originally, she had been an adventurer in E-Rantel, but had retired after certain events. Even so, she still needed to earn a living, and so she responded to the village’s solicitations and moved here.
She was studying to be a ranger, and she had potential. Even though she was weaker than Jugem, she was still one of the strongest people in the village and the leader of the village’s self-defense force (even though it still wasn’t at a level where it could be described as such).
She’d been called along because she was the defense force’s leader, and because she had entered the forest while practicing her fieldcraft.
“Ah— it really is a new goblin… no, hm, I keep thinking from an adventurer’s point of view… he’s not an enemy.”
Brita smiled bitterly. It wasn’t as though Enri didn’t understand where she came from. Going by the stories, goblins were the enemies of mankind. Killing them when you saw them was fine, but this village was different. The hard truth was that humans seemed to be the real enemies in this case.
“Then, since everyone’s here, let’s listen to what he has to say. Agu, can you tell us why you were running while covered in all those wounds?”
“The simple answer is that I was attacked.”
“That’s too simple… what kind of monster attacked you?”
“The minions of the Giant of the East.”
“The Giant of the East? Who’s that?”
“…How do you normally address him?”
“We-we don’t, in the first place, we didn’t even know he existed… Brita-san, do you know?”
The most widely-read person in this place was Nfirea, but when it came to the forest, Brita still knew more than him. Even so, all she could do was shake her head.
“I’m sorry. I haven’t heard anything concerning this Giant of the East. And I don’t think Master Latimon knows either. We’ve never ventured into the depths of the Forest and don’t know much about its residents.”
“Then, Agu, tell us the basics about him.”
“When you say the basics, you mean…”
Enri understood Agu’s confusion. In situations like these, it was better to ask questions one by one, so it would be easier for him to answer.
“Then, can you tell us about the powerful monsters in the Forest?”
“Well, to me the barghests and the ogres are all strong… but if you want to talk about things on the level of the Giant of the East, then in the forest, there are the powerful ones called the Three Monsters. The first is the Beast of the South. They say he’s an incredible guy who will slaughter everyone who sets foot in his domain. I don’t know what happened to him. Then there’s the Giant of the East. His base is in the withered forest. Finally is the Serpent of the West. I heard it’s a disgusting snake that can use magic.”
“Strange… how about the north?”
“There seems to be a lake in the north with all kinds of races. As for who rules them… I don’t know. But there seem to be twin witches in the swamp. And when the Beast of the South vanished, the forest became weird. I’m not too sure what exactly happened, apparently some really scary guy showed up, and then the balance of power shifted…”
“Is that the Monument of Destruction?”
“That’s right. I also heard that the master of the Monument of Destruction can command the undead, little black shadows that can move through darkness. That’s what the survivors told us.”
Everyone ― with the exception of Lupusregina ― looked uneasily at each other.
The first thing was the Beast of the South. Since its territory was supposed to be nearby, then it must surely be the magical beast tamed by the adventurers who had escorted Nfirea here — or more specifically, the one who wore jet-black plate armor. It certainly had the look of power and strength about it, and so the description fit it perfectly.
“The Beast… the Wise King of the Forest, Hamsuke-san.”
“That’s it! Ahh, yes, that’s the Beast…”
As he heard Nfirea, Brita, who had not moved to the village at that time, made a sound.
According to her, she had seen it in E-Rantel, from far away.
And there were two more monstrous creatures out there who could equal it. Nobody could not feel shock and fear at that realisation.
“Then, how did you escape?”
“Until recently, the three of them held each other in check. The Beast of the South didn’t leave its territory, but nobody could guarantee that would always be the case. If the East and West fought, no matter who won, there was always the chance that in their moment of victory, they would be finished off by the Beast in their weakened state. As such, none of the three powers actually engaged in battle.”
“All right, I can accept that. However, if the East and West cooperated and… no, the Beast of the South wouldn’t leave his domain, so there’s no need to ally to defeat it. And of course, they can’t make provocative moves…”
“I don’t know what those guys are thinking. They just have their own territory and turned it into their own kingdoms. However, the owner of the Monument of Destruction messed up the power distribution. Because of that, the East and West decided to make war on that king of destruction, and they went on the warpath.”
