Winter’s end was a long ways off, and the air was cold, though he did not feel it. That was thanks to his fur. His entire body was covered in lustrous black fur, and wearing a set of clothes on top of that would provide for excellent insulation. He would not shiver even if he wore a suit of metallic full plate armor instead.
However, he was shivering for a different reason now.
That reason was anger.
Calling that tremendous anger “wrath” would not be too far off.
A low growl escaped him — like that which a carnivorous beast would make — and he clicked his tongue in embarrassment.
For members of his race ― the Zoastia ― making animal noises was proof that they could not control their emotions; a shameful display for an adult.
However, that was only among fellow members of his species.
Anyone else who heard that growl leak from between his sharp teeth would have been trembling in fear or frozen in terror.
He turned his back on the human city which he had been staring at just now and returned to his camp.
Their supreme commander was Jaldabaoth, their ruler who wielded overwhelming might. Many races were gathered beneath him, and many pointless disputes broke out between them every day.
The forces of the Demihuman Alliance were divided into three main detachments.
The first were the 40,000 troops arrayed against the Southern Holy Kingdom’s military.
The second were the 50,000 troops responsible for managing and guarding the camps which held prisoners from the Holy Kingdom.
The third were the 10,000 troops responsible for scouting the Northern Holy Kingdom, recovering various resources, and other miscellaneous tasks.
The personnel here comprised 40,000 of the 50,000 troops allocated to managing the prison camps.
It was only natural that with such numbers in attendance their campgrounds would be bustling, yet nobody blocked his path, and he did not stop or even slow his pace.
Surely there was nobody in the world who would dare stand in the path of a massive, rolling boulder.
Nobody present dared stand in his way, given the air of dominance around him.
He walked as though he were alone in a wasteland, and soon a particularly ostentatious tent came into view.
There were demihuman soldiers standing before it, but they were not guards. They were there to heed the orders of the tent’s occupants. In other words, they were servants.
They fearfully cleared a path for him, and he savagely pulled aside the cloth hanging over its entrance, whereupon the five demihumans within immediately glared sharply at him.
The demihumans within could be counted among the top ten members of the demihuman forces, demons excepted. While he could feel the physical weight of their gazes upon him, his calm demeanor did not change in the slightest.
As a fellow member of those ten beings, he instead snorted and plopped himself down onto one of the empty seats. That said, his bestial lower body meant that taking a seat was more like lying down.
Although one of the five nodded lightly to him, he paid that person no heed as his eyes fixed firmly on the demihuman occupying the seat of honor.
Said demihuman was a being that looked like a snake that had grown arms.
The scales on its body had a wet sheen to them and threw off a bizarre riot of colors that did justice to its nickname of “Rainbow Scales.” Not only were they beautiful, their hardness was said to rival those of Dragons. In addition, it possessed high-level magic resistance and was equipped with a large shield and a suit of enchanted plate armor. When one factored in its warrior prowess as well, said being might well qualify as the toughest entity in the Abelion Hills.
This demihuman was Rokesh of the Nagarajas. He was the demihuman who had been appointed as commander of this detachment by the Demon Emperor.
Resting beside him was his favored weapon, the Trident of Desiccation which possessed a dreadful power.
“―Why aren’t we attacking yet?”
He directed the question to Rokesh in a subdued tone.
It had been a full three days since they had reached the city which the pitiful human resistance had taken over, yet not even a skirmish had broken out since then.
“...I know the human walls are troublesome, but surely they’re nothing in the face of our numbers, aren’t they?”
This was especially true for those members of the Demihuman Alliance who could completely disregard the existence of such walls. There ought to be no difficulty if said individuals were carefully managed.
“Frightened, are we?”
A vicious expression bloomed on his ― Vijar Lajandala’s ― face as he was addressed with the title of “Demon Claw.” He swept his eyes over the other member of his species who was present before turning back towards the Nagaraja.
The title of “Demon Claw” was known throughout the foothills, and had been for almost two centuries now.
This was not because Zoastias were a long-lived race but because the title was passed down through the generations.
To him, this title was something he had inherited from his father. He knew very well that it was inappropriate for him at the moment. That was why he had to build his reputation in the upcoming series of battles. Yet, he had not been able to prove his strength ― as the inheritor of the title ― to the world so far.
Everyone he had beaten so far was weak. There had not been any who could take more than a single blow from his enchanted two-handed battleaxe, “Edge Wing.”
This state of affairs could not be allowed to continue.
He could not allow this war to end while others still knew him as a mere minion of the archfiend Jaldabaoth. He needed a chance to make a name for himself as a warrior, and now was the time.
However, Rokesh still did not intend to attack. Vijar’s dissatisfaction with that decision was why he spoke to the former in that way.
“They say the Grand King used to hold that city. Don’t tell me you’re scared just because the enemy has someone who could defeat him?”
The Grand King ― the king who had led the Bafolk to greatness.
He had been one of the top ten demihumans, like himself.
Vijar was confident that he stood on even footing with the Grand King, despite the latter’s annoying martial arts which could break weapons. Anyone who could beat the Grand King must surely be a worthy opponent.
“I’ll deal with her, so why aren’t we attacking yet?”
He could think of only one person who could defeat someone of the Grand King’s power.
It must be that female human paladin from the rumors. If what they say is true, she might have been able to beat the Grand King.
He sketched a hazy image of a paladin with a glowing sword in his mind.
“Vijar-dono. The fact that you, a commander, would say such things despite coming in late without a word of apology makes me… don’t get so excited, I know, I know.”
Rokesh waved him off in a relaxed fashion.
“My my. Ignorant chicks do make a lot of noise even when they know nothing.”
The person who was snickering just now had four arms. She was the queen of the Magilos, a woman with the moniker of “Iceflame Lightning” ― Nasrene Bert Kiuru.
Vijar wrinkled his brow.
He felt that he could beat her in a melee fight, but Nasrene was adept at magic, so he was afraid she could turn the tables on him in some unexpected way if it came to a fight. Even so, he ― as an inheritor of the name “Demon Claw” ― would not be able to face his ancestors if he meekly let someone call him a chick.
“And old hags who like to sit on their asses cause trouble for the rest of us too.”
The Magilos were quite long-lived, but she ought to have been more than halfway through her lifespan, given that Vijar had heard of her nickname throughout the hills when he was a child.
He could not tell the age of her skin when inspecting her face due to all the cosmetics she wore, but the fact that she was covering it up meant that she must have felt her age too. In addition, surely that floral fragrance surrounding her was a sign of using perfume to mask her old folks’ stench, was it not?
Nasrene narrowed her eyes and an icy chill filled the air in the tent. This was a physical, not psychological phenomenon.
“―I’m not lying, am I?”
Vijar straightened himself up as he said that. A Zoastia’s lower body was not a pretty decoration, but something which possessed a beast’s dexterity and explosive power. While his usual fighting style would have involved hunkering down for a charge in order to make full use of his physical abilities, he did not do that now. That was because he wanted to present himself as the one with the advantage, who had simply ceded the initiative to his opposition.
“This isn’t just a matter of lying, is it? I ought to teach you how to address ladies with respect. That’s also my duty as your predecessor.”
Amidst all this tension, Rokesh spoke up:
“Contain yourselves, you two. This is a war council. If the two of you continue making trouble here, I’ll have to report this to Jaldabaoth-sama.”
Now that Rokesh had brought up the name of their absolute superior, the two of them had no choice but to back down. Still, they continued glaring at each other, as though to say “This isn’t over yet,” and “You start a fight and I’ll finish it.”
“Hah… well, as someone who’s strong myself, I know you can’t really help being strong, but you two ought to know what it means to cooperate.”
“Heeheehee, you don’t have the right to comment on others either.”
A simian demihuman covered in white fur jeered at Rokesh’s grumbling with a laugh.
“Hm, that’s true. Now then, Demon Claw-dono. About your question earlier, it is not that I am afraid. The Grand King was a valiant individual, but surely everyone present is his equal, am I wrong?”
Rokesh looked to Demon Claw and Iceflame Lightning, and then to the remaining three people.
One of them was an ape-like demihuman who was covered in long white fur. He wore many protective items made of gold.
He was the king of the Stone Eaters ― Harisha Ankara.
As a superior specimen of his species, he and others like him could gain various special abilities from eating raw minerals. For instance, by eating diamonds, they could temporarily gain physical damage resistance which could only be bypassed by bludgeoning attacks. Usually, only three such abilities could be active at once, but he could stock far more than that number. That was also a reason why he was called a mutant.
Then, there was the Orthros general who had nodded to him as he had entered the tent.
He wore a suit of intricately carved armor. His equally ornate helmet and his cavalry lance lay beside him. His name was Hektowyzes Ah Rahgara.
His nod to Vijar was not out of respect for Vijar’s personal abilities, but towards the Zoastia species as a whole. That was the reason why it made Vijar unhappy.
Still, he could not simply challenge Hektowyzes to a duel to prove his strength. Certainly, Vijar would be the victor in a one-on-one fight. However, Hektowyzes had not gained fame because of his individual might, but because he was a renowned general who could triumph despite having a tenth of his opponent’s forces. The tables would be turned if it came to mass combat, and there was nothing more shameful than crowing about one’s personal strength and saying “I’m stronger than you” while knowing this. That was why Vijar had a hard time dealing with that Orthros.
The last person was the fellow member of his species, who had remained silent all this while: Muar Praksha.
Also known as “Blacksteel,” he was a ranger who was often called a shadow running through the darkness.
He was a rarity among the Zoastia, who typically took advantage of their physical gifts and fought with brute force. He used stealth, surprise, and cunning techniques as part of his fearsome assassination skills. His nickname came from his unshakable will and the fact that he would eliminate any quarry he had marked.
While he did not think he would lose to them, every person seated here would be a troublesome opponent for him in a straight fight.
“Then let’s go back to the topic of why we’re not attacking them. That would be because I received orders from Jaldabaoth-sama in the city of Rimun.”
“What’s that? Is that true?”
Vijar’s question was due to the fact that among this army of 40,000, Rokesh was the only one who had had direct contact with Jaldabaoth. By the time the others had been summoned to this city of Kalinsha, his men were already in fighting order and waiting to be deployed.
Jaldabaoth was always teleporting between multiple cities, so there were few opportunities to receive directions from him in person.
“Jaldabaoth-sama said to give the humans occupying the city several days’ time.”
“Give them time? Whatever for?”
“He said it was to frighten them. There are fewer than 10,000 people in that city. There are fewer still people among them who can fight. In contrast, all of us here can fight… how afraid do you think the humans holed up in that city will be?”
“I see… so that’s it. Jaldabaoth-sama is truly fearsome.”
“Heeheehee, indeed. That said, I do understand how you feel, Vijar-dono. The question now is how much more time we should give them?”
“No, we can decide exactly how many more days to give them. That said, we might have two months’ of rations stored up, but it would not be good to actually give them that long.”
“Is it because we still need to deal with the prisoners?”
There were only 10,000 demihumans left to manage an overwhelming number of human captives. While demihumans were stronger than humans, quantity was a quality all of its own. It was very likely that they would not be able to deal with any riots or uprisings.
“Precisely. That’s why I have gathered all of you here, in order to hash out our plans for the future. Personally, I think we can make our move after another couple of days and wrap things up. Does anyone disagree?”
None of the demihumans present ― Vijar included ― objected to him.
“All right. We attack in two days. We will continue observing them until then.”
There was the possibility the enemy might launch a counterattack, though he did not think it very likely.
“That would mean it’s about time to deal with the humans we’ve brought along, then.”
Some demihumans ate human beings. Species like those preferred fresh food. The Zoastia had no particular preference for manflesh. To them, beef and horse meat were better. However, most of them would prefer fresh human meat to beef jerky.
In contrast, Iceflame Lightning had a look of revulsion on her face. Perhaps it was because the Magilos did not eat humans, as they were visually similar to human beings.
“Heeheehee. How about killing and eating them in front of their city tomorrow. That ought to terrorize them, no?”
“An excellent idea. After that, we’ll declare that we’re attacking the next day…”
“There’s no need to press them that hard. What’ll happen if they surrender? Fighting is only fun because they have hope, and thus struggle with all their might. Nothing’s more boring than killing people who have lost the will to live.”
Vijar wanted to fight strong foes. There was no point in facing weaklings.
“Indeed. Also, there is another important point. This is an order from Jaldabaoth-sama. We must not kill them all, but let a few escape. Therefore, my plan is to kill everyone guarding the western gate ― our side ― and chase away the ones manning the eastern gate.”
“In other words, whoever’s attacking the eastern gate needs to be able to keep firm control over their men, am I right? Otherwise, it feels like it’ll end in a complete slaughter.”
After Nasrene said that, everyone’s eyes went to a single individual.
“I see… Then you won’t mind if I bring all my kin with me, then?”
“Can you leave a few as messengers?”
“Certainly, Rokesh-dono. In that case, Hektowyzes Ah Rahgara and myself will be responsible for the eastern gate.”
“After that, we need some people on the north and south walls to give them some pressure. While there’s no need to actually take those points, we ought to kill off an appropriate number of defenders there. I’d like to send some ranged fighters over…”
There were three people present who were adept at long-range combat. The person Rokesh chose from among them was the silent Zoastia.
That was all “Blacksteel” said in reply.
“Everyone else will be on the western gate. While I don’t think there’ll be a chance for you to show your stuff, I’ll leave any strong opponents that show up there to you. After all, I need to command the entire army, so I won’t be able to make it to the frontline.”
The remaining three demihumans ― Vijar included ― all nodded their heads.
“Since we are all in agreement, we shall attack that city in two days. I hope you will all get your rest and gather your strength before the humans wail in despair.”
Neia swallowed the stomach acid rising inside her as she walked towards the Sorcerer King’s room. As she did, an intense sourness spread through her mouth.
She took up the pouch tied to her belt and drank the water within.
The water tasted bad since it was tainted by the odor of the leather which held it, but it helped quell the burning sensation in her throat and the stench in her mouth. However, the anger still remained in Neia’s chest, and her face was still pale.
She recalled the stomach-churning scene that she could not forget, even if she wanted to.
The demihuman army had encircled this city for a full three days now.
The enemy had not attacked or attempted to parley, simply letting time pass. But today, the demihumans had brought out their captives from the Holy Kingdom to the outer walls of the Loyds district, where Neia had been posted. If they had skilled archers or slingers present, they might have been able to launch an attack, but they unfortunately had nobody like that on hand.
Neia was confident of hitting the demihumans if she used the Sorcerer King’s bow. However, launching a rash strike may have triggered an all-out attack. That would have led to a battle of 10,000 against 40,000, and they would have to open the city gates if they wanted to save those captives.
Once the gates were opened, the demihuman forces would surely pour in like an avalanche. Such a thing could not be allowed to happen, and so all they could do was stand aside and watch.
There were less than twenty captives. They were made up of males and females, adults and children, but there were no old people among them. All the prisoners were naked and covered in scars and bruises.
Just as the gathered people of the Holy Kingdom began to think they had been brought out as collateral for some kind of negotiations, a tragedy unfolded.
The demihumans began to kill the captives.
A demihuman who seemed to be about three meters tall had decapitated a prisoner and then raised the severed head in an inverted position. Neia had clearly seen how the earth had drunk the vast quantities of fresh red blood spilled upon it.
After that, the demihumans began to butcher the prisoners’ corpses.
Neia had seen her father process animal carcasses before. However, the sight of such a thing happening to human beings dealt a mighty blow to Neia’s psyche.
After that, the demihumans ate the captives one after the other, while they were still fresh.
The most cruel part was watching how some people had been eaten alive.
Even now, Neia’s ears still rang with a child’s cries as a demihuman chewed his belly open. It was accompanied by the sound of his innards being torn out.
Fortunately, Gustavo had been wise enough to keep Remedios from following him, under the pretext of protecting the prince. Surely they would have been fighting by now if she had seen something like that.
Neia sighed deeply, then took another mouthful of water and forced herself to swallow it.
She had heard someone say that it would feel better to throw up if one was nauseous, but given that she was heading to the Sorcerer King’s room, it would be disrespectful to arrive with the stench of vomit clinging to her.
After checking her breath several times, Neia stood before the door to the Sorcerer King’s room.
There was nobody on either side of the door.
Now that the city had been encircled by the demihumans, there was nobody to spare on protecting ― or rather, keeping an eye on ― the Sorcerer King.
Neia knocked on the door to indicate her presence to the person within.
“Your Majesty, I am Squire Neia Baraja. May I enter?”
After receiving permission, Neia quietly entered through the room’s door.
The interior was simply furnished since the demihumans had wrecked most of it. Even so, it was still more than what anyone else in the city had.
The Sorcerer King stood with his back to Neia as he looked outside the window.
“It seems quite chaotic outside, given how I’ve seen so many people running around from up here. We’ve been encircled for four days, but this is the noisiest it’s been since the first day. That would mean… are there signs that the enemy is preparing to attack?”
The Sorcerer King had shown no intention of participating in this battle, simply staying in his room without incident. He had not even shown up for the strategic meeting when the demihuman army began fanning out around the city.
Naturally, the Liberation Army’s leadership had not been happy about this, but they found it very hard to ask anything of the Sorcerer King after he had said, “After taking future matters into consideration, don’t you think it would be bad if the king of another nation stuck his nose into your business?”
Neia had been ordered to attend various meetings in his place. This was the Liberation Army’s plan to share what they knew with the Sorcerer King, and Neia approved of it. However, that had led to Neia witnessing the tragedy which had unfolded earlier.
“...No, the demihumans haven’t made any big moves like that. But… the demihumans, ah… how shall I put this, maybe they are trying to make a show of force, so their positions have shifted a little.”
“I see. In that case, this standoff will only continue for a while more, no? The demihumans are trying to shake your troops and weaken their morale… come to think of it, do you think you can win this battle?”
No. Neia longed to say as much.
For starters, there was a vast difference in the respective strength of their forces.
10,000 humans versus 40,000 demihumans.
Even that figure of 10,000 included the elderly and children. In addition, they had not yet fully recovered from the wounds ― both physical and mental ― and the fatigue they had incurred at the prison camps.
While the defenders typically had the advantage during a siege, that only applied when both forces were evenly matched
When one compared the average demihuman to a human commoner, the latter was so weak that even comparing them seemed like a foolish act.
At the very most, the only people who could stand on equal footing with demihumans were the paladins, the priests, and professional soldiers, but they did not have many of those. Compared to the 40,000 strong army they were now facing, it was as pointless as trying to put out a Fire Dragon’s breath with a bucket of water.
Still, one could not say this was an entirely unwinnable battle.
There was one person who could beat back the demihuman hordes by themselves, even without counting the Sorcerer King.
