Editors/Proofreaders: Ferro, TaintedDream, Namorax, Skythewood, NoirX, SifaV6,
The fortress city E-Rantel was dominated by three concentric rings of fortified walls. The doors on these walls were some of the sturdiest and strongest parts of the walls themselves, and they seemed to radiate a sense of solidness.
It was a common sight to see travellers on the street staring open-mouthed at the city that was said to be able to repulse any invasion the Empire made. And the people on the streets had surely made similar expressions in the past.
Besides these gates were customs inspection posts, manned by several soldiers who were relaxing just out of the direct sunlight.
Although some people might question whether it was all right for the soldiers of a city near the frontline to be so relaxed, the truth was that the troops at the inspection posts were there to vet travellers. Their job was to uncover contraband and spies from other countries, so they had nothing to do when nobody was entering the city.
As a result, the currently idle soldiers ― though they maintained discipline instead of passing their time by playing cards ― couldn’t resist the urge to yawn.
They might look slack now, but when they were busy, they were extremely so. It was especially hard to describe the mornings in words, when the city had just opened its gates.
With the sun at its highest point in the sky, the travellers began appearing on the streets in small groups, scattered sparsely among the other pedestrians. It was only natural that people would travel in numbers, given that this was a world inhabited by monsters.
When they show up, they show up in force; we’re going to be busy soon, thought the guard who was idly contemplating the streets from his counter. His eyes rested on a wagon about to enter the street, waiting for some pedestrians to pass.
A woman was driving it. He couldn’t see anyone else on the uncovered wagon bed. She was travelling alone.
He couldn’t see any weapons on her either. His first guess was that she was some village girl.
As the soldier thought this, he tilted his head as he second-guessed himself.
It wasn’t anything rare to have people from the nearby villages coming here. However, a woman travelling by herself was a different matter entirely. The area surrounding E-Rantel wasn’t completely free of bandits and monsters. Thanks to the efforts of the legendary adventurer team “Darkness”, most of the dangerous monsters and bandits had been wiped out. But “most” didn’t mean “all”, and there were still mundane beasts like wolves and the like to look out for.
This wasn’t unique to E-Rantel; it applied to all of the other cities as well. And come to think of it, could women travel by themselves?
While the thought that she might have just outrun the bandits came to mind, he didn’t sense any tension or nervousness from her at all. It was as though she knew the journey was a safe one.
What kind of woman was she?
The soldier shifted his now-suspicious gaze to her horse, and that was when he did a double-take.
The horse was exceptional, not something a mere village girl would have. Its condition and coat reminded him of a warhorse.
Warhorses were extremely valuable. Even if you could actually raise the money to buy one, a normal person wouldn’t be able to get one easily. Leaving aside monstrous riding animals like wyverns and griffins, warhorses were some of the mightiest creatures which could serve as mounts.
A normal person would need money and connections to obtain such a warhorse, and a simple village girl wouldn’t have those connections.
It was also possible that she had stolen the horse from its original owner, but anyone who stole such a valuable item would be hotly pursued and targeted for retribution. This was why bandits wouldn’t steal horses or attack mounted soldiers.
In short, after considering all the visible evidence, the chances that she really was a simple village girl were very low. So what was this creature posing as a village girl?
The important thing was that she was travelling alone. That meant she was very confident in her abilities, and those abilities were not limited by the fact that she chose to dress as a village girl. With that in mind, it was likely that she was a magic caster, since their equipment and power rarely matched their appearance.
That was an answer he could accept. If pressed for the reason, it was because magic casters, or adventurers in general, were wealthy and connected, so obtaining a warhorse would be easy.
“Is that a magic caster?”
His partner beside him went through the same thought process.
The soldier furrowed his brow and answered.
Magic casters were very irritating people to check and clear.
To begin with, their primary weapon, magic, was a thing that didn’t exist in a form that was visible to the naked eye. Which meant it was impossible to see what they were armed with.
Secondly, they might use dangerous items as part of their magic and finding those was hard.
Thirdly, magic casters usually had a lot of baggage, so checking them all was troublesome.
Honestly speaking, he hated dealing with them. Because of that, they’d hired a man from the Magician’s Association — after paying a suitable fee, of course — to help them out. However…
“Do we have to bring that guy out? I don’t want to.”
“It can’t be helped. If anything happens, it’s our asses.”
“It would be nice if she’d just dressed like a magic caster to begin with.”
“Carrying a weird staff, wearing a weird robe?”
“Yup. At least you’d know she was a magic caster. Then we’d forcibly enlist her into the Magician’s Association and make her carry the obligatory Adventurer’s Guild identification seal.”
The two soldiers got up as one, laughing to each other. This was to welcome the girl who might be a magic caster.
Under the watchful eyes of the soldiers, the wagon rolled up to the door and stopped.
The girl disembarked. Her forehead was slick with sweat, but she seemed used to travelling under the sun. Her sleeves were long, probably to ward off sunburn. Her clothes didn’t seem expensive or well-tailored. No matter how you looked at her, she was a simple village girl.
But you couldn’t judge a book by its cover. She could be hiding something. Their job was to find out what that was.
The soldiers warily approached the girl.
They spoke to her with kind and gentle tones. Something along the lines of, “We don’t want to spook you, so please calm down and relax.”
“Yes. No problem.”
The soldiers escorted the girl to the checkpoint.
In order to protect against the use of ‘Charm’ spells, two more soldiers followed at a distance of several meters. The others watched her carefully, wary of any suspicious movements.
The girl tilted her head several times, as though sensing the tension in the air.
“Eh? Ah, no, nothing’s wrong.”
Someone who could notice the minute changes in the air couldn’t possibly be normal. The guards brought her into the checkpoint with that in mind.
“Then, could you sit down there?”
The girl sat in one of the chairs provided in the small blockhouse.
“Let’s start with your name and origin.”
“Yes. My name is Enri Emmot. I come from Carne Village, near the Great Forest of Tob.”
The soldiers exchanged looks, and one of them stepped out of the blockhouse. He was going to check the register for any matching records.
In order to manage its residents, the Kingdom kept records of them in the form of registers. That being said, the registers were crude affairs, and the relevant details of birth and death were update very slowly, if at all. At a very conservative estimate, there were tens of thousands of mistakes in them. As a result, relying too heavily on the registers would be a bad idea, but even so, they had their uses.
This register was muddled, but it had a lot of entries, so searching it would take a long time. The soldiers understood this, and decided to try and take care of something else in the meantime.
“Then, in place of the toll, could I see your permit?”
Normally speaking, everyone who used the Kingdom’s roads had to pay a toll ― something like a passage tax. However, charging residents this money would cause trade to grind to a halt, and as a result every village was issued travel permits with which they could enter the city free of charge. Of course, as there were different nobles in each region, there were different rules for each region too.
“Hmmm, let me see… here it is.”
The soldier stopped Enri from opening her bag to search it.
“Ah, we’ll do that. Could you give us your bag?”
Enri handed it over without protest. The soldiers carefully searched the insides, and found a parchment.
They unrolled it on the table so everyone could see. Although the literacy rate amongst Kingdom citizens was very low, it was a given that every soldier stationed at a checkpoint could read and write. Or rather, they were here precisely because they were literate.
“I see. Well, it looks all right. This is definitely the permit issued to Carne Village. I have confirmed this.”
The soldier rolled the parchment back up and returned it to the bag.
“Next, state the reason why you’re coming to E-Rantel.”
“Yes. Firstly, I’m here to sell the medicinal herbs that we’ve picked.”
The soldiers looked outside at the wagon, whose urns were currently being searched.
“And what are the herbs you’re selling?”
“Four urns of Nyukuri, four urns of Ajina and six urns of Enkaishi.”
“Six urns of Enkaishi, you say?”
Enri was proud of this, and it showed on her face. The soldier understood why.
After all, when manning a checkpoint, one eventually picked up a working knowledge of medicinal herbs.
Enkaishi only flowered for a very short time and could only be gathered during that time, but it was a major ingredient in healing potions. The demand was very high, and thus the price was always good. If she had six urns like she said, that meant that she would have a lot of money when she sold them off.
“Then, where do you plan to sell them?”
“I was planning to sell them at the former residence of Madam Bareare.”
“Bareare? You mean the pharmacist Lizzie Bareare?”
Although she didn’t live there any more, she had been the most important person in E-Rantel’s pharmaceutical business until recently. If she was selling the herbs at Lizzie’s place, that meant Lizzie trusted her very much.
Then, there’s no need to pry deeper, the soldiers thought.
The truth was that although their job was to stop dangerous things from entering the city, investigating these things once they entered the city was no longer their problem.
The soldier nodded with a grunt, and watched Enri’s expression.
Up till now, their conversation hadn’t been suspicious, and he didn’t feel that she was lying.
Which meant that after the cargo inspection was complete, his job would be over.
At this moment, the soldier who had just returned nodded his head.
That was to say, a girl called Enri was recorded in the register.
However, that record simply said that there was a girl called Enri born in Carne Village. Without any guarantee that the person in front of them was the real Enri, there was also no proof of the kind of life Enri had led. Perhaps during her travels, she had acquired some powerful magic, or she had died in her journey and some criminal was using her name.
Because of that, one final check was needed.
“Understood. Then, call that man here.”
The soldier nodded, and left the blockhouse.
“After this, we will be examining your body. Is that alright?”
A surprised expression dawned on Enri’s face. The soldier hurried to qualify his words.
“And, there won’t be any other questions. I’m sorry, these are the rules. And we won’t do anything weird to you, so don’t worry.”
Seeing that Enri was okay with it, the soldier sighed with relief. He didn’t want to be the one who angered a possible magic caster.
The soldier who left returned once more, this time with a man trailing behind him.
This man was a magic caster.
His nose protruded like an eagle’s beak, while his thin face was sallow and pale. His body was wrapped in a black robe that looked very hot. His sweat flowed freely, and his hands which resembled claws clutched his curved staff tightly.
If the soldier had his say, he would have gotten rid of that robe if it was so hot, but the magic caster personally liked that style, and stubbornly refused to change his clothes. As such, when the magic caster entered the room, the temperature seemed to rise by a few degrees.
“So it’s this girl, then?”
The magic caster spoke calmly, which his soldier escort found strange, as usual.
Although he seemed to be a man in his twenties, his extremely hoarse voice made it impossible to determine how old he was by his voice alone. Was it that his appearance was abnormally young, or that his voice was abnormally hoarse?
Enri turned a surprised look at the magic caster who had replaced the soldier. In his heart, the soldier thought that her surprise was inevitable. He too, had been frightened the first time he saw the man.
“This is a magic caster from the Magician’s Association. He’s going to perform a simple check, so please wait.”
The soldier gestured to Enri to remain seated, and then nodded to the magic caster.
“I’ll leave this to you, then?”
The magic caster took a step toward Enri, and then he cast his spell.
After that, the magic caster squinted his eyes, like a beast sizing up its prey. Yet, Enri remained calm in the face of this strange sight.
Seeing that, all the soldiers could think was “No wonder”.
Someone who could remain calm under such a mighty gaze could not be a simple village girl. At least, if she hadn’t had experience confronting monsters or people who wanted to kill her, there was no way she could have borne that pressure. In the soldier’s mind, that just cemented his suspicions.
“Don’t try and deceive my eyes. You’re hiding a magic item. It’s on your waist.”
Enri heard it, and looked to her waist in surprise, for the first time since she came here.
The soldiers took up a stance. They understood weapons like swords, but magic items were a mystery to them.
“You mean this?”
Enri produced a small horn from her clothing, small enough that both her hands could hide it. The soldiers couldn’t overlook this.
“…Is that a magic item?”
“That’s right. You’ve been deceived by her appearance. That thing is imbued with powerful magic.”
The soldiers were speechless. If this was an item the magic caster considered powerful, then how mighty was it?
As the soldiers considered that this girl must have dressed plainly for a reason, they couldn’t help but feel a piercing chill through their chests.
“Ah, this is―”
“No need for excuses. My magic has already seen through it.”
In order to shut Enri up, he cast another spell.
“「Appraise Magic Item」 ― uoooooooh!”
The magic caster’s facial expressions changed several times in as many seconds. They went from shock, fear, terror, and then confusion.
“What, what, what is this? Like a sea of power with no shore… Impossible! What on earth is this?!”
The magic caster’s face was red, and flecks of spittle flew from the sides of his mouth.
“You, you, what the devil are you! Don’t try to trick me!”
The magic caster’s dramatic attitude shift took the soldiers by surprise, and Enri was no exception as her eyes widened.
“No, I’m just, I’m just a normal person! A simple village girl! Really!”
“A village girl? You, why are you lying? Then how could you have obtained a magic item like this? If you really are a simple village girl, how could you have gotten something like that?!”
“Eh? This, this is a gift from the one who saved our village, Ainz Ooal Gown-sama―”
“Lies again! A priest from the Theocracy must have given it to you!”
“Eh? What’s that about the Theocracy?”
“Men! Assemble! This girl is just too suspicious!”
Although the soldiers didn’t understand what was going on, up till today, they had never seen the magic caster freak out like this before. So if this were an emergency, they should drop whatever they were doing and respond to the summons.
“Fall in! Fall in!”
In response to the soldier’s shouts, several of their comrades stopped their cargo inspection and entered the room.
“Who gave you an item like this? How did you get it? You can’t possibly be a simple village girl!”
“No, this really was given to me by Gown-sama! Please, you have to believe me!”
Two of the soldiers exchanged looks. All of them, as well as their assigned magic caster, believed that Enri was a magic caster as well. However, given Enri’s nervous reaction to the sudden change in the situation, they could not help but think she was a normal girl.
“What, what else is there? Tell me why you think she’s suspicious!”
“Hnh! To begin with, this horn can summon a group of goblins — although I’m not sure how many it can call up, but it can do such a thing.”
The soldiers frowned. It would be troublesome if something like that was used on the streets. However, was that so bad? Certain people, such as adventurers, possessed a plethora of magic items. Just because this one could summon goblins wasn’t too unusual in itself.
“And this so-called village girl’s testimony is riddled with inconsistencies. That item is worth several thousand gold coins; why would anyone just give it to a mere village girl?”
This unbelievable sum drew cries of disbelief from the soldiers, and Enri herself.
Several thousand gold coins was a sum no normal person could earn in their entire life. It was hard to believe such a simple-looking item could be worth so much.
“That’s right. Nobody would hand out such an item without a good reason, let alone to a mundane girl! I could accept it if she were a top-class adventurer or magic caster. But she says she’s just a village girl! It’s far too suspicious!”
That much the soldiers understood. Exceptional people would tend to gather exceptional items to themselves. In the past, both the great men of good and evil persuasions were known for their acquisition of powerful equipment. It was their destiny, and it was inevitable.
“No, really, I’m just a simple village girl…”
“And, I’ve never heard of any Ainz Ooal Gown fellow. At least, he’s not part of our Association, nor have I ever heard of an adventurer by that name.”