Agu just kept talking and talking, without a pause.
“He forced us to be his comrades in battle. Though that’s a bad joke. We goblins were worthless to them. They used us up and threw us away, and if we messed up, we suffered. Because of that, we ran away. However…”
“It was useless, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. The barghests and ogres came after us. We couldn’t fight them, so we scattered. I fled in this direction with a few people into the Beast of the South’s territory, but we didn’t expect them to come in after us without hesitation.”
He said there had been a few people, but there had been no sign of anyone other than Agu.
A pained expression drew across Enri’s face, and Gokoh spoke.
“…We have people scouting out the Forest, if anyone’s still alive, we can bring them back here as long as they don’t resist.”
“Yes, there’s that. Wolves’ noses are very sensitive. Then… the question is, besides the barghest, what else is out there? Did they have friends that came over too? If it goes badly, the pursuers might end up coming all the way here. Oi, Agu, what other monsters are there?”
“There’s barghests, ogres, boggarts, bugbears, and some kind of wolf thing…”
“They’re fairly common monsters. I’d like to hear more about the Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West, specifically, their looks, their abilities, that sort of thing. Do you know anything?”
Agu shook his head.
“I don’t know details. Only that the Giant of the East carries a big sword, and the Serpent of the West has a head like you, but what kind of magic he uses, I don’t know.”
Nfirea, the center of everyone’s attention, shook his head. There was simply too little information to work with.”
“The question now is what are we going to do? If something that can fight evenly with the Beast shows up, frankly speaking, we’re done for. The most the self-defence force can do is take the women and children to safety.”
“Indeed. If all we needed was a sturdy defense then it would be fine, or maybe we should think about some other methods. If the disturbance in the forest blew over by itself, it would be great.”
To the people who lived outside the forest, if the matters in the forest settled themselves, they wouldn’t need to move. However, if they were completely unable to enter the forest, that would cause a lot of problems in its own right. In the worst case, they would have to make painful sacrifices to keep going.
“…However, if the enemy can easily take out a forest tribe, that means they must have gathered a lot of fighting power.”
“Wrong! …Originally, our tribe was a lot stronger. However, when we went in search of new places to live, our tribe dispatched mixed teams of ogres and adult goblins. If they’re still alive, we can still fight back!”
“Then those adult goblins still haven’t come back yet?”
As Brita spoke, Nfirea tilted his head, as though thinking about something.
“About that… although this is a completely different topic, could I ask you about something that’s bothering me? Do you speak the same way that other goblins do?”
“What do you mean?”
“Ah, you don’t know? In the past, I’ve met goblins myself, and don’t take it the wrong way, but they spoke like morons. In the village though, Jugem-san and the others speak normally. The same goes for you — as in you both speak fluently. Because of that, I was wondering if the ones I saw were savage goblin tribes or something.”
“No, it’s just that I’m particularly smart for a goblin. Most goblins speak in single syllables. That made conversation in the tribe really troublesome, I can tell you that. I was seriously wondering if I was from another tribe instead. Now, just to be safe, let me ask you this, was I born in a tribe from around here? Have you heard anything about me?”
“No, we don’t know… You kid…Could it be… Ane-san, Ani-san, could you come over here for a bit?”
Nfirea and Enri followed Kaijali to the corner of the room.
“That Agu brat, could it be he’s not a goblin, but a hobgoblin?
Hobgoblins were offshoots of the goblin race, and they were superior to goblins in every way. Goblins were about as big as human children when they were adults, but hobgoblins could reach the height of an adult human.
They were similar to humans in terms of physical abilities and intellect. In order to mate with other goblins, many tribes tended to live in the same region. However, in order not to let the population increase too much, many were left behind as bodyguards or team leaders within the tribe.
“But if my father or mother was a hobgoblin, wouldn’t they know themselves?”
“Both his parents were goblins and he was a hobgoblin.”
“Eh? Isn’t that the kind of weird plot that shows up in dramas?”