Assuming physical exhaustion and lucky hits from the enemy were not a factor, the strongest paladin in the Holy Kingdom ― Remedios Custodio ― could take on about 40,000 demihumans and kill them all.
However, one could not say there were no powerful individuals in the demihuman army who could stand toe-to-toe with Remedios. In fact, it was very likely that there were such beings out there.
Neia recalled the Grand King Buser, the demihuman who had previously ruled this city. While the Sorcerer King had killed him like he was nothing more than a pile of rubbish, that was simply because the Sorcerer King was incredibly powerful. Buser was overwhelmingly strong in his own right. Neia could not have beaten him, no matter how hard she tried.
Demihuman kings like that might be Remedios’s equals, or perhaps even her superiors. They were all very strong in Neia’s estimation, so she could not accurately judge the outcome of a showdown between two such powerful beings.
In addition, physical exhaustion had to be taken into consideration if one was being realistic. No matter how strong they were, nobody could escape the spectre of fatigue. Magic could briefly ease it, but fatigue would continue to accumulate once more.
Even after killing an army of 10,000, Remedios could still be attacked in a moment of exhaustion and weakness and be killed by an average demihuman. Quantity had a quality of its own, after all.
However, if there was some being who could overturn that logic ― Neia’s eyes went to the great ruler who still stood with his back to her.
That person would be an absolute force.
An entity who surpassed this world (Overlord).
He was none other than the Sorcerer King, Ainz Ooal Gown.
As Neia gazed upon his regal back, she suddenly realized that she had not yet answered the Sorcerer King’s question, and she hurriedly spoke.
“I, I’m not sure!” Panic caused her to exclaim louder than usual and she blushed before continuing in a normal tone, “―Therefore, I’ll do my best to find out.”
The Sorcerer King seemed entirely unmoved by this, and asked another question.
“I see. Then, have you learned anything new about the enemy? Have you verified Jaldabaoth’s presence?”
“The situation on that front has not changed in the past few days. We have not yet sighted Jaldabaoth among the demihuman forces.”
“Hm. That makes things difficult. It may be very hard for me to help you in this defense. After all, I need to replenish the mana I’ve used up. I must consider the possibility that his plan might be to deprive me of mana before I take any action.”
“But of course. Everyone is fully aware of Your Majesty’s opinion.”
During a strategy meeting, someone had once said they had spotted a demon who looked like Jaldabaoth, but when Neia said they had to make sure, that person had immediately said they had probably been mistaken. Given the mood in the air, it was clear that everyone present ― with the exception of Neia ― was planning to involve the Sorcerer King in the fighting by spreading false reports of Jaldabaoth’s presence.
They might despise the undead, but lying to the king of a nation means they have no integrity to speak of. Even when backed into a corner, isn’t it proper to display their best side to someone who ought to be respected?
“In that case, what do you make of the demihumans’ movements?”
“Ah, yes, the demihumans had been previously massing at the west gate, but now they’ve split their forces and are sending some of their troops to the other ― the eastern ― gate. We believe they’re about to make their move ― probably preparing for a siege.”
“That is to say, enough time has passed for them to finish building siege weapons, then? Well, that’s probably a good thing. After all, the enemy isn’t trying to starve you out.”
Neia could not tell if it was a good or a bad thing, but they would have no response to starvation tactics.
If the demihumans attacked on an open field, then they would be promptly annihilated due to the opposition’s overwhelming advantage in military strength. However, if they were fighting from behind the protection of the city walls, it would not be such a lopsided battle. Of course, that was merely going from “incredibly bad odds” to “pretty bad odds.”
“Of course, that might also be due to the fact that the demihumans aren’t aware of our supply situation. Then again, it’s more likely that they simply don’t care about a small city like this.”
“Well, the demihumans did conquer the fortress line we saw when we entered the Holy Kingdom, so it would be reasonable for them to hold a small city like this in low regard… if you give them a hard time during the defense and make them feel that a siege is to their disadvantage, that’ll draw the battle out. After that, you’ll have a very hard fight ahead of you.”
It appeared that the Sorcerer King believed that they would have to win this unwinnable battle before the true battle began.
“Your Majesty, may I ask your opinion of how you think the situation will develop?”
“Future developments, hm. I don’t honestly know. In truth, one could say that you’ve lost by being forced to hole up within the city. Taking shelter in a city is typically done under the pretext that reinforcements will arrive. Either that, or the enemy is operating under a time limit or something similar. However, you are simply defending a city in enemy territory, so your chances of victory are despairingly small.”
“Still, we managed to send the nobles we freed to the south before this, so we can’t say for certain that no help will arrive.”
Neia might have said those words, but she knew in her heart that she should not be counting on reinforcements.
The southern armies would need to break through the Demihuman Alliance forces blocking their path to reach Neia’s location, and even if they did that, there was still an army of 40,000 demihumans to contend with.
Fighting repeated battles would be a huge drain on their combat strength. It would be wiser to abandon the 10,000 people in this city.
“That would be good…”
It would seem the Sorcerer King did not believe it for a moment either.
But that was only to be expected. Given the circumstances, who could turn things around without sacrificing anyone―
Neia dispelled the notion rising in her head.
His Majesty is here to fight Jaldabaoth, so diminishing his chances of victory by having him waste mana on unrelated manners cannot be allowed.
“...It will take me a while before I can once again cast the teleportation spell which I used on the Orcs, but I can still cast the spell which I occasionally use to return to the Sorcerous Kingdom several more times. Taking a few dozen people with me would not be a problem… but I guess you can’t decide who to send, and you won’t.”
“I am grateful for your understanding, Your Majesty.”
Perhaps it would have been a better idea to ask the Sorcerer King to take Prince Caspond and flee, but that move was of dubious merit.
When a king from another nation was willing to commit himself to a fight in order to face a fearsome demon, having a member of one’s own royal family shamelessly beg someone else to take them away from the battlefield was utterly disgraceful.
Just as Neia was pondering this information, the Sorcerer King turned to face her for the first time since she had entered the room.
The red points of light in his empty eye-sockets looked straight at Neia. While they had once frightened her, Neia had grown used to them, and she had come to feel that they were quite attractive.
“This is what I think, Miss Baraja. We have ended up in a confrontation with the enemy forces because of the stupidity of the Liberation Army’s leadership. Such a situation cannot be changed by the efforts of a single squire. How about focusing on your personal safety rather than the big picture? You do understand that my nation will accept your allegiance, if you are willing to give it? Given that you have been trained as a paladin, I am certain you will be able to fully exercise your talents in my country.”
Neia did not know how to answer, and she hesitated.
While she was grateful that the Sorcerer King was concerned about her, she trembled in fear as she considered what she might lose if she accepted the Sorcerer King’s proposal.
The sacrifice which her parents had made.
Her love for her hometown.
She might never be able to return to the nation of her birth.
She remembered several friends she had made.
Many things circled in front of Neia’s eyes, and they disappeared one after the other with a poof, but among them was something that refused to shatter, that remained to the end ― in other words, the most important thing.
She was a member of the paladin corps.
While she did not yet know what was justice, it was the only thing Neia could say with her chest puffed out and her head held high.
“As a citizen of the Holy Kingdom, I feel I am bound to save as many of the people as I am able. That is because saving the helpless ― saving those in suffering is common sense.”
The Sorcerer King suddenly stopped moving, as though he had been frozen in place.
The Sorcerer King murmured to himself, and then he stroked his chin.
It would seem Neia’s words had struck a chord with the Sorcerer King, because he studied Neia once more.
It was just a throwaway remark, and Neia found herself fidgeting uncomfortably.
“Am I correct to say that when the demihumans attack, you will be posted to the walls near the western gate, on the left side of the city? It is a very dangerous place, and counting on me to save you will be a mistake, you know?”
“I know that very well.”
Neia was skilled in archery, and given that she had been assigned to the thick of the action, there was no doubt that she would be killed in action. However, she had steeled herself for death, since she would be going onto the battlefield.
She drew her lips thin, and Neia looked the Sorcerer King in the eye.
“Ahh, those are his eyes. I liked those eyes.”
The Sorcerer King’s self-directed mutterings made Neia blush. While the Sorcerer King probably did not mean anything else by his words, hearing someone she respected say that he liked her made quite an impact.
“In that case... I’ll lend you several things, Miss Baraja. Please make good use of them.”
There was a whoosh as something huge suddenly appeared out of thin air. The same thought had crossed her mind when the Sorcerer King had produced the bow in the carriage, but magic truly was a surprising thing.
Neia had seen the magic item ― the suit of armor ― which had sprung forth from nothing. It was a suit of armor which looked like a green carapace, which the late Grand King Buser had worn.
“This, this is―”
“This armor ought to be useful, by which I mean it will ensure your safety.”
The armor was too large for Neia ― and its dimensions would be quite sizable for just about any human being. However, given what Neia knew about enchanted armor, it would not be an issue if she tried it on.
Ordinary armor would need to be altered by a blacksmith in order to suit its wearer’s frame. However, there was a limit to how far such alterations could go. Such a large suit of armor simply could not be resized enough to fit.
However, it was different for magical armor. Anyone could wear it regardless of gender or race, provided there were no special restrictions on its use. While the changes would not be too drastic, the armor would automatically adjust its shape to fit its wearer.
One could even have a giant wear a suit of armor no bigger than his own thumb, but the durability of magic armor varied with the materials it was made with and their quality. A ring-sized suit of armor would be easily damaged if it was subjected to spells, acidic, or equipment-sundering attacks, and that would greatly reduce the potency of the enchantments upon it.
There was no such thing as a free lunch, and so-called shortcuts often did not work out. Even so, Buser’s armor was probably quite tough, given that it was this size even without anyone wearing it.
“In addition, I will lend you three more things.” The Sorcerer King personally handed those items to Neia. “A circlet, gauntlets, and a necklace. Are any of them redundant with your personal gear?”
“No, not at all. I did not have any magic items to begin with.”
“Excellent. Now, I will briefly explain how to use these items.”
As the name implied, the Circlet of Iron Will defended the mind against charm, fear, and other such mental attacks. Still, while the circlet rendered one immune to magical attacks, it could only strengthen the wearer’s resistance against attacks derived from special abilities. Another thing she had to note was that the circlet would also negate positive magical effects.
The gauntlets were Gauntlets of Archery. Out of all the spells in the world, there were some which could only be used if their caster possessed shooting skills, which was why the Sorcerer King had made that item. However, the Sorcerer King had abandoned those spells after making that item, and so the gauntlets were useless to him. They had languished in storage until now.
Finally, the necklace was an item that consumed mana to cast the Third Tier divine spell 「Heavy Recover」. While one could use it indefinitely as long as one possessed sufficient mana, it consumed more magical power than casting it directly. Given Neia’s meager reserves of mana, it was best for her to consider it a one-use item. Therefore, she would have to think carefully about when to best use it. This item had not been made by the Sorcerer King or his peers; he had simply been taken with its appearance and had purchased it from somewhere.
Indeed, a closer look revealed that the necklace was of very fine workmanship. It looked like a goddess holding up an emerald. Indeed, it was a very attractive work of art.
Neia looked at these valuable items, and then shook her head in refusal.
“I, I’m very sorry, Your Majesty, but I cannot accept these items.”
The magic items that the Sorcerer King offered were most definitely top notch gear. However, what would happen if Neia died while wearing them? These items would fall into the hands of the demihumans, and they would end up strengthening the demihumans instead. Even if they did not fall into the hands of the demihumans, what would happen if her corpse went missing during the chaos of battle and her equipment vanished with her? More to the point, Neia already had the bow which the Sorcerer King had bestowed upon her, so how could she be discontent with that and borrow more things from him?
Speaking of which, she ought to return that bow to the Sorcerer King before going to battle.
“Why is that? These items will be useful to you in the fighting to come, will it not? After all, you are a warrior-type, and you lack mana, so you might not even be able to use that necklace’s ability. Why don’t you take it and give it a try?”
Neia confessed her uneasiness in response to the Sorcerer King’s question. The Sorcerer King heard her words and simply smiled.
“How about this? Go onto the battlefield with the determination to bring these items back to me, no matter the cost.”
Neia had been resolved to do just that all along, but resolve alone could not break through her uneasiness. After hearing her answer, the Sorcerer King waved his hand in a magnanimous fashion.
“Oh, just take them. I have spells that can locate magic items. I can find them even if they’re lost.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, it is… all right, no need to stand on ceremony. Make use of them.”
If the Sorcerer King could make facial expressions, he would have probably been smiling ― those thoughts ran through Neia’s mind as she heard his kind words.
Now that he had offered them with such sincerity, rejecting them would be an act of rudeness. The notion of accepting his goodwill warred with the desire to apologize for incurring a loss to the Sorcerous Kingdom. Those thoughts swirled in Neia’s mind―
“Well? Can you not make me a promise? A promise to return them all to me afterwards?”
Come back alive. That was the meaning behind those words, and they moistened the corners of her eyes with tears. Only her parents had ever treated her with such kindness before.
The Sorcerous Kingdom is blessed to have such a merciful sovereign. As Neia thought that, she bit her lip and lowered her head.
“Thank you very much! I swear I will return them!”
She lifted her head, and wiped away the tears
She could not put the armor on here after all. However, putting on the gauntlets, necklace, and circlet should not be an issue. She began by fastening the necklace around her neck.
In the moment that she put it on, she immediately understood the abilities of the magic item and how to use them. It was as though the item was a part of her, and making use of it was as natural and effortless as using her own limbs
Next was the circlet. However, she did not feel anything special when she put it on. Still, according to the previous explanation, she would probably understand when the time came.
The last item was the gauntlets.
Unlike the others, she could clearly feel the difference.
Power coursed through her.
It felt very much like the time she had strengthening magic cast upon her. Her muscles felt like they had suddenly doubled and her movements were both swifter and more precise. In addition, she could make out tiny details, and even her cardiovascular fitness had improved. She felt full of stamina.
It was as though every aspect of her physical abilities had improved.
“This is amazing…”
Strength gained through training accumulated slowly, so it was hard to perceive. However, she could clearly feel the intense augmentation of her physical capabilities. More surprising was the fact that she did not feel any awkwardness in controlling her body given the differences between her previous and present self.
“Magic really is amazing…”
The Sorcerer King shrugged as he heard Neia react in awe.
“That’s true. In fact, I’ve been quite surprised by utility spells myself.”
“By that, do you mean...?”
“Spells which can create sugar and pepper and ice. Then there are spells which can even create ores, though they’re not very mana-efficient. Some cities also depend on utility spells to supplement their water supply… It would seem utility spells are closely linked to the development of this world’s culture.”
“Is… that so?”
Why would a great magic caster like the Sorcerer King be surprised by such trivial spells? Still, it must make sense, given that the Sorcerer King had said it. And indeed, utility spells had come to be of great use in many places; daily life might not have been possible without such magic.
“Also, there are those sewers which use slimes… or rather, coexist with them… ah, I’m straying from the point. Miss Baraja, pay me no heed and return to your work.”
In truth, there was no task more important than keeping the Sorcerer King company. However, it was also true that they lacked manpower, and Neia had a surprising number of things to do, While said tasks were largely related to standing guard, which anyone could do, they were still very important.
“Thank you very much, Your Majesty. I promise that I will return alive.”
“Ah, if things get really bad, then flee to the east. In all likelihood, that’s the only place where you might have a chance to survive.”
Neia picked up Buser’s armor and bowed before leaving the room.
Inside the operations room, Remedios Custodio and three paladins studied a force distribution chart.
Unlike how she would make people sigh in exasperation most of the time, her mind was nimble and perceptive when it came to warfare. While her younger sister would say, “You’ve got a great body there, all you need now is to study a little more,” she could not have gained her present fighting skill if she had heeded that advice.
That was because she was different from her sister, who had been blessed with three gifts ― wisdom, talent, and beauty.
Our fighting strength is 10,000. Theirs is estimated at 40,000. Our win conditions are to hold on until reinforcements from the south arrive, or the enemy retreats… we might actually be able to do it if there were ten of me around...
If the members of the Nine Colors who had been chosen for their fighting strength were present, they might have been able to put up a good fight, but the fact remained that the present situation was incredibly grim.
If we want to buy time, we need to counterattack the enemy hard during their first offensive. That’ll put the enemy on their guard and give us the time we need. After all, the enemy doesn’t know what forces we possess, right?
She had also seriously considered the proposal of launching a first strike.
They could gather their forces at the east gate and crush the enemy there in one mighty blow before wheeling around to head for the west gate.
However, she had quickly reached a conclusion ― all would be lost if they failed. It was very likely that the west gate would be lost to the enemy’s main force before they defeated the small detachment positioned at the east gate, and thus the city would fall.
And of course, there was the disparity between their forces. They had to compensate for that gap if they wanted to win.
But that’s impossible.
Remedios wrinkled her brow and looked at the tokens placed on the map.
She hoped for a flash of inspiration to descend from on high. However, no such thing happened.
“Do you lot have any ideas?”
“Yes. Personally speaking―”
She listened to the paladin’s proposal, shot it down, then asked for more ideas, and the process repeated until none of them could come up with anything. Just then, a knock rang through the weighty silence of the room.
“Captain, you’re here.”
The person who entered was the vice-captain ― Gustav Montagnes. It felt like she had been saved by the bell. It would seem the other paladins in the room also felt that way, as a faint glimmer of hope appeared on their crestfallen faces.
“Ahh, you came just in time. I wanted to ask if you had any ideas.”
Remedios gestured to the map sprawled across the table with her chin. It would seem Gustav had gotten her meaning, because he nodded.
“I can supply a suggestion or two, but can I discuss a few things with you beforehand?”
“Hm? What is it? Go ahead and tell me.”
“Ah…” Gustav continued in a more subdued tone. “Actually, things have gotten quite bad. Some of the people want to know if the Sorcerer King will be taking part in the fighting.”
The Sorcerer King would not be fighting in this battle. This was both to recover the mana he had expended until now, and and to account for the case that Jaldabaoth’s plan was to make him expend mana here.
Remedios had difficulty accepting the first reason, since her little sister Kelart could restore her mana within a day. However, everybody else felt that the Sorcerer King could not be held to the same standards as human beings, given that he had taken back the city single-handedly, and so Remedios said nothing more. Come to think of it, there had been priests present as well, and they too had agreed with him.
However, even Remedios could accept the second reason.
Who could tell if Jaldabaoth was hiding within the enemy ranks?
In the first place, they had brought the Sorcerer King here to fight Jaldabaoth. While it would be best if both of them ended up killing each other, she had no wish to see the Sorcerer King defeated. Therefore, it was only natural for her to work as closely as she could with the Sorcerer King so that he could fight to the fullest of his ability, even if she intensely despised the undead.
Even so, there had still been some who wanted the Sorcerer King to take the field. Some of the nobles who had remained in the city had offered huge sums of money ― which had made even Remedios’s eyes go so wide that they looked like they might fall out of her head ― to induce him to fight, but the Sorcerer King had rejected their offers.
