Translators: Nigel, Rockgollem, SifaV6
Editors/Proofreaders: Namo-Namo, Skythewood, Ferro, M, Noir-chan
With the clamoring created by the armies stationed at E-Rantel as they prepared for the upcoming battle echoing behind his back, the first prince Barbro Andrean Ield Ryle Vaiself’s current mood was extremely sour as he advanced with his troops towards the north.
“Shit. All because of that Marquis Raeven…”
Barbro could not help but let out a curse.
During the demonic disturbance, his younger brother borrowed men from Marquis Raeven and was able to raise his reputation by patrolling the streets within the capital, leaving behind an image of someone who was capable of taking action during emergencies and was not afraid of going to the frontlines. This was viewed favorably amongst the nobles, causing many of those who supported the first prince Barbro, to change their opinion. Although Marquis Raeven might have played a hand in this as well, a number of nobles had already begun to support the second prince as the next heir.
Not having taken action during the demonic disturbance proved to be a fatal mistake.
The reason why Barbro remained at the palace and did not appear on the frontline was because he had no available pawns to use at that time.
That was the correct decision to make. Going by himself to the frontline would not have made any difference, and he most likely would have ended up becoming a burden instead. Furthermore, there was the possibility that the palace might also get attacked.
If it were not for the subordinates that Marquis Raeven provided, his brother would not have been able to patrol the streets.
Barbro believed his judgement was correct. However, those fools could not even realise that and ended up becoming deceived by what their eyes saw. In the end, everything went according to what Marquis Raeven had initially planned.
“Can those guys not even comprehend the motives behind his actions? Furthermore, all they did was scamper around the city. They didn’t even participate in any of the battles against the demons.”
If his brother had stepped onto the battlefield, he most likely would have revealed his pathetic side to the public. When he thought of it that way, it showed just how terrifyingly capable Marquis Raeven was at using his head.
Also, there was another reason why Barbro’s mood had been foul all day long.
The reason being that he was forced to head over to this backwater village called Carne.
The fight for the throne would have to be put off for later.
In the upcoming battle with the Empire, Barbro had to let the world know of his existence as the first prince of the Kingdom. To make his name known as the next heir of the Kingdom, and to take back what was rightfully his from his brother.
However, instead of being given a crucial position for the upcoming battle, he was given an order that made it seem like he was running away: to head to a village situated near the border and investigate its relationship with Ainz Ooal Gown. Just how much fame could he even gain from doing this?
Suddenly, a chill ran down Barbro’s spine.
Could this be a scheme to ensure that he would not be able to achieve any accomplishments?
Could it be that his father already decided on handing the throne to his brother, and in order to ensure that there was nothing he could do to reverse the situation, Barbro was therefore tasked with investigating this backwater of a village…
Barbro’s breathing became more erratic the more he thought about this. Slowly, his hatred began to burn towards a father who would push aside his firstborn son so that a younger brother who had only displayed a bit of courage could gain the throne. It was enough to cause his vision to narrow.
It was but a coincidence that a rider by Barbro’s side noticed the change in his demeanor.
“Your Highness, are you perhaps feeling unwell? Shall I summon a priest for you?”
The buzzing cry made by the nearby insects caused Barbro to feel nauseous. However, he was able to force down his urge to vomit. Perhaps it was due to the fortunate timing of a sudden cold draft, or it might have been because of the harsh training he received as a member of the royal family, but Barbro was able to keep his facade up.
Exposing one’s feelings was a foolish thing to do.
“No, no, don’t worry about it. I was only thinking about the work that father had entrusted me with. Rather than that, Baron Cheneko, how did your meeting with the adamantite-ranked adventurer Momon go?”
“About that, Your Highness, please listen to this! It was such an unpleasant event! Furthermore, I was unable to see Momon because he was absent.”
“Well, these things were bound to happen. He’s an adamantite-ranked adventurer after all. So what were you angry about? It’s not like you made an appointment or anything, so it can’t be helped if you couldn’t meet.”
“No, it’s not about that. The reason why I’m angry is because of the actions of that Momon’s companion, the one called Nabe!”
“Nabe? Ah, the one nicknamed the ‘Beautiful Princess’?”
Barbro recalled the figure of a woman he saw previously at the Kingdom’s Capital, who possessed a beauty beyond this world. Her appearance could even match up to his younger sister’s. Although Barbro desired her, she was one of the adventurers who had received a reward from his father. He could not use simple methods to get his hands on her.
“So what did that beautiful woman do to you?”
“She assaulted me! Please look at this!”
Baron Cheneko removed his gauntlet, revealing his bruised hand.
“What? Even if she’s an adamantite-ranked adventurer, violence against the nobility is not permitted.”
“Nevertheless, that woman named Nabe suddenly grabbed my hand and drove me out.”
The amount of details given by the Baron was very little, as such, Barbro paid little attention as he listened. No matter how he thought about it, it appeared as if Cheneko was hiding something.
“Your Highness! By all means, please use your royal authority to render justice upon that foolish woman who dared to use violence on me!”
If I were to made use of this incident, would I be able to blackmail that woman and get her to do whatever I want?
Barbro thought about it.
On how to lend a hand to the Baron and make Nabe his. However, he was unable to come up with a good plan. All because this fool of a Baron most likely had orchestrated it as a way to sell him a favor.
Such a useless fool. While I will pretend to treat him kindly for now, the moment I gain the throne I will dispose of him immediately.
The more Barbro thought about this, the more frustrated he became. Even someone like this fool of a Baron was able to have his own territory to govern and men to order around, yet Barbro himself possessed nothing—not a single pawn to use, and he had to rely on others in order to fight his battle. Various thoughts like these surged through his head, yet they were forcefully quelled down in the end.
Turning towards the Baron who was waiting eagerly for his response, Barbro waved his hand as usual and said the following.
“I’ll think about it once I’ve inherited the throne.”
Not wanting to exchange any further dialogue with that fool, Barbro turned his head away and asked towards one of Marquis Bowlrob’s subordinates who was riding close by. He was an officer of the elite troops under the direct command of the Marquis.
“Oi, there’s something that I want to ask.”
“What’s wrong, your Highness?”
Truthfully speaking, there was nothing that Barbro wanted to know. However, he could not just suddenly end his conversation with the Baron. He had to quickly come up with a question to ask. The unpleasant thoughts that Barbro had previously buried about suddenly resurfaced.
The ultimate reason as to why Barbro was heading towards Carne Village was because of the proposal made by Marquis Bowlrob. If that was the case, then—
Could it be, the Marquis has betrayed me? In order to allow my brother to take the throne?
Such an unbelievable thought.
The Marquis’s daughter was his wife, and his relationship with the Marquis was good. If Barbro was to inherit the throne, Bowlrob would also become the head of the Six Great Families. If the Marquis suddenly started to support his brother, it was most likely just a feint that was part of a greater scheme against Marquis Raeven. However, other than that, Barbro could not think of any other reason why the Marquis had made such a proposal.
In that case… was I sent to such a backwater village in order to make the other nobles think that I won’t be able to earn any achievements?
“Is there something I can do for you? Should we perhaps stop and rest?”
An uncontrollable hatred leaked from Barbro, causing the knight to show an alarmed expression. Even though Barbro was aware of his unsightly display, he was still unable to hold back his anger.
A burst of murderous intent could be felt from behind Barbro’s teeth as he voiced his command.
“I hereby order you. Once we complete our task at Carne Village, we will immediately head for the battlefield. Make preparations for the journey now while we are still on our way to Carne Village. As soon as we finish our task, we will set out immediately and return to E-Rantel by night fall. After a short break, we will head towards Kattse Plains and aim to get there before sunrise.”
The knight frowned upon hearing that.
“Please forgive my words, but Your Highness’s orders might be difficult to carry out. Please look: Our force consists of the three thousand five hundred men from the Marquis and an additional fifteen hundred men sent from the various nobles as reinforcements for your highness. Altogether we have a total of five thousand troops. To carry out this mission as fast as possible, we didn’t take much troops for logistics, but stowed all our supply on fifty carriages.”
“I’m aware of that already. What’s the problem?”
“Out of the five thousand troops we have, four thousand five hundred of them are infantry and our cavalry only consists of five hundred men. Even if we can finish the task at Carne Village within an hour’s time, it will still be very hard on the troops to have them reach E-Rantel by nighttime.”
“I already said I’m already aware of that. I will ask you once more, do you have a problem with it? If not, follow through with what I ordered.”
“Your Highness… Some of the troops might not be able to keep up.”
“You seemed to have misunderstood something. Honestly speaking, for such a small village that lies on our border, there’s almost zero value for us to go there. What we really should be doing is heading to Kattse Plains to defeat the Empire. What do you think? You are the Marquis’ subordinate, are you not? In that case I ask you, do you think that the coming battle will be so easy as to afford to send five thousand troops elsewhere to play around? Do you really believe that is the case?”
The knight closed his mouth tight.
“Do not confuse your priorities. …You say stragglers will appear within our troops? In that case, just let them go. The reason why you guys were gathered in the first place was for the battle at Kattse Plains.”
…And to raise my reputation.
“…It is as you say. I understand.”
The knight bowed his head.
“You should have answered like that from the start. Plan for when we would reach E-Rantel and when we would head out. I will leave the details to you.”
“Yes! I will do so immediately and will definitely bring you results.”
By the time the knight had left, his existence had already faded from Barbro’s mind.
Does my father hate me? Or has old age caused his mind to become hazy? To give away the throne to the younger brother when it is clearly the eldest son’s right to inherit… This will only antagonize the nobles.
Even though Barbro’s current situation was overwhelmingly to his disadvantage, he firmly believed he could turn the tide. Let them regret giving me the chance to take command of five thousand troops.
Those ideas swirled inside the mind of Barbro.
“I will be expecting you to perform your best!”
His sharp voice seemed to as if wanting to convey something more, echoing left, right and over.
Just you wait, Zanack. Bite your nails while you wait for me at the Capital.
Even though they were connected by blood, his brother was still an opponent who must be defeated in order to gain the throne. Furthermore, Barbro never particularly liked him in the first place. Although it was not enough to warrant his immediate death, but if Zanack was to cause any additional trouble, Barbro will be sure to dispose of him.
Once I become king, how should I make use of him? Would it be better to just have him killed so that those foolish nobles won’t be able to use him as a symbol for revolt? But wouldn’t that be too wasteful? If he was a woman there would be many uses… Like my sister, even though her head isn’t very good, but at least her looks are rather decent. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to just sell her to the highest bidder. …Although that might cause some problems due to her royal blood, maybe it’s best to marry her off to some distant kingdom. …Perhaps that might even become part of my future foundation for power. Well, let’s just wait and see.