“The Warrior-Captain knows Gown-sama!”
“The Kingdom’s Warrior-Captain, Gazef Stronoff-dono? …You must be uttering nonsense. How would a simple village girl know of such things?”
“Because he came to our village! It’s true! Go ask him and you’ll know!”
It would be impossible to communicate with the Warrior-Captain, who resided in the Royal Capital, from E-Rantel. More to the point, if she really was a simple village girl, it was unlikely that she would stay in the Warrior-Captain’s memory, so proving her identity would be hard.
“So what do we do?”
“Detain her for now, then investigate further. Given that she didn’t conceal that item, and was planning to take it into the city openly, she might not be a spy or a terrorist, but that is no guarantee.”
Enri looked around in a panic.
She looked just like a normal village girl. If this was an act, she must have been a very good actor.
Suddenly, one of the soldiers watching the perimeter exclaimed in surprise. At the same moment, a voice that Enri couldn’t quite remember rang out.
“I wish to enter the city, but… what’s going on?”
As they turned towards the voice, they saw a man wearing jet-black plate armor.
The soldiers and magic casters exclaimed in surprise. Everyone in E-Rantel knew the man who wore that armor. The adamantite plate which swayed over his chest was the conclusive proof of his identity. A living legend, a man who made the impossible possible, the ultimate warrior.
Momon from ‘Darkness’.
“I-It’s Momon-sama! My sincerest apologies!”
“Now, what’s going on here… hm? This girl is…”
“Yes! Because of this girl, we spent a bit of time checking up on her. I apologize for any inconvenience we’ve caused Momon-sa―”
“―Enri, is it? Enri Emmot?”
The air in the room seemed to freeze over. Why would a legendary adventurer know a village girl’s name?
“That, you are… ah, yes. That, that time, you were the adventurer who came with Enfi. Although I don’t think I spoke to you… did you learn my name from Nfirea?”
Momon put his hand on his chin, as though he were thinking. Afterward, he gestured to the magic caster and they exited the blockhouse. Although the soldiers wanted to follow, they couldn’t leave Enri alone.
Only the magic caster, now calmed down, returned to the room.
“Let her go. That great man, Momon the Black, has vouched for her with his status as an adamantite-ranked adventurer. I think there’s no point in keeping her here. What do you think?”
“That’s an obvious decision… but, is it really all right?”
“Is it really all right to doubt him, of all people?”
“O-Of course not! I get it. We’ll grant her passage. Enri Emmot of Carne Village, you are allowed to enter the city. You may go.”
“Ah, yes. Thank you very much.”
After bowing quickly to them, Enri left the blockhouse. As her back receded into the distance, the soldier turned to the magic caster.
“What about Momon-sama?”
“He left first.”
“Then… what connection would that hero have with that village girl?”
“Hell if I know. Momon-dono told me what I told you, he vouched for her and asked that we let her go.”
“Then, another question. That Enri Emmot girl. Do you really think she’s just a village girl?”
“Certainly not. There’s no way she could be a simple village girl, otherwise why would a great hero like him help her? And it wasn’t a coincidence she was carrying that item… Could it have something to do with the Theocracy?”
“That Ainz Somethingorother fellow. If he’s from the Theocracy, shouldn’t we let the brass know?”
“Frankly speaking, I don’t know. After all, Momon-dono already vouched for her. If we let the people on top know… well, you would be just doing your job, but do you really want to upset Momon-dono?”
The soldier’s face twisted.
The exploits of Momon the Dark Hero in the graveyards of E-Rantel were a common conversation topic when the soldiers gathered.
There was nobody whose blood wouldn’t be boiling after hearing the legend of how a hero destroyed a horde of tens of thousands of undead. Even those who simply watched from afar could feel the overwhelming pressure of his heroic swordplay. The man who could make a mighty magical beast kneel before him and offer to serve as his mount set the soldiers’ hearts ablaze.
Just as women would have a crush on strong men, many men were admirers of Momon the Dark Hero, and it could be said that most of the armed forces of E-Rantel were his fans.
This soldier was one of them.
As a fan of Momon, just being patted on the shoulder by his idol was enough for him to boast about it to everyone he met. As such, he had no intention of upsetting the man he worshiped.
“There is that. Well, since Momon-sama vouched for her, I guess it’ll be fine.”
“I think so too. If we treat a friend of Momon-dono poorly, I don’t think it’ll turn out well. I guess all we can do is avoid rocking the boat. Now then… I guess I’ll go back to standing by.”
“Ayup. I’m heading back to my post too.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Enri drove the wagon with her back to the gate of E-Rantel’s city gate, wondering what on earth had just happened. That man in the jet-black armor ― the adventurer who had come with Nfirea to Carne Village to pick herbs ― he had helped her out of a tight spot.
By right, she should have immediately gone to thank him, but unfortunately she’d lost sight of him once she entered the city.
If I thank him the next time we meet… will he forgive me? Although she was thinking that she should immediately start searching for him once she had the time, there were reasons why she couldn’t. Those reasons were what she was currently worried about. She clutched a portion of her clothes, feeling for the horn inside it to banish her uneasiness.
The goblin-something horn.
This… this is worth several thousand gold coins? No way. Please tell me that’s not true…
Enri’s sweat flowed like a river. The horns had been given to her so casually that she hadn’t expected it to be that valuable. No, Nfirea had said it was a high-end magic item… but the amount was beyond her imagination.
Is it alright for me to use this item? Will it be okay? If she was told to return the other one she had already used, what should she do?
I’ll need several thousand urns of herbs… I might not be able to afford it in a lifetime of picking herbs… In addition, she had another item worth thousands of gold coins.
Is Gown-sama a man who can give out such items so easily?! Or maybe, he didn’t know its value… no way, there’s no way someone like him wouldn’t know… but, if he didn’t know…
Enri’s stomach grumbled and ached.
She looked around her surroundings in suspicion. There weren’t many people around, but it was still several times more than Carne Village. Was there anyone who would want to steal the horn? Other such distasteful ideas surfaced in Enri’s heart.
If only I hadn’t brought it out. There’s a lot of crime here, right? What if the horn got stolen… if the horn was blown and goblins showed up to make trouble, wouldn’t that make me the criminal?
Just as the cold sweat was pooling around Enri, a person descended on the seat next to her in the driver’s cab. The way she landed like a feather in defiance of gravity must have been magic.
As the surprise of seeing the newcomer faded, an even bigger surprise was awaiting her.
She was a raven-haired beauty whose face could launch a thousand ships. She was the one who had come with the black-armored adventurer to her village. Her ice-cold eyes resembled nothing so much as onyxes as they turned to Enri.
“Inferior creature (gadfly). Momon-san wanted me to ask you a few questions―”
“Flattery will get―”
“As pretty as Lupusregina…”
As she saw the consternation in the eyes looking at her, Enri immediately regretted the stupid things she’d said. She probably didn’t even know about Lupusregina. However, there was nobody else who could even come close to the vision in front of her.
What should I do, I’ve upset her… well, that much is clear, but…
“About that, Lupusregina is a very pretty person in my village―”
Her eyes were hard, and so was her voice, and even her eyebrows were straining. But the thanks she had given was genuine.
“…Haaaah. Momon-sa―san has some things to ask you, which is why I came. Don’t waste time. Why are you here?”
Enri had no obligation to answer. However, this was the partner of someone who had helped her. If he wanted to know, then she should answer.
“That, before that, can I ask a favor of you? Momon-san helped me earlier, and I’m very, very grateful. Please tell him that.”
“I will do so. So why are you here?”
“Ah, yes, I, I’m here, because there’s a lot of things that need to be done, for instance, selling the herbs.”
The woman gestured with her chin, indicating that Enri should continue speaking.
“Then, I’ll go to the temple, to see if there’s anyone who wants to move to our village to live. And then I need to go to the Adventurer’s Guild to talk about some things. And I need to buy some things we can’t get in the village, like weapons. Something like that…”
“I see. I understand what you’ve said. I will relay it to Momon-san.”
With ethereally graceful movements which seemed independent of gravity, the woman alighted from the wagon, and left without looking back.
Enri’s impression of her was that of a frozen hurricane which tore people apart.
“She’s an amazing woman… it feels like she’s ten times more powerful than Brita-san…”
There were no girls in the village like her. Nabe had probably become an adventurer because her personality was like that. That made her feel even more troubled about her visit to the Adventurer’s Guild.
“Ahhhh, oh no!”
Nabe was a powerful adventurer, but Enri had only noticed after she had vanished. In addition, she was the partner of the man who had subdued the Wise King of the Forest. She might have been able to tell Enri about what was going on in the forest.
“The Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West, and whatever that Monument of Destruction is… if only I had asked her about all of those. Ah~ I’m such a dummy, why didn’t I think of that earlier?”
Enri drove her wagon through a gate while scolding herself for her carelessness.
♦ ♦ ♦
E-Rantel could be roughly divided into three zones, separated by the walls of the city. The middle zone was where people lived.
It was also where the Adventurer’s Guild could be found.
Ideally, it would have been safest to sell the herbs at the Pharmacist’s Guild. However, that would have involved a lot of troublesome paperwork, so she had chosen to go to the Adventurer’s Guild instead to use them as a go-between. She had considered drawing on Lizzie’s help for this, but Enri had decided that using her best friend’s grandmother’s name would be too shameless, and reconsidered.
The plan of going to the Adventurer’s Guild was Nfirea’s idea.
If Nfirea had come in person, they wouldn’t need to use the Guild and he could sell everything directly. A simple village girl like Enri doing this by herself would be left to the tender mercies of the shrewd members of the Pharmacist’s Guild.
Enri headed down the road Nfirea and Brita had told her about.
Although she had been travelling with the goblins before that, they were all waiting outside the city for Enri to finish her business. Ever since she had set out from the village, she realized that she was alone, and her hands gripped the reins even more rightly.
The tension stiffened Enri’s shoulders. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, she looked around in all directions and her destination was in front of her.
“I found it!”
Enri squealed a little squeal of joy. Now that she was here, she probably wouldn’t get lost.
She handed the reins of her wagon to the sentry standing at the door of the Adventurer’s Guild, and pushed open the door.
Inside, warriors in full plate armor, hunters with bows on the backs, and magic casters both arcane and divine were walking around. Some were enthusiastically swapping information about the monsters nearby, others were looking closely at the parchments on the nearby noticeboard, and a few were getting a feel for their newly-purchased gear.
The place was filled with a heat and activity that made Enri unsteady on her feet, a world of unrelenting scrutiny and tension. This was the world of adventurers.
Enri’s mouth dropped open as she beheld a sight she would never see in her village, then hurriedly shut it back up.
It was true that she hailed from the boondocks, and it was no surprise that she’d be startled by the mood of the big city, but for a girl her age, staring dumbly with her mouth agape was just shameful.
Enri set out, her back ramrod straight, consciously checking her movements so that she wouldn’t move the arms and legs on the same side or do anything which would make her a laughingstock. However, Enri started to have her doubts about whether it was all right for an obviously out-of-place village girl to be strolling so boldly amongst the muscular adventurers.
At the counter, she was welcomed by the receptionist’s smile.
“Y-yes, I’m here to visit.”
Enri locked eyes with the receptionist. Following which, the two of them smiled faintly. Enri felt her shoulders relax, for what might have been the first time since she came to E-Rantel.
“Then, may I ask what business you have with the Adventurer’s Guild?”
“Mm. First, I’d like to ask for some help with the sale of herbs.”
“Understood. Where are the herbs now?”
Enri told her they were on the wagon outside, and the receptionist turned to speak to a woman beside her.
“The appraiser is going to check it now, please wait within the Guild until he’s done.”
“Understood. Then, another thing… although we won’t be putting out a request right away, we might do so in the future.”
Enri crudely explained the situation to the receptionist. The other woman’s smiling face became more and more serious as she heard Enri’s story.
“Is that so… I’m just a receptionist, and I don’t decide the difficulty of requests, but if it involves the Wise King of the Forest, it might be a task that only the adamantite-ranked Momon-san can handle. Of course, his services will not be cheap.”
Enri sensed a shift in the receptionist’s mood. She seemed entirely unmotivated, as though she had decided “it’s no use even if I tell you, what a pain”.
While living with the goblins, Enri had gradually learned to read the emotions of others. This was because goblins were ugly and looked much different from humans, and she had worked hard to recognize and deduce their feelings. It was a way Enri had grown.
She must be thinking the village doesn’t have so much money, huh… well, given my clothes, it’s a reasonable conclusion to make… and she is pretty well-dressed, after all. Enri briefly compared her clothes to those of the receptionist, and concluded that fashion-wise, she was completely outclassed.
But clothes like these are far too cumbersome to work in, and they’re too expensive besides. Thus, according to Enri the woman, this battle was a draw.
“Then, I heard the city would provide a subsidy…”
“That’s correct. However, the subsidy is only a portion of the fee, and you’ll have to pay the rest yourself. Adamantite-ranked adventurers are very expensive, and even after the subsidy they’ll still cost a lot of money to hire. Of course, you could offer less money for a request, but the Adventurer’s Guild would never allow it. If you offer less money than the minimum required, your request will be placed under low priority, so you may have to consider that there may be no takers.”
She must have memorized the regulations given the way she’d rattled that off with eyes glazed. The receptionist looked at Enri like a customer who wasn’t buying.
That was only natural. A customer who didn’t spend money wasn’t a customer at all. Everything the receptionist had said was turning out like how Nfirea predicted, so she didn’t feel too upset. It was a reality that nobody would help the weak.
Ainz Ooal Gown-sama is truly the village’s savior for helping us. And he even gave a simple village girl like me a valuable treasure like that. She wondered how the receptionist would react if she used this horn as payment. It would be great to see the look on her face, but Enri knew she would never do such a thing. This item had been given to her by that great magic caster with the instruction to “use it to protect yourself”. She couldn’t sell it off, not even for the village’s sake. She couldn’t do such an ungrateful thing.
“Understood. Then, please tell me how much the fees will be. That way I can go back to the village to discuss things.”
“If it’s like that… then how about this? Please come back after the inspection for the herb sales are done, that way we should have finished calculating the amount.”
After thanking the receptionist, Enri left the counter and sat on a sofa in the lounge, staring at the ceiling to while away the time while the inspection dragged on.
Every moment since she’d entered the city gates had been a grand adventure. Or rather, when she thought about it, ever since the day her parents had died, the confusing things had just piled on.
All I wanted was to lead a simple, unchanging life in the village…
As she thought about the things she’d lost, Enri sighed.
She thought about what had happened after that — the goblins, her childhood friend, and shook her head.
Can’t they go any faster…
If she had something to do, she wouldn’t have the free time to think about such depressing things. She would rather focus on work than think about things that made her sad.
“Enri-san, the appraisal is complete.”
Enri rose and headed for the sound of the merchant’s voice.
“Thank, thank you very much!”
“The fee is—”
At this moment, Enri heard the sound of someone striding, no, practically sprinting over to her. As she turned, she saw the receptionist from earlier in front of her.