“…This is the first time I’ve seen Enri make that kind of expression… but unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the answer. Just as humans adopt children, I think the goblins might have done something similar.”
“That’s certainly possible. Well, in that case, we don’t have to worry too much about it.”
The three of them returned to the table, and as they did, the hitherto silent Lupusregina opened her mouth to speak.
“Welp, made a decision? If anything happens, you can always ask Ainz-sama for help. Ask him to help solve the problem and all that.”
That would be a godsend.
If the hero who saved the village decided to make a move, not even the greatest monsters could hope to stand against him. However—
“That’s too naive.”
Enri mumbled to herself, and the goblins agreed. Only Brita and Agu, who didn’t know of Ainz, were baffled. Nfirea had a complex expression on his face.
“This village is our village. That means we should do as much as we can by ourselves. Although some people will think that I shouldn’t be babbling pretty words since I can’t fight and have no battle experience…”
“No, I agree with Ane-san’s opinion. This village is Ane-san’s—”
He tilted his head to correct himself.
“Ane-san and us… no, that’s not right either.”
“You’re trying to say that the village belongs to everyone who lives here, right?”
“That’s right, Ani-san. You’re getting it! Well, even so, I think borrowing the power of that magic caster-sama should wait until we’re completely out of options.”
“But if we do that, everyone might die~su… Getting hacked up hurts, you know~su”
“Ha! Lupusregina-san, we won’t let that happen. We’ll sacrifice ourselves so everyone has time to run first.”
A disappointed look appeared on Lupusregina’s face.
“Is that so? You’d better work hard, then~su.”
“And I also want to communicate our village’s intentions to the Adventurer’s Guild in E-Rantel — or maybe “report” would be a better word to use. If the guild accepts our request, they’ll send a member to come and assess the current situation. It would be troublesome if we put in a request after it becomes an emergency.”
Brita followed on after Nfirea’s suggestion.
“That’s true. The Adventurer’s Guild doesn’t want to be surprised by unexpected monsters. Although workers and their ilk might say otherwise, the words of people blinded by greed aren’t worth mentioning. It’s only natural that an organization would want to protect their own members.”
“Brita-san, although I don’t want to speak ill of adventurers, but during emergencies, the request payments will go through the roof, what happens if they refuse even then?”
“Adventurers don’t want to die, and the Guild won’t let them either. Because of that, when it comes to emergency requests, the prices will go up, which means that the Guild will tend to assign higher-ranked adventurers to deal with them, even if the situation technically doesn’t warrant them. “
All Enri could do when hearing the former adventurer’s words was to accept them. It was quite hard to have to accept this when they were being pushed into a corner. However, when she looked at it from the adventurers’ point of view, it made sense.
“Well, even if the Guild checks it out, people might still die anyway, that sort of thing happens a lot…”
Brita bit her lip.
“― When I think of that vampire attack, I can’t help but shiver… used to be I couldn’t even sleep without medicine for it…”
“Vampire? What’s that?”
Agu asked without thinking, and Brita smiled bitterly.
“It’s a secret. Well, it’s more like I don’t even want to think about it. You’ll piss yourself.”
“But I was the one who was aski―”
“You’re not in a position to ask questions, brat.”
“Then we’ll go ahead with his plan for the time being and report it to the Guild, and make a request if all goes well, is that it? Although request fees won’t be cheap, we’ll need to break the bank for this one. Tell Jugem-san and the chief about it later. Can you do that, Enri?”
“l’ll take care of the self-defence force. Honestly speaking, I was thinking this was the way to go too.”
Nfirea nodded as Brita spoke.
“Then, I guess I’ll be leaving the village for a bit su~ You really won’t ask Ainz-sama for help?”
“Yes. We’d like to do as much as possible by ourselves. If possible, we’d like you to tell Gown-sama that much.”
“Got it su~”
As Agu looked at Enri and Nfirea, who were moving off, a hard-to-describe feeling welled up within him.
“Just what’s so great about that woman?”
There was danger in the adult goblin’s voice, and it made Agu’s body tremble.