Barbro’s eyes narrowed as he began to envision the ideal Re-Estize Kingdom he would build in the future.
The image of the nobles kneeling before him as he sat on top of the golden throne.
With a single command, the entire court would bow down.
“Oh how great that would be.”
A faint smile appeared over Barbro’s face, but was covered almost immediately by his hand.
The task at Carne Village would be completed immediately, and after that, they would immediately rush over to Kattse Plains. Whether it would remain a dream or become reality depended on how well the two tasks were completed.
…I must get the soldiers moving even if I have to use force. What’s important is that I must arrive before the battle starts. Wait, no. Would it be better to wait until the battle starts and try to ambush the enemy?
Although that might indeed be a good move to take, however Barbro had little confidence in his ability to lead his troops to suddenly attack the enemy’s rear and flanks.
As much as Barbro was inclined to believe otherwise, he couldn’t help but to let the knights handle it instead. Although leaving his fate on whether or not he could become king to others might indeed prove to be a rather unwise idea.
While deep in thought on how to best display his brilliance, an idea flashed across his mind.
Could the villagers from Carne Village be used as negotiation tools against Ainz Ooal Gown?
It was as if a brilliant light suddenly shone upon Barbro, covering his body with radiance.
The ultimate scheme!
No matter what kind of reason Ainz Ooal Gown had for rescuing those at Carne Village, their existence could be used as bargaining chips.
If this unknown magic caster called Ainz Ooal Gown would withdraw from the coming battle, the Empire will lose their reason for starting the conflict and will most likely retreat as well.
If the Empire were to withdraw due to the actions undertaken by Barbro—
Would this be the best thing to happen? Father will no longer be able to ignore my opinions, and my chances of becoming the next king will become certain.
“Very good. That would be the best.”
However, if it was just a passing whim as to why Ainz Ooal Gown had decided to help Carne Village, then the possibility of him taking the bait would be low. Were that the case, then when the time comes, Barbro would just have to forcefully conscript the villagers for the coming battle. The conflict the Kingdom was facing this time required the mobilization of an entire nation. Mere peasants from Carne Village had no rights to refuse.
Although his father might have given the people permission to refuse conscription, the current situation had changed. At this moment, the commanding officer—which happened to be Barbro himself, had the right to decide what could or could not be done.
If the peasants from Carne Village were able to slay Ainz Ooal Gown, this would demonstrate that he was only at the level of a human and could be publicized as propaganda for all to see. It could even be used against the Empire.
Barbro couldn’t help but tremble at the perfect strategy that he came up with all by himself.
Honestly speaking, although he always assumed that his head was never as good as his brother’s when it comes to scheming, but it now looked like that might not be the case after all. Barbro began to marvel at the discovery of his own hidden talents finally starting to bloom.
The coming of winter was hell for small villages. All they could do was pray for the coming of the warmer seasons while weathering the cold days in their homes. If spring was late, or if the harvest in autumn was meager, they might be forced to eat their seed stock, and people would still starve to death even if they did so.
Although the fields did not need to be tilled in winter, village life was still closely associated with the words “activity”. There were many tasks to be done indoors, like tending the livestock and maintaining the farming tools. Besides, their homes, huts and stables all needed to be cleaned. There was simply no time to rest.
This was especially true in Carne Village, where they had to support the carnivorous monsters like ogres. They couldn’t rely on snare traps alone to hunt up enough meat to solve that problem, so the villagers had ended up raising pigs instead, buying them with the sizable amount of money they received from selling the herbs they had harvested.
The goblins led those pigs into the Great Forest of Tob to graze on roots and stems. There was only a small number of pigs right now because this plan was still at an experimental stage, but if it went well and if they could make it through the winter, they would steadily increase the number of pigs to raise in the future.
Normally, they would need to pay taxes to the landlord of the land they were grazing on, but fortunately, Carne Village did not need to do that. The reason was because the Great Forest of Tob was the dwelling place of monsters, and was not ruled by humans.
Carne Village’s future seemed very bright indeed.
All of this was thanks to Ainz Ooal Gown, who had saved the village and given it much support. In addition, the Dark Hero Momon had subdued the Wise King of the Forest. Many people in the village gave thanks to the two of them, and some even prayed to them over breakfast, revering them in the same breath as they did the gods.
It was precisely this overflowing of hope that gave the new chief, Enri Emmot, so much work.
Today, Enri, followed by Nfirea, were heading to a small hut for their work.
In a frontier village like Carne, everyone in the village worked together like they were family. If they did not do this, there would be no way for them to survive. They shared their farming implements and even took turns to use their community cows to till the fields.
Because of this, the care and feeding of the livestock was a group activity. And the hay for the cows in winter was stored in small huts just like this one.
Enri opened the wooden door and entered, followed closely by Nfirea. Holding herself upright as though she were still opening the door, Enri sat herself down onto a pile of hay, sinking her rear into the dried grass with a soft pomf.
After closing the door, Nfirea sat by her side, his magic mote of light illuminating the surroundings.
“Chief, you should save the playing around for after you finish this; we still need to see if we have enough hay and then make several decisions afterwards.”
“You’re calling me Chief again…”
Nfirea couldn’t help giggling at Enri’s bored reply.
“Well, who cares, anyway? I am the Chief, after all. That’s right, Agu thinks I can squish all the goblins into paste if I felt like it! Compared to that, all these problems are nothing!”
Ever since she had won her arm-wrestling match with Agu, the village people were muttering “it might be true”. The atmosphere that sort of thing produced was very troubling. Incidentally, she had not challenged the ogres. If she lost, it wouldn’t prove anything, and if she won, or at least lost narrowly, it would get even worse.
―Does this mean if I let Enfi get away, I’ll never be able to get married?
Sweat slowly beaded on Enri’s hands.
“Ah― right. Aren’t you going to open the window? It’s dry now, so opening it should be fine.”
“Eh? No, no need, we don’t need to, right? And look, we’ve got a magic light here.”
“Really? Well, if Enfi doesn’t mind, then neither do I.”
Magic illumination was brighter than the sun. She knew this, but Enri’s suggestion was based purely on the logic that “since the sun’s out, isn’t it wasteful to use mana for a magical light”? In addition, she wanted to change the current mood in the room. There hadn’t been any reason for that and she didn’t particularly mind when he refused. However, sitting next to her, Nfirea seemed to be having some kind of strange reaction, with his ears being bright red and all.
Is it really depleting so much of his mana? But I heard light-creating magic wasn’t that tiring… did he use some other spell before coming here? Come to think of it, he doesn’t smell of herbs. In fact, he smells kind of… nice.
“W-what’s wrong, Enri?”
Nfirea’s words came out in a panicked squeak as Enri pressed her nose close to him.
“Mm? Ah, no, nothing, I just thought I smelled something nice…”
“Y-you did? Well, that’s good to hear. That must be the cologne I made.”
“Really… why don’t you try selling it in town next time? I’m sure it’ll fetch a good price.”
“No, that… this… isn’t meant for…”
“Hm-mm… well, forget it. Anyway, there should be enough hay in this hut. Shall we move on?”
“Mm, yeah. Then, before we move on, let me check on something first. It’s cold outside, after all.”
“…Well, this place isn’t that warm either… ah, forget it.”
“That… about that. I wanted to discuss something with you.”
Nfirea, who was sitting beside her, seemed a little tense.
What was going on with him?
As Enri bathed the side of his face in a suspicious stare, Nfirea took out a handful of papers.
They were covered in tiny letters. Although Enri could recognize several words, there were more words there which she did not know than she did in her brief glimpse.
“The first thing is how to feed the remaining goblins from Agu’s tribe and the ogres.”
“Eh? Aren’t we fine as we are? They helped with the harvest in the autumn, and we managed to buy the ogres’ food from the city.”
“Mmm, and the herbs sold for a good price, so we can say we’ve got ample food reserves. It should be enough to deal with his winter. Even if we add a few extras, our food stocks should still hold out. But if the numbers keep increasing, life’s going to be quite harsh. Maybe we should acquire our food by other means.”
There were 14 people in Agu’s tribe now. They were not born, but instead, they managed to escape from the territory of the Giant of the West and the Serpent of the East.
“Mmmm. Although I don’t see a problem, we should probably buy more food from E-Rantel. However, I was planning to save some money to commission some metal tools for the ogres.”
“If we could make some farming tools for the ogres, the spring seeding should go a lot faster. …But the problem is that if we order tools for the ogres, they’ll be big enough that no human could use them, and that’ll raise a lot of questions.”
“And if word about the ogres gets out, it’ll cause a lot of problems, right?”
When the tax collectors came in autumn, Jugem and the others had to hide in order to escape being noticed. Incidentally, it was due to their efforts that the grain harvest was so bountiful.
Since Carne Village had been attacked by Imperial knights, they only needed to pay a nominal tribute, which was a stroke of luck for them. In addition, they were excused from the draft for several years.
Most of that was a form of apology for not protecting Carne Village properly, but it looked like they felt genuine guilt about that as well. There were some questions about the mighty wall surrounding the village, but they deflected questions by saying “it was the work of that magic caster”. If they could do that, surely they could explain the ogres away as well, right? At least, that was what Enri thought, but Nfirea shook his head.
“There’s no doubt about that. If it goes bad, the Kingdom might even send a punitive force out.”
“That’s too much!”
“You say that, but the truth is that ogres usually eat people. The only reason why they can live with us in this village is because of Jugem-san, who’s stronger than us. Don’t forget that.”
“Another thing is that we have far too few people in this village. We need to think about how to get more residents. If the newcomers arrived with the spring planting season, that would be great.”
“That’s a big if. And, like you said, what happens if they see the goblin-sans and ogre-sans and run off? What then?”
That doubtful question came from Enri. As she spoke, something strange seemed to be happening with Nfirea. Something like… his mind wasn’t fully there or something like that.
“Eh? Ah, no, nothing’s wrong!”
There was no way that could be true. Was he feeling restless? After all, her lover had a bad habit of dropping everything to obsess about his potions.
As he saw Enri’s eyebrows furrowing, Nfirea took a deep breath and shifted his body over.
Hm? So he’s really restless, after all? He does do a lot of experiments everyday… but it’ll be cold if he sleeps here. Although it’s kind of warm in the hay…
While Enri was thinking about this. Nfirea slowly leaned more and more of his weight on her.
What’s wrong? Though come to think about it, it would be better if Nfirea were a bit stronger… I guess he needs more meat. He hasn’t been eating and sleeping enough.
A playful impulse came over Enri, and she pushed Nfirea back. She’d originally intended to use just a bit of force, but because she used too much strength, she ended up pinning him below herself instead.