“Haaa— haaa— Enri-san of Carne Village. No, I mean, Enri-sama. About the matter from earlier, could I discuss the details to you?”
This was the same receptionist from just now, but her attitude was completely different. Even her eyes were bloodshot.
“Ah, I’m sorry, but I was just about to tell her about the results of the appraisal—”
“You shut up, I’m talking here.”
The receptionist’s reply made the merchant’s face twitch.
“If it’s alright with you, would you like to discuss this over a drink in the receiving room?”
She was smiling, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes. Instead, there was a desperate, struggling feeling in them.
Perhaps she had sensed something from the confused Enri. The receptionist’s eyes were moist, and her hands were clasped together as though in prayer.
“Please, I’m begging you, you have to let me hear you out! If not, I’ll be done for!”
After hearing that desperate, almost pathetic plea, Enri didn’t want to talk to her at all, but it seemed too cruel not to give her a chance. She glanced back to the merchant, who seemed to pick up on her intentions, because he nodded slightly to her.
“Got, got it. Then, could you show me the way?”
The receptionist’s body visibly relaxed as she heard the reply.
“Thank you very much! Really, thank you very much! Come, come, let me show you the way.”
Enri followed after her, bathed in the curious stares of everyone around. The receptionist was tightly gripping her right hand, as though she didn’t want Enri to escape.
Was I too rash?
She entered the waiting room with traces of unease in her heart.
Enri silently looked around the inside of the room. It was unoccupied except for herself and intricately decorated, filled with furniture that looked so expensive she wondered if it was even meant to be sat on.
“Come, come, please, have a seat.”
Part of her wondered if she would be arrested or bound or confined the moment she sat down.
However, nothing happened when she sat on the sofa. All she felt was the comfortable furniture taking her body weight.
“Would you like something to drink? How about some liquor? Too early? Yes, kind of… how about fruits… no, sweets and desserts, maybe?”
“Ah, there’s no need to go to that extent…”
The dramatic change in the receptionist’s attitude was starting to scare Enri. In the first place, she hadn’t felt that the receptionist was treating her coldly. She had reacted naturally, without such extreme emotions. At the very least, it seemed much more normal than she did now.
But why had this leopard changed its spots? Was it because of the horn again?
“No, no, what are you saying? Anything is possible for you. We can provide liquor, brandy, and the snacks to go with them too.”
“No, there’s really no need… and besides, I’m running out of time. Can we start discussing the matter?”
“Certainly! You’re absolutely right! Then please, by all means, do continue!”
The receptionist whipped out a pad of pure white paper. All the paper she had seen before had been much coarser and had other colors mixed in. This must be some high-class stuff here. Was it really all right to use it?
Enri began speaking. Although the preamble had been easy enough to talk about, this was the annoying part — the details.
Finally, just as Enri’s throat was starting to dry out, the conversation finally came to an end.
“Thank you for your help! There’s some drinks here, please help yourself before you leave! It’s fine to leave the cups here, but thank you for coming to us today!”
The receptionist suddenly stood up, and left the room as though she had been chased from it.
“Really… what happened?”
Of course, there was nobody here to answer her rhetorical question.
♦ ♦ ♦
In the end, Enri didn’t spend the night in E-Rantel and headed back home to Carne Village.
She would be sleeping on the plains, but she didn’t feel worried. On the contrary, she had a very good night’s sleep. That was because of the goblins, who were riding shotgun on her cargo-laden wagon.
“Ahh~ I see it at last.”
Ahead of them was the wall of Carne Village. Although the neatly-arranged logs looked impressive in their own right, Enri couldn’t help but think they looked shabby compared to E-Rantel’s fortifications.
“Indeed. I need to report to the chief quickly.”
Enri was saying this to one of the goblins in the bed of the wagon. Five goblins had gone to E-Rantel with Enri as her protection, including Cona the priest and a goblin wolfrider, who was currently keeping a distance to spot any potential threats.
“Well, most of the problems have been dealt with, but how about the chief’s request, Ane-san?”
“Yes, about that… according to the priests, almost nobody wants to move to the village.”
“That’s strange. I mean, there’s already other immigrants from other villages here. Why doesn’t the number of residents increase? Was the priest lying?”
“No, a priest would never lie,” Enri smiled faintly. “To be honest, frontier villages are pretty dangerous, so they’re keeping their distance. Although some people look forward to it, like those third sons who’ll immediately abandon the city if they get a chance for a plot of land… but not many people will come here without an order. And the people who moved here in the beginning had lived in frontier villages like us. There’s a difference.”
“Is that so…”
“That’s how it is. But actually, that kind of relieves me.”
It would probably be very difficult for normal people to form a good relationship with goblins and live with them in the same village. Any immigrants from the city would probably blanch at the sight and do their best to stay away.
And frankly speaking, if Enri were forced to choose between the city-dwellers and the goblins, she would choose the goblins without hesitation.
At this moment, the wagon shook, and the sound of something metallic hitting the wagon bed rang out from behind her.
“Ah, sorry. Are you alright?”
Enri turned her head to look behind.
Although the goblins were seated on the floor of the wagon, there were some sacks there, one of which made the metallic noise when the wagon shook.
“Ah, we’re fine, Ane-san. No need to worry. Speaking of which, with this many arrows, we’ll be able to hunt to our hearts’ content.”
The goblins looked so happy when they looked at the bag that Enri forgot to reply to them, simply smiling instead.
They crossed the wheat fields, and entered a half-opened gate.
After greeting everyone, Enri drove the wagon to their original meeting point, in order to unload the cargo.
As she stopped the wagon at the meeting point, the goblins within, having heard the wagon, streamed out to greet her.
“Oh! Welcome back, Ane-san. I’m glad nothing happened.”
Enri smiled. Their welcome was what made Enri feel that she had really returned to the village, because to her, the goblins were part of her family.
“That’s a lot of stuff. Are you bringing it inside?”
“That’s right, bro. Do me a favor and lend me a hand.”
The goblins moved as one, deftly unloading the cargo. Some went here, some went there, and eventually all the items were packed away without the need for Enri to direct them. This was the proof of how much the goblins had integrated themselves into village life.
“Ah, Ane-san, let us handle the rest. Why don’t you go meet your sister and Ani-san? Although I don’t know if Ani-san’s still helping with Agu’s people.”
“Thank you, but I still need to report to the chief first.”
“Really? Got it. Then, just to be safe, I’ll come with you. After all, there’s still the matter of the ogres.”
Gokoh spoke to some of his comrades after leaving the meeting place, and then he hopped up onto the wagon beside Enri, who was driving. The other goblins who had been guarding Enri on the road to E-Rantel looked at him with jealousy in their eyes, but none of them actually voiced any opposition. It was probably because they agreed he was doing the right thing.
“Then, Ane-san, let’s go!”
Enri smiled faintly and said, “I'm counting on you guys! And thank you very much!”
After thanking the goblins, she spurred her horse into motion.
“So, what happened in the village since I left?”
“Nothing special. The big thing was that we built a place where the ogres could stay inside the village. Of course, the stone golems did most of the work, and it was pretty crudely made out of wood, but in the end, it ended up being a pretty nice place. However, we can’t do anything about their smell. Even the towels we give them end up stinking.”
“So that’s how… but it’s still really fast!”
“Like I said, the golems did most of the work. If you want to thank someone, thank the magic caster who gave them to us.”
“And Lupusregina-san, right?”
“…Let’s not talk about her for now. I don’t want to do anything related to thanking her. Something about her just pisses me off.”
Enri found it hard to believe her ears. This was the first time Gokoh had ever spoken ill of someone.
“How should I put it… she’s very scary, like a monster watching us… I don’t think Ane-san’s sensed it yet…”
“But she’s the maid of the one who saved our village, Ainz Ooal Gown, so she can’t be that bad.”
“…Ah, what a pain~”
Enri and Gokoh’s shoulders twitched. Speak of the devil…
Enri looked back frantically, and just like the day before, the maid was sitting on the wagon bed like she belonged there.
“Really, En-chan, it’s such a pain.”
“What do you mean?”
“Maybe, maybe before that, you should tell us how you appear out of nowhere.”
“Mm? It’s simple. I fell out of the sky.”
“That’s not going to fly. There’s quite a few times you’ve come from above now, but we couldn’t sense you.”
“I can make myself invisible, yanno. I’m trying to be subtle about what I do. See how nice I am~”
Gokoh turned his face to the front once more. Irritation was written all over it.
“But, ah, yes. It’s kind of rare that we get to see Lupusregina-san two days in a row. Did something happen?”
Lupusregina turned an annoyed look on Enri. Even when she’s angry, she still looks beautiful, Enri thought.
“Well, kind of. Buuuut anyway, I was just wondering what was going on. Speaking of which, what happened to that miniature gobbo of yours?”
“…He’s fine. I think he should be in the Chief’s house.”
“Why the Chief’s house?”
“Ah, could you help the goblins from my tribe, or something like that. They’re staying there while we build a place for the goblins to stay in the village.”
“Ah— yeah, it kind of makes sense, Agu’s the son of his tribe’s chief. He must feel like he has a duty to protect them or something. Really, he’s just a kid but he’s acting like a man~”
Although Lupusregina was just smiling lightly, anyone who saw it would be captivated by the charm radiating from her. Even Enri found herself looking longingly at her despite the fact that they were both women.
“Aiya, shouldn’t you be watching your front instead?”
“That, that’s right!”
Enri, blushing to the tips of her ears, hastily looked to her front once more.
After stopping in front of the chief’s house, Enri and Gokoh got off the wagon.
“Then, I’ll bring the horse back to the stables. Don’t feel like disturbing you guys. Let me know what you guys talked about later~”
“I understand. Then, I’m sorry for imposing, but we’re counting on you.”
Enri bowed to Lupusregina, who smiled with a “hoho” and drove the wagon off.
Enri knocked on the door, announced herself loudly enough for everyone inside to hear, and opened the door.
The Chief and Agu were facing each other across a table.
“Oh, welcome back. Please, have a seat. How were things in the city?”
As the Chief spoke, Enri sat herself beside Agu. For a moment Agu’s body seemed to go stiff, but that must have been a trick of the light.
“Ah, then, that’s it for me. In that case, Chief, please take care of us.”
Enri had no idea who those words were meant for. Since the only others present were Enri, Gokoh and the Chief, it seemed obvious that they had been intended for the village chief.
However, Agu had been looking at her, with a stiff back and pursed lips. Enri looked into Agu’s eyes, and in his steadfast, unblinking gaze, she realised that he was not kidding or playing a trick.
Why did it have to be her?
Amidst Enri’s confusion, Agu excused himself and left the Chief’s home.
“Then, Enri, can you tell me about it?”
“Eh? No, that… this… ah, yes. I get it.”
It weighed heavily on her mind, but she could clear up her doubts later. The report was more important for now.
After deciding that, Enri clearly and concisely related the events that had occurred in the city. The most important part was that nobody wanted to move to Carne Village. However, the chief seemed to have anticipated this, because there was no regret on his face, only calm acceptance.
“So that’s how it is. Well, it can’t be helped. We’re a frontier village, so people won’t want to move where the monster appearance rates were high.”
The village chief said what Enri had been thinking. It might have well been what everyone in the village had already accepted.
“You’ve done a lot for us. Thank you.”
The chief lowered his head, and Enri said, “It’s all right,” in return. It had been confusing at times, but it had also been a good experience.
“Then―” the chief’s line of sight flickered to Gokoh for a second. “There is one thing I would like to entrust to Enri Emmot.”
“Ah, yes. What is it? You’re being so serious, Chief…”
“…I hope you will carry on in my position as village chief.”
Enri’s expression would have transcended acting in terms of how quickly and dramatically her face changed.
“Haaaaaaaa?! What, what is this? Hey! Don’t tell me Agu was saying those… ehhhh?!”
“You getting flustered won’t help…”
“Don’t interrupt me when I’m flustered! Chief, are you retarded? Why are you saying this?!”
“…Maybe retarded is a bit much. I understand you’re excited and nervous about this — I know that much, but I’m hoping you can calm down and listen to me.”
“Calm down, how can I calm down? I’m just a girl, why do I have to deal with this village chief crap?!”
“Get a hold of yourself!”
The voice was full of power, but to Enri it was just a little loud. Even so, it helped her regain a bit of her composure. No, if she didn’t listen to the chief, she’d never make sense of things, or at least that was what part of her was thinking.
“I understand that you’re very confused. However, I hope you can sit down and consider things with a clear head. For starters, who is the heart of the village?”
“Isn’t that you, Chief?”
“That would be incorrect. This old man feels that you are the heart of the village. The goblins and the newly-arrived ogres all acknowledge you as their leader, right?”
“That’s correct. We’re all loyal to Ane-san from the bottom of our hearts.”
“Then, there’s the goblins you helped. From what Agu’s told me, they also see you as the boss.”
Enri’s mouth turned into the shape of a ‘Λ’. It might be true that the goblins were that way, but what would the villagers think? They would never accept this.
“I can guess at what you’re thinking. The villagers will object, is that it? I’ve already spoken with everyone and gotten their approval. Last night, we had a meeting of the villagers and got their opinions. And it was unanimous — they all wanted you to be the new chief.”
“But, but how?!”
“…That attack was a huge shock for all of us, Enri. Everybody is hoping for a strong ruler.”
“How am I strong? I’m just a simple village girl!”
Although there was some muscle on her arms, she was still a village girl who could barely use a weapon. If they wanted strength, they should have asked the self-defense force, shouldn’t they?
“Strength is not measured by one’s muscle alone. Don’t you think being able to order the goblins around is a form of strength too? The Bareare boy said that while putting your name forward.”
Enri let out a sound like someone strangling a chicken to death.
“That, and this old man is getting on in years. I need to find a successor soon.”
“What do you mean, ‘old man’? Chief isn’t anywhere near old. Is that why you’ve been talking like an old man?”
The chief was around his mid-forties, so it was still a bit early to be calling him old. After all, he was still at an age where he could contribute to the village’s work.
“Leaving aside the matter of talking like an old man, you should have noticed by now, but the forest around the village is undergoing a number of changes. Since the Virtuous King of the Forest is gone, there’s a higher chance of monsters coming out of the forest to attack. Under these circumstances, I’m not suitable to be the chief.”
“Chief, this may be rude, but I need to ask. I can’t get out of this, can I?”
“…Frankly? Even if you refused, I couldn’t do much about it.”
What Enri saw was the eyes of a man who was honestly speaking his mind.
“I still remember that day even now. That horrible day when my friends in the village were killed. I knew the Emmots well. If we hadn’t lived idly, if we had built a wall, if we had been on guard, maybe we wouldn’t have suffered so much… maybe we could have held out until Gown-sama came to help us.”
That would be tough, Enri thought. This village also had a lot of immigrants who were survivors from the other destroyed villagers. Their villages had sturdy walls ― though not as strong as Carne Village’s at the present ― but they had still been attacked and slaughtered. But those walls could have delayed the attackers by just a little bit and allowed more people to be saved. Enri agreed on that part.