Agu felt that the adult goblins were stronger than anyone else in his village. It was only natural for him to break out in goosebumps when threatened by them.
Yet, this still could not overcome his childish curiosity.
“Are women really that great in this Carne tribe?”
From Agu’s point of view, Enri didn’t seem particularly strong. Although she had some muscle on her arms and legs, it wasn’t enough at all. While she didn’t need to be as big as an ogre, but if she were a superior, she needed way more than that.
If she were a magic caster he could understand it. The female leaders of the goblin tribes often used that mysterious power. However, that woman didn’t look like a magic caster.
Frankly speaking, Agu didn’t understand why Enri was placed above the goblins.
“It’s not like that.”
“Is that hunter woman that came later very strong?”
“Well, now. Brita’s not bad in her own way. But we’re better.”
Agu’s opinion of the grown goblin in front of him went up another notch. Although he was still short, Agu had the feeling that there was good reason for his confidence.
“And then, that woman who appeared from behind you, she’s not strong, is she? Scared me to death.”
The adult goblin suddenly clammed up, and stared at Agu.
Unsure of what he was feeling inside, Agu nervously asked his question.
“W-what? What’s with that woman?”
“That woman who suddenly appeared… her name is Lupusregina, and she… she’s very dangerous. If you want to live in this village, do not ever go near her or speak to her. It’s for your own good.”
“Ah. Ahhhh. I get it.”
“And I have to say this up front. Although it should be blindingly obvious, if you do anything to the people in the village… let’s be honest here, you won’t just get away with a scolding, you’d better be prepared to die.”
“I, I got it. So that’s like with a defeated tribe, right? I promise that I will not harm anyone from Carne Tribe.”
“All right, that’s good… stay away from Lupusregina, okay?”
Agu understood the mix of caution and dread in the adult goblin’s heart, and he engraved the warning into his heart. With that done, he realised he hadn’t gotten an answer to his first question, and he asked again.
“Why is Enri-san so great?”
Agu had learned to behave. Or rather, it was easy for him to learn, since he was the smartest in the tribe and couldn’t talk much with other goblins.
“Ha. …Enri… honestly speaking, she’s very strong.”
“It’s because you’re too weak that you can’t tell. if Ane-san got serious, she could take care of a barghest or whatnot with just one hand, and squeeze the blood out into a cup to drink. You know?”
“Oh yes, yes, of course it’s true.”
Agu thought of Enri. Looking at it calmly, she’d been able to give forceful, effective orders. Maybe that was just the tip of the iceberg?
“Ane-san just pretends to be weak. If she hears anything funny about you, she’ll crush you to death with one hand. After that, cleanup will be a pain. There’ll be blood everywhere.”
“Is, is that so… then why, why does she have to pretend to be weak? If she were strong, wouldn’t there be fewer problems?”
“If you show off your strength, some fool will immediately come and challenge you. Won’t that cause its fair share of trouble as well?”
Agu had thought that strength was the solution to all problems, but that was not the case.
Locked in a labyrinth of self-reflection, he didn’t realise that the adult goblin in front of him had a playful expression on his face.
♦ ♦ ♦
In the middle of the night, Enri suddenly woke from sleep. Though there didn’t seem to be anything around, Enri remained still while she moved her eyes to check around her. The world before her was pitch black, lit only by a slim ray of moonlight from between the window shutters. She couldn’t see anything strange in this weak light.
But Enri’s ears could hear just fine.
There were no sounds of horses neighing, armored knights clanking, or people screaming. It was just a normal night.
Enri sighed softly, and closed her eyes. She’d been fast asleep, so she was still groggy and couldn’t get up right away.
A lot had happened today. After the talk with Agu, she had gone to explain things to the village chief and Jugem, who had returned from his scouting.
It’ll be all right, right?
In order to confirm the new information, Jugem had gone into the forest again and they had left at night. Moving at night in the forest was just too dangerous. Goblins were different from humans; they could see with small amounts of light, so they could move freely. However, there were many nocturnal magical beasts and monsters, and they would become active after the sun set.