“What’s wrong with that? The Sorcerer King won’t be fighting in this battle. You should know that too, right? Just tell them and be done with it.”
“Captain. We can’t tell them about this. If things go badly ― no, even if all goes well, it’ll cause a huge uproar.”
“Why is that?”
She could not understand it. What was wrong with the Sorcerer King not fighting?
After seeing the doubt written all over Remedios’s face, Gustav frowned and replied:
“That’s because the people who watched us take back the city know that there are things which we paladins can’t do, but which the Sorcerer King can accomplish with only two people.”
She still could not understand what Gustav was trying to say.
“That may upset some people, but that’s how things are. What’s wrong with that?”
“No, what I’m trying to say is, they trust the Sorcerer King more than us paladins. If the people of this city learn that the Sorcerer King ― the most reliable and powerful asset we have ― is not fighting, morale will plunge to rock bottom.”
“Trust? ...You do realize the Sorcerer King is undead, don’t you?”
“It doesn’t matter that he’s undead. The Sorcerer King freed the city and rescued prisoners. So to them, the Sorcerer King is a hero.”
Remedios rolled her eyes as she repeated Gustav’s words back to him.
“The people think he’s a hero? But he’s undead, no? They hate the living and love death. He abandoned the hostages ― no, he killed them off without any hesitation, didn’t he?”
“It’s all the same to them. Also… it would be one thing if they simply regarded him as a hero. If this goes on, people will start thinking of the Sorcerer King as their savior. If things go wrong, it might affect the Holy King’s―”
“The Holy Queen’s, you mean,” Remedios’s face twisted into a frown. “I’ve said this many times already, but Calca-sama must be locked up somewhere. There were paladins and priests collapsed everywhere after that battle with Jaldabaoth, but we couldn’t find Calca-sama and Kelart anywhere. He wouldn’t need to move her if she was dead. I’m sure she must have been taken hostage.”
“I misspoke, Captain. I feel that it might be a problem that could cause problems for Her Majesty’s reign.”
“Yes. ...Our fortress line has been smashed and nobody can stop the demihumans from invading. There will start to be people who want to flock to the side of a supreme being who can protect them.”
“But he’s undead… you know?”
“I say again, it doesn’t matter if he’s undead. He saved them in their hour of need, didn’t he?”
Remedios still could not understand that point.
“But the Sorcerer King wasn’t the only one fighting, was he? We fought too, under the Holy Queen’s flag.”
“Yes. You’re right. We all fought, even the common folk. But even with all that taken into consideration, if the Sorcerer King does more than us, then there might be people who would value him over the Holy Queen and seek to make him their new ruler.”
“Hah!?” Remedios unconsciously raised her voice. “How did that happen? Not only is he a hero, that undead creature’s being placed above the Holy Queen? Do you even know what you’re saying?”
“No, the people―”
“―It doesn’t matter, he’s still undead! How much suffering and effort do you think Her Majesty had to go through for the sake of the people? How could the people―”
“―Please wait, Captain!”
“What do you mean, wait!? What the hell are you talking about, Gustav? No, is that what you truly believe?”
In the grip of her powerful emotions, Remedios slammed her fist down on the table. As someone who had entered the realm of heroes, that blow crushed the area of the table beneath it and gouged a chunk out, which fell to the ground. The bizarre damage pattern looked like some giant had pressed out the edge of the table, and it spoke of the extent of her anger.
“Please calm down, Captain! We all know the greatness and kindness of Her Majesty as a matter of course. There’s no way the Sorcerer King or any other undead creature could compare to the great Holy Queen. But we only know that because we stood by the Holy Queen’s side.”
“Are you out of your mind? Even if they’ve never had an audience with her before, there’s no way anyone would respect the undead of another country more than the ruler of their own nation! You’re delusional!”
“Captain!” Gustav exclaimed, his voice close to a wail. “Even if the Sorcerer King is undead and the king of another nation, he was still the one who freed them from torment! And that is something… something that Her Majesty, that we could not do!”
Gustav spewed those words out in one big burst, and the room echoed with the sound of him trying to calm his flustered breathing.
“...What do you all think?”
The paladins who had previously been in the room all looked at each other as they heard Remedios’s quiet voice. After that, one of them spoke up, a look of mortal determination on his face.
“Naturally, we paladins do not consider the Sorcerer King a hero. However, we also know that the common folk might feel that way.”
After that, another person spoke.
“Most of the people know that the Sorcerer King conquered this city with the strength of just two ― no, one person. Those who have not seen the Sorcerer King’s power in turn exaggerate these rumors, further deifying him.”
The last one added:
“It is a fact that the Sorcerer King stepped forward by himself to offer aid to a country which was neither an ally nor one that was friendly to him. If we disregard the fact that he is undead… those actions would qualify as heroic.”
It would seem Remedios was the only one who could not accept this state of affairs. In that case, how could she respond to Gustav’s question after all this had sunk in?
It was true that not having their hero take part in the fighting would cause morale to drop, and thinking about the reasons for that would lead to a commotion. After all, the enemy outnumbered them four to one. Anyone would be in that frame of mind when they thought about having to fight something like that.
“...Then why don’t we paint the Sorcerer King as a villain and kill two birds with one stone? How about telling the masses that the Sorcerer King won’t help us any more?”
“Lying would be a very bad idea,” Gustav said. “The mood of the people is like a dam just before it bursts. If they learn the truth through one channel or another and discover that we were trying to hide the truth, the matter would spiral out of our control.”
“Well, we don’t have to tell a flat-out lie. We can do it in a roundabout way.”
“If the people think it’s a lie, then they’ll treat it as a lie.”
“Then all we need to do is keep them from seeing the Sorcerer King, no?”
“...So if a riot breaks out or if someone wants to plead with him in person, we’ll kill them off?”
“...I don’t want to do that.”
Gustav sighed heavily.
“This is frustrating. The Sorcerer King showed too much of his strength. I feel we wouldn’t be like this if we had taken this city back under our own power… If the worst comes to worst, the country itself might be torn apart. Who’s going to stop the Sorcerer King if he declares this land an enclave of the Sorcerous Kingdom?”
“This nation belongs to Her Majesty and the people who live upon it! Not to the undead! And besides, do you think the surrounding nations will accept that!?”
Remedios pounded on the table again. However, Gustav’s face did not change, and he interjected:
“They probably will. Captain, you saw them too, right… the monsters in his city. No other nation would want to become the enemy of the Sorcerous Kingdom, which possesses such frightening military power. It would be wiser to simply turn a blind eye to the Holy Kingdom, which is now impotent… and if this place becomes an enclave, the Sorcerous Kingdom’s defensive strength will be divided between two fronts, and many of the nearby countries will agree that it is a good thing. And if the people wish for this to happen as well, the Sorcerer King will have just cause for his actions.”
“...So being a country of the undead is better than being a nation whose people can’t even defend themselves… is that how it is, vice-captain?”
Gustav nodded at the paladin’s question. “Just so.”
“Gustav. Did I make a mistake in bringing the Sorcerer King back here?”
“Of course not, Captain. It was the best choice at the time. However… it is true that we’ve relied too much on the Sorcerer King’s power. Like I said earlier, if we had taken back those prison camps with our own strength, we wouldn’t be in this situation now. For all we know, the people might still fear and hate the Sorcerer King, being that he’s one of the undead.”
“...So what should we do?”
“We need to appease the people, buy time, and defeat the enemy army by ourselves. If we can’t even do that, then even if we defeat Jaldabaoth… the fighting might still continue.”
Remedios looked up to the ceiling.
“...Then that’s what we have to do. Damn that Sorcerer King… did he plan all this out beforehand?”
“I don’t know… I really don’t know. But he might have.”
“Maybe he desires to expand his domain. Is the Sorcerous Kingdom very small?”
“I wouldn’t say it’s very small, but it’s true that the Sorcerous Kingdom is only his city and the land around it, as well as that plain which is rumored to spawn large quantities of the undead.”
So that was why he had his eyes on the Holy Kingdom’s land. There was certainly more than enough evidence to lead to that conclusion.
“That damn undead creature! We should have asked for Momon’s strength after all!”
“Perhaps things might have ended the same if Momon had come. The shock would simply not have been as great as the impact which the Sorcerer King made. A king conquering a city by himself is an incredibly striking image. The fact that said king is one of the undead who are our nation’s sworn enemies is also a big factor in this.”
In other words, a villain doing a good thing had a greater impact than an average person doing the same thing.
Now that silence had returned to the room, Remedios ― who finally realised that Gustav was asking for her opinion ― gave her orders.
“We’ll discuss this with Caspond-sama. If, perhaps, though I feel it’s not too likely, just in case, Her Majesty has passed away, then he is the most eligible person to be the next Holy King.”
“Since we have not yet found any other members of the royal family, that will certainly be the case. We’ll go ask his opinion of all this, then.”
Remedios left the paladins in the room and led Gustav to Caspond’s room.
In the end, things turned out just like Gustav had predicted. The conclusion was that they would delay in answering the people and if the enemy should attack during this time, they would face them without the assumption of the Sorcerer King’s assistance and beat them back, thus showing the world that the strength of the Holy Kingdom was still undiminished.
There were large movements in the demihuman camp ― upon receiving that report, Neia knew that the time had come.
There was no doubt about it; this was a prelude to an attack.
Neia ran through the city, wearing in the gear she had borrowed from the Sorcerer King.
She knew that the people she was running past were staring at her.
Their line of sight was drawn to the magnificent bow she had borrowed from the Sorcerer King, and then they looked at the armor previously worn by the ex-ruler of the city, the Grand King Buser, and they were filled with shock. Neia’s acute hearing picked out people asking a question through the noise of the crowd: “Who is that warrior?” It was answered by “It’s the Sorcerer King’s squire” or “The woman from the Sorcerous Kingdom.”
I’m not from the Sorcerous Kingdom...
It bothered her every time she heard false rumors like that. Part of her wanted to know, yet did not want to know how the rumors had wrongly depicted her. However, she would need to clearly and firmly deny any rumors which might inconvenience the Sorcerer King.
Still, the Sorcerer King’s squire...
It pleased her, but just as she was about to smile, a quiet groan came from one of the people she ran past.
Even if he does resemble Father...
That thought passed through Neia’s mind as she arrived at the wall adjoining the west gate, where she had been assigned. That was also where practically all of the demihuman forces were gathered.
Close to eighty percent of all the paladins, priests, soldiers and able-bodied men in the city had been stationed at the west gate or in its vicinity. The remaining twenty were assigned to the east gate, while the women, children, old folks, and other non-combatants were keeping watch from the north and south city walls.
Remedios Custodio commanded the west gate. Gustav Montagnes commanded the east gate. Caspond Bessarez was the nominal supreme commander. Of course, the supreme commander stayed within the headquarters in the center of the city and did not venture out.
She could see the west gate at last.
The Sorcerer King had demolished the east gate’s portcullis, but the west gate’s portcullis was still intact. However, many demihumans were stronger than human beings. They could probably wreck it easily with logs.
Neia clenched her hand into a fist before it could tremble.
If they broke through this point and made their way inside, it would be very difficult to deal with the demihumans once they began spreading through the city. In other words, the city would be lost.
Given the circumstances, Neia could not run. She would probably fight and die in combat against a vast swarm of demihumans.
Neia brought her trembling hand to her mouth, and then bit down.
Don’t be afraid! If you’re scared, you’ll miss a target you could have hit!
The magic item she borrowed from the Sorcerer King could defend against magical mental attacks, but it could not suppress the fear born of her own heart. Even so, she would probably have been even more frightened if she had not worn it.
As she felt the pain spreading from her fingers, Neia entered a tower on what seemed to be the left side of the city and ran up the stairs to the top of the wall.
Neia had been assigned to the Sorcerer King’s side, and so she was apparently the last to show up ― of course, her superior officers had granted her special dispensation so she would not be censured for being late ― and the other people who were supposed to be here were already present.
As Neia prepared to rush off to her station, the paladin commanding the left flank of the western wall stopped her.
“The Sorcerer King ― His Majesty seems to be missing.”
For a moment, Neia looked at the paladin in surprise. She had already reported to her superiors that the Sorcerer King had no intention of taking part in this battle, but they were still asking her this question. Did that mean they had not yet informed the others about it?
However, Neia immediately sensed that this was not the case. This man was holding on to a sliver of hope ― he was wondering if the Sorcerer King would change his mind and show up.
Neia looked upon the demihuman army that was sprawled outside the city. There were well over 30,000 demihumans there, but the pressure of looking directly at them made them feel more numerous than they actually were.
Neia could understand why anyone would wish for the aid of the overwhelmingly powerful Sorcerer King in the face of such a force. That was because Neia had once felt the same way too. However―
“Yes. The Sorcerer King is not here. That’s because this is our ― the Holy Kingdom’s battle.”
The paladin was speechless for a moment.
Neia slipped past him and ran to her post―
“―Hold on! Squire Neia Baraja!”
Neia stopped and stood at attention.
“Stand by here for the time being.”
Neia looked around. This place was close to the exit of the tower which led to the top of the city wall. A lot of people would be moving through this place. Would she not be getting in everyone’s way if she stood here? In addition, this place was far from Neia’s assigned position, which was close to the center.
“May, may I ask the reason for this? Is there something you need me to do?”
“No, no, it’s not like we need you to do anything, it’s actually a little troublesome. ...Squire Baraja. Just stay put here. Do you understand!?”
She had no idea what was going on, but there must have been some reason for it. There was no reason to keep a trained soldier here for no reason when the fighting might break out at any moment.
Was my assignment changed? Is it so that I can focus on sniping the enemy commanders? ...The bow I borrowed from the Sorcerer King looks amazing even at a glance, so does that mean they’re using me as a trump card?
“I understand. How long will I be waiting? Also, where shall I wait?”
“Ah, um, well, just until the enemy moves in. As for where, anywhere is fine.”
“Huh? I need to wait right until the last moment?”
It was indeed weird. Just as a sense of wrongness began to fill Neia, several men who looked like they had come from the militia carried a huge pot up the stairs. This was probably food for the defenders standing by on the walls. They were sweating far more than the cold weather warranted, and it was clear that these men had come back and forth many times. It was only to be expected, given that they were feeding several hundred men.
Neia leaned against the wall to give them room to pass, and the men moved hurriedly past her. However, one of them lifted their head a little and noticed Neia’s face.
“Huh? Aren’t you the Sorcerer King’s squire ― ah, no, would that be you, ma’am?”
“Ah, no need to be so formal… er, forgive me. Yes. I have been assigned the duty of serving as the Sorcerer King’s squire.”
Perhaps they had heard Neia speak with the man, but the other pot-bearers stopped and looked at Neia in surprise. It was probably for the same reason as the man from just now.
She was slightly embarrassed to be known as the Sorcerer King’s squire, but at the same time she felt very proud of herself.
The men did not know how Neia felt, and they worriedly asked, “I say, ah, actually, there’s something I’d like to ask the Sorcerer King―”
“―Stop that! No, could I please ask you to save it for later? She’s very busy. Would you mind carrying on with your work?”
Suddenly, the paladin stepped between Neia and the men, as though to hide her.
That was a strange thing to do. It looked as though he did not want her to speak with those men―
Was that the reason for the order just now? He doesn’t want me to talk to them… why is that? Is it because they were going to ask a question about the Sorcerer King?
She did not know why he was doing this, but finding the answer would be simple enough.
“I don’t mind. What seems to be the problem?”
Since the paladin did not want her to speak, then she would just have to address them directly.
“Are you trying to keep people from asking about the Sorcerer King!?”
Neia answered as loudly as the shout which had been directed at her.
In truth, it was quite shameless to keep borrowing the Sorcerer King’s reputation like this, but she had to make sure the Holy Kingdom was not doing anything which might negatively impact the Sorcerer King. She did not want her home country to disgrace itself.
Neia gently addressed the man who had asked her the question earlier. Of course, she knew that it was probably going to frighten him, even if she felt her tone was gentle.
“I will answer to the best of my ability if your question is related to the great Sorcerer King. That said, I am not of the Sorcerous Kingdom, so I regret to say there are many things I do not know either.”
“Eh!? But you ― aren’t you from the Sorcerous Kingdom, ma’am?”
“Eh!? No, no, it’s not like that. I’m a squire from the paladins of this country.”
“Well, yes? So you don’t need to be all formal with me…”
The crowd burst into a commotion. Perhaps it was because the paladin had shouted at her just now, but at some point the militiamen on the walls had started looking her way.
While matters had taken quite an embarrassing turn, she could not look let herself look bad now that she had invoked the name of the Sorcerer King. Neia puffed up her chest proudly, determined to let all the soldiers present hear her. It would seem the paladin had resigned himself to the fact that he could not hide this, and so he stood to one side while glaring angrily at Neia.
“Then, first off… That armor of yours looked like something that the boss of those goat-headed monsters wore. Were you the one who defeated it?”
“No, not at all. The previous wearer of this armor was the Grand King Buser, and the Sorcerer King slaughtered him with a single spell.”
Ohhh, the crowd enthused.
She could hear snatches of conversation from the crowd: “He actually beat that monster!” “I can’t believe he used only one spell,” “Did he really take down a whole city by himself… he actually defeated so many demihumans…” “He’s super strong... I think I’m falling for him…” “He’s not like the undead I know at all…” and so on.
Even though they were whispering into each others’ ears or muttering to themselves, Neia’s keen ears could clearly hear them.
Of course, it made her very happy to know that others felt the same way about the great man she so admired. This was particularly true for those people who maintained that opinion despite knowing that he was undead.
His Majesty’s efforts were not in vain, there are people out there who get it...
“Then, then, ah, will His Majesty be lending us a helping hand this time round?”
The ruckus fell silent in an instant, and that reaction told Neia that this question was a critical one.
“...His Majesty will not be taking part in this battle. This is because it is a battle that we, as citizens of the Holy Kingdom, are fighting to save our nation, and not another country’s war. In addition, His Majesty needs to conserve mana for when he faces Jaldabaoth.”
The men’s faces fell as they heard her reply. Neia prepared herself for a rebuke―
“Well, that makes sense… normally, the king of another country wouldn’t come over by himself. Heaven will punish us if we’re not grateful to him despite all he’s done for us.”
“Yeah. Also, she said that he’s saving up his mana to defeat Jaldabaoth.”
“...That king is very cool-headed, but even so he’s a man who’ll choose a method that saves more people… no, he’s undead. In that case, there must be a reason why he won’t take part in this battle. I mean, I saw it back then.”
“Ahh, I saw it too. It’s true that we’re the ones who value this country the most. ―I’ll protect my wife!”
“What are you talking about?”
“We came from the prison camps before this city was liberated―”
She could hear voices of goodwill from all around her.