“The old way of thinking I had isn’t going to work anymore. We need to reorganize and protect the village’s safety with our own hands. The only ones who can do this… are the flexible, the young, and along with this they need strength as well.”
The chief had said his piece. He looked calmly at Enri.
As the chief spoke, Enri had listened seriously to him. At first, she wanted to refuse because the burden was too heavy. If they were attacked again, she wasn’t sure she could bear responsibility for the lives of her fellow villagers. However, like the chief said, she couldn’t just run away from it.
“I don’t know if I can accept this responsibility.”
“That’s a natural reaction. The goblins and I can help with the administration of the village. Even if I say that, though, it’s always scary to have to make the big decisions.”
“What about a council formed from the villagers?”
“To be frank, I’d thought of that myself. However, the bigger the problem, the more likely something will come up that will split up the group and leave them paralyzed by indecision. In the end, without one person calling the shots, we won’t be able to solve problems effectively.”
“What if we had two systems, one for dealing with things in normal situations and the other for emergencies?”
“That won’t work. It won’t nurture our leaders. The people will follow their leaders in emergencies and work together because they know those leaders are also capable in peacetime.”
The chief’s will was firm and he had explained his reasons. With a sour expression, Enri asked her final question.
“…When do you need my answer?”
“I won’t rush you for it. Take your time and consider it.”
After Enri said this, she stood and left.
♦ ♦ ♦
As she left the Chief’s house, Gokoh followed behind Enri.
“Say, I want to think about this by myself, could I have some space?”
“Got it, Ane-san. Then, take your time and think about it. The rest of us will back you up, Ane-san. If you need anything at all, just let us know.”
“Yeah, I’ll be counting on you then.”
After watching Gokoh leave, Enri returned to her own home.
Can I be a good chief?
Enri didn’t feel confident of that at all.
Who knew, when the time came, she might have to give an order she didn’t like — sacrificing the few for the greater good.
I can’t do that at all…
Everyone in the village thinks too highly of me. For starters, the goblins that everyone says are my strength, they weren’t even allies I made with my own charisma and connections. In the end, they were merely summoned from the horn given to me by the great magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown.
That item was the first bit of help the village received— Strange, was I the first person he helped? I do remember Gown-sama in a mask… Hm? Was he wearing a mask?
Her memories of that incident were muddled, but that was only to be expected given the chaos of the situation.
Enri shook her head to clear out her doubts.
In any case…
If the horn had been given to anyone else, that person would be the next chief, not herself. Which meant that the problem wasn’t a matter of Enri’s own competence, but it had been nothing more than sheer dumb luck.
I should talk to someone about this…
Nfirea was the first person she thought of. He’d lived in the big city before, seen a lot of people, and Enri felt that he would know if she could be the next chief. And he was widely read, so he would definitely be able to give her an answer.
However, the chief had said that Nfirea — or rather, the Bareares — had approved of her succession. That meant that even if she talked with Nfirea, he would end up pushing her for the position.
He won’t do… and neither will any of the villagers. That leaves Agu and the ogres, but Agu already thinks of me as the chief, and the ogres are just plain dumb.
At this moment, someone called out to the frowning Enri with a cheerful voice.
“Ossu~ Seems like they’re done talking… Oya? What’s wrong, you’ve got a strange look on your face? Problem, Enri?”
That voice made Enri tingle as though electricity were coursing through her skin. That’s right. She was an outsider to the village, a neutral third party who could calmly and logically assess the situation.
Enri ran toward Lupusregina with all her strength.
She tightly clutched the surprised maid’s shoulders.
“What what what what’s this? Oh no~ My heart’s beating so fast. But please don’t confess to me. I’m not a lesbian, I like the opposite sex. Noooooo~ Let me go~ I’m going to be raped su~”
“Wait! Please, wait a bit!”
Enri’s hands left her shoulders, because she was planning to cover Lupusregina’s mouth. But she nimbly slipped out of Enri’s grasp and smiled to her.
“Ahhhh, sorry, sorry, but you seemed so excited, I thought I needed to cool you down a bit. It was just a joke su~”
“It’s a really bad joke…”
Enri sagged her shoulders. However, she immediately recovered again. Lupusregina was a person who came and went as she pleased, if she didn’t take this opportunity to pin her down she would vanish again.
“Please hear me out. I need some advice on what to do next!”
“I dunno what you’re talking about, but we can talk while we walk right? I don’t want the villagers to look at me strangely~”
Enri’s face turned bright red. Lupusregina had a point there. However—
“Buuuut if you want to violate me again I won’t scream~”
Lupusregina stuck her tongue out playfully at Enri.
“Really — really, Lupusregina-san!”
“Come, come, let’s go, let’s go.”
Without waiting for an answer, Lupusregina set off, and Enri followed.
“Well, come lay your problems onto onee-san — from the secrets of H stuff to seducing men~”
“Ah, is that right? Lupusregina-san really is an adult then…”
To Enri, who knew nothing about such matters, she certainly seemed adult enough. There was no obvious change, but for some reason Lupusregina seemed to look more mature now.
“Ahem! I am a mimidoshima after all!”
[TL. mimidoshima is a young woman who is inexperienced but has a lot of knowledge on h-stuff]
What does “mimidoshima” mean? As Enri pondered the strange term, Lupusregina beckoned her over with a “come hither” gesture. Eager to get the suspicious questions over and done with, Enri began telling her about what had happened in the chief’s house.
“So, what should I do?”
“Hm? Beats me.”
That was all.
“Hey — didn’t you say I could lay my problems on you?”
“Aw, do I have to answer you… hm, well, whatevs. To begin with, if you’re being pushed into this position and you know you’re going to regret it, then you’d better not take it on to begin with. Think about what kind of things you can and can’t handle.”
The usual carefree girl was gone, and in her place was a haunting, bewitching beauty. The usually wide-open eyes were narrowed, and the inviting smile now sent a chill down her spine.
“This is just my opinion anyways; you should probably decide what you want to do on your own. Sit down, chew the cud a little, that sort of thing. For starters, let me put this out here, it doesn’t matter if you’re the chief or someone else is the chief, you’re going to mess up sooner or later. There’s only forty-one people I know who’ll never make a mistake. ‘Cos of that, no point worrying about what happens when you fail. But when you think about it, nobody’s better suited to the job than you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ask the gobs. When the village is attacked by scary monsters and they know they can’t win, what happens? Imagine the situation with yourself as the chief and yourself not being the chief.”
Lupusregina’s expression changed again, back to her cheerful self.
“Welp, that’s about it. Haaa, I don’t want to play counsellor at all. Then again if En-chan didn’t become the chief, the beautiful tragedy would unfold and it would be more fun.”
Lupusregina smirked as she patted Enri’s shoulder.
“Personally, I think you’d make a great chief. Also… why don’t you ask that boy?”
After taking her hand off Enri’s shoulder, Lupusregina twirled in place. It was a movement that seemed estranged from any concept of the word “friction”.
Lupusregina strode off, her hands flying freely through the air. In front of her stood Nfirea with Nemu’s hand in his. Lupusregina patted Nfirea on the shoulder, and as though she had flipped a switch, the two came to life.
“Welcome back, onee-san!”
Nemu must have been very worried, because she tackle hugged Enri while running at full speed. Enri was hit hard enough that she thought she might be knocked down, but her sturdy leg muscles absorbed the impact.
“Welcome back, Enri. You’re earlier than expected. Didn’t spend the night?”
“I’m home. And yes, I camped out last night.”
“Is that so… I’m glad you weren’t attacked by monsters. Still, I can’t approve of that sort of thing. The goblins are strong. but there’s still monsters stronger than them. Granted, I haven’t seen any of those near the plains…”
“Nee-san, don’t do dangerous things!”
Nemu said this while clinging tightly to Enri’s clothes. Enri was the only family for her little sister. Her life was no longer solely hers. It seemed like Enri had forgotten that little detail.
“You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Enri smiled and gently ruffled Nemu’s hair.
“Mm! Then I’ll forgive Nee-san!”
Nemu looked up and smiled.
“Thank you. Speaking of which, has Nemu been a good girl? You didn’t bother Enfi, did you?”
“I didn’t! Really~ I’m not a little girl anymore! Right, Enfi-kun?”
“Ahaha… well, I’ve been treating Agu’s tribespeople, so I didn’t look too closely, but I trust Nemu’s behaved herself.”
“Really, Enfi-kun! Say, how about this, Nee-san. Enfi-kun stinks!”
“Nemu-chan! That’s the smell of herbs! When you grind them up, didn’t you say your hands stank as well?”
“That colorful stuff is from herbs?”
“…No, it’s different. That’s from making alchemical items, so please don’t say I stink…”
“But you do stink!”
Nfirea’s face froze.
“Mm, It’s all over Enfi’s clothes. So maybe he should take them off when he’s not working?”
Enri frantically tried to explain her little sister’s actual meaning, and Nfirea’s face softened as he heard it.
“I don’t have any other clothes, though… in E-Rantel I pretty much wore those all the time.”
“Then, what if I made a set for you afterwards?”
“Eh? You can do that?”
“Enfi, who do you think I am? I can still make simple clothes on my own.”
“Is that it? I bought all my clothes, so being able to make your own sounds awesome.”
“Well, thanks for that. But everyone in the village can… Nemu, you’d better start learning.”
“Then, Nemu, do you mind heading back first? I need to discuss something with Enfi.”
Nemu covered her mouth with her hands, but the smile was already making her eyes sparkle.
“Mm! Got it! Then, I’ll be going first. Good luck, Enfi-kun!”
Nemu waved to them, then headed back home with a spring in her step.
Enri watched her as she left, mumbling to herself.
“She’s so obedient. Nevermind, are you hiding anything from me?”
“No, I don’t think… ah, you mean that? Is that it? Although I can roughly guess, since I was at the town council meeting yesterday.”
With that, they’d skipped over a lot of pointless exposition. Enri told Nfirea what she and the chief had discussed.
It didn’t stop there either. She also told him about her discussion with Lupusregina, and Nfirea took it all in without a single word. After she finished, Nfirea looked Enri straight in the eye. and spoke.
“I think Enri can do it and no matter what your answer is, I’ll always support you… ugh, that line is so cheesy. I hope you’ll become the new chief.”
“Why? I’m just—”
“No. You’re not just a simple village girl. You’re the leader of the goblins, Enri Emmot. You probably want to say that the goblins aren’t your strength, right? But in the end, the goblins really are your strength. Lupusregina asked you to ask the goblins, but I’ll explain. If you’re not the chief, and if the village is in danger, the goblins will fight a holding action until you can escape by yourself.”
“No way! They would never do such a thing!”
“They might say that in peacetimes. However, during a crisis they’ll do just that. I heard it from them myself.”
Enri looked incredulously at Nfirea. Was he lying? But there wasn’t even a shred of deception in the air around him.
“The most important thing to them isn’t the village, it’s you. But if you become the chief, then the village becomes your property, and the goblins will stay and fight for the village to the bitter end. It may not seem like a big difference, but it is a difference. As an aside, they’ve told me that if an emergency like that happens, they’re hoping I can take Nemu and flee behind you. Enri… if you want to check with them it’s fine. But I hope that if you do, you’ll keep the fact that I told you about it a secret.”
“I won’t ask them.”
Nfirea lifted his hair up as he heard the straight, direct reply, revealing his wide eyes.
“Is that okay? I might be ly—”
“—That’s not possible. Nfirea wouldn’t lie to me. I trust you. However, is the master really that
important to her summons?”
“Well, wouldn’t that be because you’re their master? You bought weapons for the goblins, right? Don’t you think they’d make you their top priority because of that? It may sound bad, but the goblins have never gotten anything from the villagers, who treat them as nothing more than your summoned monsters. Who do you think they’d prioritize, the people who barely acknowledge them, or the person who feeds them and arms them?”
Of course, none of the villagers would actually say that sort of thing out loud. However, it was true that she couldn’t remember any of the villagers thanking them in any concrete way.
“…But, the villagers are grateful to the goblins.”
“They’re grateful to you. It’s like paying you back for expenses incurred and time spent. Have you ever seen anyone in the village call the goblins by name?”
There were none. At first she thought it was simply because they couldn’t tell them apart, but when you thought about it, it was because they didn’t want to tell them apart.
The thought of that filled Enri with an indescribable loneliness.
“Is that so.”
Yet, in her voice was not simply dejection, but her eyes shone with the light of revelation.
“That’s right. That’s why I, personally, feel that you’ll be a good chief. If nothing else, when you’re chief, you’ll change things for the goblins.”
“…Everyone’s going to help me, right?”
“Of course. You might as well say nobody will hold back in rendering their aid.”
“I understand. Then, I’ll head over to the chief’s place. I’d better do it before I change my mind!”
Enfi smiled as he heard Enri’s declaration.
He understood the storm of emotions behind Enri’s decision. It was a stern, yet kind frame of mind.
“All right! Good luck, Enri!”
She nodded in reply, and then without looking back, set foot on the path to becoming the new chief.
♦ ♦ ♦
From the sky, Lupusregina could see that almost everyone in the village was gathered in the village square. Enri was at their head, addressing them, but she couldn’t hear what Enri was saying.
After Enri appeared to finish, the villagers were applauding.
“Ha… so it did turn out like this after all. Ahhhh, I can’t take it, uhihihi.”
“—What’s so funny?”
The voice from behind made Lupusregina turn around to face it.
“Oya~ isn’t that Yuri-nee? Are you flying because of a magic item?”
“That’s right. Ainz-sama bestowed it upon me himself. This would be… Carne Village, right? That would be why you were scolded.”
“That’s right. Ahhh, now the fun’s about to begin~”
“What do you mean?”
“A new leader has just arisen within the village. To the villagers, they’re about to turn to a new page in their history. However, I wonder what would happen if, at this glorious moment, the village was attacked and everything set ablaze. I wonder what kind of faces those villagers would make?”
A sadistic grin spread over her beautiful face, and anyone who saw her would immediately conclude that something evil and horrible had been unleashed.
“And I thought you got along with these people. Is this coming from the bottom of your heart?”
“That’s right, Yuri-nee~ I mean every word of it. Every time I think of the people I get along with getting trampled like ants and exterminated with brute force, I can’t help but laugh.”
“You’re terrible. You’re as bad as Solution. Why are my little sisters like this? Really, the only good one is Shizu… although I suppose Entoma isn't a bad girl.”
Lupusregina laughed as her older sister grumbled.
“Ah~ will the village be destroyed after all?”
“Ah, I’m so tired.”
Enri dumped the small slate she was holding on the table and flopped down, devoid of energy. She turned to look at the source of the quiet laughter and saw Nfirea there with a smile that said ‘just as planned’ on his face.
“You’ve worked hard, Enri.”
“It’s soooo haaaaard~ I’m not good at using my head…”
“You need to learn how to read and write, you know.”