It was much more dangerous than in the day.
If there hadn’t been the need to confirm that there were no more monsters chasing Agu, Jugem would never have set out.
It was true that the goblins were strong, but that was only in comparison to Enri. Like the Beast, many creatures in the forest were stronger than the goblins.
A sense of dread and loss fell over Enri, making her twitch, and because of that, her little sister moaned in her sleep, scooting closer to Enri’s body.
Enri half-opened her eyes, and peeked at her little sister.
Looks like it hadn’t woken her up. She could even hear her gentle snoring.
Just as Enri chuckled in her throat, the sound of soft knocking resounded on the door. This was definitely not a trick of the wind.
Enri frowned. What could there be so late at night? Then again, it was precisely because it was so late at night that meant it had to be important.
She gingerly separated herself from Nemu and the blanket and slowly got off the bed, moving carefully so as not to wake her little sister.
The boards creaked as she got out of bed, making Enri’s heart beat faster as she worried about waking Nemu.
After that incident, Nemu had to sleep with Enri at night, so severe was the trauma she suffered.
Enri had no intention of scolding her for it. If pressed for the reason why, it would be because Enri felt safer when she slept with her sister.
But she knew, even when the two of them were together, Nemu would sometimes be awoken by her nightmares. Because of that, Enri insisted on being with Nemu even when she was sound asleep.
Quietly, and therefore slowly, she inched toward the threshold, but the knocking didn’t stop.
Enri nervously peeked out the window, and Jugem’s silhouette was illuminated by the moonlight. She sighed in relief.
In order not to wake Nemu, Enri quietly spoke outside the window.
“Jugem-san, you’re safe.”
“Yeah, Ane-san. In the end, it was all right. I’m sorry I woke you up, but some things I think you should know early.”
Enri opened the door slightly, and squeezed her body out through the gap. She was worried that the moonlight coming in would wake Nemu. Understanding from her movements, Jugem lowered his voice and spoke.
“There’s something we need Ane-san for.”
“Now?” Enri smiled.”Of course.”
“I’m really sorry about this.”
Enri followed in Jugem’s footsteps while telling him not to apologize. It might have been better for Nemu to be awake for this, and she’d considered it, but Jugem had come for her knowing that everyone else was asleep. There had to be a reason for it.
“I’ll explain as we move along.”
Maybe he was more tired than usual, but this was work ― after Jugem made up his mind, his words took on an edge.
Although Enri felt that it was okay to be more casual with a simple village girl like herself, Jugem had never let himself relax up till now, so Enri gave up on that idea.
“Firstly, we found some members of Agu’s tribe.”
“…but they’re emotionally fragile, and I think they’ll need to rest for a few days. We’ll need to borrow Ani-san for this.”
Sensing Enri’s surprised expression, Jugem followed up with an explanation.
“When we found the survivors of Agu’s tribe, they were being held by the Giant of the East’s ogres, and used as food. Although Cona healed the wounds of their bodies, their minds are still scarred. Ani-san has some medicine to calm them down, and we want him to help treat them. After that, there’s a somewhat more troublesome matter.”
Jugem watched Enri’s expression before continuing.
“When we rescued them, we captured five ogres. Although we only did it to question them… it seems ogres normally coexist with goblins, and while the ogres fight, the goblins provide food, shelter, and so on, in a mutually beneficial relationship. Because of that, they said they’re willing to fight for our tribe. According to Agu, this isn’t uncommon… so, what should we do?”
“Can we trust them?”
“Agu says we can. The ogres won’t fight for anyone apart from the goblins of their tribe, they betrayed the Giant of the East because he wasn’t of their tribe. It’s something like that.”
“Mm. But, ogres sound kind of scary…”
“Once they accept the people in the village as part of their tribe, all you need to do is feed them and it’ll be fine. You can give them just about any kind of food too. The ogres’ tendency to eat anything is quite helpful here.”
Honestly speaking, this decision was very difficult for a simple village girl to make.
“How about killing them?”
This was delivered in a casual tone.