Before Enri’s eyes, Nfirea’s surprised and confused face slowly turned bright red.
Aaaah~ It must be embarrassing for a man to lose to a woman in strength. That’s why I said you need to eat more…
Just as Enri rolled herself off him, Nfirea lay down in the hay and closed his eyes.
They stayed like this for several seconds, enjoying the peace and quiet.
“…What’s wrong, Enfi? Do you want to sleep?”
Nfirea sat back up, his face uncharacteristically red.
“Uh… oh… um. N-nothing…”
The door flew open without a knock as the shout reached her ears. So forceful was the entry that the door crashed loudly against the nearby wall.
The curious squeak came from Nfirea.
“Sorry for disturbing you two, but this is an emergency!”
This was the first time she’d seen Jugem this worried ever since that troll attacked. A strange, terrible premonition seemed to run through her body.
“Troops! A large body of troops is heading this way!”
“Eh?! What, what did you say? Whose troops are they?”
“We don’t know about heraldry so we couldn’t tell. But there’s a lot of different coats of arms, so you should come and look… In any case, we should shut the gate first. What should we do?”
“That! Ah… well, can you tell us which coats of arms make up the most among them? If you can describe or sketch them for me I can help.”
After listening to Jugem’s explanation, a suspicious expression spread over Nfirea’s face.
“How strange. Those are flags from the Kingdom. If we knew which nobles’ crests they were, we could identify who was coming here.”
Carne Village was a frontier village, and before it had been founded there had only been forest here. It was obvious that their objective was Carne Village, but why they were coming here was still a mystery.
“But why? Do you know why, Nfirea?”
“Why would the Kingdom’s troops would come to the village? If they wanted to go to the Great Forest of Tob, it’s strange that they’re sending so many troops. They could have just sent adventurers instead. If that’s the case… maybe there’s a revolt or something…”
“Could that sort of thing really happen?”
“It’s just a rumour, but I’ve heard that the King’s power isn’t actually very strong. Currently, it seems like the nobles are in conflict with the King. If that’s the case, are they coming to Carne Village to attack it?”
The blood drained from Enri’s face.
Could it be that the village would be subject to a dreadful assault like last time?
―However, the circumstances now were different from then.
Enri decided to face it head on.
“We should flee into the forest before the troops reach here!”
“…Ane-san, I’m sorry. We spotted them too late, so if we ran now, we’d have to leave all our things here. In addition, since it’s winter, the chances of monsters appearing in the forest are also very high. If we run from one problem, we end up running right into another instead.”
Jugem’s pained expression made Enri feel dizzy.
They would not be able to survive if the troops burned the village down in winter.
“If that’s the case… ah! That’s right! If we can’t flee with our possessions, then we should prepare for battle and hide food and the other necessities at the same time!”
“Yes! That’s a good plan, Enri! The cellars where Jugem and the ogres hid from the tax collectors shouldn’t have been buried yet. We’ll move everything in there!”
Just as Enri was about to move into action, she remembered a question she hadn’t asked yet.
What were their numbers? The villagers could estimate how much food to hide if they knew how many there were.
“How many are there? It should be about a hundred, right?”
As Enri saw Jugem taking a deep breath and slowly answering, she had the sudden urge to stuff her fingers in her ears.
“Not just a hundred… more like thousands.”
Enri blinked. So did Nfirea beside her.
“They have about four thousand people at the very least, I think.”
“But that’s… why would they send so many…”
“I have no idea. Why would they send so many troops to a village like this? …Enri, could it be that word got out about the goblins in the village?”
“No way. It’s impossible.”
Enri’s reply came immediately.
No matter how she thought, she couldn’t think of a reason for a leak. There had been immigrants, but they all felt that the goblins were more trustworthy than humans. Ever since the troll attack the barriers between the original and new residents of the village had all but disappeared.
It might have been because of adventurers ―perhaps Momon and Nabe had spread the word to avenge their fallen comrades― but Nfirea was insistent that that could not be the case.
“Then… while we prepare to flee, we should ask them why they came. Fighting… is a last resort.”
Doing battle with an army of four thousand men was nothing short of suicide.
“Like Ani-san said, that’s all we can do… I guess against these numbers, there’s no other way.”
“Umu. That’s why, we should get ready to flee at any moment, while trying to buy time for our escape. Then, let’s go!”
Several villagers were helping to hide the food along with the ogres. The only ones left were Enri, Jugem, and some of the goblins, along with Britta and several members of the defence force.
The first thing Enri did was to question Britta about the situation, asking about the identity of the interlopers and whose crests they bore. But sadly, Britta couldn’t give her any answers.
According to her, someone else had always handled that sort of thing. In that moment, Enri realised how important it was to be well-informed. Because of that, all they could do was to wait for Nfirea to make his report after coming back from the watch tower.
The sound of hooves came from the other side of the wall, and then a loud voice.
“This one is the envoy of the Crown Prince of the Re-Estize Kingdom, Barbro Andreyan Ield dale Vaiself! Open the gate and let us in!”
Enri doubted her ears again.
Although she had heard many surprising things in a short period of time, this one took the cake.
“T-the Crown Prince?!”
What on earth was someone like that doing here?!
Enri had no idea what was going on. All this was starting to feel like a bad dream.
However, judging by the way Nfirea was scurrying back from the watchtower, the envoy’s words were most likely true.
“The King’s flag is among them. Only the royal family or those related to them would be allowed to bear that flag.”
“Eh? What does that mean?”
“It means that the royal family has brought troops to our village!”
Enri raised her voice, unable to understand what was going on.
“Why, why do you need to send so many troops to a frontier village like this?”
“Peasants like you don’t need to know about that! This land belongs to the King, and obeying the King is all you need to do! Or could it be that you’re defying the King ― raising your flag in revolt?”
Enri’s body shuddered.
As subjects of the King, they should open their doors. However―
―Jugem exchanged a glance with Enri from the side.
Even if they went to open the gate right away, they couldn’t do it instantly. Before that, they had to hide the goblins and the ogres.
“Ah, Ane-san. We’ll hide ourselves as quickly as we can. Until then, please buy us some time.”
Enri nodded. Why did I order them to hide the food first, she thought, but it was too late for regrets now.
“I repeat… Open the gate!”
“My, my apologies! Right now, right now we’re preparing to welcome his Majesty the Prince! Please, hold on a bit!”
“Repeat yourself, woman! Are you in charge of this village? This delay is unacceptable! Do not waste even a single second in opening the gate!”
“…Why are you so desperate to get in?!”
Under pressure, the already uneasy Enri responded with an angry shout. While she knew it was disrespectful, she couldn’t rule out the possibility that they were soldiers from another country masquerading as Kingdom troops.
Carne Village’s defenses were extremely solid. They had shocked the tax collectors who had seen them.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if another country wanted to use it as a base. After all, the trolls had attacked for precisely that reason.
The other side fell silent for once, and both sides hesitated uneasily.
“Why aren’t you answering! You’re impostors pretending to be Kingdom troops, aren’t you!”
After that panicked shout, she finally got an answer.
“…the magic caster called Ainz Ooal Gown came to this village once, did he not?”
The image of the village’s savior appeared in Enri’s head.
“That magic caster is now an enemy of the Kingdom. As such, we wish to ask you, who are related to Ainz Ooal Gown, about him.”
Overcome by surprise, Enri was unable to speak.
However, the whispers of one of the defense force members worked its way into her ear.
“If Ainz-sama is opposed to the Kingdom… then isn’t it the Kingdom that’s wrong?”
The eyes of the villagers reflected their agreement.
Of particular note were those villagers who moved to Carne Village after their original homes had been burned down. Their hatred of the Kingdom for not being able to defend them swiftly turned into trust and reverence of the magic caster who saved this village.
Be it the gift of the horn that had summoned the goblins, or the provision of the golems that built the sturdy walls that now protected them, or the maid Lupusregina who saved the village when they were attacked by the troll, all these came together and became reverence for Ainz.
“…But, there’s a lot of them. If we don’t open the gate…”
“But if we betray Ainz-sama like this after receiving his kindness…”
“Wait! They said they just want to ask us something. It doesn’t mean we’re betraying him…”
“Is that so? In the end, it still sounds ungrateful to me.”
Everyone’s eyes were on Enri.
She understood well the hearts of both sides. Because of that, Enri hesitated, unable to choose between the sides. Just at this moment, an angry shout came from outside the gate.
“If you understand, open the gates right now! If not, you will be treated as traitors to the Kingdom!”
Pushed to the limit, Enri shouted back something to try and buy time.
“Dung, there is cow dung everywhere! W-we can’t let the Prince walk into a place like this!”
After a brief silence, a calmer voice pierced the air.
“Oh, um. Understood. Then how about this. We will enter instead of his Majesty the Prince. We’ll think about what happens later.”
There were no more excuses she could give.
Enri’s mind had gone completely blank. Not caring what it was, she shouted the first thing she could think of in response.
“S-sorry! The dung’s on my hands! I can’t rub it off! Let me wash my hands and I’ll be back!”
Enri watched the retreating backs of Jugem and the others. She was worried about how much time that had bought them.
♦ ♦ ♦
Barbro’s increasing impatience was starting to spread to the rest of the unit. He glared at the reporting knight with a look usually reserved for an enemy.
“Say it one more time, what foolery is this?!”
Barbro’s anger overflowed with every word he spoke from between the gaps of his grinding teeth, and the knight repeated himself.
“Sir! Carne Village still has not opened their gates.”
As he listened to the knight’s calm reply, Barbro was filled with the sudden desire to punch him.
However, that would have been foolish. Barbro struggled to control the anger welling up in his fist.
This knight included, nobody here was actually sworn to Barbro. In the first place, Barbro commanded no troops. Every man here was under orders from their liege lord, or in the company of their lord. Because of that, he could not strike his allies while the other knights were watching.
“―Why? Why are those peasants in Carne Village not opening the gate? The land is directly ruled by the royal family! They’re supposed to obey me! I told them to open the gate, didn’t I?!”
As his impatience built and his blood pumped faster, his words started to lose coherence.
“What’s the problem? Are they looking down on me? What are you waiting for?!”
The villagers were beings far inferior to the Crown Prince. These beings were now insulting him.
As that thought came to mind, it blended with the aggravation that gripped his heart. This festering, sticky hatred that had been building up inside him for the months since the demonic disturbance, and the upwelling of resentment burst like a dam.
The words came out in an instant.
“Traitors! Traitors, all of them! I declare that everyone in Carne Village is a traitor!”
The shout carried through the air, into the ears of the surrounding soldiers, triggering a surprised commotion from the men.
“My lord, please wait! If you do that…!”
Barbro stared unhappily at the panicked knight who replied.