Of course, there were some who were unhappy that the Sorcerer King was not coming to help. However, they were outnumbered by the people who could understand the Sorcerer King’s considerations, and it warmed her heart.
“May I return to my post now?”
Neia addressed her question to the paladin. She now understood why he did not want her to go to her post earlier. In that case, there ought to be no problems in letting her head there now.
The paladin did not hide how he felt as he told Neia to “Go,” with a bitter look on his face.
Neia walked past the soldiers who were loudly discussing the Sorcerer King and arrived at the place she had been assigned to. She then intently studied the enemy encampment.
It was a vast army. It boasted enough manpower to devour everyone here in one gulp. It was the enemy which would be attacking them.
She felt like she was going to throw up again.
How many times had her father felt like this when he was manning the fortress line?
Neia looked up at the sky, which was as overcast as her heart.
The demihuman army made their move during the day.
Neia hurried to finish up her porridge.
Said porridge was made of oat grains boiled with milk and served in a wooden bowl. Thanks to the winter air outside, it was cold by the time it reached Neia’s hands and, frankly speaking, it was awful. However, if she did not eat her body would not be able to endure the extended exertion it would have to go through afterwards, and there would be no more food waiting for her. In addition, while there was supposed to be a relief shift for her, Neia had the feeling that she would not be successfully relieved, and that she would be too busy for a proper meal later on. That was why they had been given such a large portion for lunch
She forced the spoon into her mouth, forcing herself to swallow the thick, white clumps of oatmeal that were swollen with milk.
The sheer amount she had to swallow bloated her belly, and the knowledge that this horrible stuff might be her last meal filled her with despair.
At the battlements overlooking the demihuman army, Neia curled herself up on a cotton mat. Her grey-colored coat would be her only defense against the winter cold from now on. The militiamen had started eating at the same time as her but they had not yet finished.
Everyone was frowning. Clearly nobody was happy with the taste. That could not be helped.
However, their tense expressions were not due to the oatmeal porridge. Their eyes were not looking at the food in their hands, but the demihumans making their advance.
There was no way anyone could be happy ― or hopeful ― when looking upon those overwhelming numbers.
Then there were those who had once been prisoners. Their taste of demihuman rule had engraved an intense fear into them. They were under so much stress that they were unable to eat.
What would the Sorcerer King do under these circumstances?
Would he give a grand, spirited speech to heighten their will to fight? Or would he laugh it off?
Neia had no idea what heroic actions he would take. Still, even if she knew, she could not emulate him. After all, she was completely different from the Sorcerer King, who was both a hero and a king.
Also, it would probably cause problems if Neia said something like “relax and don’t worry” to them. After all, appropriate tension was what drove things forward.
Their faces might have been downcast, but there was no sign that they had given in to despair, nor were there any signs that they wanted to flee. There was something about them, something that one could only find in soldiers who had prepared themselves to meet their fate.
The reason for that was apparently due to something that one of the militiamen ― who had been one of the first to be freed from the prison camps ― had said about the Sorcerer King. It spread through the soldiers stationed at the walls like wildfire.
Lives were not equally important.
They were unhappy when they heard he had killed a hostage whom the demihumans were holding. It was a ruthless act that was very characteristic of the undead. However, the people who had been there strenuously insisted that it was not the case. They spoke of how that incomparably powerful Sorcerer King had said, “Even I would become the victim in the face of someone stronger than me.”
Neia remembered those words too. Back then, he had seemed extremely human, even radiating a tragic stoicism which felt like determination and resolve personified. It was a powerful promise to protect those things which were important to him and it had a persuasive power to it which could not be put into words.
And then, they thought about what would happen to the people dear to them if they were defeated here.
Their fighting spirit was strengthened by a powerful sense of purpose, which said “I don’t want to let my loved ones go through hell again.”
Had His Majesty considered that things might end up like this all that time ago?
If he had not said those words to stiffen the people’s resolve, their forces might have lost their morale in the face of the overwhelming army before them, and they might even have dissolved into a rout.
Neia had only seen the Holy Queen once. She had almost no idea of her abilities or her character. Still, she was certain the Sorcerer King was superior to her as a ruler in both aspects. Or rather, the Sorcerer King was probably the sort of sovereign who was known as the King of Kings, the highest order of monarch, even among other kings.
“And here I used to feel that the people of the Sorcerous Kingdom were pitiful because they were ruled by the undead…”
However, they might have been very lucky now that she thought about it. Those words caught in Neia’s throat, did a loop and refused to leave her mouth. After all, it would not be good if the people around her heard them. Just then―
“Confirmed enemy advance! All hands prepare for battle!”
A great shout came from the distance.
Everyone gulped down their porridge and went to battle stations.
If an army which was over 10,000 strong made its move, the air would shudder, to the point where it might even shake the walls of the city. It felt like the oncoming pressure would squash them flat.
In fact, Neia’s acute hearing had picked up the earthshaking clamor of an advancing army, and despondent wails rose up from the militiamen.
Morale was falling fast.
Still, there was nothing Neia could do, and she was not in a position to do anything either. Neia’s job was to fill every enemies who entered her range with arrows.
Ever since this city had been taken back, she had spent every waking moment practicing her archery when she had not been performing her duties as a squire. She mused that it was thanks to that practice that she had gotten used to Ultimate Shootingstar Super, and she was now able to use it properly.
Still, why are the demihumans attacking now? Attacking at night would be better for them… do they have something in mind? If the Sorcerer King were here, I could ask him about this…
The absence of the magic caster who had walked beside or in front of her for the past month made her feel like there was something important missing from her heart.
No. I can’t rely on His Majesty for everything. I need to stand on my own two feet... Although I’m not sure exactly what the demihumans are planning, there ought to be a reason for launching their attack in broad daylight. In that case, it would be best not to be careless.
As Neia observed the demihumans from the battlements, the frontline of demihumans drew her attention.
There was an Ogre standing three meters tall in the front rank. That demihuman carried a massive weapon.
It was some kind of ranged weapon that was protected by a wooden shield. It was a ballista. Although it seemed just right for the demihuman due to the latter’s massive size, the fact was that they could be used as siege weapons.
Many Ogres carried these weapons, which ought to have been mounted in place, and they stood in a row.
Had they scavenged them from a city and remodelled them for upright shooting?
The drums thundered, and the ballistas were prepared to fire.
―The city walls literally began to shake. The battlements collapsed in some places. While they would have to have been lucky not to take any casualties given the circumstances, luck was with them for now.
A gigantic arrow shattered the battlements. It was not so much an arrow as a javelin. A thick javelin that was longer than Neia was tall raced through the air and embedded itself in the walls. At this point, the only word for it was “siege weapon.” Surely nobody could take a hit from it and survive.
The Ogres looked like they were preparing for a second volley.
Neia stared at them.
The Ogres were far, far away.
Given the power of her bow, she could probably hit them at that range. However, its penetration ability would be greatly diminished, and the fact was that she could not practice long-range shooting like this within the city limits. She did not know the range to them, and she was not confident that she could shoot through the ballistas’ shields and kill their wielders.
That being the case, all they could do was open the gates and fight a pitched battle to kill the ballista team, but that would be an extremely foolish move.
In other words, all they could do was keep on taking this one-sided attack.
We have to pull back… but if we do, we can’t stop the enemy advance. What kind of plan does the brass have?
Although the enemy was only shooting so far, they would move to take the walls if the men retreated, and if the enemy seized the walls, then the city was all but lost.
They would take control of the stairs leading down from the walls and force the soldiers around it back to open the gates in order to let the main body of their forces into the city. All they needed to do was force that sequence of events through by dint of sheer power. There was nothing they could do about it. Even Remedios would have a hard time being surrounded by enemies in a melee.
In that case, all they could do was sacrifice their rear guard and flee the city from the east. However, that would probably lead to the situation they had discussed in a previous strategy meeting ― they would be harried along the plains, or they would be crushed between this army and the one arrayed against the south.
What would the paladin commanding the west gate decide?
Would he fall back, or would he fight to the end?
As Neia contemplated the matter, a second volley came from the enemy.
The walls shook again as the lance-sized projectiles struck it. The trembling felt more intense than the last time, and at the same time she heard an unrecognizable sound.
She looked at the source of the sound and witnessed a horrific sight.
One of the ballista bolts had shot clean through a wall and impaled a militiaman hiding behind it. Blood bubbled out of his mouth. Several seconds later, the man’s twitching stopped and he collapsed like a puppet whose strings had been cut. The bolt had nailed him to the wall like an insect specimen, and his arms and legs dangled limply downwards.
Screams broke out from around her as the men saw the hideous corpse which had suddenly appeared among them.
Neia grabbed the necklace which the Sorcerer King had lent her, and bit her lip.
That was a fatal wound. No amount of healing magic could cure that.
The death of one soldier did not greatly affect their fighting strength. However, the fear generated by his gruesome death infected the surroundings. The thought that they might be next and that there was nowhere safe for them triggered the survival instincts of the men, and their bodies trembled.
“「Under Divine Flag」!”
Someone cast a spell.
The terror coursing through the militiamen was suppressed in that moment. This was the result of using magic to improve their resistance to fear. While the divine spell 「Lion’s Heart」 provided complete immunity to fear, it was only effective on a single target. In contrast, 「Under Divine Flag」 affected everyone in a sphere around the caster.
That was why the paladins stood among the militiamen.
“Don’t be afraid!” The paladin who had cast the spell shouted, “Take up your weapons to save those who have gone through the same pain as you!”
Spells and certain special abilities could briefly panic people, but the fear they felt now came from their own hearts. Under the effects of the fear-suppressing spell, the fire blazed anew in the militiamen’s eyes.
Still, that was simply covering up the actual problem. The important thing was whether they could do anything about the one-sided attack they were taking from the enemy. Otherwise, the only thing that would come of it would be more dead and wounded. However, Neia could not come up with any good ideas.
“Take cover! The enemy doesn’t have unlimited ammunition! They couldn’t have brought so much with them!”
I see, Neia thought. Most of their resources ought to be going to the south in order to provision the army standing off against the southern forces, so was that why they thought that they would not have brought enough ammunition for their weapons here? Still, even a captive craftsman could make a lot of those bolts in a short time, although the crossbows were a different matter. This was a gamble.
―The third wave came.
The ogres were not used to archery, and many of them missed their shots. Even so, many of the battlements crumbled under the third volley, and there were many casualties among the militiamen.
The massive, lance-like bolts could pierce a man and the man behind him as well.
「Under Divine Flag」was a spell that was centered on the paladin who had cast it, which meant that its effect were strongest when many people were bunched up within its effective radius. However, that only led to more casualties.
The sound of flapping came through the air before the enemy could fire a fourth time. Winged angels flew through the sky and passed over the heads of Neia and the others.
While they were angels of the lowest order, they headed straight for the demihumans. They had burning brands in their right hands and they held pitchers with cloth sticking out of their mouths in their left hands. Those pitchers clearly contained oil or powerful spirits.
In other words, they were carrying explosive throwing weapons ― firebombs.
Of course, the flames produced by those weapons would not harm fire-resistant opponents in the slightest, or demihumans with thick hides or large bodies. They might not even have an effect at all.
On the other hand, there were also those demihumans who could not deal with fire, and damaging the ballistas would also stop the enemy attack.
The angels filled the sky above the ballista-wielding Ogres and lit their pitchers. However, they did not even have the time to cast them down.
There was a flapping sound as demihumans took to the sky. They were Pteropuses. Their hands were shaped into leathery wings, and their arms remained still as they rose straight into the air like they were riding the wind. That was probably the effect of some kind of spell.
A white weblike substance flew out at the same time, entangling the angels. It had probably been produced by a special ability of the Spidans.
The angels looked like butterflies caught in a spiderweb, and they plunged to the ground since they were unable to move freely. They were swallowed up by the demihuman hordes, and it was needless to say what happened to them after that.
However, the angels had not sacrificed themselves in vain.
Several firebombs hit the ground, and roaring flames splashed all around.
Neia judged that this was the best chance she would get, and tensed her bowstring.
Until now, it had been impossible to aim directly at the Ogres due to the shields mounted on their ballistas. Even if she took aim at their unshielded legs instead, it would be nearly impossible to kill them in one hit.
Her father would have been able to shoot out an Ogre’s eye through a tiny opening. However, Neia’s skills were not as honed as his. However, the Ogres raised their ballistas and pointed their shields upwards. Perhaps it was because they feared the flames or they were afraid for their ballistas, but whatever the reason, their attention was focused on the fire, and they did not pay her any attention.
If she missed this chance, she would probably not get another.
She drew her bowstring to its limit, and then loosed her arrow.
The magic item she had borrowed from the Sorcerer King aided Neia in bringing forth a result that approached what her father could do.
The arrow flew on a startlingly straight path, and struck an Ogre’s head.
Neia had not aimed for the thick skull, but a squishy eyeball. While some monsters possessed a protective membrane over their eyes, she judged that it would be easier to strike a fatal blow there rather than targeting the skull.
However ― things did not go as planned.
Her arrow sank into the vicinity of the Ogre’s jaw.
The stricken Ogre howled loudly, shuddering from the pain.
The Ogre dropped its ballista, and it clutched its face ― the part where it had been shot. Then, it shakily turned its back on Neia before falling back. While she had not dealt it a mortal blow, she had at least broken its will to fight.
If the demihuman army had healers, it would probably be able to return to the frontlines in no time.
This was all Neia could accomplish, even with the aid of the powerful magic items the Sorcerer King had lent her.
Neia clicked her tongue and immediately took cover behind the battlements, then pressed herself to the city side of the wall and began to move. The militiamen beside her stared in surprise as she suddenly left her post, and she addressed them in harsh tones.
“―Get out of here! They’re going to counterattack this place!”
It was not because they had heard Neia’s shout, but several of the ballistas discharged their projectiles in her direction. While most of the bolts had gone awry, some of them landed in Neia’s vicinity, and they wrecked the nearby wall.
If Neia had been unlucky, she might well have been impaled by those bolts.
She peeked at the demihumans again. The chaos from the angels and fire attack was being steadily contained, and the Ogres raised their ballistas again. It would seem news of being hit by an arrow had spread throughout the enemy army. In that case, they would probably not make the mistake of lowering their shields again. Therefore ― would she gamble on being able to emulate her father’s skill by a stroke of luck, hitting them even if she could only strike their exposed bodies? Or would she shrink up like a turtle and wait for her chance?
Amidst her confusion, the bow she had borrowed from the Sorcerer King caught the sun’s light and gleamed beautifully.
You won’t be praised for rashness...
Yes. She had managed to borrow such incredibly potent items, and she had to return them no matter the cost. Therefore, she ought not to take risks.
They can’t have that many special bolts!
It would seem the demihumans were volleying an endless hail of lance-sized bolts at them. However, their crude manufacture meant that very often, they flew towards places with nothing to hit, and some of them even fell into the city streets without striking anything.
She could not return fire, so all she could do was hunker down and wait for the enemy attack to stop.
Fragments of the destroyed city walls showered Neia. Some unlucky militiamen were hit and died on the spot, but while others silently prayed for the enemy attack to stop, since they could not do anything else.
Soon, she heard a mighty doom, the beat of a drum. The same sound repeated itself four times. In the distance, the same sound came from what should have been the left wing of the enemy’s formation.
...They’re coordinating their movements with the number of drumbeats. It looks like the right and left wings are using that to communicate. If I could enter the enemy camp and steal one of those drums, then beat wildly on it, that ought to disrupt the enemy’s cohesion ― that said, it would be impossible.
The enemy ought to know the importance of their drums. Therefore, they would be heavily guarded. In that case, who could charge into their camp?
Perhaps an adventurer could use 「Invisibility」 or 「Silence」 or other spells to cause chaos among the enemy and then sneak in.
There’s no point hoping for the impossible...
Still, there was no doubt that the enemy was changing tack. Neia ― and many militiamen ― nervously rose up to peek at the enemy’s movements.
After that a great commotion rose up from them.
It was a feeling which combined shock, fear, and furious anger.
The army arrayed on the other side of the wall was advancing at last. The left and right wings of the Demihuman Alliance forces moved forward in parallel. The center detachment approached the city gate in a layered formation.
The demihumans advanced with earthshaking steps, as though they wanted to hunt down and kill Neia and the others.
And then there was another unit ― a very small one ― which seemed to be flanking the city. Were they planning to scale the walls, or was this a feint?
In any case, the enemy had already launched the second wave of their attack. From now on, it would not be a one-sided struggle, but a mutual struggle of savage bloodshed.
However, that was not where the problem lay. After all, they had been waiting a long time for this, though they could not take joy in the fact that the time had come at last.
What angered the militiamen was the advance of the left and right wings. Their foremost units were composed of many different species. While they lacked a sense of unity, they had two things in common.
One was that they were all carrying assault ladders.
In other words, their unit was meant to scale the walls and break into the city. That also implied that they were Neia’s objective.
The other thing was that they had human children bound to their bodies.
Some of them were crying and wailing, while others hung limp. All of them were naked, and all of them were alive.
Neia bit her lip hard.
But at the same time, Neia’s heart was surprisingly calm.
From her darkened nook in the walls, she watched the demihuman tide pressing down on them. Neia then slid an arrow out of her quiver and began to draw her bow.
Even if the enemy pioneers had entered her shooting range, she had to hold on.
It was still too early.
She took several deep breaths, focused herself, then turned as fast as she could and drew her bowstring taut.
She had only a moment to aim, and there was only one point where she could aim.
She released her arrow.
Her unhesitating shot pierced the human shield ― the chest of a child ― and the demihuman behind it.
Perhaps even that powerful shot would have been hard-pressed to bring down something with the toughness of an Ogre. However, the demihuman she had just hit did not seem to possess such unreasonable vitality.
Neia paid no heed to the demihuman she had downed and drew another arrow.
She had killed a person, the child bound in front of the demihuman.
Her hands would not stop shaking. Her vision turned black, and her heart trembled.
Though she knew this would happen and had prepared herself for it, this was how she had reacted.
She reached for the hilt of her sword by force of habit, but her fingers touched the bowstring instead.
It was as though her bow was chiding her, telling her that now was not the time for that sort of thing.
A faint lamp lighted up in Neia’s frozen heart. It spread like wildfire, and dispersed the chill winds blowing through her soul.
She stopped shaking, and her vision no longer felt narrowed. What filled her heart were the words of the person who embodied an unshakable justice.
Ahh, to think it would have such a great effect.
Neia reconfirmed that what the Sorcerer King said had been correct.
The demihuman pioneers that Neia had attacked were visibly slowing down. That was because they had been shaken to discover that their human shields were not effective.
Therefore, she shouted.
Neia opened her eyes, and shouted at the staring militiamen.