“Frankly speaking, I have no problems with killing them outright. It would save us a big stack of problems. In the first place, people like them who betray others might turn on us if things start to go bad. Agu says they won’t, but blindly believing everything a kid says is a little…”
“And what do you think, Jugem-san?”
“If they could fight for us, it would be great. We don’t know how many pursuers might come from the forest, so a few extra meat shields would help a lot.”
“Then, one more question, will they eat people?”
“…Ane-san. Although ogres have a reputation for eating humans, they’re just monsters who eat meat. The only thing is that it’s easier to catch humans to eat than wild animals.”
For ogres, it was better to catch humans than say, rabbits. It was only natural when you considered humans were easier to capture and gave more meat too.
“Well, if you give them something to eat, they won’t attack the villagers. In the first place, they only attack people to fill their stomachs. You have my word that we’ll hunt enough animals to fill their bellies. Of course, they’ll still need to be supervised and we’ll have to see how things go. I promise we won’t let anyone in the village be hurt.”
“…In that case, it would be good if we could trust them enough to make them subordinates. Not just for now, but for the future as well.”
“I’m glad you understand. Only thing is, there’s a small difference with what I said earlier. If they fail next time, we’ll wipe them out. Truthfully speaking, I’ve been thinking of how to impress on those ogres that Ane-san is the strongest.”
Enri let out a noise that sounded like she’d been flipped turned upside down. This was too much of a leap for her. Why did a simple village girl like herself have to become the leader of a band of ogres? Wouldn’t it be enough if Jugem was their boss?
“This is planning for the future. It’ll be troublesome if the ogres think of Ane-san as just another human being. Although we listen to you, the ogres won’t listen to anyone except us, and that’s potentially very dangerous. If anything happens to us at the frontline, I hope that there’ll be someone in the rear who can command the ogres.”
Enri racked her village girl head as she pondered the problem.
“Which means you need two people who can command them?”
“In that case, Enfi could—”
“Ani-san might end up being on the frontline too.”
Enri understood, and nodded. Someone in a safe place like herself ought to be useful too. That was what Enri wanted as well. However―
“But… can I control the ogres?”
“That’s what we’re about to do, Ane-san. How good are you at acting?”
♦ ♦ ♦
Jugem brought them to the village gate and then to a side door. Beyond it were five ogres kneeling on the ground. They were also the source of the stench that had been hanging in the air.
Surrounding them were the goblin troops, all of whom were present and unhurt.
On one side of the door was an observation platform, which would normally have been manned by villagers or goblins, but not now. The goblins had temporarily left it.
Nfirea was there too, along with the somewhat distant Agu.
“Yo, Enri. Nice night?”
“Yeah, Enfi. The moon’s really pretty.”
“Indeed. It’s so clear.”
“Well, excuse the interruption. We’re a little early, but let’s begin.”
Jugem yelled out as he heard Enri’s words.
“Oi! You lot! Our Ane-san is here! She holds your lives in her hands!”
When the five ogres heard this, they raised their heads to look at Enri. It felt like there was a palpable pressure crushing her, but Enri forced herself not to take a step backward. If she gave in, the plan would fail, and the goblins would nip potential problems in the bud by killing the ogres on the spot.
Enri could already see the goblins’ hands going to their weapons. Enfi was calmly taking out a potion bottle himself.
An eternity seemed to pass under the withering pressure.
Enri endured the stares of the ogres and returned it with one of her own. Her gaze was steady and unyielding.
In her eyes, the ogres overlapped with the image of the knights from back then.
Enri clenched her fists, recalling the violent urges she had back then, of wanting to rip off the knight’s helmet so she could beat him to death with it.
Don’t look down on me. Everyone else guards the village, so I have to protect this place too!
After a second ― a second which seemed to stretch out forever to Enri ― the ogres wavered.
They peeked at each other, and then at Jugem.
“Told you, didn’t I. Our boss is the strongest.”
“Faces down, all of you!”
Enri shouted out just as Jugem finished.
The forcefulness of Enri’s voice surprised even herself, and Agu at the edge of her vision twitched violently, but that was fine. What was important was that the ogres had lowered their heads to her.