If they designated the village as traitors, they would need to exterminate each and every last one of them for starters, then burn the village down until no trace of its existence remained.
But so what?
Prince Barbro couldn’t understand why his subordinates were not following the order he gave. After all, these men belonged to the Marquis and they were looking down on him and refusing to obey his words.
“What nonsense is this?! Allowing them to live after disobeying a royal command is a sin!”
That was true. Permitting treason against the royal family was an insult to them. Sparing them would eventually result in a loss of authority and the mandate to rule.
Even on the nobles’ own territory, once any of their serfs rose up in revolt, they would undoubtedly be destroyed without mercy. The knights of the Marquis should have known that much.
“Please wait, my Prince! The war with the Empire is coming soon. If we kill citizens of the King’s demesne, it will negatively affect the morale of the entire army! I also pray you will look at the fortifications. There is no way this is an ordinary village. Although the villagers are not numerous, trying to break down the gate with brute force will be difficult in the extreme. If that is the case, we should ask them their reasons for not opening the gate after things settle down here.”
“…Ask them nicely, and then hang a few of them.”
“…It can’t be helped. After all, they did keep the gate shut in defiance of Barbro-sama’s orders.”
“You must get that gate open, and then we’ll make an example of them!”
Prince Barbro gazed at Carne Village.
As the knight said, the sturdy gate was set into thick curtain walls. Given that the village was right next to the Great Forest of Tob, this might even have been intentional. However, from the way the watchtowers were placed, it resembled a fortress more than a frontier village.
Bringing it down would take a long time.
Over a thousand soldiers were lined up in front of the gate, shouting at them to open up.
If one listened carefully, one could hear the same sounds in the distance, from the rear gate.
These shouts were like sparks from a flint, falling upon the tinder that represented the complex mix of emotions in Prince Barbro’s heart. The fire rose, and as it burned, he lost his ability to think.
“Oi! Fire the flame arrows!”
“That’s right. God only knows how long this is going to take with all this waiting. Listen up, we don’t have time to waste on this village any further! If you could open that gate in a few minutes that would be fine, but you can’t, can you?!”
The knight could only nod while gritting his teeth.
“Threaten them with flame arrows. The time for playing childish games like standing outside the wall and shouting is over. Now we show them how adults do things!!”
As the knight stared, open-mouthed and dumbfounded, a man stormed up from his side.
“To think you would disobey his Majesty the Prince… I can’t believe you’re one of the Marquis’ men. My Prince, will you permit my men to carry out that attack?”
This was Baron Cheneko. Behind him were several of his fellow brown-nosers.
Prince Barbro was glad that such men existed, who could be useful despite their foolishness. No, he was a noble as well, and if a village in his fief had dared rise up in revolt, he would probably have done the same thing as well. He might even understand Prince Barbro’s position.
“…Is that so. Then I order you to make it so, Baron. Fire flame arrows at the village… no, this way is better. Target the watchtower. That ought to avoid casualties, right?”
“Ooohh! Such a merciful decision! As expected of my Prince! Then, you have but to watch us!”
♦ ♦ ♦
“Ane-san! We’re ready! Everyone’s taken cover. We’re the only ones le― what’s that?”
Jugem could sense an oddity in the surrounding air, and warily asked about it
The defense force members who had remained here were completely opposed to each other. Half of them were reluctantly in favor of opening the gates for the army outside while the other half were fiercely opposed to it. The root of the dispute was whether or not they would be betraying the village’s hero, Ainz Ooal Gown. As a result, it was hard to make a decision.
Enri was about to say something to Jugem when a loud voice came from outside the walls.
“―Citizens of Carne Village. Because you did not immediately open the gate when ordered, the fact of whether you are loyal subjects of the Kingdom has been called into question. As such, we will take representatives from among you onto the battlefield, where you will convince Ainz Ooal Gown to surrender. Doing so will allow you to prove that your loyalty remains with the Kingdom, and that you are loyal subjects!”
The atmosphere started to change. Hatred burned in the villagers’ hearts like a wildfire.
Enri was no exception.
It was true that the villagers were citizens of the Kingdom, and loyal. However, that loyalty paled in comparison to the gratitude they felt to the man who had saved their village for no charge or obligation. After all, when their families, friends and lovers had been murdered, the only one who had reached out a hand to help them was that great magic caster.
“I’ll never let myself be dragged onto the battlefield to get in Ainz-sama’s way!”
“Can’t we just hide in the forest and see how things go before making a decision?”
Loud arguments like these echoed from all around.
However, the one thing they had in common was that nobody wanted to do anything which might inconvenience their hero.
It was at this moment that the sound of something stretching carried over from the outside, followed by the sound of several objects piercing the air. As the sound came closer, points of brilliant red light appeared before their eyes, and arrows fell like rain onto the watchtower. The sound of the arrows piercing into the wood and lighting up in flame filled everyone’s ears.
The Kingdom was going to use lethal weapons against them. That fact made Enri gasp.
Fortunately, nobody was in the watchtower at the time. They had known that before they attacked. Or maybe―
―Maybe they wouldn’t have hesitated if there were someone inside anyway.
“An-Ane-san! Although it looks like they’re not attacking us yet, you still shouldn’t be standing in their bow range! Over here, quickly!”
Enri, still watching the burning watchtower in a stupor, was dragged away by Jugem. She didn’t resist as Jugem grabbed her by the hand and ran, but her face was still turned to the watchtower.
Just as the defense force began scattering to the rear, the watchtower blazed up in an inferno.
The thatched roof caught alight in an instant and turned into a massive pyre.
Everyone in the village could see the destruction of the tower, no matter where they were. Wails of sorrow rose from all around her. One in particular was especially loud. As Enri tried to catch her breath and get herself under control, she saw the man who had screamed the loudest, whose voice carried the most anguish.
He was a man who had moved into the village.
His face was a mix of hatred and despair. She looked around herself, and many of the immigrants had similar expressions on their faces.
Their villages had been burned down in a similar way.
“The enemy!” the man screamed. “They’re the enemy! How can they not be the enemy when they do this! I want to fight them!”
“Whose Kingdom is this?! They didn’t even help us! And now they want to burn this place down?!”
That shout came from a plump woman.
“How can they be allowed to do this! If they want to kill me, go right ahead! I’ll take as many of the bastards down with me as I can! I’ll get revenge for them!”
A young man followed up with a cry of his own.
Madness and hatred were saturating the air, thanks in no small part to the flame arrows.
“…Ane-san. It’s time to make a decision.”
Jugem’s quiet voice came from a face as hard as any warrior’s armor.
“Eh? …But these people have lost the ability to think. Shouldn’t we wait before making a decision?”
“There’s no time. And nobody can guarantee they won’t go berserk. It’s best if you decide what the village is going to do right now.”
That was a reasonable suggestion. The army had already destroyed the watchtower with flame arrows. The next time round, they would probably do something worse. They had to act now.
As Enri screwed up her determination, she took a deep breath. She glanced briefly to Nfirea, who was holding Nemu’s hand, and they nodded to her, as though in encouragement.
Her chest no longer felt as tight.
That was the final dose of courage Enri needed.
“Everyone! Right now! Everyone here is going to decide what we, as a village are going to do! Whatever the decision, I hope you will abide by it!”
A great chorus of approval was her answer.
“Hands up everyone who wishes the village to do as the Kingdom says!”
Not a single hand was raised.
As her heart pounded mightily in her chest, Enri shouted once more.
“Then! Everyone who wants to fight the Kingdom to their last breath, hands up!”
With a thunderous roar, numberless hands rose in unison. Everyone who did so had their fists tightly clenched, the grim set on their faces showing their determination to resist.
It was frightening. Everyone here had chosen a path that could only end in their deaths. Even so, there was something which outweighed the fear of death which motivated everyone here.
It was the desire to not repay the kindness and succour they had received with treachery.
“Then ― we fight! We fight to repay the debt we owe! Jugem-san! I’ll leave the battle plan to you!”
Jugem strode forth and stood by Enri’s side.
“…I’ve seen your resolve. You’re all going to die here. Are you all alright with that?”
The veteran’s words were met with unanimous approval.
“You’re able to shout so loudly despite your pale faces. Magnificent. …However, I’m sorry to rain on your parade, after you all loudly proclaimed your decision. Shouldn’t you let the young ones run away first? After all, if anyone’s going to die, it should be us and the old uncles.”
An older man spoke up.
“He’s got a point ― but isn’t that impossible? The enemy’s sealed off both gates. Even if we climbed over the walls, they’d spot us right away.”
“Well, that’s true… if we were just running away normally, like you said.”
Jugem grinned evilly as he continued.
“We can’t hide and then run. So what we’ll do is we’ll open the main gate and lure the enemy inside. While they’re caught off guard, we’ll hit them hard. If we can do enough damage, the enemy will gather their dispersed troops and focus on us.”
Jugem looked around.
“I say that, but the enemy may know it’s a ruse. If that’s the case, as long as we have enough attack power, the enemy will have no choice but to gather their troops up. Any questions?”
“Doesn’t look like it, but Jugem-san, where should they flee?”
“Isn’t that obvious, Ane-san? Into the Great Forest of Tob. I’ll assign Agu and Britta, who both know the forest, to the escape party. I’m sure we can manage for a while without them around.”
The villagers had already prepared themselves for death, but it was only natural that they wouldn’t want their children to perish with them. Knowing that their children were in danger dampened their fighting spirit.
Jugem addressed them with a serious expression on his face.
“Listen up. The first round is a battle to make the enemy consolidate their troops. The second round will be a battle to deplete their fighting strength, so they don’t have any left over. The fiercer that battle is, the better the chances for the escapees.”
“Hahahaha! Is that all! Ahhhh, well, that’s a relief.”
Those words were joined by several laughs. That laughter wasn’t born of desperation or madness ― it was just a simple, relaxed laugh.
“As long as my wife and children can be saved, I have no regrets. Now’s the time to repay the kindness Ainz Ooal Gown-sama showed us!”
“Ah, that’s right! If I grow old as a coward, I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the face!”
“Then … what about the escape team?”
Jugem looked carefully at everyone as he answered Nfirea’s question.
“Ane-san and Ani-san will be responsible for protecting the women and children. And like I said earlier, we’ll need Britta, Agu, and the other goblins to help guide them through the woods.”
Enri exclaimed in surprise.
As the village chief, she had an obligation to stand with the others. Since she had ordered the villagers to die, then she could do nothing less than stand by their sides as they fought. Even so, the villagers exclaimed before Enri.
Their eyes said they unanimously agreed with Jugem. Just as Enri was thinking of how to refuse, the matter had already been taken out of her hands.
“Enri-chan, I’ll leave it to you.”