Enri’s reply was a mournful whine.
As the village chief she needed a basic level of education, which was why Nfirea was personally instructing her, but Enri’s head felt like it was splitting apart.
“These stupid words, they were made up just to give me trouble…”
“Don’t say that. You’ve already learned how to write your own name, haven’t you? And Nemu-chan’s as well.”
“Mm… well, that is a good thing… can’t I get by with just that much?”
“Alas! These are merely the basics. Look at it this way, you’ve only started learning for five days, we haven’t even reached the important parts yet.”
An ‘are you kidding me’ expression appeared on Enri’s face.
“Ahhh, don’t make a face like that. Once you learn the basics, they’ll serve you well. That’s why they’re so important.”
“You look really tired. Then, we’ll stop here for today.”
As though she’d been waiting for this word, Enri sprang up from her seat.
“That’s wonderful! Let’s end early tomorrow too! Thank you, Enfi!”
Nfirea smiled thinly before wiping the chicken scratch-like letters off the slate.
“Then you’d best get a good rest. Tomorrow we’ll start again at the same time.”
“I’m really happy that you’re using your experiment time to teach me all this. But I don’t want to be grateful at all…”
“Mm. Well, that’s how it is. They say it’s better for a teacher to be hated by their students than to be thanked by them.”
“That’s a lie! It’s a total lie!”
“Ahahaha. Ah, I’m out of time. Goodnight, Enri.”
“Mm. Goodnight. Don’t work too hard when you get back and sleep early.”
Nfirea smiled to show he understood, and then he left through the front door. After watching the floating mote of his magical light recede into the distance, Enri returned to her house. In the darkness, it felt especially lonely.
“Ah― I’m so tired…”
Enri lazily stripped off her clothing and burrowed under the covers. She’d been so noisy when learning just now, but now all she could hear were the cute sounds of her little sister sleeping. Enri calmly closed her eyes.
Having worked her brains so hard earlier, Enri was certain she would fall asleep right away. Just as she expected, she passed out within seconds of closing her eyes.
She didn’t know how long she’d slept, but a distant sound woke her from her slumber.
Three knocks. A pause, and then three more knocks.
Realizing what that signal meant, Enri forced her eyes open in the darkness. Having woken with abnormal speed and realizing she was still at home, she practically leapt out of bed. In the same moment her sister bolted awake too.
“Are you alright?”
Her voice had threads of fear in it, but it sounded like she could still move.
“Get ready now!”
Lighting a lamp would waste too much time, so Enri prepared herself to flee in the dark.
As the sound of the bells carried over the wind, Enri and Nemu readied themselves swiftly. Theirs was a speed born not just of repeated evacuation drills, but of the old terror that remained from when their village had been attacked in the past. And after hearing Agu’s words, she had an idea of what was to come.
“Nemu! Get to the rendezvous point! I’ll go take care of the others!”
Without waiting for her sister’s answer, Enri grabbed Nemu’s hand and ran out the door.
The bell was still ringing loudly, which meant there was an emergency situation. This was definitely a sign that an attack as coming.
The training sequence for the evacuation repeated itself countless times in her heart, and she couldn’t completely abandon her desire to run away from reality and this, but the chill in the air denied it. It was the same chill that was there when the soldiers attacked the village.
As they neared the rendezvous point, Enri pushed Nemu forward.
“All right, go!”
Nemu nodded very slightly in reply, and then dashed toward the meeting place.
However, as a days-old village chief, Enri had to consider how she would move the whole village.
The bad feelings she had before assuming the position now flowed out uncontrollably from her heart.
“It’s as though the gods want to see me suffer.”
Without thinking, Enri let the words slip out of her mouth. This was the worst-case scenario.
A goblin ran up to Enri.
“What happened? What’s going on?”
“We found monsters in the forest. High chance they’ll be attacking us.”
“Understood, now let’s go!”
With the goblin leading the way, Enri soon came to the main gate. She saw that the night-time barricades were set up and the goblins were massing here. Wearing the weapons and armor Enri had bought for them, they looked like seasoned veterans.
As she drew close she could scent a stink on the air, which clued Enri in to the fact that there were ogres present. The ogres clutched their new clubs, which looked spiky and menacing.
Along with Enri, a panting Nfirea and the members of the self-defence force led by Brita gathered at the main gate. Agu and some of his fellow goblins, the ones who had recovered enough from their ordeal to fight, stood with them as well.
“Is that everyone? How about Madam Lizzie? Did something keep her?”
Nfirea’s grandmother Lizzie was a notable magic caster in her own right. It wouldn’t have been out of place for her to take part in the village’s defense.
“No, Obaa-chan’s not coming here. She’s at the rendezvous point. That place is important too.”
The villagers nodded as they heard Nfirea’s words. Since their family members had fled to the rendezvous point, they had to keep it secure too.
“All those who can’t use bows are already over there. Since you guys are strong, would it be all right for one of you to go over there?”
“We can’t do that.”
Jugem flatly refused Brita’s request.
He hadn’t done this out of malice toward the villagers whom he had lived and worked with. As the surging tension made Enri gulp, Jugem explained his position.
“There’s a lot of monsters. And there are others, in addition to the ogres. Splitting up would be very dangerous.”
“Do you have a clear picture of their numbers?”
“Brita-san, the enemy was lurking in the forest. There’s no way to accurately judge their numbers. However, we did manage to get an estimate… seven ogres, several giant snakes, several wargs, several somethings we think might be barghests and something big following behind them.”
“Wargs, giant snakes and ogres? Is there a druid behind them?”
Wargs were monsters that looked like wolves, but bigger. They were smarter than wolves and bad news if you encountered them in the forest.
“It’s very likely. Things will be really bad if they have a magic caster on their side. We can probably assume that they also have ranged attackers. So it would be better to marshal all our fighting power here, right? Should I call Obaa-chan over?”
“That… is hard to say, Ani-san. The rendezvous point is one of the strongest buildings in the village. If anything happens, it’ll be the final defensive line or in other words, the village’s keep. We can’t let anyone protecting that place leave.”
“…So we’ll be falling back as we fight, then? Where should I go?”
“Brita-san will direct the defense force. I hope you can relay my orders to them so they can understand. Then, act as the situation requires.”
“So we’ll use the second strategy against invaders, then? After feathering them with arrows, we’ll use barricades to keep them at bay while we stab them through the gaps with spears. Doesn’t matter how skilled our people are once they’re that close.”
“Ah, then I’ll leave that to you. However, wargs and barghests are very agile, and if left alone, they’ll cause a lot of damage. Target them first. Also, when their druid shows up, would you mind having the defense force go to the back line?”
“I’m not opposed to that, but will you have enough people on the front without us?”
“…If we’re lucky, we’ll be enough.”
“If it’s like that… as I thought, I’d better tell everyone here to be ready to die. At least, if we’re in the back we won’t be attacked, so we can concentrate fire on the druid. You know, I’ve been an adventurer, but this is the first time I’ve seen such brave villagers… at least, I thought that much when I watched them train with bows.”
“In the past, the village was attacked… and we hated how useless we were.”
Enri, who had been silent up till now, cut in with the sentiments of every member of the defense forces.
Amazingly, there was nobody here who wanted to flee. There was no way around this fight, no way they wouldn’t protect their village for the loved ones hiding behind them.
“Speaking of which, such a large force must have taken some time to assemble. Does this mean they’ve been sent by the Giant of the East or the Serpent of the West?”
“That’s not impossible.”
Jugem softly confirmed Brita’s suspicions.
If that was the case, it would mean Agu had drawn the monsters here. That was why Jugem had lowered his voice, so the defense force wouldn’t pick up on it and direct their aggression at Agu.
The existence of monsters like the Giant of the East, the Serpent of the West and their mutual enemy, the Beast of the South, had already been made known among the villagers.
Although the Beast had been tamed by the Dark Hero, the mighty monster’s form and presence had been etched indelibly on the villagers’ hearts. Fear was the appropriate response to the thought of fighting something on the same level as that.
“So what kind of magic does the Serpent of the West use? Damn, what a pain.”
Jugem nodded to Brita’s mumbling.
“Usually, monsters with innate spells won’t have more than ten of them, but if they can practice and learn magic they’ll have access to many more, which makes them troublesome. If they know magic for crossing obstacles…”
“It’s okay if it’s Enfi or the goblins, but magic-users are cheating bastards.”
Enri said so unhappily, which drew grim smiles from the villagers.
“…But don’t tell Gown-sama I said that, okay?”
That follow-up turned those smiles into laughs.
That should break the tension, Enri thought. Although it would be bad if they were too relaxed, being too tense would also keep them from fighting effectively. Now, the mood seemed about right.
Jugem looked thankfully at Enri. It seemed like he understood why she’d said what she’d said.
“Don’t worry. Just stay behind and shoot. We’ll handle the front.”
The goblins had trained the defense force for precisely this role, which suited them best.
A small village would be hard-pressed to gather armor and weapons, and there simply weren’t enough to arm the defense force. And in the end, they were still villagers. They might have strong arms from working the fields, but that didn’t translate into sword skills. Anyone who could train himself into a warrior that could defeat monsters in their free time between chores would be nothing short of a genius.
With those points in mind, the goblins realized that they couldn’t turn the defense force into frontliners. Instead, they decided to teach them archery to become the rear guard.
Although their technique had improved and they could hit their targets, their bows didn’t have much penetrative power, making it difficult to strike a telling blow on thick-skinned monsters. However, if they were lucky and fired in unison, there was a chance they might hit a vulnerable spot.
“Alright, just like we trained, aim at the other side of the door, and fire in ranks! Agu, your task is to keep the main door from being broken down and stabbing them with spears. Treat Brita-san’s commands as though they came from Ane-san and listen to her.”
“Ohhh! Leave it to me!”
“That’s the spirit. Now, listen up. I forbid you to run. Fight until you die.”
“Of course! I’ll definitely repay the kindness you showed by saving me! In fact, why not put me at the frontline with the ogres?”
“You stupid kid! If I let you do that, you’d just end up killing yourself. You can say that once you get stronger!”
After being scolded by Jugem, Agu’s face was filled with regret and some of the defence force members went to comfort him.
Enri sighed in relief as she saw this. For one, the villagers didn’t see him as the one who had brought the monsters in. For another, it was proof that Agu was accepted by the villagers.
They were the last outsiders to arrive in the village. Although they weren’t shunned or treated badly, there was still a distance between them. However, from the look of things, that gap would vanish if they won today. It was ironic that the battlefield was the best place to build the bonds of camaraderie.
And it was because he felt that gap that Agu fought so fiercely. His objective was to contribute to the village and raise the standing of himself and his people. In human society, they would show respect to people who shed blood for them. Agu and his people had the welfare of his people in mind, so his passion was only natural.
“Enfi, I have something to ask of you.”
Enri stood beside Enfi, and whispered into his ear.
“Oh, no, further a little — ah. Mm. Got it. Then — Agu, I have something to entrust to you. Take these alchemical items and use them well.”
Enfi opened his satchel. Inside were many bottles and papers.
“Use these and throw them at the enemy. You’ll miss if you’re too far away, so try to use them at medium range. You ready?”
“Leave it to me! Watch me accomplish my mission perfectly!”
Agu accepted the satchel, and as they were waiting, one of the goblins shouted down to them.
“They’re on the move! They’re heading this way!”
If one were to listen, they could hear the sounds of the monsters rending the night.
“Defense force to your positions! Ane-san, watch out! Ani-san too!”
“Yes yes, I got it! Don’t any of you die, please!”
“Now then, Enri, shall we?”
Nfirea ran up to Enri as her escort. Their job was to patrol the houses to see if anyone hadn’t noticed the emergency.
As they watched Enri leave, the goblins stood to battle stations.
“Self-defense force, to your places ― and done. The enemy is entering the target area.”
There was no direct line of fire to the monsters on the other side of the wall. Shooting an unseen target would require firing in an arc, but that wasn’t something any amateur could do, and training to be able to do that would take too long. As a result, the goblins had decided to try something else.
They trained the defence force to land arrows on the other side of the wall. That meant learning how much force to use, and practicing the right angle to shoot at in order to accurately hit a specific area. It was training that was completely useless outside of very specific circumstances. However, since the enemy’s aim was to break down the gate and they were massed in front of it, single-mindedly attacking the gate, the training was very effective.
The main gate trembled under the fearsome cries of the monsters, and the nearby walls shuddered as well.
“Very good! Enemies are at the target area! Suppressive fire ― begin!”
In response to Jugem’s shout, the goblin archers on the watchtowers ― Shuringan and Gurindai ― began shooting. As long as their target was within their line of fire, the marksmen of the goblins would not miss. Screams of agony rose up from the other side of the door.
The defense force shuddered in fear and tension, as though they would be swallowed up by the air which was filled by the awful din of the battlefield. Amidst all this, Jugem shouted once more.
“Defence force ― hold! Do not raise your bows until ordered!”
They were told not to shoot when the enemy had reached the place they had spent countless hours learning to shoot. However, in the next instant, everyone who looked at the towers understood why.
The monsters had started hurling rocks from the other side of the wall. Each one was about the size of a human head.
Although many went astray, even a lucky hit on the watchtowers made them shudder.
“Rock throwers confirmed! Enemy rock throwers have multiple rounds remaining!”
“Each one has about 3 rocks, and roughly 21 rocks in total ― whoa!”
Another thrown rock struck a watchtower and the wood splintered.
If they began shooting, the defense force would become targets too.
It was true that the defense force was out of sight of the enemy, and their accuracy would be low. However, if they were unlucky, a single hit could kill people. Even a weakly-thrown rock could severely injure someone.
The order for the defense force not to attack could be said to be a safe strategy, because it showed that Jugem did not want anyone to die before the extended battle could commence.
“Don’t think we can’t hit you just because you’re throwing rocks at us!”
Gurindai shouted angrily, and began shooting again while weaving through the hail of flung rocks. The defence force burned his courageous form into their eyes, watching the way he fearlessly returned fire, knowing that he would be severely hurt if he was hit. However, Jugem was not watching him. He quickly scanned his surroundings and found new enemies in an instant.
“Kiumei! Climbing snakes on the left flank! You’ll be alright by yourself?”
“No problems, Leader! Leave it to me!”
Kiumei, who had been standing by in the rear, spurred his wolf forward. Ahead of him were the giant snakes climbing the wall.
“Fifteen, sixteen! You two hang on a bit more!”
There was no need for Jugem’s words. Not a hint of fear could be seen in the shooting stances of the two archers atop the listing watchtower. Not caring whether the tower would collapse under them, they continued targeting the monsters and baiting the rock attacks. On the left flank, Kiumei seemed to be doing well against the snakes.
Finally, the watchtower bent and broke under the barrage of thrown rocks. Shuringan and Gurindai jumped down to the ground, rolling several times to disperse the impact of their fall.
“Defense force archers ready!”
In response to the call, the archers prepared their bows.