“What are you doing? Hurry up and throw your stones down! We can’t save those hostages!”
indeed. Neia and the others could not save the hostages. And then, they had already seen what the enemy would do to hostages that had lost their value. Therefore, what could they do?
She fired another arrow to speed the demihumans on their way to the afterlife.
Neia used her practiced vision and saw that her shot had pierced a boy through his forehead. She did not know if it was because she had been aiming for an Armatt or because the boy’s skull had lessened the impact, but this arrow had not been immediately fatal. However, the enemy’s front line was in chaos. That was only to be expected. Both humans and demihumans would slow their pace when things did not proceed as planned.
However, all she could see of the enemy lines stretched from one edge of her vision to the other.
Neia had only had an effect on the region where she had shot. Everywhere else, things were continuing as though nothing had happened. It looked like a small dent in a long, long line.
“Hurry up and throw the stones!”
Neia shouted at them again.
If they did not throw their stones, everything Neia had done would have been for nothing. That was something even more unforgivable than taking the lives of people ― children who had futures ahead of them.
The enemy was attacking on the left, right, and center at the same time. A head-on clash with an enemy that outnumbered them several times to one result in them being crushed under the sheer weight of numbers. However, if even one of the enemy elements slowed down, it would relieve the pressure on them.
If the enemy reached the walls, they would climb up while using the children as shields. If they managed to make it up the walls, the militiamen would not be able to resist the demihumans. What she had to do now was see how much fighting strength she could shave off the enemy before they arrived.
It’s very difficult for militiamen to kill children. Therefore, there has to be someone who’s willing to set an example, even if they get their hands dirty!
Neia fixed her eyes on a paladin in the distance.
You should have realized that when you took the prison camps and this city! You ought to have known that the Sorcerer King was right! You ought to know that you can’t do anything else! And you certainly ought to know that it’s pointless to obsess over lives you can’t save! What you should be doing is devoting all your strength to save the people you can save!
Neia fired another arrow.
Just like before, her shot killed a girl and the demihuman to which she had been tied.
A shout echoed all around Neia as a stone flew. It seemed to sweep away the anxiety in her heart.
The thrown stone hit the demihumans, who were still hesitating. While it was a long way from being fatal, it would seem that it had done some damage.
“Hey, you guys! Hurry up and attack the demihumans! Give up on the kids they’re holding hostage!”
Neia recognized the militiaman who was shouting.
He was the father of the boy that the Sorcerer King had killed when they had liberated the first prison camp.
Neia was surprised to find him here.
“If they get past us, the women and children will suffer worse than they did before we saved them! If you still love your children, then throw those rocks as hard as you can!”
His voice seemed to banish all their doubts, and it was shortly followed by a volley of several rocks. While they flew on weird paths and there was no telling where they were aimed at, the fact was that they had been hurled out.
By the time Neia drew her bow again, a hail of stones descended on the demihumans. Many of those stones hit the front-running demihumans, the ones using children as meatshields. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that they hit the children tied to those demihumans, than the demihumans themselves.
The children cried and wailed in a heart-rending way. Even so, the rocks smashed mercilessly down on those pitiful children. They were the most tragic sacrifice of all, caught between the savagery of both sides.
Neia prioritized aiming for those children.
She did that to liberate them from their pain and torment as soon as possible.
This was a sign of respect for the few which had to be sacrificed to help the many.
Neia leaned out to find her next target, and then she felt something tearing through the air as it approached her, but all she saw was a burst of light.
Is this an enemy magic attack ?
Neia froze for a moment. At the same time, she felt a gentle impact from her belly. It felt like something had struck her lightly there.
Startled, she stumbled a step back and then she heard a clattering from her feet. She looked closely and saw something that looked less like a lance than a gigantic arrow ― in other words, a ballista bolt.
Its tip looked like it had been hammered into a right angle by a hammer.
Neia hurriedly ducked back behind the wall. After that, she heard a scraping sound as something huge struck the city walls.
Cold sweat ran down her back.
Neia unconsciously stroked the part of her where she had felt the impact.
She thought of how the Sorcerer King had thrown his sword earlier, and it had been deflected by the bubble of light from Buser’s armor. That would explain what had taken place just now. It would seem Buser’s armor ― which the Sorcerer King had lent her ― had protected her. In other words, Neia’s life had been saved in the nick of time.
Is that some kind of protection from ranged attacks? My chest, shoulders, and belly are protected by the armor, but what about other places? Does that ability have to be activated? No, more importantly, how many more times can I use it? Or has it already been used up?
Without the armor that the Sorcerer King had lent her, there was no doubt that Neia would have been impaled through her abdomen.
That fact sent shudders through her body.
“Huh… huh… huh. Come on, come on, dammit!”
Neia had not entered the radius of 「Under Divine Flag」. She had felt that it was unnecessary because she had the circlet which the Sorcerer King had lent her. That was why she could feel the fear of death like this. However, there were no tears in Neia’s eyes ― instead, she gripped her bow before revealing herself.
She had resolved herself to continue fighting, even if it meant taking the children’s lives. She could not allow herself to lose the will to fight after taking a measly little ballista bolt.
This was to keep the children they could not save from suffering any further. At the same time, it was also to slay the demihumans who had dragged them into battle. The arrow she loosed embodied both these things.
The intention to attack without regard for the children spread from her portion of the wall, until everyone was throwing rocks at the demihumans.
Neia even saw the paladins throwing rocks.
“Bastards! You bastards!”
“Ahh, dammit, those demihumans…”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’
“I’m sorry… please forgive me…”
Although those cries of remorse echoed up and down the line, they did not stop throwing their rocks for a moment.
This was the attack made by those people who had accepted that some blood had to be shed to save the highest number of lives.
However, the enemy was far too numerous. By the time they had struck down the front row ― the ones who were using children as shields ― the demihumans had already reached the vicinity of the walls, and they began deploying their ladders one after the other.
While the technologically-backward demihumans could only make battering rams and assault ladders when it came to siege weapons, the truth was that there was no perfect countermeasure against both of those. Several men pushed the ladders away with long sticks and the angels destroyed several more, but regretfully, there were just too many enemies to face.
“How are the firebombs coming? Get the priests to assist with their spells!”
“This is bad! They’ve got a ladder up over there! I’ll be going over, take care of this side for me!”
“Throw those rocks!”
There was a big commotion on top of the walls. The defenders were throwing rocks or stabbing with longspears to repel the demihumans who were clambering up the ladders, but the ladders went up one after the other, and it became difficult to deal with all of them.
Several demihumans nimbly avoided the spear thrusts from the militiamen, instead grasping the spears and pulling their wielders off the wall. Then there were those demihumans like the Armatts and the Bladers, whose natural defensive strength was comparable to full plate armor. They ignored the spears and rushed all the way up.
While the paladins had been trained in combat and could deal with these heavily-protected demihumans, the number of demihumans on top of the walls grew and grew. Any gaps which appeared were immediately filled up.
After stiffening her resolve, Neia leaned out from behind a battlement and shot a climbing demihuman from the side.
It was not Neia’s skill so much as the weapon she wielded which killed the demihumans in one shot. She could slay the resilient Armatts and Bladers because she possessed the Ultimate Shootingstar Super.
Neia’s body was clearly visible as she leaned out, and she was hit several times by stones spat by Stone Eaters. Although those stones could put dents in metal plates. Neia was protected by Buser’s armor. Still, she would probably be bruised and she might have suffered a fracture or two.
Though she was sweating heavily, she did not stop firing on the demihumans for a moment.
I can still do this… I only have enough mana to use the necklace of healing which His Majesty lent me once, so I need to save it!
As she continued landing shot after accurate shot, part of her mind tried to estimate how long she could hold out. After all, Neia’s single use of recovery magic was her trump card.
She pulled an arrow from her quiver, nocked it to her bow, took aim at a demihuman’s head or heart, and then loosed it. She repeated that sequence countless times.
A rock hit her hard enough to knock the arrow from her hand.
Neia hurriedly ducked behind a battlement.
She had dropped her arrow because the Stone Eater’s attack had made Neia’s entire body groan in pain, but that was not the only reason.
Paladins were sword-users. As a squire, she had trained with swords, so even if she knew the fundamentals of archery, she had not spent much time practicing with bows. This lack of practice made her arms cramp up and her fingers ache.
If she could not use a bow, then she would only be getting in the way. It was far too soon for her to use her trump card now, but she had no other way to restore her ability to fight.
The mana drained from Neia’s body, and it made her feel a little dizzy. She would not be able to do this a second time.
At the same time, all the pain in her body vanished, be it the cramps in her arms or her aching fingers.
“I can do this!”
Neia leaned out again and continued shooting.
Fortunately, Jaldabaoth’s forces possessed some degree of leadership. Otherwise, the ballistas would have fired on Neia to kill her without hesitation, but since they were being led, they did not shoot for fear of hitting their friendlies.
Neia continued shooting as if she were in a dream. Eventually the hand that reached down to her quiver came up empty.
She looked down in panic and saw that she was out of arrows.
Just then, a scream came from the militiamen.
There was a very strong-looking demihuman standing in front of a ladder. While it was no different from the Stone Eaters who had fired rocks at Neia, its physique was excellent. Though it was no match for Buser, it still radiated the aura of a powerful being.
It held a crude-looking greatsword in its right hand, which resembled a meat cleaver. The other held a helmet that seemed to contain something. It was the head of the paladin which commanded this area.
“The great Jajan-sama of the Lagon Tribe has taken the head of the enemy commander! Now, you dogs, kill them! Kill all the humans!”
The situation immediately turned grim.
Paladins were few in number, and a death from among those small numbers meant that the defensive strength of this area would plummet. And then, there was one more thing.
There was a tremendous disparity in fighting strength between a militiaman and a paladin, even if the latter were not part of a hand-picked elite. There was no way the militiamen could win against a demihuman that could kill one of those paladins.
As the militiamen froze in fear, the demihumans scaled the ladder behind the Stone Eater from just now ― Jajan. They burst forth like water from a broken dam, one becoming two, and two becoming four. It was like mitosis.
Demihumans began to fill the top of the wall, and in turn, the number of militiamen began to diminish.
Demihumans and militiamen. The difference in their individual abilities was plain to see.
She looked around in panic.
Arrows. She could not do anything without arrows.
She cast her eyes around like a traveller in a desert searching for an oasis, and then she saw a thoroughly exhausted soldier leaning against a battlement. There was a quiver with arrows beside him.
That’s it! I’ll take the arrows from that wounded man and send him back to the rear.
But Neia sucked in a breath as she ran over. The man who looked like an archer was missing half his face. He was clearly dead.
He had probably taken a direct hit from a Stone Eater. His brains were oozing out, his glassy eye stared out into nothing, and his fate might very soon be Neia’s as well.
She looked more closely, and found several similar corpses. Her usually-sensitive nose finally picked up the thick scent of gore in the air. No, her nose was fine, her brain simply had not received the input from it.
As the porridge suddenly rose in her throat, Neia forced herself to swallow it back down with all her might. She barely succeeded, but there was no telling if it was because she had been lucky, or because she had become resistant to this after watching the “live eating performance” earlier.
(TL note: the term here is 踊り食い, or eating live and twitching seafood)
Neia grit her teeth and transferred the arrows remaining in the nameless archer’s quiver to her own. Restocking her quiver felt like she was restoring her own fighting spirit.
I can still fight. There’s still things I can do….
After quickly finishing up her work, Neia put the corpse’s hands together and closed his remaining eye. There was no time to spare on doing that, but she could not stop herself from doing it.
“I’ll fight for your sake too. Until the very end...”
As Neia turned and rose, she no longer muttered to herself.
Her spirit rose to a peak it had never reached before, and her senses were incredibly keen. She felt like she was a part of the bow which she held.
The top of the wall was now a chaotic melee. Considering Neia’s skills, it seemed almost impossible to snipe Jajan ― who was holding up the head of the paladin ― given the sheer numbers of friends and foes between them. However―
I still have these gauntlets! And the Ultimate Shootingstar Super His Majesty lent me! ―I can do this!
She loosed her arrow as she filled herself with that powerful conviction.
By the time Jajan noticed the whistling in the air, it was too late.
The arrow pierced his head, and Jajan fell limply to the ground.
“Jajan of the Lagon Tribe has fallen by the hand of Neia Baraja!”
Although she shouted those words, she was not answered by a cheer. That was only to be expected. There was no time for a long hurrah in the middle of a life-and-death battle. Neia felt a little embarrassed as she realized that, but she had succeeded in shaking the demihumans’ morale. She could feel the pressure on them easing off.
It would seem this had not been a complete defeat.
Neia took up her arrow again, then turned to face a suitable demihuman before sending an arrow his way. She shot the demihuman through the head and he fell from the wall.
Neia drew another arrow from her quiver. She was doing it like it was nothing, like it could not be helped. Was she a master archer like her father now?
Her bowmanship had rapidly improved during the course of this battle. That was how she had managed to kill Jajan, though the latter had been wounded during the battle with the paladin.
Amidst the chaos of war, Neia sought new prey to bring down.
―I’m an archer, so why aren’t they targeting me?
That question was answered as her next arrow pierced another demihuman skull.
“Don’t approach that human carelessly! She’s wearing the Grand King’s armor!”
“The Grand King?”
“Grand King Buser? Grand King Buser’s armor?”
Neia’s sensitive ears caught the chatter which the demihumans exchanged.
“No doubt about it! That’s Buser’s armor!”
“Don’t tell me that human brought down…”
Ah! Is that it!? When the Sorcerer King said it would protect me, was he not referring to the armor’s ability to defend against ranged attacks but the reputation of defeating Buser!?
The Grand King Buser’s name was well known throughout the demihuman forces. Therefore, the demihumans who had mounted the wall were under the false impression that they were fighting the warrior who had defeated Buser. The fact that Neia had killed a leader-class demihuman in one shot only added to that.
That was why they refused to advance against her, even though they knew Neia was an archer.
I have to hand it to the Sorcerer King, did he take this into account as well?
In all likelihood, few demihumans would chase her now even if she turned tail and ran. They would probably prioritize holding their ground over chasing a strong foe, even if they were making a mistake. Therefore, Neia’s life was probably in no great danger. The Sorcerer King’s advice to “flee to the east gate” suddenly came to mind, but she could not do it after all.
Anyone like that would never have come here in the first place.
Neia loosed another arrow, and killed another demihuman.
“Uoooh! That… that glare again…”
Glare… well, I am looking at them...
“It’s the eyes of someone who hungers for slaughter! That, that female human, at least, I think it’s probably a female, she’s no ordinary enemy!”
Probably… a female…
“Look at that bow! It’s amazing! It’s not just her skills!”
“The Mad-Eyed Archer!”
“What, what do you mean by that name? Do you know that human?”
“Does that female human have a nickname?”
“I once heard there was a human archer with a devil’s face and amazing skills with the bow… could that be it!?”
That was Dad!
“The Mad-Eyed Archer! The archer who killed Buser!”
For some reason, the phrase “Mad-Eyed Archer” spread through the demihuman ranks like a wave. They’ve already decided it! As that thought ran through her mind, Neia no longer had any opportunity to correct them.
As Neia loosed her arrows, the militiamen began moving.
“―Everyone, hold the line! Don’t let the demihumans near that girl!”
“Ohh! Form ranks! Remember your training!”
“I’m moving up!”
About twenty militiamen moved to act as shields for her.
“Just kill those bastards for us! We’ll protect you!”
The sound of flapping wings came from the enemy encampment.
Neia pivoted and pointed her arrow at the source of the sound.
Her eyes were filled with the sight of Pteropuses rising from the enemy formation. There were many of them.
While it seemed as though bypassing the wall should have been their objective, several of them dove from the flock and descended on Neia.
She had long since abandoned the thought of who to aim at. In this silent, pure white world where all she could see were her enemies, Neia calmly loosed an arrow at each and every one of her enemies. Her shooting was inhuman, unhesitating in its mechanical precision.
After downing the Pteropuses heading at her, Neia exhaled lightly. She could hear again after being released from that state of hyperfocus.
To the side―
She wanted to dodge, but a torrent of pain came from her left arm.
The Armatt beside her had torn her arm apart.
Despite her cry of pain, Neia still made to pull out another arrow, but then she thought that she might not be able to properly brace her bow. In that case, perhaps drawing her sword might be better.
Her hesitation was a huge weakness, and the savage-looking Armatt raised its arm, preparing to follow up on its previous attack with a strike to the face.
She wanted to backstep, but her opponent was a superior fighter and managed to close the distance to her, so she could not evade it.
Intense pain filled her face. While she had managed to turn her head and thus avoided having her eyes shredded, the claws had ripped through her left cheek and opened a wound that exposed the interior of her mouth.
Fresh blood filled her mouth, and the taste of blood spread over her tongue. In addition, she could feel her warm blood oozing from her cheek, the sensation spreading down her neck and chest.
Neia had no time to draw her sword, and so she slammed Ultimate Shootingstar Super into the Armatt’s face.
The Armatt had probably not expected her to do that with the bow, so it tried to back up to avoid the attack.
Since she could not move her left arm well enough to brace her bow, Neia drew her sword with her right arm.
Neia performed a ramming stab like she was prepared to die for it. The Armatt immediately countered with razor-sharp claws, but a nearby militiaman had wounded its leg and its aim was off. The claw missed her ear by a fraction of an inch, and in turn her steel blade sank into the Armatt’s throat.
She glanced down to the Armatt as it collapsed and then surveyed the situation.
While she had been focusing on loosing arrows, the militiamen on the wall had been almost completely wiped out. The demihumans had reached Neia, and there were only five more men remaining, all pressed close to the wall.
The nearest reinforcements were fighting on the other side of the demihumans who had scaled the ladders, and they would be hard-pressed to help her over here. Frankly speaking, they seemed to be engaged in melee, so they would not have the free time to come help her.
There were over thirty demihumans in Neia’s block, and there were only six people on her side.
Neia glared at the demihumans and they backed off. The pressure on Neia and the others eased a little.
“Sorry about that, Baraja-san!”
The militiamen who had been pressed to the wall took a defensive formation in front of Neia.
“We won’t let those bastards past us, even if it’s the last thing we do!”
The person who said this looked like a cowardly man in his forties, with an unhealthy, protruding gut. However, his face was flushed with what seemed like the excitement of battle, and his body was covered in so much blood that one could not tell if it was his or the enemy’s. Even so, he refused to kneel, standing tall with an indomitable spirit.
He certainly looked like a reliable warrior.
“Thank you very much!” Neia said as she spat out a mouthful of fresh blood which had pooled there. Then, she continued ― “I’ll leave this to you!”
He was not the only one who was like this. None of the fallen militiamen showed any sign that they had attempted to leave the perimeter they had formed around Neia. What else could she say except that she trusted them?