“Please take care of my children. Although my wife’s already dead… at least, these kids…”
The villagers took turns to hold her hands, imparting their hopes and thoughts to her as they squeezed them tightly. Nfirea sidled up to Enri, whose eyes were filling with tears.
“Enri, let’s go. Our struggle is to live on. We can’t lose that battle. And who knows, Ainz Ooal Gown-sama might come to save us again. At that time, it’ll be better if we’re around, as the ones who set foot inside his domain.”
“He’s right, you know.”
“That horn you used to summon us… I think you should use it afterwards, don’t you think? If you used it now, it would be like trying to put out a burning house with a glass of water. It would be better if you blew it after all this was over and summoned more of our comrades to help you.
Enri clutched her eyes, which were full of tears.
“I got it! I’ll protect everyone’s wives and children! Let’s go! Enfi!”
♦ ♦ ♦
One side of the gate opened slowly.
“We should have used the flame arrows from the beginning. Well, the follow-up flame arrows were wasted…”
Prince Barbro’s face twisted into a frown. They had wasted too much time. In order to make up for the delay, the men would need to be force-marched. But that was unavoidable.
This was all the fault of the Marquis’ men. If he hadn’t given the order to use flame arrows himself, who knew how much more time would have been wasted?
Barbro looked to the sky, cursing his misfortune for being saddled with incompetent underlings.
He considered the time that would be needed later ― the first thing being how long it would take to hang the villagers.
He would hang them on the village’s walls, to show everyone the final fate of anyone foolish enough to defy the royal family.
Next, he had to find anyone who had close ties with Ainz Ooal Gown. That might take longer than stringing the villagers up.
“Damn. I should have brought an interrogator along. First, we pretend to spare the lives of anyone who cooperates… then we kill them later. As for the kids…”
There was no point in letting them live. To begin with, children could not live without their parents, so hanging children with their parents was a form of mercy.
“Is there enough rope for all of them? If we could get some from the village, that would be good…”
The soldiers near the gate were slowly advancing. Pride filled Prince Barbro’s chest as he saw the royal flag advancing at the head of the column. When he ascended to the throne, he would make sure he had ceremonial guards like that.
The soldiers holding the flags packed themselves into the gate ― and were then flung back out.
Shortly after, the gigantic creatures that had sent them flying loomed in the opening of the gate.
“―O-o-ogres?! What are ogres doing here?!”
The completely unexpected development took Prince Barbro by surprise, and he he had forgotten the dignity of the royal family in his shock.
Yes. Those were the demi-humans known as ogres. The soldiers were just as shocked by their sudden appearance as Barbro was. Their mighty clubs sent dozens of people flying with every swing.
Amidst a spray of blood and gore, the stricken soldiers flew into the distance and impacted on the ground, rolling head over tail before smashing into their fellow troops. Those soldiers immediately turned tail and desperately began to flee from the gate. Then, as if to pursue the defeated troops, several more ogres appeared from behind the gate.
As the soldiers fell back in a disgraceful rout, they were sent flying by blows from the ogres’ clubs. It looked like children throwing their toys into the distance.
The reason for this unsightly retreat ―which couldn’t even be considered a withdrawal― was because these soldiers were all the Baron’s levied troops. They had loosed the flame arrows in order to win the right to be the first through the gate. Who could have thought their quest for glory could have backfired so badly?
Prince Barbro frowned at the Baron, who had abandoned the very men he led and come scampering back in front of him. At this moment, the sound of a clarion rang through the air.
The Marquis’ knights had raised their lances in unison. It was a textbook motion that showed that they were professional soldiers. However, it still seemed difficult for them to plunge into the mass of fleeing infantry and engage in a chaotic melee with the ogres.
A knight’s mounted charge was one of the most destructive forces on the battlefield, but in melee combat, cavalry would lose their advantage.
“Why aren’t you shooting yet?!”
The shout belonged to Barbro.
Allowing the ogres to get closer would only increase the losses they would take. It would be better to abandon these soldiers and kill their fellow villagers along with the enemy.
Just as Barbro’s aggravation began to mount, the ogres suddenly began to retreat. They used the fleeing soldiers as meat shields, preventing the cavalry from pursuing, and in the end they fell back into the gate.
After receiving the survivors, Barbro began reorganizing the formation, his hands gripping the reins tighter and tighter as his anger built.
He had originally planned to finish this boring mission swiftly, and then rush back to the battlefield to gain glory in battle against the Empire.
Now, this unsightly mess was all that was left of his dream.
Although the appearance of ogres was unexpected, if they couldn’t even bring back the necessary people to E-Rantel, it would stain his reputation even further. It would be a decisive setback in the race for the throne against Zanack, the backup successor.
Or could it be― had all this been planned out beforehand?
He clucked his tongue in annoyance, knowing the surrounding nobles’ eyes were on him.
However, he had no time to bother about them. Barbro turned a keen eye on the knight approaching him. He was the commander of the Marquis’ elite troops.
“…What the hell was that? Has that village been taken over by ogres? What’s going on?!”
“Th-that shouldn’t be the case, sir. Nobody could have expected there would be monsters there… there should have been tax collectors visiting recently. But we received no word that this village was taken over by ogres. If they went and didn’t return, that would be abnormal… what on earth happened in that village…”
He could feel the confusion in the knight’s words. If there was a scheme to make Barbro lose his dignity and fall into a trap, he probably wasn’t aware of it either.
That meant that he was on the Prince’s side for now.
“In any case, we don’t know enough about the enemy. Well, that’s only to be expected. Only five ogres showed up. If they had more, they would have continued attacking us. So in all likelihood, they probably don’t have more than ten in total. You should be able to take down five ogres, no?”
“Of course! Every one of us is as strong as a member of the Kingdom’s Warrior Band. A mere five ogres are nothing to us!”
“I’m not doubting you. I’m just saying, you need to be on the lookout. Ogres are stupid monsters, but their actions just now were too intelligent. They opened the door to lure us in, and then counterattacked at the best time. It looks like the other side has a commander. If one of the villagers was leading them…”
“Forgive my rudeness. No mere peasant could control an ogre. I believe there must be some other force at work here. If we could just learn more about the enemy―”
Barbro could no longer control his impatience.
“What are you babbling about? Look there!”
Barbro pointed at the gate, at the tattered royal flag.
“The country’s flag is now in that sad state. You will destroy that village no matter the cost. Gather your troops, loose flame arrows, and burn the village down. Now is the time to put that accumulated experience in sieges to good use! It looks like we won’t be able to finish this without any losses. So you will attack with the intention of razing that village to the ground!”
“Please wait! It might be that some ogre sorcerer or some other intelligent demi-human might be the mastermind here, and not the villagers!”
“And if that were the case, so what?”
Barbro looked at the knight, his face a picture of befuddlement, and began explaining slowly to him, like an adult lecturing a child.
“Are you listening? Good. It doesn’t matter if the villagers have control of the ogres, or if they’re controlled by some intelligent demi-human. Those villagers have rebelled against the rightful ruler of their land, the royal family. That being the case, we must display the consequences of such foolishness to the world.”
“But, there might be some villagers being held as hostages, aren’t they innocent?!”
“Were you listening to what I said earlier? So what if they are?”
Barbro shrugged at the knight, who seemed to have trouble accepting what he’d just heard.
“I get it, I get it. I understand how you feel. Then I will show them the greatest amount of leniency possible. Capture those villagers who don’t resist, and then we will put them on trial later. Is that better?”
The knight bowed deeply to Barbro. After hearing his forceful response, Barbro nodded in approval.
“However, I have one condition. I want an overwhelming victory. If we take losses here, all sorts of gossip will spread. The same goes for you. People will talk about how the Marquis’ trump card was sent out to a pissant village to be bloodied.”
“But that was because of the ogres―”
“―You can’t use that as an excuse. That’s just how the world works.”
“If you understand, then get to work. Get the troops from the rear gate. At the same time, cut down trees from the forest and start making battering rams. I’ll leave the details to you. Minimize casualties while ensuring victory. Kill anyone who flees.”
♦ ♦ ♦
A steady stream of oil-filled pots impacted on the sides of the wall, followed by flame arrows.
The explosive impacts were comparable to the bursting of a ‘Fireball’, creating bright red flames which gave off endless plumes of black smoke.
Jugem could feel the uneasiness radiating off the nearby members of the defense force. The goblin leader raised his magic greatsword and roared.
“Hold fast! Flames like these can’t breach the wall! As for the defense of the gate―”
The sound of a heavy impact, doom, came from the outside of the gate.
The walls were much thicker and bigger than the watchtower, which now lay in ashes. Even when struck by flaming arrows, they did not catch fire easily. As such, they concluded that this was just a feint to draw attention from their real objective, which was breaching the gate. It seemed that this was the right decision. Once more, a great doom came from the gate.
It was a deeper, more powerful sound than the impacts of the ogre’s clubs. It was the sound of siege weapons - most likely battering rams.
In time with Jugem’s shout, the villagers fired their arrows with practiced ease.
Cries of pain rose from the other side of the wall. However, the battering rams did not stop.
They must have been using multiple rams in a sequential attack.
Once more, the arrows flew aloft on Jugem’s command. However, this time, they were answered by arrows from the enemy. Several times the number of arrows fell upon the village like rain.
Yet, not a single one struck the defenders.
The enemy attack had been a series of ranging shots, so they had all missed, impacting harmlessly on walls and buildings. However, the more archers they had on their side, the higher their chances of hitting. As such, if their accuracy was a non-zero number, things would be bad.
“Fall back! Fall back! We’re moving to a new position!”
The villagers obeyed Jugem, who could still make himself heard despite his lowered volume. They hurriedly shifted their location amidst their growing panic.
To date, the villagers had only learned to shoot from fixed positions. Their aim was to accurately target the area just outside the main gate. As such, when they could do both, their accuracy was increased, but conversely, once they had to move to an unfamiliar location, their arrows would no longer hit their marks well.
Fighting a ranged battle now would be very difficult.
“Spears up! We’re moving into close combat!”
A loud ping came from the other side of the wall. It sounded like something metallic striking the wall, completely different from the dooms of the battering rams. In all likelihood, it was the sound of axes, and they were coming from everywhere.
Numbers were a huge advantage. They could use the door or wall attacks as feints in order to attack from a completely unexpected direction. If Jugem were the commander for the other side, he would do that too.
Just as planned… it looks like the situation’s going well and the enemy is dispersing.
Most conventional attack strategies would be useless in the face of the opposition’s numerical superiority. For the villagers of Carne, their best bet would be to steadily erode their enemies’ fighting strength.
As long as the enemy formation weakened, they could attack from the village at any time. Ideally, they would strike at the enemy commander in a wedge formation. That way, the panicked enemy would immediately consolidate their troops.