“Breathe deep! In ― out! In ― Pull!”
This voice was just like their training, and for a moment, the defense force archers forgot they were on the battlefield. Ignoring the sound of the timbers creaking, they performed the same movements like they did during practice.
Fourteen arrows traced beautiful arcs through the sky and vanished behind the wall, drawing more screams of pain from the monsters.
“Amazing,” Agu muttered to himself, but Jugem had no intention of giving anyone else the time to watch further.
“Second wave ready! ― Don’t panic ― Breathe deep! In ― out! In ― Pull!”
By this time, Shuringan and Gurindai had been healed and took their places by the defence force.
Once again, fourteen arrows flew forth, followed slightly later by two more. The door creaked louder as the cries from the enemy intensified. The arrows must have gotten them mad — and made them hit harder.
“Back up! Change weapons!”
The defence force moved as a group behind the barricades positioned behind the main gate. Anyone charging in would be stuck on the sturdy bars and spikes of the obstacle. The arrangement was in an L-shape, leading the attackers to where Jugem and the ogres were waiting for them. For the intruders, breaking through the gate would be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
“If you see any magic casters, get out of their line of fire!”
“What’s the matter, Agu?”
“Ani-san gave me some alchemical items and there’s glue in there, where do you want it?”
“Will it be absorbed by the mud?”
“Yes, but he said it would only shorten its effective duration.”
“If it’s like that, then wait for a good opportunity and jam up the entrance.”
After showing they understood, Agu and his tribesmen moved off as one. Kiumei returned after defeating the snakes and immediately headed off to the goblin cleric to receive healing.
There was the sound of wood splintering, and one side of the main gate was down. Enemy ogres surged through the breach.
“Kuku, a bunch of brainless fools.”
Jugem mocked the incoming enemies. They had made a fatal mistake.
The monsters had only broken down one side of the doors. Once that side was down, they ignored the other side and forced their way in, especially since they were afraid of being hit by arrows if they remained outside. However, with only one side of the door down, they could only come in one at a time, which meant a lot of enemies were stuck squeezing through the entrance. In addition, they would be caught in the angle of an L-shaped ambush, where all the defenders could focus their attacks on a small number of attackers at a time.
“Welcome to the kill zone. Time to die.”
The armed ogres on the village’s side would have an advantage in a slugging match against their wild counterparts, and the defence force had their spears to assist. Any ogres who tried to break down the palisades would be taken down by arrow fire, magic and Agu’s alchemical items. The goblins would handle any magical beasts who broke through amidst the chaos.
The tactical situation was overwhelmingly favourable to them and there were still the goblin wolf riders standing by in the rear. If the enemy didn’t have any magic casters, their victory would be assured. However—
“—What’s that?!” Panic crept into Jugem’s voice. “Is that a troll out there?”
It looked different from an ogre, but it was about the same size. It lurched stiffly toward the defenders, emitting an oppressive presence as it came. In its hand, it held a greatsword with an unnatural air about it.
A sticky substance flowed in the middle of the blade. That must be some form of magic.
“The boss took the field? …Could that be… the Giant of the East?”
It certainly looked that way. Its strong body looked like it had been trained until it was as hard as steel and it was completely unlike any of the trolls Jugem knew of. At a glance, he could see how it could be on par with the Beast of the South.
Just one troll would require all of the goblins to handle. It was an enemy that was tougher than any they had ever faced.
“If that’s the case…”
Jugem thought about what to do.
It seemed hopeless. The best way would be to cover Enri’s escape. If she didn’t want to, then even if they had to force her―
“…No, that’s not the best way. That’s the worst way, and our last resort.”
Having given up on that course of action, Jugem spoke to his goblin troops.
“…Oi, you lot. Afterwards, every single one of us is going to die. Don’t even think about childish things like falling back. Make sure you brand your heroic deaths into everyone’s eyes!”
The goblins answered with a roar full of fighting spirit. In an instant, enemies and allies alike seemed to freeze.
“Here we go, lads! Let’s show them the power of Ane-san’s boys!”
♦ ♦ ♦
After a circuit of the village, Enri confirmed that nobody was left behind and breathed a sigh of relief. Just then, the sound of something breaking came from the front. It was followed by battle cries from both sides and the resounding deep bass sound made her shudder.
That was probably the sound of the gate breaking and the goblins joining battle. She nearly threw up from stress, but Enri forced it back down. The bitter taste remained in her mouth, but she ignored it to look at Nfirea.
“Enfi. We should be heading to the gate.”
“Understood. But you need to go to the rendezvous point and calm everyone down, okay?”
Enfi’s words had the subtext of don’t get in everyone else’s way.
Although Enri had been trained in the use of a bow, now that the gate had been broken, the battle would have moved into close quarters. To be honest, even if Enri went there now, there wasn’t much she could do.
“I can’t do that. I chose to lead the goblins and the villagers, and as long as I’m able, I need to do that. Although falling back is the correct thing to do, it’s not the right thing to do.”
She had to stand on the frontlines and see how the battle was fought. After seeing the conviction in Enri’s eyes, Enfi hardened his features and nodded.
“That’s true. I understand. I’ll protect you.”
The serious expression on her childhood friend’s usually placid face made Enri’s heart beat in strange and wondrous ways.
“Mm? What’s wrong, Enri? I know, I’m not as cool as Gown-san, but I won’t let you die.”
“…Don’t say die.”
“Ah, I’m sorry. That… that…”
As she saw her childhood friend struggle for the words to use, like he always did, Enri smiled.
“Let’s go, Enfi!”
“Ah, yes! That’s right, we don’t have time to waste on talking!”
The two of them ran to the front gate. Because they’d started running from the rear gate, which was furthest away, even if they ran at top speed, it would take them a while to get there. And with them panting for breath, there was no way they could start fighting right away. In order not to let haste make waste, they proceeded at a moderate speed.
However, they only ran for a few seconds.
The two of them heard a stomach-churning sound and halted in their tracks.
Looking back, they saw someone watching them from above and behind.
It was abnormally huge, far larger than a human being. They couldn’t comprehend it in the moment that they saw it, but that was its true form. It had a hand on the rear gate, which stood four meters tall.
“―That, what’s that? A giant?”
“I don’t know! Ah—”
Nfirea’s words cut off halfway, and his mouth hung open. Enri frantically turned to look at what had stunned him and ended up making the same expression.
Something was slowly climbing the wall.
Something which was far too large to be a human being.
“Could that be a troll?”
As she heard Nfirea breathing those words, Enri stared at the emerging monster.
“Although it’s the first time I’ve seen one, it’s exactly like how I’ve heard it would be. If that’s really a troll we’re in trouble… Trolls are opponents that even gold-ranked adventurers would have trouble beating. Honestly speaking, Jugem and the others would probably have a hard time.”
Enri felt the blood drain downward as she heard about something that was stronger than the mightiest being in the village.
The troll that was revealing its massive silhouette snorted, and it started looking around its surroundings.
Grabbing Enri by the hand, Nfirea dragged her into the shadows of a nearby house. Here, he closed his mouth and whispered directly into her ear at a barely audible volume.
“Enri, trolls have very sensitive noses. It is okay for now since we’re downwind, but it’s too soon to rest easy. You need to get out of here… then meet up with the goblins.”
Enri drew closer to Nfirea and whispered back into his ear.
“I can’t, Enfi. If we let that guy go to the main gate, everyone will die in the pincer attack.”
“That might be the case, but right now, we can’t―”
“―We’re the only ones here. That means it’s up to us to stop it.”
Between the gap in his hair, Nfirea’s eyes looked at Enri like he’d just seen a crazy person. Granted, Enri did realize she’d just asked him and herself to do the impossible, but to be honest, there was no other way.
“We don’t need to win or defeat it. We just need to delay it. Enfi, please lend me your strength.”
“―How are we going to delay it? Lure that guy away from here? I suppose I could fight it directly… but I doubt I could take even a single hit from him.”
Nfirea’s calm words revealed a calm determination inside him. In response, Enri laid out her plan.
“I’ve got a plan. For starters, let’s make some ogres.”
♦ ♦ ♦
The troll stared briefly at a wooden, human-made house and made its move.
That was because it thought all the houses had the smell of soft, delicious humans, but that was just leftover scent. After confirming there were no other scents in the area, it began striding toward the direction where the sound of battle was coming from. The sound of humans fighting its brethren made it drool non-stop, and in its mind, it thought of the humans that would be there.
A soft, lovely feast of human flesh.
As a connoisseur among trolls, it loved the meaty limbs and disliked the bitter torso. Therefore, it was rare that it could eat its fill, but now it looked like it would get the chance to do just that.
Its strides grew longer and it started to drool in anticipation.
However, the troll halted and looked carefully around its surroundings. Or rather, he looked into the shadows of a nearby house.
There were ogres.
The smell of ogres was wafting out from there.
It frowned. Although ogres were its allies, there was a slight difference in the scent it was picking up. It was one of which he had no prior memory. And now it was coming from all around him.
Of course it didn’t come to this conclusion because its nose was as sensitive as a bloodhound’s but because it had remembered the unique odor of its ogre allies. As such, it didn’t know how many ogres there were.
And that brought up a question. There was a strange smell here as well, like the smell of crushed grass, but far stronger.
Had an ogre shredded grass and smeared itself with the juices?
It pondered this question and found confusion. The strong herbal odor stung its nose, and its tears were about to flow. If the ogres could endure this stench, it must have been because they had a bad sense of smell.
It could take them on face to face. As a troll, it was much stronger than any ogre. However, that didn’t mean it could escape unscathed, and it would take time to deal with them.
Because trolls had the natural ability to regenerate, their wounds would recover over time. However, regenerating its injuries would still take a while, which was troublesome. Who knew, its fellow ogres might have eaten all the humans by the time it got there.
Then, since the opposition had dispersed, as long as it moved straight ahead, they would all come out to attack it.
It felt a glimmer of pride at seeing through its opponents and slowly began moving again.
It would destroy them all in a short time. Thus, the fact that its opponents had split up was a golden opportunity. All it needed to do was slay the ogres one by one.
It moved slowly, taking care not to make noise, but suddenly, a small shadow dashed out of a nearby house.
It wasn’t a goblin, but one of its favorite prey, humans.
In contrast to the troll who had been surprised into inaction, the caped human splashed something on it…
The troll screamed from the overpowering stench. Just by smelling the odor of the green stuff, the powerful stink burrowed into its nose and sinuses. This reek was several times stronger than that of the grass-stained ogres.
Even though it could regenerate, this was not a wound it could heal. It simply could not endure the smell. Its eyes watered and it took a step toward the human, but it had already run back into the house.
The reason why the human had managed to get so close despite the troll’s keen sense of smell was because the human’s scent had been masked by the scent of the crushed grass.
Angered by the loss of its target, the troll returned to its earlier target — the ogres. First, it would kill the ogres and then find that tantalizing bait, the troll thought.
The troll, thrashing around the outside of the house in a fury, didn’t find any signs of the ogres. It was as though they’d vanished into thin air.
Looking around, it still couldn’t find the ogres, which were still large despite being smaller than itself. No matter how those ogres moved, it should have seen them eventually. Could those puny ogres use invisibility, like their master? The troll had encountered another situation it could not figure out and snorted.
However, the strong stink of herbs rising from its own body interfered with its sense of smell, and it could not follow the ogres’ scent trail.
The moaning troll scraped experimentally at the fluid on its body. This time, its fingers stank. Glancing around, the troll found a fallen piece of cloth on the ground.
The troll considered that it might be good to wipe itself off with the cloth and picked it up with a curious expression on its face. It brought the cloth to its nose and sniffed, but because its nose still wasn’t fully recovered yet, it could only get a bit of scent.
The troll smelled ogre on the cloth, and suddenly, it understood.
It had mistaken this cloth that reeked of ogre-stink for an ogre itself.
This was not a coincidence.
Roaring angrily, the troll started tearing up its surroundings. No humans. Then they should still be in their homes.
The troll’s fist pounded angrily at a nearby house and after hammering at it several times, it reached up to tear the roof off, intent on destroying the interior.
A human rushed out in a panic as it was demolishing the house. Eager to tear the human apart as well, it gave chase.
♦ ♦ ♦
The target was chasing her. That meant the plan was working. Though she was grateful for that, her heart was still pounding and she wanted to cry. A gigantic, man-eating monster was pressing in from behind, and this high-stakes game of tag — if she lost, she would disappear down that monster’s throat — was something any ordinary village girl would cry about.
The fact that she didn’t know how long she’d have to play this game made her want to cry even more.
If she knew when it would be over, she might be able to will herself to keep fleeing until the last moment. However, without knowing when the battle at the gate would be over, without knowing when the others could come and help her, she was filled with uneasiness, which diminished her strength.
Enri regretted not sending someone over to the main gate to make a report, but the preparations had taken too long.
She ran with all her strength, rushing into the house where Nfirea was waiting. In turn, Nfirea rushed out of the back door, wearing the same cape and robe that she was.
Enri held her breath, gulping and hoping that the enemy hadn’t seen through their scheme. The troll continued chasing Nfirea, not having noticed the switch.
She calmed her ragged breathing and clasped her hands in delight.
Trolls were far superior to humans in strength, stride length and physical ability, therefore a single person running away would definitely be caught. In order to recover stamina for extended periods of movement, they decided to switch with each other without letting the enemy notice. This was intended to draw out the chase, and also to keep it from going to the rendezvous point where the people were.
The question, then, was how to deceive it.
How could trolls tell humans apart? Maybe if they lived together long enough they would have a few ways, but this was not nearly long enough. Practically speaking, it would be by appearance, especially clothing. As such, Nfirea and Enri had worn the same rain capes and ponchos.
Next, they had to keep it from differentiating between the two of them via its sense of smell, and the herbal juice was meant to take care of its keen nose.
Enri had prepared two traps based on scent — one was to use the ogre-stink to halt it in its tracks, and the other was using the stench of the herbs to disorient it.
After she got her breathing under control. Enri began stealthily moving to the next house.
She crept into the darkened interior of the house, peeking at the situation outside. With a ‘dong’ sound, Nfirea ran inside. At this moment, Enri ran out again from the back door by which she had entered.
But then Enri realised that the troll wasn’t following her, even though she had run out of the house.
The troll snorted and looked at Enri and the house. Its ugly face contorted even further. She guessed that the look on its face might be surprise.
Cold sweat beaded on Enri’s throat. She touched herself unconsciously, and her hand came away, sticky and wet.
“…Its nose is used to it?”
After getting used to the smell of the herbs, and smelling the fear in her sweat, the troll seemed to have realised that there were two humans.
The troll raised its hand and smashed it deeply into the house. Nfirea ran out again. However, his footsteps stopped, and he didn’t look like he was going to flee.
“Enri! Run away! I’ll buy you some time!”
“―Idiot! Run with me!”
“It’ll definitely catch up with us! Even if we use the houses as shields!”
The wide-eyed Enri saw Nfirea smiling.