The man’s eyes went to Neia’s left arm, and his face stiffened.
“I can see the bone…”
“Please don’t say that, it hurts a lot when you point it out.”
“Ah, ahhh, sorry.”
Once one reached a certain degree of skill as a paladin, they would be able to use low tier recovery spells. However, Neia was only a squire, so she could not do so. There were no paladins or priests by Neia’s side, and her mana had not yet recovered enough to use the magic item again. It would probably be best to abandon the thought of using her left arm in this battle.
Neia glared at the demihumans, but just moving her eyeballs made the wound on her face ache.
The pain made her gaze that much more ominous, and as the demihumans felt it, they went on their guard.
“Thanks to your shots, nobody else made it up here like that guy just now, Baraja-san. It’s because of you that we managed to survive this long.”
If the demihumans before Neia’s eyes rushed them all at once, the militiamen would probably be routed in an instant. However, they were all wary of Neia the archer, so they could not move together. In truth, she could understand their caution once she heard what the demihumans were saying.
“The Mad-Eyed Archer… could it be that she’s nothing much with a sword?”
“Don’t get careless, she’s just pretending she can’t use a sword to throw her opponents off.”
“Really? You’re a real smart guy.”
“Should we get the Snakemen over and kill her from a distance with spears?”
Neia laughed in her heart. It would seem that she had gained quite an undeserved reputation thanks to the power of the magic bow she had borrowed.
“...Is there hope for me?”
Neia asked herself that question quietly enough that the demihumans could not hear, and then she laughed.
“...If it’s the bow… the bow I borrowed from His Majesty, the Ultimate Shootingstar Super, shooting wouldn’t be a problem, but…”
The man tried saying the name Ultimate Shootingstar Super, and then he laughed forlornly.
“I see… so it’s very bad, huh. Say, Baraja-san… you jump down from the wall and flee. You should live on.”
Neia looked at the man.
“Aiieee! For-Forgive me. It’s only natural for you to be angry at such foolish words. But, but, while I don’t know what sort of hell you’ve gone through, you’re around my daughter’s age… I think, but letting a girl like that die is just…”
I wasn’t angry, I was just looking normally at you. The thought crossed her mind, but this was a common thing by now and Neia did not take offense at it.
The man was speaking the truth. It would be wiser to fall back for the time being and heal her wounds until she could use her bow, rather than swing a sword she was not used to.
―What’ll happen to them if I do that? I know very well. I can’t help them even if I stay and fight. I’ll just die for nothing. But...
Neia swept the bow in her left hand down and to the side.
I need to return this weapon. There’s many reasons why I should run. But, but, what will His Majesty’s enemies think if I run away while I’m wielding a weapon that He lent me? In that case―
“How could I run!?” she bellowed. “How could I, as one who holds a weapon borrowed from His Majesty, turn and run!?”
She tightly gripped the sword in her right hand.
Repaying one’s obligations was only natural for a human being.
The people of this country ― specifically, the head of their paladins ― were not the sort to do that, but she wanted to show the Sorcerer King that not everyone in this country was like them.
Neia’s shout sounded like she was wailing. Since she could not use her bow, the militiamen would die for nothing protecting her. In that case, she ought to take advantage of the demihuman’s mistaken fear of her power and attack while they could not bring their might to bear.
The enemy had probably not expected Neia to charge so many enemies, and they moved slowly enough that even Neia’s meager swordsmanship was enough to cut them up.
The remaining militiamen behind Neia followed her lead.
Neia swung her sword.
It bounced off, and the demihumans swung at her open body, only to have their attacks deflected by Buser’s armour.
Neia thrust her sword.
She stabbed into a demihuman’s body, and when she pulled it out, its organs followed. Before that demihuman hit the ground, another demihuman’s claws struck at Neia’s face. The wound on her left cheek was followed by one on her right, and the blood which flowed out got into her eyes.
Intense pain filled her legs.
A demihuman drove his dagger deep into flesh.
One of the militiamen fell.
Two more militiamen went down.
One demihuman collapsed.
All the militiamen were dead.
There were nothing but enemies in front of her and to her sides.
Her breathing was ragged, and her heartbeat irritated her.
The parts of her body which had been struck by the enemy blazed hot, and every time she moved them, waves of seizing pain filled Neia with agony.
Neia was afraid.
She was going to die, and the thought of that frightened her.
She had been prepared to die here.
The enemy outnumbered them several times to one, and their individual fighting power was superior as well.
The enemy had all the advantages, and the only advantage her side had was their defensive position.
That being the case, it would be stranger if she did not die.
Still, looking death in the eye was terrifying even if she had prepared herself for it beforehand.
The word “east gate” ― said by the person she deeply respected ― echoed through her mind. Though she was prepared to die, she still wanted to live.
Neia had once thought about what would happen when people died.
What would the moment of her extinction be like?
Her soul would return to the great flow, where the gods would judge her, and those who did good as written in the scriptures would go to a land of eternal rest, while the wicked would be delivered into a land of torment.
Still, even if she had accumulated good deeds throughout her life with the aim of reaching her eternal rest, she was afraid to face the end of her life.
She swung her sword.
That powerless strike could not possibly slay a foe in one hit.
Anyone attacking even when surrounded, would take vicious counterattacks from the enemy.
A sword pierced Neia’s armor and cut into her
Neia was still alive thanks to the armor which the Sorcerer King had lent her. She would have died long ago without it. Indeed, she would have become a corpse like the countless dead militiamen and civilians who had been scattered throughout the city like they had been carelessly thrown away.
I must be in really bad shape...
Neia laughed at herself for being able to think about such inappropriate things even as she was this close to the afterlife.
Her feet slipped due to the force of her swing. Her left thigh seized up and her right thigh was injured and could not hold her upright.
She lost her balance and fell. She leaned against the battlements, but it was all she could do not to collapse.
The world was turning white and cloudy, and she could hear a distant, wheezing panting.
It was an annoying sound. She wondered who was making it, and realized that it was herself.
She was at her limit
Neia was going to die.
“Just a bit more and the Mad-Eyed Archer will be dead!”
“Ahhh! All together now!”
The voices of the demihumans came from far away.
This is… a real pain...
Neia could no longer tell what the demihumans were saying. However, they were probably not singing her praises. As her thoughts scattered into the void, a part of her mind thought only of things like that.
She was simply waving the sword she held ― her attacks were meant to keep the enemy at bay.
I’m… so scared… but everyone… is waiting for me…
In that white and cloudy world, she saw the smiles of her mother, her father, and her friends from her home village.
Who… are they… ahh… Bu-chan… Mo-chan.. Dan-nee…? I’m… scared… Your… Majesty…”
Her lungs and her heart and her arms and her brain wanted to rest.
Neia could no longer resist that temptation, but still, she had not broken yet. Why was that?
She was afraid of death. She was filled with her squire’s conviction to fight to the very end.
Apart from that ― she wanted to perform feats that were worthy of the wargear she had borrowed.
The demihumans’ weapons thrust out all at once, stabbing into Neia’s body.
And thus, Neia Baraja died.
The air of the battlefield had a unique smell to it. It was a muddled mess of all kinds of odors, and simply put, it was a revolting stench. Still, it was a stench that one could get used to.
One of the people behind the closed portcullis ― Remedios ― took several deep breaths of that stinking air.
Her eyes were fixed on the advancing force before her, which numbered over 10,000.
The leaders of the assault on this location were Ogres and horse-like demihumans. Remedios gripped her holy sword tightly.
She liked using the sword to settle matters. She loved it. It clearly defined winners and losers. After all, there would be no more trouble after you killed the opposition. Life would have been so much easier if things were all so simple. Her sister ― Kelart ― and her master ― Calca ― would no longer knit their brows.
After that, Remedios thought about what she had to do.
Gustav had said a lot of hard-to-understand things just now, but the gist of it was that they could not let a single demihuman past this gate.
The demihumans numbered in the tens of thousands. Around 10,000 of them were bearing down on the gate.
Not letting a single one past would be impossible if we were fighting on the plains, but here I can use the gate to limit the numbers who can attack me. So as long as I can keep fighting, it’ll be easy enough to keep them from getting past! I just need to keep drinking fatigue recovery potions and keep fighting them one-on-one!
If Gustav were here and had heard this, the look on his face would probably say “Are you fucking serious?” and as she calmly considered that mental image, Remedios laughed. Still, the idea was quite ridiculous, and it was no wonder he would often grab his head in frustration.
See how perfect my plan is! Calca-sama said I could delegate command to someone else, and Caspond-sama seems like an excellent person.
Umu, Remedios nodded.
After that, Remedios thought about the only flaw in her plan to “fight one-on-one ten thousand times.”
That was the existence of Jaldabaoth.
Remedios’s plan broke down when it encountered someone stronger than her.
She had trouble using her brain for the most part, but her mind was quite adept when it came to war.
That was why she understood that it would be very difficult for her to defeat Jaldabaoth. Of course, she could not admit that in front of her subordinates. She was the strongest paladin in the Holy Kingdom, and if she admitted her weakness, morale would probably plunge to rock bottom.
That was why they had brought the Sorcerer King over.
The Sorcerer King, huh...
The fact that they had to entrust one of the undead with the fate of the nation upset her so much that she wanted to throw up. However, they had no other option.
Tch. If only that undead creature had fought in a sneaky way, like using those goats or sheep which killed all those Kingdom troops. That way, no innocents would have to be sacrificed. Don’t the undead understand that people with strength have to protect the weak? Still… he’s really strong, isn’t he?
Taking a city by oneself was an impressive feat. Buser was a famous demihuman ― according to Gustav ― and defeating him was also quite outstanding. However, Jaldabaoth was a different matter altogether. She had her doubts as to whether even a magic caster who could conquer a city without assistance could actually defeat him.
Perhaps she would have learned the truth if she could have crossed blades with him just once, but Gustav had desperately pleaded with her not to. Therefore, she did not know exactly how strong the Sorcerer King was.
Remedios remained dubious of the Sorcerer King’s strength.
She had personally experienced Jaldabaoth’s might when he had revealed his true nature, but she could not sense anything like that from the Sorcerer King. If he was truly able to crush the Kingdom’s army, then he ought to be surrounded in an aura of power that could not be hidden.
Was that because he was a magic caster? However, if he was on Jaldabaoth’s level, she ought to have been able to sense something from him.
It would be good if he was really as strong as he claimed. Well, we won’t lose much if he dies. That undead creature will be a thorn in the Holy Kingdom’s side in the future. Ideally, the two of them would kill each other.
Remedios’s opinion had not changed even after her subordinates protested it. No, it had only solidified after the Sorcerer King killed the boy who had been taken hostage. As a paladin, she could not tolerate anyone who could calmly commit such inhuman acts.
The people of that country were actually ruled by fear, right?
When she thought about it, she found a lot of points which pointed to that conclusion. Perhaps having him and Jaldabaoth kill each other would be for their good too.
The problem is the people of our nation. Gustav was right when he said that this was a chance for us. We paladins can show our strength and abandon the Sorcerer King’s foolish opinions… Still, if Jaldabaoth shows up, we have to let him handle it.
Remedios took off her helmet. She wanted to scratch her head.
It was hard to imagine that the citizens of a country run by an amazing individual such as Calca would tolerate one of the undead like that. Just thinking about the matter should have revolted them.
Squire Baraja also ― hm? Could it be that she’s been charmed by a spell or something? Yes! He might be using some spell with a wide area of effect that forces people to like him!
Dammit! Remedios thought. She had not considered that possibility.
I should tell Gustav about this. That said, it’ll have to wait until we win this battle!
Remedios looked behind her.
There stood neat ranks of civilians holding spears and shields.
“Brave gentlemen! Regretfully, the Holy Kingdom is currently being trampled by demihumans, but you must accept it! Defeat the demihumans and save the innocent civilians ― your friends and family ― from their suffering! This is the first step towards our goal, which is to drive out these bastards here and take the Holy Kingdom back with our own hands!”
As Remedios shouted imposingly, anxious looks filled the faces of the militiamen.
“The filthy demihumans are attacking this place. Gentlemen, raise your shields and thrust your spears! Become a wall that will not let the enemy past you! There’s no need to be afraid. Other than their first wave, the only demihumans you will have to deal with are the demihumans fleeing from me! All you need to do is hold them for a while so that the paladins and I can take them down!”
That eased their tension a little. While being too relaxed was not a good thing, being too tense was even worse. Remedios mused that all the militiamen she could see were in an ideal frame of mind.
“You lot were trained all day yesterday! All you need to do now is show the fruits of that training. No need to be so tense!” Remedios paused for a moment, and then shouted louder than before.
“First rank! Shields up!”
The first row of the militiamen ― who looked like they were encircling the gate ― braced their shields.
These were greatshields which could completely conceal a human body, and their bottoms were lined with spikes that were the length of a finger.
“Shields! Dig in!”
The shield-wielding civilians slammed the spiked portions down with all their might. Thus, they produced a wall of steel in moments.
Yesterday, these shieldbearers had vigorously practiced three drills. The first was to raise their greatshields into the air and slam them back down, in order to drive the spikes deep into the ground. The second was not to falter, regardless of the pressure they were under.
“Second rank! Shields up!”
While the shields they carried were roughly the same size as those of the first rank, theirs did not have spikes. Those shields would go over the heads of the first and the second ranks, like a lid on top of them. This way, they would protect against attacks which made it past the first rank.
There were also paladins who could cast 「Under Divine Flag」 spaced evenly through the second rank, to protect them from the fear of being pushed by the enemy.
“Third rank spearmen, advance! Fourth rank spearmen, advance!”
The third and fourth ranks were composed of longspear users.
Their longspears would protrude from between the shield teams, their butts firmly planted in the ground to stop the enemy’s advance. The third rank and the fourth rank’s spears were slightly different from each other in that the fourth rank’s were slightly longer. Normally they ought to have had several more ranks of spearmen to form a spear wall, but since they were lacking in numbers, their aim was to overlap killing zones to prevent the enemy from breaking through.
It was a perfect formation.
However, it had a flaw.
While this formation did very well against warriors, it was very weak against demihumans with special abilities or magic casters.
It was true that the shield wall could block spells like 「Fireball」 and greatly minimize the damage done. However, spells like 「Lightning」 that had a piercing, line-shaped area of effect would pierce straight through them and out the rear. One could not say the demihumans did not have similar special abilities.
They knew this, but they had taught them to take that formation anyway because no other formation was effective in these circumstances.
“Very good! Then let’s begin! Open the gate!”
The portcullis began to rise as Remedios shouted. The advancing demihumans were shaken, and their movements slowed down. The defenders were opening the gate of their own accord ― optimists might think it was a surrender, but realists would consider it a trap.
“You filthy demihumans! I’ll skin you and wipe my ass with your hides!”
After being taunted by a feeble human, the frustrated demihumans broke into a charge.
Remedios turned and ran. She planted both hands on the militiamen’s shields and vaulted over them.
The demihumans continued their charge, several of them falling down as they approached the gate.
Large quantities of oil had been poured there, and only two outcomes awaited those who fell during the charge. Either they would pull down those behind them, or they would be trampled flat instead.
Unfortunately, the big-framed demihumans like the Ogres did not fall, and they made it into the city. The horse-like demihumans slipped and fell, which slowed them down.
A large demihuman’s charge ought to be on par with a collision from a warhorse. However, if they could not follow through with it, then all bets were off.
The Ogres continued charging even though their pacing was messed up. They swung their large mauls back and forth, but the spears were longer in comparison, and they impaled several Ogres who had failed to properly judge the distance. Unfortunately, the Ogres were not fragile enough to be killed by that.
“Now! Throw them!”
In accordance with Remedios’s instructions, firebombs flew over the heads of the militiamen, and the sounds of pottery smashing could be heard near the gate as an inferno sprang up. The demihumans around the gate were surrounded by a great fire.
The demihumans should have predicted something like this, but Remedios was certain that the fires were far beyond what they had expected. That was because both the oil on the ground and the oil on their bodies had ignited at once.
The Ogres facing the shieldbearers began to falter.
It was only to be expected, considering there was a blazing fire behind them.
While they had thicker skin than a human being, that did not mean they could not be burned.
Wails and cries rose from the vicinity of the gate. However, not many of them had lost the capacity to fight despite being enveloped by a fire of that intensity. One had to acknowledge the great vitality of demihumans.
Those demihumans only had two options. They could advance or retreat.
Black smoke blocked their lines of sight. Thus, they were robbed of all other options. While many demihumans could see in the dark, that ability did not allow them to see through smoke.
Nobody could act calmly while they could not see, were in anguish from the smoke, and when they were being burned by the flames.
Retreating was very difficult given the circumstances. That was because others were following closely behind them in order to storm the city. In fact, the demihumans outside the gate were hesitating due to the fire, but the ones inside could not know that, given that smoke obscured everything.
Therefore, the demihumans chose to advance.
That was exactly as Remedios had predicted.
The demihumans attempted an assault, banking on their powerful bodies to carry the day. However―
―The shieldbearers’ third drill consisted of maintaining their shield wall even when surrounded by billowing black smoke.
The spears retreated as one―
―And they thrust out in unison.
The demihumans gave voice to savage howls, thinking only of getting out of the smoke, and it was under these circumstances ― where defense and evasion were very difficult ― that they ran into the spear line. However, a commoner’s strength would be hard-pressed to impale a demihuman’s body. This was particularly true of the hand-picked demihumans who were intended to break through the gate in a frontal assault.
However, that was no problem.
Remedios did not think that they would go down in a single attack.
As long as the shieldbearers were in place, the spearmen could attack over and over again.
“Pull ― thrust!”
As she repeated the order, Remedios jumped over the shields in the opposite of her previous actions and cut down the demihumans where the spears could not reach.
Black smoke filled her eyes and throat, but she did not have the time to worry about that. There were very few demihumans who had made it through the oil and the portcullis, about fifty at most.
First she would kill them all and weaken the enemy’s willingness to fight. Since they were part of the vanguard, they must have surely been highly motivated elite troops. Wiping them out would be more effective than killing mooks.
Remedios’s breathing was calm and unhurried as she killed one enemy after the other.
Large demihumans like Ogres could not bring their full abilities to bear in a pitched melee.
The holy sword roamed everywhere without restraint.
Eventually, the shapes of the demihumans vanished from her tearstained vision. However, she could still hear a large force of demihumans on the other side of the smoke. They might have been in the middle of reforming their lines.
As Remedios slowly backed away, the silhouettes of several demihumans came into view.
“Captain! Come back here!”
Her subordinate paladin shouted to her as he cast 「Under Divine Flag」.
However, Remedios did not retreat. Her instincts were telling her something.
As the smoke thinned, she could sense three demihumans slowly approaching her, and shortly after that, her hunch was proved right.
One of them was a warrior with the upper body of a beast and the lower body of a carnivore.