Bringing the ogres back halfway was part of the preparations for that event. Even if the ogres pressed their attack by themselves, it would be difficult for them to make the enemy panic and achieve their objective of drawing the troops at the back gate out to the front.
Granted, once the scattered enemies rush forward to encircle us, we’ll have no way of retreat… well, I guess that’s what they call entering the dragon’s lair despite knowing he’s home…
In other words, this was a suicidal tactic.
“Well, we’ve achieved half of our objectives already.”
Jugem muttered to himself as his line of sight moved to the rear gate that he couldn’t see from here.
He had already prepared an escape route for his master with the highest probability of survival. There was nothing more to worry about. It might be cruel to say so, but as long as all the villagers here died, nobody would know how many had fled and Enri would remain cloaked in a shroud of mystery.
Protecting Enri was Jugem’s first and highest priority. He would pay any price for that and not regret it in the slightest. Because of that―
“Everyone! Wait for the door to go down! We’re going to charge! Our target is the enemy headquarters! Our only chance of survival is to kill their commander!”
A series of determined howls answered him. There was a slight wavering in some of the voices, but nobody looked like they were going to back out.
All that remained was the raw courage of men who fought for their children and their loved ones.
♦ ♦ ♦
Enri and Nfirea ran down from the rear observation deck, herding the women and children toward the area in front of the rear gate. Nfirea’s grandmother Lizzie was not there, because she was currently hiding all the alchemical wares she had borrowed from Ainz.
She would have no time to escape, but she had already accepted her fate.
“No problem! There’s nobody around! We’ll open the gate now and head for the forest!”
The gathered children, faces pale from fright, nodded desperately.
Meanwhile, Nfirea and Britta turned the handle, slowly opening one side of the gate.
At the moment they opened the gate, Enri stuck her head out to look around. There was nothing. Just as she saw from the observation deck, there were no troops in sight. Jugem’s plan had succeeded.
“Then, let’s go!”
The first to exit were Agu and his tribesmen. If they were ambushed in the forest, they would carve a bloody path through their enemies. Next was Britta. She was the group’s scout, and if Agu couldn’t find any soldiers, she would handle things.
Taking the children’s short legs into consideration, the pioneer team would advance toward the forest. Behind them, the children would follow them two by two. The mothers would accompany the children as they ran. Children without parents would be led by older children.
The last ones were Enri and Nfirea, who would then run to the front.
Even after getting out of the gate, the forest was still far away. Considering this was the dead of winter, the distance felt several times longer than it normally did.
They frantically pumped their legs and ran.
It was too far.
It was not enough.
At this moment, they heard horses from behind them.
Enri was extremely fit, so much so that she was turned off by it. Even so, her heart was pounding and her breathing was in disarray. Fear drove her to look behind, and there she glimpsed something she could not believe was there ― despair.
Over a hundred mounted knights had appeared from behind them. They must have been hiding in the blind spots of the observation deck, sticking close to the walls. They had only emerged because they were sure nobody else was going to come out.
It was a long distance from the village to the forest. However, there was a huge difference between the speeds of horses and humans.
Maybe Agu and Britta could flee. But it was impossible for the children. They would be overtaken.
The knights held gleaming objects in their hands. There was no doubt they were planning to cut them down from behind. Although Nemu was running at the head of the column, it was doubtful if she would be able to escape.
“Enri, keep running!”
Nfirea suddenly halted in place.
“I’ll buy us some time!”
“Are you crazy? Don’t think this will be like last time when Lupusregina-san saved you!”
Nfirea’s angry shout was directed at Enri, who had stopped as well.
“If you want to buy time, I have a better way!”
Enri withdrew the battered old horn from her pocket.
It could only summon 19 goblins. Although there weren’t a lot of them, each one was still quite strong. It should be enough to buy some time.
“Idiot! There’s so many of them! You won’t even be able to get 20 people!”
She couldn’t argue against Nfirea’s reasoning. They would definitely be outflanked. However, not blowing the horn would be even more stupid.
“Isn’t it the same with you?!”
Enri no longer had time to waste on talking. She placed the horn to her lips.
―Goblin-sans! Please help me!
What rang out was a basso profundo note that made the very land tremble.
Enri blinked at what she had done. In the past, when she had summoned Jugem and the others, all she had gotten was a soft poot. All she should have gotten was the noise a shabby child’s toy would have made.
The panicked Nfirea’s line of sight went past Enri, looking at something beyond her. Enri’s eyes followed Nfirea’s to behind her.
The mounted knights were about to catch up with them, and they should have had all the freedom in the world to do it, but for some reason they were pulling on their reins to halt their horses. Due to the sudden stop, some had even fallen off their mounts.
Enri looked behind them, and―
♦ ♦ ♦
Many items in YGGDRASIL could receive custom names. However, a very few were exceptions to the rule. Those included dropped artifact items.
One such artifact was the Horn of the Goblin General.
The horn was a small and plain item, but there was a curious quirk about it.
It could only summon 19 goblins. These 19 goblins were trash mobs that weren’t even worthy as a YGGDRASIL player’s opponents. So why would such an item be given the grandiose name of “General”? It wouldn’t have been odd just to call it a “Goblin Horn”.
Many players in YGGDRASIL thought that way. In the end, none of them could justify a name like this, and they left it at that.
However, there was a reason for that name.
And that reason was―
♦ ♦ ♦
Jugem swung the magic greatsword he had taken from the Giant of the East. The strike that he had made with all his strength was blocked by his opponent. However, he couldn’t fully neutralize the force of the blow, and it broke his balance. Normally, Jugem would have immediately followed up, but the other soldiers harrying him would not let him do so.
They flanked Jugem from both sides, in order to cover the soldier who had left himself open.
Clicking his tongue, Jugem weaved the sword through the air like an extension of his own body, neatly parrying the two sword strokes that came at him.
“…This goblin’s pretty good. He’s actually forcing the three of us back at once.”
“What an unbelievable fellow. I didn’t know goblins could be this strong.”
Jugem could sense that his opponents weren’t at their limit yet, which made him worry.
If he fought these soldiers one on one, he could win. If he fought two at once it would be a matter of luck. Three at once meant he would most likely lose. And now―
There was still another soldier circling behind him. Jugem took a small step back.
―Against four people at once, all he could do was die.
His first few opponents had been some weak soldiers, which he broke through easily.
The brave warriors of Carne Village advanced inexorably toward the Kingdom’s battle-lines in a wedge formation.
But then, strong opponents had started appearing, as though they had entered a different area. Their equipment was of a high standard. They must have been the elite troops of the enemy army.
Although they weren’t far from the enemy camp, they had not taken that many losses yet.
However ― it was still hard.
He turned his attention away from the four of them and surreptitiously observed his surroundings. The goblins under him had slowly been overwhelmed by superior numbers.
He was stronger and tougher than his opponents… but on the flip side, those were his only two advantages ― much like the ogres. All they could do was watch their opponents retreat after taking a single blow.
There were already several martyrs for Carne Village. Even though the goblins had taken the brunt of the attacks on the leading edges of the wedge, the enemies’ numbers were far too oppressive, and it was impossible to endure all their attacks. Invariably, a few people would make it in, and invariably, someone would end up embracing the ground.
It was a reckless strategy, and this outcome was only to be expected.
However, Jugem wanted to believe that this might not be the case.
And in this moment―
The sword struck him, causing a flesh wound.
Jugem swung his greatsword, opening up a gap.
“You guys, who are you? Not ordinary farmers, I’ll bet.”
Jugem was level 12. With that in mind, his current opponent was roughly level 10, or maybe 11. The other three might be level 9.
An ordinary villager was level 1. Maybe some of the trained villagers made it to level 2. The troops accompanying the tax collectors from E-Rantel didn’t seem quite like level 3. This meant the soldiers he was fighting now were very strong.
As an aside, it was difficult to accurately judge Enri’s and Nfirea’s strength because they weren’t combatants, but they were strong in their own way.
“This goblin… no, is it a hobgoblin? Or is it only natural to meet strong opponents like this?”
“But, they say hobgoblins are bigger… is it a goblin king? Maybe those guys took control of the village by force… but if that was the case, why would the villagers fight so hard?”
“Haaaa! Humans have such dull minds. It’s because we have hostages! Don’t you get it?”
“He must be lying. They wouldn’t fight for such a lousy reason. Rather, they’d stab you in the back. I can sense there’s something like a camaraderie between you guys that goes beyond the barriers of race. Why? Why would humans and goblins fight side by side?”
“As if I’d tell you, dumbass!”
“So I guess they are comrades after all, if not―”
“Ahhhh, shut the hell up! Busybodies like you piss me off!”
Jugem swung the greatsword once more.
But the outcome was the same as before.
He could take the hit, but not completely. The soldier’s balance broke, but when he wanted to follow up, he was interrupted by the attacks targeting his vitals coming from both sides
With that in mind, Jugem decided to forgo avoiding the blows.
The attacks, aimed at the unarmored parts of his body, cut him open.
Rather than pain, all Jugem felt was heat oozing out of two points on his body.
Jugem grit his teeth, and activated his special skill. His sword changed direction, striking at the soldier that slashed at him from the side.
The mighty stroke cleaved through the weak spots of the soldier’s chainmail and dealt a grievous wound to the flesh beneath. In this moment, the soldier started twitching.
This was the power of the greatsword ― poison. However, it was still resistible, and it couldn’t completely take an opponent out of the fight.
Because he was distracted, Jugem could not avoid the sword blow that came from behind him.
Although his armor meant that his wound wasn’t a serious one, his body groaned from the sword thrust.
“That’s our line! You got Bike!”
“Let Bike fall back, get behind this guy!”
During the wild melee, there were more opponents than just these four. Some had tried to attack the openings Jugem left and had been cut apart for their trouble. Judging by their poor equipment, they were probably conscripted farmers.
Even so, there were a lot of them. Being outnumbered was truly unfair.
“Get back! This goblin is strong! We’ll take care of him. You lot go deal with the villagers behind him!”
“You think I’ll let you?!”
Jugem snarled at the conscripts and waved his swords. Intimidated by him, they backed away.
The heat he was feeling in his body was slowly turning to pain.
As a warrior who swung his sword to live, Jugem had learned several secrets of the battlefield, the first of which was how to fight on in spite of his pain. Another secret was to tell how much damage he had taken, and when to flee. His instincts told him that he could still fight, but for how long, he didn’t know.
Another brave warrior of Carne Village met his end, his blood soaking into the earth.
Their defeat was certain, and his vision was slowly turning red.
Even so, he still had to buy time for Enri and the others to flee, to his very last breath.
―Objective: the enemy camp.