“I’m stronger, so there’s a higher chance I’ll survive if you leave me behind!”
Nfirea cast a spell, and his body was enveloped in a bubble of soft, gentle light.
He continued smiling to Enri, who had lost the power of speech.
“And besides ― I want to protect the woman I love.”
Nfirea turned toward the ferocious monster, raising his fist and pointing his thumb to himself.
“Come on, big guy, I’ll play with you! Come have a go if you’re hard enough! 「Acid Arrow」!”
Nfirea kept taunting the troll, while firing a green arrow of acid at it. As it hit, steam rose with the sound of hissing and bubbling, making the troll scream in agony.
The troll fixed its rage-maddened eyes on Nfirea. It paid no more attention to Enri.
“Go! Go and get help!”
It would be foolish to waste time here.
“―You’d better stay safe!”
Saying that, Enri ran.
The troll didn’t look like it wanted to follow.
Frankly speaking, his chances of survival were zero. There was an overwhelming difference in their respective physical capabilities. And there was no way he could triumph over a foe that needed gold-ranked adventurers to beat.
It was a hopeless battle, and being able to hold on for even a minute was worthy of praise.
“Yup, I’m going to die.”
Nfirea smiled bitterly as he watched the troll, who was approaching him warily.
It could not regenerate damage caused by acid and fire. Because of this, the troll was especially careful around Nfirea, who could defeat its greatest ability. It was laughable that it had to act so cautiously around a foe it could finish off in one blow.
“Well, that works for me. 「Hypnotism」!”
The troll’s hostility seemed unchanged. It seemed to have resisted the spell.
Realizing that it had been targeted by a spell, the troll charged.
The gigantic body approaching him was like a scene out of a nightmare.
“If it worked, I could have held on a bit longer… no such luck. Ahhh, what a shame.”
Nfirea seemed to have given up. This was because it was a completely unwinnable battle, which had crossed the line from bravery to recklessness. But even so―
―He had to buy time for Enri.
With that thought in mind, Nfirea leapt into action.
Making note of the troll’s upraised left arm, he ran forward and to the left. Seeking life in death, he plunged head-first into danger to reach the safety beyond it. The troll’s fist followed him, and the wind of its passing ruffled his hair. And in front of Nfirea, a mighty foot kicked out at him like a moving wall.
Nfirea’s vision spun wildly as he flew through the air, his body making cracking sounds like shattered tree branches.
He hit the ground hard and rolled several times, like a piece of discarded rubbish.
Pain coursed through Nfirea’s body, which was still rolling over the ground. He was in more pain than he’d ever been in his life.
“No, I somehow managed to survive. That’s amazing. I’m amazing…”
This was because of the effects of his defensive spell and the fact that the troll had been unable to kick with all its strength. Ignoring the pain that shot through him with every breath he took, Nfirea stood, and loosed another spell.
The pursuing troll stopped in its tracks, wary of the pool of scorching acid at its feet.
Mmm, just as planned.
Nfirea’s aim was to buy time. If the enemy stopped attacking and went on guard, he hoped it would continue to stay that way.
“…Damn, this hurts. I don’t want to die…”
Nfirea gave voice to his despair.
In the end, this was all his life had amounted to.
He didn’t want to face this fact, but the circumstances were forcing him to acknowledge it.
He would die here. There was no doubt that his existence would end here.
He wanted to run. Maybe if he ran with all his strength he might be able to escape. But if that happened, what manner of tragedies would occur?
Nfirea thought of Enri.
He was able to fight because he had Enri.
“So I told her after all… damn. I don’t want to die before I hear her answer.”
The ever-approaching troll could not understand what the young man was feeling.
And he couldn’t delay it any longer.
He didn’t know how, but Nfirea managed to read his opponent’s thoughts through its face. It was planning to kill him, even if it got hurt. If that was the case―
All Nfirea could do was wound the troll, in order to make things easier for his allies who would face the troll after him.
The troll raised its fist, face twisted from the pain of being burnt by the acid. Nfirea, who couldn’t even stand without being wracked with pain, was unable to muster any form of defense.
♦ ♦ ♦
In response to Enri’s command, the three goblins ran to save Nfirea.
The reason they had met up wasn’t because Enri had reached the main gate, but rather, because Enri had not returned, and the howls coming from the rear had worried Jugem enough that he had sent three goblins out to investigate.
If he could just hold on, the goblins would save him. This was what Enri thought, as her heart was shredded by guilt.
This was really a stroke of bad luck.
If it hadn’t been like this―
Enri was pointing to Nfirea, in front of them. And towering over him, the troll was raising its fist.
They couldn’t reach him. The distance was just too far.
The troll’s hand fell like a thunderbolt. It could destroy a house in a single blow. Nfirea was dead beyond all reasonable doubt.
As she closed her eyes, she heard the goblins gulp in surprise.
Their out-of-place response led Enri to nervously open her eyes―
“Aaaahhhh, your HP’s in the red~ You okay?”
―And she saw a beautiful woman holding a gigantic weapon.
Lupusregina was carrying a weapon that looked like some sort of oversized religious symbol, using it like a shield to block the troll’s fist. The weapon’s dimensions and the maid’s size seemed completely mismatched to the point of surreality, but this was no illusion.
“Then, I’ll take care of this guy. …Oh wait, Enfi-chan’s hurt. 「Heal」.”
The troll stepped back, unable to understand the scene before it. The blow which it had put its full strength into had been blocked by a human, so its reaction was only to be expected. Perhaps it thought there was some kind of magic at work here.
With a stunned expression, Enfi limped away from the troll, turning his back to it. It was a thoroughly unguarded posture, but the troll didn’t press the attack. No, it couldn’t just ignore the newcomer.
Enri hugged Nfirea tightly.
“Ah, it’s Enri.”
His dreamlike reply told Enri that he was at his limit. Although he was out of danger, he was still in shock.
“I’m glad you’re alright.”
Enri felt something warm inside her heart. It was a warmth that replaced the cold that ran through her when she thought Nfirea had died.
“Really, I’m happy you’re fine!”
Enri hugged Nfirea tightly, with all her strength.
“So am I.”
Nfirea reached out his arms to hug Enri in return. Although the hug was very tight, they both felt safe within each other's arms.
Enri’s tears welled up and spilled out, streaming down her face.
“Ahhhh~ Sorry to interrupt you two while you’re making out.”
Enri let the strength flow from her arms, and at the same time Nfirea loosened his grip. Feeling slightly disappointed, they both turned to Lupusregina.
Shifting her line of sight, Enri saw something which was hard to describe.
“Ah, this? Kinda looks like a hamburger patty, doesn’t it? All it needs is a good charbroiling.”
A mass of blood-spattered meat shifted and twitched under the bloodied head of Lupus’ crozier. There was nothing about the pile of broken flesh that suggested that it had once been a troll. However, what made it disgusting was the fact that it was still regenerating, and still breathing.
“Ahhh well~ it’s good you two are fine. Then I guess I can clean things up here too.”
Enri heard the voices of the goblins approaching. It seemed like the battle for the main gate had been won.
“There you go~”
Fire descended from the heavens, and a pillar of red light engulfed the troll, producing the stench of cooked meat.
“Now then, the matter of the troll’s settled, so I’ll be taking off. Ah, Enfi-chan, Ainz-sama wants to reward you for developing the purple potion, so he invited you to his house. Hope you’ve prepared yourself~ Or should I say, any last words?”
After saying that, Lupusregina left through the back door.
“Thank you very much!”
Lupusregina didn’t stop or turn back in response to Enri’s shouted thanks, only waved her hand.
“…Ane-san, Ani-san, we’ll take over the task of guiding the others. You two should go have some rest over there.”
Without waiting for a reply, the goblins started moving. Shouldn’t they leave someone with us, Enri thought, but she was more worried for Nfirea than that, and put a hand on his shoulder.
After leaving the corpse of the troll behind, the two of them sat down.
Their sighs of relief overlapped each other. Then, the two of them raised their eyes to look at the night sky.
“She saved you.”
“It was just good luck.”
“Don’t do that again.”
Silence flowed between the two of them. Enri suddenly spoke the words in her heart.
“I don’t know whether or not this is love, but I don’t want Enfi to go anywhere.”
“Is this love?”
“…I don’t know. But if it is, I’d be very happy.”
Enri and Nfirea sat silently like this, leaning shoulder to shoulder and watching the stars until the goblins arrived—
“Ane-san, looks like you’re ready.”
Jugem commented on Enri’s appearance as he entered her home.
“Yes, that’s right… is it odd?”
Enri asked Jugem while looking down at the dress she was wearing ― one of the best she had, which she usually reserved for the harvest festival.
“Not at all, don’t you think, Ani-san?”
“Mm. You’re very pretty, Enri.”
“Ahhh, really now!”
With a red face, Enri stared at Jugem and a smiling Nemu. Or rather, at Nemu's mischievous grin.
Ever since Enri and Nfirea’s relationship had taken a step forward, she wanted to call out Nemu’s transient facial expressions as they came, but Enri knew that would just embarrass herself more and wisely kept her mouth shut.
However, leaving it alone was dangerous too. Especially for Nemu.
Sometimes, her little sister would ask questions that she couldn’t answer.
I keep thinking that over the past few days, I’ve matured mentally… maybe I should ask Enfi for help for this…
Seeing the plea in Enri’s eyes, her lover spoke.
“Umm, ahem! Speaking of which, Jugem-san, can you use that magic sword well? I heard it’s not like normal swords, and using it is tiring.”
The greatsword Jugem was holding had been obtained in the raid several days ago.
“I’ve gotten used to the sword’s weight and center of gravity, so I can use it as well as my old sword. As expected of a magic weapon, its sharpness and so on are much better than the other one. However… the poison in here, it weakens its opponent’s strength, but it’s a bit strange…”
“It is? Is it a powerful effect?”
“Well, it’s not a particularly strong poison. Someone like me can resist it easily. However, against weaker opponents…”
Jugem’s face took on a dark expression.
“Ah―” Jugem said as he looked to the ceiling, speaking in an irritated voice. “I was thinking about the troll I got this sword from, he seemed like an odd fellow.”
“The corpse doesn’t seem any different from a normal troll. Maybe it was a subrace?”
“No, no, I didn’t mean that, Ani-san. From its movements, its lack of regeneration, the way it felt when I cut into it… it felt weird… that’s right, like a body that was already dead. Something bizarre and foreboding like that.”
“A moving corpse? Like a zombie?”
“I don’t know. There might be a species of troll like that―”
“―Thanks for waiting!”
The door opened in time with that fresh and bright proclamation.
With the sun at her back, Lupusregina strolled boldly into Enri’s house. As Enri and friends watched in stunned silence, a pang sound came from the top of Lupusregina’s head.
“You idiot. How could you be so rude? Everyone, I apologize on her behalf.”
After pulling Lupusregina back, the woman in the back bowed to them.
“I am Ainz-sama’s maid, Yuri Alpha. I am here to receive Nfirea-sama, Enri-sama and Nemu-sama. Will you permit us entry?”
“Ah, yes. Please come in, Lupusregina too.”
The woman who had entered with Lupusregina had an otherworldly beauty, just like Lupusregina.
“Then, once you’re ready, we can begin the teleportation straight away.”
“Te-teleportation? You can teleport?!”
Nfirea was practically shouting. Although Enri didn’t know why Nfirea was so surprised, she could guess that it was a big deal.
Was teleporting the Warrior-Chief and the others a big deal too?
“Ah, no. This is not my power, but the power of a magic item Ainz-sama gave me.”
“…The horn, the potions too. He’s amazing. Why is he so amazing?”
Nfirea’s shoulder sagged. Sensing an opportunity, Enri decided to ask a question.
“Then, is it really all right for me to go? And my little sister too!”
Today was the day that the village’s savior, Ainz Ooal Gown, had invited Nfirea to his home. However, she felt unease when she heard that even a mere village girl like herself could go along. Their host was a powerful magic caster, and they were people who lived in completely different worlds. The idea that she might accidentally do something rude made her stomach hurt.
“It’s cool~ since we’re celebrating Enfi-chan’s new invention, his girlfriend En-chan can come along, no problem. Ainz-sama said so too, yanno. Formality’s not such a big deal.”
“…Lupus, mind your tone.”
“Yuri-nee, what’s wrong with that? We’re friends, right? En-chan~”
“Eh? Ah, yes. Yes. Just like that. Mm.”
Yuri sighed with a ‘Haaa…’, then walked to the front of a nearby wall. Suddenly, as though erupting from some form of space, a gigantic wooden closet appeared. It was big enough for people to pass through with ease, and its exterior was intricately carved, so it looked like a decorative closet.
“…Could this be a ‘pocket space’? No, this is too big, it should be a higher tiered spell.”
“Come, please, step inside. Lupus, can I trust the safety of this place to you?”
The wooden cabinet should have been backed up against a wall, but when one looked inside, its interior seemed to stretch into another world.
Yuri took the first step and walked through to the other side of the closet.
She was followed by Nfirea, and a little bit later, by Enri holding onto Nemu’s hand.
They passed through the wall ahead of them without resistance, and found themselves inside a vast, grand pathway, flanked by statues on both sides that were so life-like it seemed like they might even move.
Nemu exclaimed softly as she looked around the ceiling, her mouth as wide as her eyes. In order to keep her from falling, Enri looked forward as well.
The floor was made of polished rock, on which a colorful carpet had been laid to show the way forward. Enri was struck dumb with admiration; she imagined that this must be what palaces looked like.
“Please, walk this way.”
Yuri’s voice snapped her out of her daze, and she thought of running a little to catch up with the two people ahead of them. But since that would be entirely unbefitting of a place like this, Enri merely quickened her footsteps to advance swiftly.
After walking for a distance, a wall appeared with a closet door upon it, similar to the one they had used to enter. However, there were two key differences. The first was that this door was several times larger than the first, big enough for several people to enter at the same time. The second was because an image of the other side was projected onto the door, and a multicolored film of magic opened up inside it.
“Then, please enter like you did previously.”
Enri and Nfirea looked at each other.
“We’ll go in together.”
Enri and Nfirea linked their hands. From left to right stood Nemu, Enri and Nfirea, and together they walked into the door.
In an instant, amidst a shower of pink petals, there was a vision of a woman in clothes which were red on top and white below―
A harmonious chorus of voices greeted them.
Looking around, they had arrived in an even more luxurious hallway, with two rows of astoundingly beautiful maids flanking them on both sides. At the end of a passage stood a man in a black robe that seemed to suck in all light from around him, wearing a bizarre mask. He was the savior of the village, Ainz Ooal Gown.
A panicked Enri froze where she stood.
The chandeliers on the ceiling sparkled, and the white marble floor was spotless.
A magnificent passage and pretty maids all in two rows. It was like walking into a fantasy world.
Lost in this ephemeral, dream-like world, Enri accidentally lost her grip on Nemu’s hand. The part of her mind that wasn’t completely overwhelmed by her surrounding recognized this, and in the next moment, Enri snapped back to reality.