For the time being, the ogres had acknowledged Enri’s superiority.
“Well then, what do you have to say to our boss, the chief of Carne Village, our Ane-san?”
With their heads still lowered, what emerged from the ogres was a torrent of confused voices.
“So, so scary, little boss. Forgive.”
“Sorry, we attacked your tribe. Please forgive.”
By “your tribe”, the ogres probably meant Agu’s tribe. Though the reality was somewhat different, it was easier for them to understand the situation as Agu’s people being part of Carne Tribe, in order to avoid overloading the ogres’ brains.
“We will, work for you.”
“That’s right! Work for me and my tribe!”
That last statement was made with the dregs of her spirit she could muster. Although she’d only said two or three sentences, Enri was already very tired. It was as bad as the encounter with the barghest.
Just as Enri was about to drop out of Boss Mode from fatigue, Jugem helped her out.
“Wonderful! Looks like Ane-san saved your lives!”
The strength had visibly ebbed from the ogres’ bodies. Given that they could be killed at any moment, that was a natural reaction.
One ogre looked at Enri and spoke.
“Boss, Chief, we, what do?”
That, she hadn’t thought about. Still, what she didn’t know, she could entrust to someone else.
“Jugem, I’ll let you take care of them. Use them as you see fit.”
“Got it, Ane-san.”
The goblin leader bowed to Enri, then turned back to the ogres.
“Well then. First of all, we’re going to pitch tents outside the village. You lot will be shacking up there. And you too, help them with the tents.”
The ogres left, accompanied by the goblins.
“Pitching tents outside the village will be a problem; we’ll need to find them a place to live in the village. Even so, we need to wait till they learn not to attack the villagers first.”
“I’ll need to go around to talk with a lot of people to make them accept it.”
“Yup. Although, I think as long as you’re the one doing it, it’ll be fine. And, about tomorrow…”
According to the plan, Enri and Nfirea would be setting out to E-Rantel, with several goblins as guards.
“I’m sorry. I still need to help treat the survivors from Agu’s tribe, so I can’t go.”
After all, they would be living in the same village as the same ogres who wanted to eat them. The mental trauma had to be treated along with their physical wounds, and Lizzie’s personality would only frighten them and have the opposite effect. In the end, there was nobody better for this than Nfirea.
“Really? I don’t feel so good about this…”
Enri didn’t have any experience with visiting a big city like E-Rantel, so from her point of view the burden seemed quite weighty.
“Then, how about getting the village chief to go with you?”
“I think that could be difficult…”
The chief would be busy whipping the village into shape, and helping out the newcomers to the village, so he wouldn’t be able to travel abroad.
“…How about the chief’s wife?”
“Mm. Well, frankly speaking, there’s not enough hands in the village. It used to be that way and now it’s even more so.”
Carne Village was a village with a very small population. As a result, when their numbers decreased, their ability to do anything decreased with it. This was why the villagers had suppressed their opposition to inviting more residents to stay with them.
“When I go to E-Rantel, I need to go to the shrine and confirm if there’s anyone who wants to move to the village… Really, this is too much for a village girl to be doing…”
“All the best, Chief.”
Enri pouted as she heard Jugem’s words. Part of her was thinking, “The nerve of you”. After all, they were one of the reasons why Enri was so busy.
“I really wanted to come along…”
Nfirea mumbled in a depressed tone, and then covered it up in a flustered flurry of desperate handwaving.
“I-it’ll be fine, I’ll take care of Nemu-chan. So you can go without worries.”
“…All right, I get it, am I the only one in the world who has to go through this? One moment people worship me and make me out to be someone great, the next I have to go somewhere I’ve never been to before and do things I’ve never done before…”
“Don’t be so pessimistic, Enri. There’s got to be someone out there who can relate to you.”
Enri smiled weakly to Nfirea and Jugem as her shoulders drooped, a sign she was losing the battle with fatigue. In the distance, Agu watched from the distance, muttering to himself.
“So it was true, she took control of the goblins by force… the Chief of Carne Village, Enri-nee…”
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