One of them was a four-armed demihuman woman.
And the last was a simian demihuman who was festooned in golden accessories.
Remedios had originally planned to kill tens of thousands of demihumans by herself here, and she was very confident of doing so. However, she now sensed that fighting these three demihumans at once was extremely dangerous.
There were only three of them. While she could not make them out due to the smoke, she could tell they were brimming with confidence, given their unhurried pace. Even their fellow demihumans seemed to have handed their task over to those three, unwilling to come any closer.
...They’re strong. I don’t know if I can beat them even if it’s a one-on-one fight… or can I? I’ve got no chance if it’s three-on-one.
Remedios’s instincts screamed at her to flee rather than take these three on at the same time. But how should she escape? She had no idea. In contrast, if she beat those demihumans, it would amount to a flawless victory for this theater of combat.
Remedios gripped her holy sword tightly, and spoke without looking back.
“...Paladin Sabicus, Paladin Esteban.”
Both of them replied with a “Yes!” and, from the sounds they made, she judged that they had come to her side.
“Can you pin two of them down until I kill one of them?”
The two of them replied in unison, “Leave it to us!”
Remedios’s instincts told her that she was being unreasonable. They might be able to buy a few minutes for starters. But how about sending more people to take the demihumans on?
No. Remedios shook her head,
Her opponents were a mere three people, who had entered the fray by themselves. Clearly, they were confident in their own abilities and wanted to show off their strength. Enemies like those would surely accept a one-on-one challenge. Such was the arrogance of the mighty.
In addition, such arrogant beings typically took pleasure in making the weak suffer. They would take the extra time to torment their victims even if they could have finished them off in a matter of seconds.
With that faint hope in mind, she decided on a three-on-three.
“Paladins, if the two who stepped up are defeated, continue fighting them one-on-one. The order goes: Sabicus, Esteban, Franco, and Galban.”
They were abandoning their advantage in numbers to buy time. Simply put, she was ordering everyone to kill themselves. However, the paladins did not hesitate for a moment when they received those orders.
This was what it meant to be a paladin.
This was what it meant to embody justice.
This is what it means to sacrifice yourself for others.
This was probably the last time they would be seen alive and unscathed. Even so, Remedios did not take her eyes from the three demihumans for even a moment. She did not want to miss any chances to glean information from them.
I don’t have a clear picture of what’s going on, but the first two demihumans look like skilled fighters. Perhaps that ape-like demihuman is a monk. That four-arms looks like a magic caster. Or is it something else?
There was nothing to fear when dueling demihumans who relied on brute strength alone, but demihumans who had been trained were truly frightening. If they had received warrior training, then they could stack their training and their natural physical abilities to become exceptional individuals who could surpass even veteran warriors of the Holy Kingdom. In truth, the opponent who had given Remedios her hardest fight ― Jaldabaoth aside ― was such an entity.
She recalled the blow that had stabbed her through her abdomen. That was why she paid attention when fighting demihumans and heeded the warnings of her instincts on top of that.
...Spellcasting demihumans are the most troublesome to deal with. It’ll be bad if they can fly through the air.
While Remedios could use her armor’s abilities to fly for short periods of time, she would not have her full range of movement while in flight. Ascending, descending, and turning were all very exhausting, and she would not be able to use her usual fighting style. If her opponent could cast 「Fly」, she might never be able to reach them with her attacks. While she possessed martial arts which allowed her to make ranged sword attacks, it would be difficult to win quickly when one took into account the fact that their effectiveness was a great deal lower.
The three demihumans entered through the gate, and then stopped.
“―To think we’d have to join forces for a puny human.”
She could not make the three demihumans out clearly through the smoke, but their relaxed tone had reached her.
The hand gripping the holy sword beaded with sweat, and a bitter taste spread over her tongue, something that only happened when danger drew close.
She could keenly feel her opponents’ approach.
The beast and the ape were definitely among the best of the best. While she was not sure about the four-armed one, the fact that she could stand by their side meant that she was on their level. In other words, these three demihumans were a match for Remedios.
“This smoke’s getting in the way. What a pain in the ass.”
A strong wind blew the remaining smoke away with a whoosh.
The demihumans’ forms were revealed. Standing at their head was a gigantic demihuman who wielded a battleaxe.
“Zoastia!” Paladin Esteban exclaimed.
Remedios was somewhat baffled. Zoostia? she thought. Was that the demihuman’s name?
“Hmm… well, it makes sense that you’d know of me,” the beastman said with an evil grin on his face. “In that case, I’ll spare you on account of your learning, so that more people will hear of my strength.”
“Heeheehee, Vijar-dono. Jaldabaoth-sama will get angry if you take matters into your own hands like that. At the very least, have him drop his weapon and take him prisoner.”
The entity addressing the Zoastia was the ape-like demihuman.
Thoroughly confused, Remedios turned to the people around her, a question mark floating above her head.
“Zoastia? Vijar? Vijar Zoostia? Zoostia Vijar?”
While she was simply asking the names of the opposition, Vijar did not realize that and so he laughed in delight.
“Kuhahahaha! You’re calling me that because you’ve concluded that I’m the leader of our race? You humans have good taste!”
“She’s just being polite, Vijar-dono,” the four-armed demihuman behind and to the left of Vijar said in a mocking tone.
“That, that’s right, it’s just a courtesy, Vijar!”
It was only then that Remedios realised she had made a mistake about his species’ name.
Right after that, the demihuman called Vijar twisted his face in displeasure.
“Hm, and I even asked Jaldabaoth-sama for permission to spare anyone who pleased me. Don’t regret it.”
“Who’s going to regret it? You can regret fighting us in the afterlife!”
“Heeheehee, what a spirited young lady you are… you are a young lady, right? I’m not good with the ages of other species…”
“It doesn’t matter, that ought to be it.”
The demihumans were probably being very serious. This was simply the difference between their species.
”Now then, human girl, I shall introduce ourselves. I am Halisha Ankara. This is Vijar Lajandara, who needs no introduction. And last of all is Nasrene Bert Kyuru-dono.”
“Those names! Aren’t they the White Elder and Iceflame Lightning!?” Paladin Sabicus exclaimed.
“Kukukukuku. Even the humans know our names. The fledgling, on the other hand―”
“―Human. Do I not have a title like that?”
“I’ve never heard of the name Vijar Lajandara. However, there’s an axe-wielding Zoastia like you who’s quite famous. It’s the Demon Claw, Demon Claw, Vaju Sandiknara.”
“That was my old man,” Vijar snorted. “I’m the heir to the title of Demon Claw, Vijar Lajandala. I’ll make sure you think of my name when you hear the words Demon Claw.”
“Heeheehee. We’ll leave the human general to you then, Vijar-dono.”
“So be it. It’s hard enough that you’ve been forced to come right up to your opponents instead of using spells from a distance. Frankly speaking, I was planning to fight them all by myself.”
“Heeheehee. We were ordered to work together, you know?”
“So you’re having trouble because you’re getting on in years?”
The four-armed demihuman (Nasrene) who had clicked her tongue turned and gave Vijar a scary look. In truth, it felt like they might start killing each other at any moment if they were left unchecked.
“Now then, I really am fine doing this by myself…” Vijar stared at Remedios. “But let’s hear your name before that. While it’s a pain to have to listen to some mook name themselves, that sword of yours looks pretty good.”
Vijar and Halisha’s expressions changed, but in different ways.
Vijar was smiling with bloodlust at the thought of meeting a strong foe, while Halisha was surprised.
Nasrene, on the other hand, remained unmoved.
“So you’re the one, huh? You’re Remedios Custodio? They say you’re the strongest paladin in this country. Excellent. If I kill you, I’ll become famous. I’ll be the Zoastia who defeated the strongest paladin in the Holy Kingdom. The new successor to the title of Demon Claw!”
“Hmph. In that case, that must be the holy sword, right? Say, Vijar-dono, how about letting me face her instead? I’ll have my people sing your praises if you let me take your place.”
Both demihumans reacted immediately to Nasrene’s words.
“Heeheehee. So you’re planning to hand it over and then ask Jaldabaoth for a child?”
“Hmph, we’ve decided that I’ll deal with her. There’s no need for you to do anything.”
“―Begging to be bred by a demon? You make me sick.”
Remedios could not help blurting out what she really thought after hearing that exchange, and Nasrene turned to give Remedios an irritated look.
“So you don’t even understand what it means to bear the child of the supreme ruler… humans truly are moronic creatures.”
“Even Jaldabaoth-sama would lavish care on the species of his offspring, no? When you think about it, there’s a lot of advantages to being a woman, huh.”
“Oh yes. And if the father’s excellent blood could be passed down, the child that’s born might come close to ― no.” Vijar puffed up her chest. “Might even be able to bear children that surpass their father ― hm? Though you could consider me an exception too.”
These three demihumans did not act like they were feeling threatened despite being on the battlefield.
Remedios began to boil with anger as she watched them chatter idly.
“How dare you demihumans come here and spout nonsense? There’s no use thinking about a future you won’t have. I’ll crush your stupid dreams here. No, not just you, I mean all of you.”
“Heeheehee. Oooh, I’m soooooo scared.”
While Halisha looked like he was flailing his arms and legs around in panic, he was not actually afraid. That was because he was confident of victory even against an opponent like Remedios. It only served to displease Remedios even further.
Remedios shouted an order to the paladins, loud enough for the demihumans to hear.
“Listen up. This is a duel. I’ll fight Vijar. As for you―”
“I’ll take him on,” Sabicus said as he pointed to Halisha. “In that case, I’ll take that one on,” Esteban said as he walked in front of Nasrene.
“...Oya? ...I’m not a warrior so I’m not too sure, but they’re pretty weak, aren’t they?”
“Heeheehee… who knows? Best not to be careless, Nasrene-dono.”
Remedios picked up Vijar snorting at her, and she roared, “Here I come!” He must have sensed that those paladins were weak. No good would come of letting him mention it.
The first strike was key. The militiamen were watching her from behind with bated breath; not only would it wipe away their unease, it would also let her opponent know that he was facing a worthy opponent. For these reasons, she had to make an unreserved blow with all of her might.
Remedios hacked down on Vijar, holding the holy sword in one hand.
In response, Vijar raised his massive battleaxe to intercept her blow.
Both sides collided, and the very air shuddered.
She could hear shouts from the militiamen behind her. There was no time to slowly determine if they were cheers or cries of panic. Her full power strike had been answered by a counterattack of equal force.
The weapons of both sides were undamaged from that exchange of evenly matched blows.
If someone had brought a mundane weapon to this intense clash, it would probably have been chipped or bent. In other words, Vijar was also wielding an enchanted weapon.
Remedios’s next swing grazed Vijar’s upper body, sending forth a spray of blood. However, the battleaxe struck Remedios’s chest at the same time.
While her enchanted armor turned the battleaxe’s keen blade, the impact knocked the wind out of her, and it became hard to breathe.
In contrast to Remedios ― who had been knocked back by the blow ― Vijar roared and stepped forward, bringing his battleaxe down on her.
She did not have enough oxygen to counterattack. Remedios raised her holy sword high and gracefully deflected the battleaxe’s force. That hair-raising strike missed her by a few millimeters and slammed into the ground. So powerful was the hit that for a moment it felt like she was floating.
Remedios turned to face Vijar ― now defenseless because his battleaxe was buried in the ground ― and lunged in with her holy sword.
Having judged that he did not have the time to extricate a heavy weapon like his battleaxe, Vijar took one hand off its hilt and used it as a shield.
Vijar’s right arm spurted fresh blood.
However, the holy sword did not reach Vijar’s face. There were two reasons for that.
The first was because he had used a defensive martial art. The other was because Remedios’s arm was numb and could not exert its full strength.
In that case, she would simply force the holy sword that had already penetrated deeper in ― but then the intense pain racing up from Remedios’s leg froze her briefly in place.
The source of the pain was Vijar’s lower body; the forelimbs of his bestial body had swept across Remedios’s legs. Her greaves protected her from most of his razor-sharp claws, but one of them had still managed to slice her leg apart.
At that moment, the battleaxe was pulled free and rose up.
Remedios took a step towards Vijar to keep the battleaxe from moving. Just moving her leg filled her with agony.
As the holy sword stabbed in, Vijar deftly deflected it with his battleaxe.
In response, Remedios redirected the holy sword as it bounced away and guided it into a slash over the strengthened animal forelimb.
If Vijar backed off, Remedios would advance to close the distance between them.
They went back and forth several times, both sides using martial arts.
While neither side had sustained any mortal wounds, each round they fought sent blood splashing all around.
Remedios was certain that she had her opponent on the defensive.
If this keeps up, I’ll win!
Delight boiled up in her heart.
If she could defeat these three powerful demihumans, she could protect the people here. That way, they would regain their trust in the Holy Kingdom.
There’s no need for that undead being to show up!
Simply put, the difference between warriors and paladins was that warriors were offensive frontliners while paladins were defensive frontliners.
While it was hard to express in figures, one could say that a warrior’s attack rating was 11 and his defense was 9, while a paladin’s attack was 8 and his defense was 11. Needless to say, paladins could cast spells, but warriors could learn all sorts of martial arts, so it was impossible to make a simple comparison. Still, this was the easiest way to explain the situation to someone who knew nothing.
If the question was who would be better against a magic caster, the answer would be a paladin. Thanks to the protection of the gods, they boasted superior magic resistance compared to warriors. Therefore, if Nasrene had been a magic caster on the same level as Remedios, she would not have been much of a threat.
Next was Halisha, who was very likely to be a monk-type given his wargear and movements. Monks had the advantage against magic casters or thieves, but the reverse was true against paladins. For that reason, that monkey was not a frightening foe either.
If I can beat this Vijar, chances are high that I can slaughter all three of them.
Between “fighting Vijar after being worn down by previous fighting” and “fighting Vijar while unhurt,” the latter option promised better odds for her. Remedios had challenged Vijar based on that decision. There should not have been anything wrong with that decision. However, she had miscalculated―
“My my. Dead already?”
“Heeheehee. Same here.”
―Because the paladins fighting the other two were far too weak.
Had she overestimated those two paladins, or underestimated the strength of those two demihumans? Or was it both?
“You’re insulting me by taking your eyes off me!”
Vijar swung furiously at Remedios.
While she had barely managed to stop that strike, she had still been forced a short distance away. The tide of battle had turned in an instant.
“Remedios, was it… You do know that I am the great Vijar, a being of great power whose name will resound throughout the world? If you don’t put all of your body and soul into it, you’ll die in seconds, you know?”
Remedios bit her lip as she heard the sounds of the others fighting.
“Heeheehee. I wonder if this paladin is strong enough?”
“...He’s no different from the previous one… well, I can’t really tell since I’m not a warrior.”
“I am Paladin Franco.”
“And I am Paladin Galban. I will be your opponent.”
Several seconds after they had spoken, she once again heard the sound of armored men collapsing.
Paladin Franco was a good man. While he was not a very strong paladin, he placed a lot of emphasis on getting along with others and he was well-liked as a result. In truth, he had been assigned here because Gustav trusted him. Remedios knew his character, and so she had given him the task of organizing the militiamen here.
She had heard that Paladin Galban was a newlywed. However, his wife was currently locked up somewhere. He had extinguished his desire to save her and had come to assist Remedios instead, in order to help more people.
These two people ― who were too young to die ― had been killed.
Vijar roared, and dealt her a blow that was even more ferocious than the previous one. Remedios flung herself towards Vijar, taking the blow on her sword arm, and then she slid her blade ― but Vijar nimbly evaded it.
“Hm. What’s this, some kind of bluff? Or did your body remember that movement because of all your training?”
Vijar growled. He was not wary of a worthy foe, but delighted.
“Hey, fledgling. We’re done here, but you’ve been at it a long time. How about it, need help?”
“You must be kidding. My legend will be tainted if I need your help to kill her. Many people will speak of this if I beat her in a one-on-one.”
“Vijar-dono’s words are correct. How about this, Nasrene-dono. We’ll destroy the humans’ shields, and then―”
“―As if I’d let you!”
While she was still confronting Vijar, Remedios took her eyes off him and turned to look at the defenseless pair. However―
“You bitch! I told you already, I’m your opponent!”
Vijar did not allow her to do so. Her defense was full of holes, but he did not swing at her with his battleaxe, instead launching a kick. Remedios took the blow and was sent flying into the shield wall with tremendous force
The shock of the impact threw her breathing into chaos for a moment.
The militiamen cried out in fear.
“Keep your attention on me, human! Fight seriously!”
Vijar’s shout was followed closely by the sound of his footsteps. If he swung his long-handled battleaxe, he would send the shield-wielding civilians flying, creating a gap in the formation big enough that recovery would be impossible.
Even though Remedios had lost her balance, she still took a step forward, lunging at Vijar who stood in front of her.
If possible, she would have liked to finish off Vijar with her own abilities. That was because of the power that Remedios was holding in reserve to deal with the other two.
It was a powerful move that the holy sword Safalrisia possessed, which could only be used once a day.
It was a strengthened version of a paladin’s holy strike.
It was the most powerful attack that a paladin wielding this sword could unleash.
Her instincts told her that it would be best not to do so. However, if she did not immediately defeat Vijar, the other two demihumans would kill more people.
I― want to protect Calca-sama’s wish―!
She cried out without words, ignored her instincts as they screamed at her, and mentally sent a command to the holy sword. At the same time, she infused her holy strike into the blade and made her move.
The holy sword glowed with divine radiance, and light extended out to twice the length of the actual blade.
This light was apparently more dazzling the more evil a being was. In this state, avoiding or blocking this blow would be more difficult. The word “apparently” came to mind because it did not seem that bright to Remedios’s eyes.
Remedios raised her holy sword to the sky, and swung it down with all her might.
Since Remedios had lost her bearings, predicting the course of the attack was child’s play. Vijar casually prepared to check the blow with his axe and then shove her back. However―
Following another wordless cry, Remedios pressed down on her holy sword while it was still locked with the battleaxe, and continued forcing it down.
She did not intend to have her sword strike its target through brute force.
The reason for this was because the radiance on the sword followed the path of the blade as it travelled down, passing through the battleaxe and entering Vijar’s body.
This was the ultimate technique of the holy sword Safalrisia.
It was a holy wave that ignored defences and armor.
The sturdiest armor, scales, and hides meant nothing to it. Since it could even pass through magic weapons, it could not be stopped by weapons or shields, which made it an unavoidable trump card.
Of course, if one did not choose to clash with the blow and was nimble enough to avoid it, they would not be hit by the wave of light. However, there was no way to avoid Remedios’s flashing strike while one’s eyes were dazzled by the light.
As the wave of light blew past like the wind, the holy radiance on the blade vanished as well.
However ― Remedios’s eyes went wide.
She had clearly hit her target, but Vijar did not look like he was in pain.