Perhaps he had seen Jugem’s resolve, but the soldier in front of him stiffened up.
In that moment, Jugem gripped his sword, preparing himself for a charge. A great clamor washed over the battlefield. With his eyes firmly fixed on the opponent in front of him Jugem could not look away.
That was because from the side of Carne Village―
♦ ♦ ♦
―The reason was simple. Its true power was not simply a matter of summoning 19 goblins.
In YGGDRASIL, this item had been unable to reveal its true value and was discarded as a trash drop.
However, in this New World, it had the chance to unleash its true power.
Let us go over the name of the item once more.
“Horn of the Goblin General”.
Its true power, revealed only when three conditions were met, was―
The rhythmic beating of heavy drums reverberated throughout the battlefield from just beside the village. The moment he looked at the direction the sound was coming from, his eyes opened wide. A roughly five-thousand strong formation was marching in cadence and in a well-disciplined formation.
Both the villagers and Prince Barbro thought it was the Prince’s reinforcements. The only difference was whether they knew of anyone who might be sending the reinforcement or not. But everyone changed their mind after taking a closer look.
The formation was made up of goblins. The demi-humans called “goblins” were smaller than average humans and roughly the size of a child. However, their aura made them look bigger than they actually were.
Their bodies were sheathed in steel armor, and their well-used weapons gleamed with lethality. This was equipment befitting of true warriors. They were no militia, but an army comprised of professional soldiers.
“Now! Anyone alive, run like hell! It’s the reinforcement! We have reinforcements! Run towards them!”
Jugem shouted out loudly.
Their identity was a mystery. It was unclear whether they were enemies, allies, or an unrelated third party. Running towards them just because they were the same species was in itself not a good decision. The correct course of action would have been to run towards the village.
However, Jugem felt something that told him that they were comrades. A feeling that that they somehow served the same master. A feeling that he would be welcomed by them.
The survivors from Carne Village raced towards the goblin army without hesitation.
The encirclement loosened with every step he took. Even though the Kingdom’s army knew it had to give chase, they were sluggish. It was only natural. Carelessly approaching such a well-disciplined army was a foolish course of action.
There were two other reasons why they just allowed the villagers to escape. The first was because the main camp had signalled for retreat, after deciding that it was the time to reform the line rather than to give chase. The other reason was because they were afraid of possible retaliation for chasing down the members of the same species as the new army.
The goblins received Jugem and the others who were fleeing with all their strength. Jugem and the company stumbled through the loose gaps in the formation and the army closed the gaps once they were through. It was like a steel door sliding shut.
Jugem looked around at his comrades, who were collapsed on the ground from exhaustion. There was no one who was unscathed, and many had fainted after reaching safety. Even for Jugem, just looking around caused his vision to blur. The number of goblins, the number of ogres and the number of villagers had all decreased from before the battle.
“Well I suppose I should consider it lucky… that over half of us survived. Konaa!”
He called for the only goblin capable of using healing magic, but Konaa shook his head. He had exhausted all of his mana during combat.
“Then anyone who knows first-aid…”
The moment Jugem tried to shout, a goblin holding a feathered fan, wearing a headscarf and sporting a long beard walked over.
His attitude made Jugem guess that he was someone important in the goblin army.
“Hohoho, so you are part of General Enri’s retinue. I am the one in charge of this army, the Goblin Strategist. No one will be able to harm you any further since we have arrived. Please, rest easy. We will escort you to the medical corps immediately.”
The Goblin Strategist extended his fan and a group of stout-looking goblins ran over with stretchers.
“Now, now, please carry them over as soon as possible. It would bring shame on us if anyone died under our care.”
The injured were swiftly carried off.
“It seems that you are injured as well. It would be best for you to check in with the medical unit and come back…”
“No, sorry. I apologise, since you’ve been so kind to us, but I want to hear something first. I’m not that badly hurt.”
After making sure that Jugem was not putting up a show of bravado, the Goblin Strategist nodded once before speaking.
“Of course, as expected of the leader of General Enri’s retinue. What do you wish to know ― Hohoho, no, there would be only one thing you would be more interested in than your own safety. General Enri is in the tent behind us. She would be very happy if you went to see her.”
“Is that so? That’s good.”
Jugem breathed a sigh of relief from the depths of his heart. He was so relieved, he felt all the strength leaving his body and wanted to collapse, but he could not show such an ugly sight to his junior.
“Then I’ll go over there. I don’t think my group will be participating in the upcoming fight either.”
“Hohoho, I thank you for giving us newcomers a chance to show off.”
“Well, it’s ok. It’s the job of seniors to yield opportunities to the juniors.”
“Hohoho, then I shall put on a good show for the seniors. Now then… the only thing left to do is to obtain an absolute victory. Order the heavy infantry to advance.”
♦ ♦ ♦
“What is that! We were just about to finish them off! Damn it!”
Barbro opened his eyes wide and glared at the intruders who had ruined everything.
Nothing had gone as he had planned. Why was he facing a goblin army at this tiny village? He wanted to tear out his hair in a fit of rage.
If this was the Empire’s army, he would have been delighted and ordered an attack immediately, but his opponents were goblins. Even if he won, who would recognize his achievements?
“My Prince, please grant us permission to retreat.”
He turned his hateful gaze towards the knight who was recommending a course of action. He did not know why such a sizeable goblin army had appeared here, but if he took back useful intelligence, he would be evaluated as having done something useful.
However, if he just turned tail and ran, it was not difficult to imagine that he would gain the nickname of “the prince who ran from goblins”.
If he lost, he would become “the prince who lost to goblins”. The news would spread via the nobles who were hungry for the latest gossip, and there would be no one in the Kingdom who would not know of it. Those who had not been there would not care how strong those goblins had been. The only thing that mattered was how juicy the gossip was.
Barbro silently cursed the nobles who made fun of him from safety.
“…I will not grant such a thing. Fight.”
“My Prince! Look at their immaculate equipment and their flawless formation. They must be elites surpassing the goblins from before. For an army comprised of conscripts like us, the chances of victory are slim. Please order a retreat!”
He knew it only too well, even if he did not want to hear it, but there was no way to protect his honour except by fighting. He could only hope that the goblin army was just for show.
“You fool! Don’t you understand how dangerous it is to just ignore an army like that! Right now, the Kingdom’s army is moving towards the Kattse Plains. What would you do if they attacked E-Rantel while it was undefended!”
“I, I apologize.”
The only course of action was to engage them, then retreat if the goblins were indeed as strong as they appeared. His real objective was to fight with the Empire, and a loss here would be undesirable. He was calm enough to at least think of that much.
The soldiers had just finished reforming their ranks in front of Barbro when the goblins started advancing.
The enemy took a standard line formation, three ranks deep.
Conversely, the Royal Army was in a crane wing formation. The reason they did not employ a wedge formation was to maximize the mobility of the cavalry and because the enemy was in a formation vulnerable to flanking attacks.
The goblin’s frontline consisted of heavy infantry with shields large enough to cover their entire body. Their steady march forward march gave off an immense pressure as if a wall was closing in at a rapid pace. Barbro felt the unpleasant sensation of his gauntlets filling with sweat as he gripped his reins tighter.
The levies holding spears and the heavy infantry clashed. The infantry’s goal was to stall the enemy’s advance while the cavalry flanked from the sides.
The two sides crashed into each other.
And Barbro could clearly hear the goblins’ shouts.
“We are… Her Excellency, General Enri’s Goblin Heavy Infantry Corps! Don’t think something like this can stop us!”
Before he could even wonder who General Enri might be, the creaking sounds from the Kingdom’s troops grabbed his attention.
The conscripts were being pushed back by the shield wall. Naturally, the men in the front rank were pressed against those standing behind them, and the formation started to break. The cavalry on both wings were surprised and began moving. The right wing was faster to respond, so they tried to flank the goblin army, but seventeen knights ―wreathed in brilliant, silver light and riding on silver wolves instead of horses― raced out to intercept them.
“Her Excellency, General Enri’s Goblin Paladin-Knight Squad! Our loyalty belongs to General Enri!”
The ones attacking the left flank were mounted on beasts that looked like wolves. On their backs were goblins, and at their head was a winged wolf. The goblin riding on top of the winged wolf shouted, and his voice cut across the infantry’s’ screams and reached Barbro’s ears.
“Her Excellency, General Enri’s Goblin Beast Rider Corps are coming for you!”
Amidst the chaos of cavalry battle was the sound of arrows. When Barbro looked closer, countless arrows were pouring on top of his army and he looked closer at the enemy’s formation to identify who was firing them.
In the enemy’s second rank, there were goblins holding large bows and clad in eye-catching red clothes. The right and left sides of their body was uneven, and they looked to be swaying every time they took a step. The goblin who had caught his attention had an even larger bow than the others, and then he opened his mouth.
“Her Excellency, General Enri’s Goblin Longbowman Corps! Don’t think you can escape from us!”
The enemy’s ranged attack did not end there. Countless magic blasts flew over from their third rank and, while still reasonably far away in front of Barbro, they exploded in the middle of his army’s formation. Flowers of crimson fire bloomed with every flash and explosions snaked through the air like flower petals. The conscript soldiers were being blown up left and right by the continuous magical attacks.
The ones who were responsible for this wore hoods that covered their faces. In their hands were long staves that glowed with mysterious light. The one standing in front of them pulled back his hood to reveal his wrinkled face.
“Her Excellency, General Enri’s Goblin Magic Support Corps. Realize our power with your very body, and know that we can use not just enhancement or weakening magic, but attack magic as well.”
That was not the only squad that was firing off magical strikes. Besides the Magic Support Corps was a similarly-attired squad. They were few in number, at just 5 men, but they had expressions of the utmost confidence on their faces. The goblin who was sneering the most at the front raised his voice.
“Her Excellency, General Enri’s Goblin Magic Bombardment Squad! We specialize in area attack magic and are proud to be the squad with the greatest offensive capabilities!”
The knight returned to Barbro. He could almost predict what the knight was about to say with such a desperate face. If there were magic casters, then the enemy’s capabilities would be several times higher than expected.
“We can’t hold them anymore! It’s impossible! It’ll only be a matter of time before the enemy reaches here as well! Please order a retreat!”
It was not the time to consider whether he wanted to fall back or not. Even if he ordered everyone to stand and fight, the nobles who had followed him until now would turn and run with their tails in between their legs. Making them stay and fight would only be a cause for future grudges and turn those nobles into enemies.
“Fine. Give the retreat order to the Baron first.”
He wanted to be the first to run away, but that would saddle him with the reputation of a coward who was the first to flee against goblins. He would leave that dirty affair to the Baron.
The moment the knight ordered his subordinate―
“―Where do you think you’re going?”