Nemu ran ahead.
“Amazing! It’s so amazing!”
Nemu shouted at the top of her voice as she ran. She ran down the two lines of maids, and towards Ainz.
Faced with a world that overwhelmed her senses and heart, she abandoned her restraint and let herself run wild.
“It’s super duper amazing!”
“Nemu! Come back!”
Enri started running a fraction of a second later. Nemu’s disgraceful behavior was making sweat form all over Enri’s body.
But was it really all right for a mere village girl like herself to run in a divine realm like this, flanked by beautiful maids? Enri hesitated, and her feet betrayed the conflicting emotions in her. In the end, she ended up moving like a half-dead frog, starting and stopping, her mind running through all the worst-case scenarios that could result.
While Enri was still limping along, Nemu had already reached the side of the village’s savior without resistance.
“Is it that impressive?”
“Yup! It’s really amazing!”
“Is that so? Amazing… no, perhaps that’s true.”
Ainz reached out a hand, and calmly patted Nemu on the head.
“Is the place where I live truly that wonderful?”
“Yeah, it’s really wonderful! Did you make this, Gown-sama?”
“Hahaha, yes, that’s right. My friends and I did.”
“That’s amazing! Gown-sama and Gown-sama’s friends are all amazing!”
The clear and bright laughter reverberated through the hallway.
By this time, Nfirea and Enri had hesitantly reached the two of them. Enri tightly gripped Nemu’s hand, infused with a will that would never let go.
“We thank you for your kind invitation from the bottom of our hearts!”
“There is no need for such formality. We are here to celebrate the production of your new potion. Be at ease.”
“Gown-sama, I am truly sorry. My sister Nemu has been rude to you.”
“Really, think nothing of it. She was moved by the sight of my residence, was she not? Then that is no insult to me.”
Ainz seemed to be in a good mood as he replied.
“Then… next up, I intended to speak to Nfirea-kun… Nemu, how about it? Do you want to see the home that I, no, that we created together?”
“Yes! I wanna see! I want to see the amazing house Gown-sama and his friends made!”
Nemu spoke before Enri could refuse.
“Hahaha. Very well, very well! I have such sights to show you…”
Enri was unable to speak, once she saw the good mood Ainz was in.
♦ ♦ ♦
She settled down onto a recliner, remembering that she had been asked to wait in the receiving room while Nemu was shown around.
Rather than say she was invited here, it would be more accurate to say that she was like a small animal that had been taken from its nest. She sat uneasily, and looked around herself. Beside her ― regardless of the size of this place, the two of them stuck closely to each other ― her lover Nfirea was also unable to keep still, much like a small animal himself.
Enri could understand that her village’s savior, the magic caster known as Ainz Ooal Gown, was a mighty being, but what she had seen today went beyond her wildest imaginings.
It was as though she had stepped into a shining dreamscape, or a story where princesses and other great figures took center stage.
The fireplace was decorated with glass birds that had been carved to life-like perfection. If she broke one, she could work her entire life and still be unable to pay for it.
The sofa was exquisite, and Enri wondered if she was dirtying it with her clothes.
The chandelier, the first she had seen in her short life, was not lit by torches, lanterns, or candles, but by magic instead. She had seen magic lights before in E-Rantel’s Adventurer’s Guild, but they couldn’t compare in brightness or style.
The furniture was tasteful and luxurious. Of particular interest was the weightiness of the ebony table before her. Even though Enri had no idea how valuable these kinds of things were, she was still able to tell that this was a very valuable piece.
A lifelike portrait of a beautiful woman hung on the wall, painted in intricate detail.
Even the carpet on the floor made Enri hesitate to step on it. It was so soft that while sitting on the sofa, she gently raised her feet, thinking that it would be better not to let her feet touch the floor.
Enri was so nervous that she was about to faint.
“I knew we should have gone with her.”
Although Ainz had refused, the idea of Nemu going by herself made her stomach boil in anxiety.
“I just hope she doesn’t trouble Gown-sama…”
“It’ll be fine, don’t worry. Gown-sama is very accommodating. I think he’ll overlook any minor rudeness from a young girl.”
“Mm, but, you see, if you anger a noble, you’ll be executed…”
“I’ve heard that too, but to be honest, I’ve never seen it before. E-Rantel and its surrounding territory are administered by the king himself, so I don’t think the nobles would dare to make a fuss… Is Gown-sama a noble?”
“Isn’t he? Anyone with such a luxurious manor and so many pretty maids would have to be a noble, right? There’s no way they could gather all these things otherwise.”
“Mmm? Is that so? To be honest, I don’t think even a noble could assemble beautiful maids like these.”
Enri’s eyebrows shot up at a dangerous angle.
It was fine if she said the maids were pretty, but when Nfirea said it, it made her feel uneasy. Just as she turned a sharp gaze on Nfirea ― there was a knocking on the door.
Enri’s shoulders twitched violently, and because the two of them were pressed against each other, the twitch was transmitted to Nfirea, who shuddered as well.
The knocking came again. Enri frantically thought about what the knocking meant, and in the meantime Nfirea opened his mouth.
“Ah, that, please come in.”
The way Nfirea had given the right answer with such calm mystified Enri, and what entered was a maid pushing a silver cart. She was a beautiful woman, dressed in sparkling clean and spotless clothes which even an amateur could recognize as a high-class maid outfit. A gentle, warm smile adorned her face. However, Enri was worried that at any moment it would twist into an angry expression as she exclaimed, “What are you two doing!”
“―The beverages are ready.”
The maid’s face displayed stunned confusion for a moment as she parsed Enri’s lightning-fast answer. Then she turned her gaze to Nfirea, and then back to Enri.
“…Ah, will this be all right?”
Perhaps she sensed how Enri was so tense that her body had frozen up, or Nfirea’s innate nervousness, but the maid smiled, genuine and unforced. She said a simple “My apologies”, and sat herself down beside Enri. Then she gently placed a hand on the petrified Enri’s shoulder.
“Emmot-sama, please do not be so tense. Emmot-sama and Bareare-sama are guests, all you need to do is be at ease and relax.”
“But, but… w-what if we break something in here…”
“Do not worry. Ainz-sama will not be bothered even if the objects in here are damaged.”
“But, but how? All the things in here are…”
Even thinking about the cost of the things she could see in a quick glance around the room made her head hurt. And to think, these items weren’t a big deal?
“Yes, Ainz-sama is extremely wealthy.”
“Tha-that I know.”
After all, he was the kind of man who would freely give out valuable and potent items such as those horns.
“Which is why, please be at ease. Deliberate damage aside, Ainz-sama will smile and forgive you for any accidents. And even if anything is damaged, it can be repaired with magic.”
“Even if you say that, that…”
“I understand. Then, please have a drink. That way, you’ll be able to relax.”
Enri glanced at the tea service on the silver pushcart. They were made of exquisite porcelain, edged in gold, and the reverse side was a deep blue, patterned with intricate designs. And they looked fragile enough that Enri was worried that they would break the moment she touched them.
“Enri, have a drink. It would be rude to refuse further.”
“Ah, then, that one, thank you.”
“Understood… hm, I see. The fragrance and taste of herbal tea is an acquired taste. Would you rather have traditional black tea instead?”
“Yes, please, thank you.”
The smiling maid prepared the tea for them with flowing, elegant movements. After the cups were rinsed with hot water, in a mysterious and inexplicable way, she made the tea before the two of them. In addition, two different small sized cups were placed in front of them.
“Please add the desired amounts of milk and sugar to your tastes.”
Enri opened the sugar pot. What she saw were white solids that resembled nothing so much as powdered snow. The village girl mechanically deposited several sugar cubes into her cup, stirring them until they dissolved. After that, she added milk. Then, Enri took a sip, and felt like her face was going to melt.
“Mm, I guess adding the sugar would do that. It’s not often that you get to taste sweet things in the village, and you don’t raise bees… if I’m not wrong, you only have something like syrup? I remember there was spice-making magic but that’s something else entirely…”
Forgetting where she was, Enri exclaimed loudly.
“Try your hardest to recall it.”
Before she could hear his noises of acknowledgement, Enri took another mouthful of the red tea, and the taste let her heart calm down.
“Really, it’s sweet and delicious.”
At this moment, several knocks resounded from the door. The maid moved quietly over and opened it.
“Ainz-sama and your little sister have returned.”
As the door opened, Nemu rushed in, all smiles. Ainz followed behind her.
“Nee-san! It’s amazing! It’s shiny and pretty and really amazing!”
As Nemu hugged her sister around the waist, Enri rose to bow to Ainz, all the while taking care to not let her little sister’s feet dirty the floor.
“Gown-sama! I apologize for my little sister’s rudeness!”
“Certainly not. Rather, I should apologize for keeping her for so long.”
“There’s no such thing. We’re very grateful.”
Ainz waved his hand to indicate that it wasn’t a problem.
“Then before I discuss matters with Nfirea-kun, let us eat.”
“Eh? We’re imposing too much―”
Facing the panicking Nfirea, Ainz replied with a calming gesture.
“This is to make sure the transaction with Nfirea-kun is profitable.”
“What do you mean by transaction?”
“…I’ll explain before we eat.”
Ainz sat on the other side of the sofa.
“To begin with, I have no intention to openly market the potion you make. Or rather, without the ingredients I provide, you can’t manufacture the purple potion. Do you agree?”
“That’s right. It’s been difficult to get this far, even when we’re using the material provided by Gown-sama. There’s still a lot of unknown factors, like how potent it is and what other effects it has.”
“Therefore, a public offer would only cause problems. Although simply asking about the source should be fine… we can’t be sure that there aren’t any opponents who’ll come at this operation with violence, right? …And from what Lupusregina’s told me, your village has suffered a monster attack. There is the possibility that these monsters, seeking the protection of strong walls, attacked your village in search of safety. Do you know why they did this, and did you take any prisoners?”
There were none, Enri answered in her heart. When they heard the monstrous roar from behind ― made by the troll Enri and Nfirea had encountered ― the goblins simply didn’t have the time or the ability to take anyone captive, and just finishing the fight had taken enough from them that there were no enemy survivors.
And that guy with the magic sword was very strong…
“Is that so. Well, that’s a shame… I considered the reasons why your village might have been attacked, which was what I just told you. As the village’s defenses become stronger, it will in turn create more problems. When an object is more valuable, it will be desired by more people, right? Similarly, if news of the potion leaked out…”
“…We should keep it a secret.”
“I’m glad you understand, Nfirea-kun. If we could make the red potion using just the ingredients from around the village, there would be no reason to keep it a secret… that is to say, everything we discuss after dinner will need to be kept strictly confidential. It concerns a duty to keep a secret. Then, preparations for the meal should be finished soon. Shall we?”
“Ah, no, there’s no need for food, how could we possibly partake of such amazing…”
Enri hurriedly shook her head.
“…Well, although I won’t force you… but isn’t it rare to have dragon steak as a main course?”
Dragons. In all the stories Enri had heard, they were mankind’s enemy, but some of them were friends of justice. However, no matter what stories they appeared in, they were always powerful beings. Could such beings become food?
Impossible. He must just have been teasing them.
At least, if Ainz hadn’t been the one saying it, she would have thought so.
However, since it was the great magic caster in front of her telling her this, that meant there was a high chance it was true.
“We also have desserts. Have you ever had ice cream? Although E-Rantel had some… don’t think I’ve tried them before. They’re ice-cold, and sweet… and they melt in your mouth. Something like sweet ice or snow.”
Enri and Nemu couldn’t help swallowing a mouthful of saliva.
“That’s a high-class luxury. Just one of those would cost more than a day’s worth of food.”
“It seems Nfirea-kun has tried something like that before. Then I shall produce more delicious ice cream for you than you can possibly imagine. Following that — where’s the menu?”
In response, the maid recited a long string of words.
“For today’s lunch menu, we will be serving two hors d’oeuvres. The first will be a dish of Piercing Lobster, which is a form of Noatun seafood, in a velouté sauce. The second will be a dish of Poiret’s foie gras of Víðópnir. The soup will be an Alfheim-style cream of sweet potato and chestnut soup. We have selected meat for the main course, which would be the marbled steak made from Jotunheim’s ancient frost dragons that Ainz-sama mentioned earlier. After that comes dessert, which would be Golden Apple compote, served in white wine and topped with yogurt. In addition, we have black tea-flavoured ice cream coated in gold leaf. For the after-meal beverages, we have considered that coffee may not suit everyone's taste, so we also have fresh peach juice. That is all. If any part of the menu requires amendment, please inform us and we will do so immediately.”
Is this a spell incantation?!
Enri, who had no clue about what had just been recited, was sure of that.
“Doesn’t everyone like foie gras? I think children will. Please add it to the menu for me. How about something light?”
“Yes. Then, we shall add scallop salad and star plum confit as hors d’oeuvres.”
“Hmm, there is that… is this menu better than the previous one?”
“Eh?! You’re asking me?!”
Enri, who had been suddenly put on the spot, answered frantically. It would be very confusing if she had to keep talking about this stuff she knew nothing about.
“Ah, that. No. Uh. I’ll leave it to you.”
It had taken all her effort to get a single sentence out. Ainz instructed the maid to prepare the meal as suggested.
Nemu looked at Ainz with worshipful eyes, muttering “so amazing” to herself. Enri felt the same way. This was too far removed from the world she usually lived in.
Wealthy people could spend money on luxuries. And being able to eat, not just to fill one’s stomach, but for nothing more than pleasure, was part of that.
Wealth, knowledge and power. A magic caster who had all of these.
He was a being that Enri as a simple farmer had no hope of reaching, a person better referred to as a king who stood above the tops of the clouds. This masked magic caster was such a formidable individual.
“Then, let’s go. Although, I don’t intend to join you. The three of you — that’s right, this family of yours should enjoy the meal with no reservations. After that, we will discuss business. Ah, I need to tell Lupusregina that I’m adding one more person to the list.”
“Eh? What’s that, Gown-sama?”
“No, it’s nothing, Nemu.”
Ainz stood up, and the sparkly-eyed Nemu stood up too.
Enri’s face had turned slightly hot from being referred to as a family, but she noticed something odd about Nfirea, who was rising slowly.
His mouth was flattened into a straight line, with no intention of opening it. However, Enri knew the secret to loosening him up.
That was to stare at him. Through the gap in his hair, Nfirea’s eyes flickered back and forth, until at last, as though giving up, he sighed.
“I was thinking that I can’t beat him. No, I know I can’t beat him. He’s far better than me as a man.”
“But you do know that I like Enfi just the way he is, right?”
Was the difference in their levels as men such an important thing? As a woman, she could not understand how significant it was.
Nfirea’s face turned bright red, then he took Enri’s hand.
There was no longer any darkness in those words.
Although she didn’t know why her lover’s feelings had changed, cheering up should mean that he was happy. Hand in hand, Enri and Nfirea chased after Ainz and Nemu.
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