Barbro first realized the danger to his life when he heard an unfamiliar voice from his side.
The Prince’s retinue drew their swords and looked around to find the source of the voice. What appeared suddenly from the shadow were figures clad in black clothes. Their faces were covered with masks, but their eyes seem to let out a sharp glow.
“Her Excellency, General Enri’s Goblin Assassin Squad. The reason we revealed ourselves from the darkness is because this will be your end.”
And another person.
The one who followed behind them wore a red cap, steel boots, and held a long scythe, like an embodiment of death.
“Her Excellency, General Enri’s Goblin Bodyguard ― a member of the thirteen Redcaps. Well, I guess I won’t even have an opportunity to show off.”
“Protect his highness! Signal for retreat!”
The shadow moved. For Barbro, that was only thing he could see.
The knight’s head disappeared and blood spurted like a gory fountain from his neck.
The moment his brain registered what he was looking at, Barbro immediately spurred his horse to a gallop. There was no time to think about an orderly retreat because he was standing on the crossroads between life and death.
As he fled, he could hear a sound from behind him: “Her Excellency, General Enri’s Goblin Musician Corps!” followed by a loud beating of goblin drums that chased him as he ran.
“…Is it alright to just let him go?”
“It’s the strategist’s order. He said if we kill the prince, the battle won’t be over until the very end.”
“Hmph, I suppose so. If General Enri died, I wouldn’t stop until every single enemy was dead either. As expected of the strategist, to see several steps ahead. Is it for the same reason we’re not going to exterminate the soldiers as well?”
“That’s right. They need to make it back to that city with the prince in tow. I can understand your feelings of displeasure. I feel it, too. I want vengeance on them for daring to attack General Enri’s village… Well, Redcap-san, let’s take care of the corpses.”
“I suppose. We need to retrieve the bodies of the brave warriors who fought alongside the seniors’ leader as well.”
Upon the plain dyed with bright moonlight was a camp. There was a question of whether it could truly be considered a camp without any tents of wooden fences. The more accurate description would be there was an army in the plain.
Most of them were ragged and lying down in exhaustion.
The reason they could sleep without any bedding on a winter day that was cold enough to turn breath into white fog was because everyone was absolutely spent. Amidst the group that was collapsed on the ground like puppets with strings cut was one person who was walking around.
It was the general who had lost the battle, Prince Barbro.
Should he consider himself lucky that he had survived, or consider it unlucky to have encountered such a force?
The goblin army that suddenly appeared at Carne Village was strong ― no, it was overwhelming. Barbro’s forces were smashed the moment they made contact and defeat was inevitable. His soldiers died as if they were melting away.
So who were those goblins?
Barbro wanted to know the answer.
The only thing he could think of was that those goblins had established a huge kingdom in the Great Forest of Tob. If they were marching south, it was an understandable situation. The nobles who managed to escape with him thought the same, and they had shared the exact same conclusion with him while escaping.
Meaning that he was unlucky.
Meaning that those goblins were their most elite.
Meaning that returning with information on the goblins would be a reasonable achievement in itself.
Barbro clenched his fist.
A loss was a loss, and those goblins were undoubtedly strong. Anyone who fought with them would be able to understand why Barbro had lost.
But to those who were ignorant, Barbro would be the prince who lost to goblins. He would become a laughingstock.
“Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!”
Frustration was boiling in his heart. This was why he could not go to sleep even though he was just as exhausted as his soldiers.
Every time he closed his eyes, he could hear the voices of mockery and hatred that were sure to come his way when he returned to the Kingdom.
For Barbro, the war was over. It was impossible to go to the Kattse Plains and join the battle against the Empire now.
Suddenly ― he felt a presence. Not from where the soldiers were sleeping, but from the direction they had fled.
Was it the stragglers who finally managed to catch up to them, or pursuing goblins?
In that moment, Barbro turned to look with an anxious heart, his face wrinkled in surprise. As though the figure had noticed that Barbro was watching, it waved with a light greeting.
“How ya doing~”
How did it appear in the middle of this vast open plain without being spotted? Not too far from him ―roughly twenty meters away― was an absolute beauty with a smile that matched her sincere expression. If this was in the middle of a city, he would not hesitate to ogle her, but this was in the middle of a plain. There was not even a village in sight.
The strangest thing was her attire ― that looked very similar to a maid’s clothing.
If she was armed, he would have thought she was an adventurer, but this just did not make any sense.
The thought suddenly popped into his mind. Some monsters possessed a beautiful appearance. Fairies were an example of that, but maid’s clothing was impossible to comprehend.
“Hello, I came over to play~. I didn’t catch you at a bad time, right?”
It was a question that was clearly looking down on him.
“Who are you?”
He asked that question while reaching for the sword on his waist.
It was a boring and unimaginative question, but he meant it. The girl’s identity was so shrouded in mystery, he could not even think of what to ask in the first place.
“They call me Lupusregina. I’m one of the maids who serve Ainz-sama.”
This mysterious woman greeted him by raising her hand again. Something about what that woman ―Lupusregina― said sunk into his heart.
Barbro was so surprised, that he forgot to wake the soldiers around him.
“No, no, let’s not dwell on that… you really did go through a lot. But ya know, I think it was kinda cheating. I mean using a goblin army’s way too cowardly. Even I was surprised when I was watching that human, Enri, from behind and yelped in surprise. Who’d have expected so many goblins to come pouring out… hehehe.”
Lupusregina made a sound resembling laughter.
It was an obvious taunt, but Barbro was in no mood to put up with it.
“So what are you here for!”
He could feel someone stirring behind him as if reacting to the shout.
A taunt was a taunt, but her actions were strange if she was planning on an ambush. There was no need for her to show herself. Or was this an act to draw away his attention? To strike from behind while he was distracted.
No ― he was valuable because he was the first Prince.
Their plan was probably to negotiate with him if he was lucky, or to use him as a hostage if he was not.
But there was no way negotiations would end well for his side. He would most likely become a prisoner.
Barbro could feel the throne getting further and further away from him every second.
Although, the ones who were actually responsible were the upper echelons of the Kingdom, who had sent him to that village without informing him that goblins were there.
If he became a prisoner, he would have an opportunity to meet with Ainz Ooal Gown. Depending on the situation, he would cede one-quarter of the Kingdom’s territory in exchange for Ainz’s help in making him the king.
This was perhaps the best he could get out of the worst situation.
Barbro thought this.
“No, no. There’s only one reason I came ‘round.”
Lupusregina declared after a deep breath.
“I came to massacre everyone!”
He blinked several times before shouting.
“What?! What nonsense are you spouting! Don’t you know who you’re talking to?! I am the First Prince of the Kingdom of Re-Estize, Barbro Andrean Ield Ryle Vaiself!”
“Ha. Well, you say that, but aren’t you still a mere human? Am I wrong? For us, it’s all the same. Ah, I already knew you were a prince, too.”
“Is that… Right! You mean to kill everyone besides me? I can’t say that’s a good idea. Even if you take me prisoner, you’ll need someone to take the news back to the king, or the negotiation will get more difficult in many ways.”
Lupusregina tilted her as if he was saying something strange.
“No, no. What are you blabbering about? I’ll say it again. Ma~ssa~cre. It’s a massacre because I’m going to kill every single one of you. It seems like your brain’s not too developed? Ah~ you might be valuable in that sense, but I’m not too keen on keeping you around.”
“What the hell are you saying! Don’t you realize my value! I am the First Prince! How dare you even think about killing me! You normally take nobles hostage and ransom them! Or do you want territory! It’s better to keep me alive to use for more advantageous position in negotiation than to kill me!”
“…Oh man, this is one perplexing human being.”
Lupusregina showed an unpleasant smile on her face, then continued in a tone that sounded as if she was trying to explain something complex to a baby.
“You’re not needed in the plan of the highest one, of Ainz-sama. That’s why you’re going to die. Do you understand now?”
Barbro was flabbergasted.
He could tell that Lupusregina was not saying it out of jest nor as a simple threat.
He swallowed his saliva unconsciously.
“…Are you really going to? Really going to kill me…”
“Ah, that’s a good expression. It’s my favourite kind. You’re going up and up in my favourite ranking.”
Lupusregina spoke to Barbro with a blank expression. Barbro was trying to smile despite the rigid expression on his face.
“The order from Ainz-sama is to massacre you all. Thus, nobody can leave this place alive.”
She suddenly changed her expression and spoke jokingly.
“So, I’ve thought about this and that. ‘Which opponent would you have the most fun with?’ So ― I brought the best opponent for all of you, who had so much trouble with those goblins.”
She raised her hand and went “ta-da”. Suddenly, multiple shadows burst out from her shadow, cutting their way out of empty space.
“Here are the Redcaps mercenaries I summoned!”
They numbered thirty.
They were evil and twisted looking goblins that resembled the ones he had seen before.
They all wore pointed red hats and steel boots. In their hands were axes that seemed to give off a blue glow in the moonlight.
“Enemy attack! What are you doing! Wake up! To arms! The enemy’s here!”
The soldiers awoke from sleep at Barbro’s shouts and saw the enemy under the almost blindingly bright moonlight.
“…Level 43. It’s kind of overkill, but there weren’t any lower level goblins in the library.”
Since they were soldiers who had just been through a hellish battle against goblin soldiers, they did not have the heart to fight against goblins again.
They ran in a disorganized fashion without even trying to put up a fight.
“Don’t run! Fight! Fight! Stand and fight! Protect me right this instant!”
There was nobody who listened to Barbro. Even the nobles ran for their horses.
“Ahhahaha! This is a masterpiece! To think you can actually get away in a wide open plain like this! Ah~ this is too funny! It’s the best! I love it so much!”
Lupusregina’s mocking voice was something Barbro knew only too well.
There was only one way to survive. That was to kill the enemy.
“You think you can make it if you’re on a horse… I guess there’s morons who think like that. Can you cut off those idiots’ legs for me?”
The Redcaps ran out, cheering in anticipation of the impending slaughter.
They were like wild beasts.
They slid in between through the scattered men trying to run away.
And then… a scream echoed through the air.
It was one of the nobles trying to escape on horseback.
The screams continued.
“Well, I guess I won’t have much time to enjoy myself since there’s not that many of them left over… But I guess it can’t be helped. I’ll try to make best of it, and enjoy myself as much as possible. I might not have abilities like Sol-chan, but I’ll show you that I’m not too bad either.”
Lupusregina walked over to Barbro, who had drawn his sword. She took comfortable steps as if she had just come out for a stroll.
But the smile that emerged like a fissure on her beautiful face made Barbro shiver.
It was only after thirty minutes that Barbro was finally permitted to embrace the sweet release of death.