“...What? That was a flashy move, but… it hardly hurts at all. Is it just for show? Though I have to say, it did startle me…”
Remedios was shocked.
This guy ― he’s not evil-aligned!
This technique was more effective the more evil one’s foe was. In contrast, it did little damage to non-evil targets. It did practically nothing to good-aligned people. In other words, the fact that it had hurt Vijar meant that while he was not good, he was certainly not evil either.
He made the people suffer! He invaded our country! How can someone like that not be evil!?
“Heeheehee. Well, that was quite a spectacular light show, Vijar-dono. Are you really unhurt?”
Halisha narrowed his eyes as he questioned Vijar.
“It was so bright… it’s still burning my eyes.”
Nasrene grumbled from the side.
She had made a mistake ― she should not have used that move on Vijar after all.
Vijar tested his limbs and made sure his body was fine before shrugging. While he seemed defenseless, Remedios could not find any weaknesses in his defense no matter how hard she looked.
“...A light show? Well, I’m not too sure what that was all about, but it’s nothing much, right?”
“...Vijar, I’m kind of surprised. To think you were unharmed by that attack… I might have underestimated you.”
“Fuha! You get it at last! Hahaha! All right, human. You did well in making me look good. If you surrender, I’ll kill you painlessly. How about that?”
“Don’t make those unfunny jokes! We haven’t settled this yet!”
Remedios raised her sword and shouted at the three demihumans.
Remedios could still fight, like she had said. She placed a hand over her wounds and used her healing abilities. Her pain was carried away by the sensation of warmth.
A lot of paladin techniques won’t work on him since he’s not evil… but since the two of them were dazzled by it, I’ll save them for those two instead.
All she had to do was fight Vijar as a pure warrior.
“Heeheehee. Well then, we’ll leave her to you, Vijar-dono. We’ll be hunting the humans in the rear.”
“What? You scumbags!”
All the paladins she had called up were dead. The militiamen could not possibly stop them.
“As if I’d let you have your way!”
Remedios backed off and repositioned so she could face the three demihumans at once.
“It seems you’re ready to take the three of us on at once, but Vijar said he wanted to take care of this.”
“Heeheehee. Our aim is to wipe out the humans in the city as needed, not to serve as your opponents. Nasrene-dono, may I count on you to wipe out that rabble in the back with your power?”
There were masses of magical power in three of Nasrene’s four hands. One was ice, the other was fire, and the last was lightning.
Remedios ran toward the female demihuman―
“I told you just now! I’m your opponent!”
―And blocked the battleaxe swung at her with a roar, but she was flung far away.
At this moment, Remedios realised that there was no way she could deal with Nasrene while fighting Vijar at the same time. While she could have just jumped right to Nasrene’s side, defending against Nasrene’s attacks would have left her defenseless body exposed to Vijar.
What do you mean no way… I won’t accept this! Not being able to do anything is just an excuse!
The moans of the militiamen stirred up Remedios’s emotions.
These people had not fled in the face of terror because they believed in her. She could not show them a disgraceful side of herself.
She would not abandon Calca’s ideals ― to make a country where nobody would cry.
“Militiamen! Everyone, fall back!”
As she gave the command, Remedios gathered her resolve.
I won’t die from taking a single hit. I’ll rush that female demihuman while activating 「Fortress」!
Vijar laughed as he watched Remedios break into a run. It would seem he had misunderstood something.
“Ho. It seems you’ve made up your mind. That’s the way! Fight me with all you have! Give me a battle worthy of a legend! 「Showdown Declaration」!”
Vijar roared, and there was a special power in that roar. Remedios’s legs, which were supposed to carry her towards Nasrene, charged towards Visha like they had gone mad. Nor was it just her legs ― her sword, her mind, her vision, she could not pull any of them from Vijar.
A third tier spell flew past Remedios’s body and at the militiamen. Remedios could endure that spell, but it would be fatal to the militiamen―
“―「Wall of Skeleton」!”
The fireball collided with the grotesque-looking wall of bones that had sprung up in front of the militiamen and vanished.
Someone exclaimed in surprise.
Initially, it was because they had no idea what had just happened. However, it slowly changed. That was because they saw something descend lightly ― like it was unaffected by gravity ― and land on top of the frightening wall of skeletons.
That person possessed none of the intense emotions of the battlefield, and spoke with a gentle tone that seemed completely out of place with his surroundings.
“While this is a common enough occurrence on the battlefield, I find it a little difficult to watch a three-on-one battle. You don’t mind if I join in, do you?”
The owner of that voice was undead.
Everyone in this city recognized him. He was the person who had originally refused to fight in order to recover his mana.
He was the Sorcerer King Ainz Ooal Gown.
Ohhhh! An earth-shaking cheer came from the other side of the wall.
Remedios tightly clenched her sword hand.
“What, what’s that, who is that?”
“...By the looks of it, I think it’s an Elder Lich. So there’s a type without skin. Still… does a mere Elder Lich have the power to stop my spells? Is it because of his robe? It does look quite impressive. Or no, is it because its summoner possesses great power?”
Remedios did not comprehend the demihumans’ words at all. She heard the sounds, but she did not understand what they meant. That was because all her energy was focused on quelling the intense hatred welling up within her. She did not even notice that she was standing defenseless in front of Vijar
―Ahhhhhhhhhh!!! Why did he show up!? Why are they cheering for him!? Why! Why!! Why!!! For this filthy undead being!!!??
A corner of Remedios’s mind was calm enough to note that it was a natural reaction to help someone in difficulty. However, it was overruled by her inability to forgive the civilians for cheering on the undead. The corpses of the paladins who had sacrificed themselves as shields to protect the people were clearly visible.
You’re not cheering for the people who fought as your shields, but for someone who showed up late!!!!!
She was so angry that she wanted to rip her helmet off and scratch her head while rolling around on the ground.
Remedios struggled to curb the anger in her heart, and she addressed the undead being on the wall.
“―Why did you come here?”
The Sorcerer King’s movements stopped, as though he had been frozen in place. The red flames in his empty eye sockets turned to Remedios.
“...Why? ...I came? ...To help you?”
Why had he not come earlier? Was he waiting until the paladins had died? Did he plan to make a stylish entrance in front of the people?
She wanted to shout that at him, but―
“Then I’ll leave it to you.” She did not phrase it as a request. She could not. “And get rid of the wall.”
“I said I’ll leave it to you!” she shouted without thinking. Remedios strove to quell her rising emotions. “―And tear down that wall. You can’t?”
In an instant, the wall beneath the Sorcerer King’s feet vanished. The Sorcerer King did not fall down, probably because he was using a 「Fly」spell.
Remedios turned her back on Vijar. She did not mind if he killed her from behind. That way she could laugh at the Sorcerer King for not protecting her.
Having abandoned herself to despair, Remedios found it somewhat regretful that the demihumans did not attack her as she trudged back in front of the militiamen.
There was a hint of fear in the militiamen’s eyes. Was the look on her face so horrible?
“―We’ll let the Sorcerer King handle this place! Let’s go help where they need us more!”
After hearing Remedios’s orders, the militiamen looked at each other, and they seemed confused.
“Are you disobeying orders!?”
After Remedios glared at them, one of the militiamen quietly asked:
“Ah, n-no. But… the Sorcerer King, by himself…”
“The Sorcerer King is strong! Isn’t that right!? In that case, something like that won’t be a problem for him! Let’s go!”
Remedios led the militiamen to another battlefield. They repeatedly looked back at him as they left.
Ainz looked at the empty space where they had been and muttered to himself.
“Eh? ...That bitch, she actually dumped it all on me.”
This ridiculous state of events made Ainz reveal his true nature.
Normally, wouldn’t we have a scene like “Oh, let’s fight together~” or something? Or “Thanks for coming, we’ll leave them all to you?” At the very least she could have been polite about it, we could have gone back and forth several times about “Will you be alright here?” and so on… And not even a single word of gratitude after being saved? What the hell, man?
Frustration built in his heart. However, it did not reach the level of true anger, so it was not suppressed. It was like a tiny flame of indignation simmering inside him.
It was as though how someone had messed up and forced him to work overtime, and the person in question had said that they had something on and just up and left.
I would’ve been more angry. Like say, if I was going home to play YGGDRASIL… and the guild had plans already, and being late would cause problems for everyone. It happened before, and while everyone forgave me back then...
Thus fuelled, the miniscule flames blazed up into an inferno, and then they were forcibly extinguished.
“Hm… While my anger’s been suppressed, I’m still unhappy. That’s the first time I’ve been treated so rudely.”
While she had shouted “shut up” at him before, the situation had been different back then. In the first place, they had agreed that Ainz could sit this battle out, but Ainz had still rushed over as reinforcements. Surely anyone who had an inkling of common sense would have taken a different tone when addressing him.
Everyone Ainz had met until now had been at least minimally polite.
That was why Ainz found it strange.
After cooling his head and searching through his memories, Suzuki Satoru recalled having met people like Remedios several times before.
Still, none of it comforted him.
Ainz turned his still-irate gaze on the three demihumans.
Granted, it was not entirely their fault either.
Ainz understood that he was simply taking it out on them.
What should have happened was that Remedios’s relationship meter with Ainz should have maxed out when the latter saved her from danger, she should have apologized for treating Ainz this way all this time, and then worked hard for Ainz in all ways in the future. That was why Ainz had been observing Remedios from the air with 「Perfect Unknowable」 active all this time, and then stepped in to help her when she was in trouble.
But in the end, things had turned out like this.
He could not understand how they had ended up this way.
If the department’s quota was not met and it was close to the end of the month and someone stepped up to make up for the shortfall, surely everyone would be grateful to that person, right? Especially if that person had finished his own work long ago and had come back from his leave to help them.
Ainz had been observing the battlefield from above, and he had a firm grasp of the big picture. There were many more dangerous places than this. He was even aware that the girl who had glared at him all this time was in danger.
Even so, he had chosen to come to this place because he wanted to sell a favor to the highest ranking person he could ― better to rule in hell than serve in heaven and all that ― and he had judged that the captain of the Holy Kingdom’s paladin corps was the highest ranking person here.
“I really am annoyed.”
As he grumbled without thinking, Ainz heard a piercing laugh.
“Heeheehee. Looks like you’ve been left here. Heeheehee, how sad, how sad.”
“An Elder Lich. In other words, an individual that’s powerful as a magic caster. Is there a need to be careful? I haven’t seen that wall-making spell before, but it seems to be of a fairly high tier.”
“Hmph. So it’s still a magic caster, then? Don’t really feel like fighting it. In the end, you need to beat a warrior if you want people to sing tales about you.”
The three demihumans seemed to have recovered from the bizarre situation enough to banter with each other. Ainz turned to look at them, and his eyes focused on the ape-like demihuman among them who seemed to have laughed just now.
“Does it matter? First we kill him, then―”
Ainz interrupted their conversation and cast a silent eighth tier spell, 「Death」.
The ape-like demihuman’s smile was frozen on his face as he slowly collapsed.
“...What? What did you―”
“―I told you to shut up, didn’t I?”
Ainz once again cast a silent 「Death」 spell.
The four-legged demihuman collapsed in the same way as just now.
“Eh? Ehhh? What happened? What’s going on?”
The female demihuman who remained still did not understand what was going on, but it would seem she had already recognized who had done it.
“Was, was it you? You killed those two in an instant…?”
Terror was deeply etched on her face. Her body was shaking hard.
“Yes, yes,” Ainz carelessly cast a silent 「Death」 on the female demihuman as well. “―Hmmm?”
She did not die. Ainz’s 「Death」 had been resisted.
In the moment he realized this, Ainz’s mind immediately switched gears, entering a mental state that could be considered a combat mode.
Was it a defensive racial characteristic? A protective spell she had cast on herself? Had she resisted it normally? Had a magic item protected her? Or was it something else?
While one could not completely rule out the possibility that it might have been a coincidence, surely she could not have resisted it under her own power. Ainz had observed the three of them as they fought. While he did not think that he had the full measure of their abilities, Ainz was certain that they could not resist the power of his magic in a direct contest.
As Ainz mulled over the reasons for this, he felt that it would be best to stay on his guard and let his opponent make a move.
Perhaps he might discover something that could only be found here. He would like to see the trump card wielded by someone who could resist Ainz’s usual attack methods.
“Hmm… Well, it doesn’t matter what she did. What a waste of time. If I’d known, I would have left that woman alone and gone to help elsewhere. I was thinking that if I fought together with that woman, we could have put on a show of hard fought triumph, so we would have spent a bit more time on the back and forth…”
A chatty undead being stood before her.
What kind of undead creature is this? ...The undead couldn’t possibly ally themselves with humans. Is it being controlled by a necromancer? Still, that power...
While she had no idea what he had done, he had instantly killed two warriors who were on par with her. Could such a powerful undead being even be controlled?
If his finger pointed to her, would she be the one to perish next?
The only people she knew who could do this besides the Demon Emperor Jaldabaoth would be the great demons who were his henchmen.
―That’s impossible! Anyone who could control an undead creature who was on par with those mighty beings must be on the level of a god! How could such a necromancer exist?
If this human nation had such a necromancer, how could the Demihuman Alliance have pressed their invasion so far?
Should I run? Should I take the chance to flee while he’s acting all relaxed? Or can I even escape?
She did not possess any spells which were handy for escape. After all, she had never been in such danger before and had not felt the importance of learning such spells.
In that case, the only way out is through!
She used her battlecry to rouse her spirit, and began to cast spells with her trembling lips.
There was a fourth-tier arcane spell called 「Silver Lance」. It was a physical-type spell, but since it possessed silver properties, it was a tremendously damaging spell against enemies who were weak against silver. In addition, it also had a special effect known as “piercing,” which made it do more damage to unarmored opponents. However, it also had the drawback that its damage could be reduced by armor.
Her trump card lay in altering this powerful spell to produce new, unique spells.
There was the 「Burn Lance」, which inflicted fire-element damage.
There was the 「Freeze Lance」, which inflicted cold-element damage.
There was the 「Shock Lance」, which inflicted lightning-element damage.
These three spells all did elemental damage, so armor could not reduce their potency, and they still retained the deadly “piercing” ability.
Of course, in keeping with their deadliness, those spells consumed far more mana than fourth tier spells.
She activated three of these potent ― to her ― spells at once.
She was simultaneously casting three spells, each one of which used a significant amount of mana. In addition, simultaneously casting spells was very draining in itself, and as the shock of using huge quantities of mana hit her, she felt light and floaty, as though she were about to pass out.
The three lances flew toward the undead being ― and then vanished without a trace.
She could not understand what had happened before her eyes. She could understand if it had taken damage, or shrugged it off. But this ― this was like nothing had happened at all.
The lances had simply vanished.
“Eh? Eh? What? What what?”
“...I gave you all that time and this is the best you can do? Is this the ace up your sleeve? Hm. I guess I didn’t need to let you make the first move out of caution. Now then, there’s not much time left, so hurry up and die. 「Maximize Magic Reality Slash」.”
There was a world of darkness
She did not know what “she” was
She wanted to open her eyes ― but she did not know what eyes were
She did not know what darkness or the world meant
She did not know why she was thinking of these things
She knew nothing
She was vanishing
She did not know what “vanishing” meant
But she was vanishing
However, suddenly, she felt like she was being pulled by something
From above, from below, from the left, from the right, from somewhere―
A completed world was pulling her
A pitiful being who had been completed by the works of their friends
Someone who had sealed away all thoughts that there was a greater treasure than that
And then ― an explosion of white light dyed the world
There was a tremendous sense of loss―
A sense of separation from a whole―
Neia Baraja blinked several times, seeking to return her unfocused field of vision to normal.
She sensed that something had happened, but she could not remember anything about it. However, she ought to have been fighting demihumans. What on earth had happened?
“...That was a dangerous place.”
As she heard that calm voice, Neia narrowed her eyes and looked up with an abnormally keen gaze.
It looked like darkness.
It was not the darkness a child would fear, but the darkness which granted peace to those who were tired.
It was the Sorcerer King Ainz Ooal Gown.
Neia reflexively reached up to him, like a worried child reaching for her parents―
“Neia Baraja. Do not force yourself to move. Let me take care of this place and rest.”
Behind him, she could see the demihumans frantically attacking the Sorcerer King, stabbing him with swords, hacking at him, punching him.
However, the Sorcerer King completely ignored them. He spoke to her as though nothing was happening.
The memory of Buser came to Neia’s mind.
The Sorcerer King reached into the sleeve of his robe and, after a brief delay, he withdrew a purple, poisonous-looking potion. Normally, potions were blue.
Neia did not question the Sorcerer King even as he poured that poisonous-looking potion on her. What the Sorcerer King did must surely be correct.
Reality turned out as she had imagined it. The purple potion that he poured on Neia’s body instantly healed all of her wounds. It would seem the Sorcerous Kingdom’s potions were of a different color.
“While it seems a full recovery will be a long way off, you should recover your energy before that ― what a pain. Tch. The militiamen are all dead… looks like there’s a few left over there. In that case…”
The Sorcerer King turned to face the demihumans as they attacked him from behind over and over again.
There was fighting all over the city at this very moment, and someone was dying with every second that passed. However, in that moment Neia completely forgot about that, because her eyes were stolen by the glorious back of the Sorcerer King who had risen to protect her.
Her unease and worries about the demihuman army were completely gone.
That was ― what Neia had longed for.
So it was here all along. I see...
Neia was certain that she had found the perfect answer to the doubts that she had been holding on to all this time.
The Sorcerer King casually cast a spell.
A dazzling stroke of electricity raced along the top of the city wall. It was apparently a spell called 「Chain Dragon Lightning」.
The demihumans on the wall were swept away, so easily that it was hard to imagine there had been a life-and-death struggle here earlier.
“Did… yhou… dhefeat… them… all?”
“No, there were some people still fighting nearby, so I was trying not to catch them in it. However ― 「Napalm」 ah, that’s all of them. Next we have to deal with the idiots climbing up.「Widen Magic Wall of Skeleton」.” A wall of bones suddenly sprang up on the outside of the city wall, where the demihuman forces were. While she could not see the other side because her vision was blocked, she could hear the demihumans on the ladders wailing, followed by the sound of objects falling and hitting the ground hard.
“Now to take care of their forces which are already in formation… I sent some undead over there earlier, they’ll deal with it soon enough.”
As he spoke, he took out another potion. It was completely different from the one just now, being stored in a beautiful, slender phial. While she had no idea what the potion inside it could do, it looked like it must be a very valuable item.
“I, ahm fhine, Yhour Mhajeshty…”
“...Enough of that. I’m sorry I was late in saving you.”
The Sorcerer King shielded the upper halves of his eye sockets like he was being dazzled as he poured out the contents of the bottle. The sense of weakness she had been feeling since just now melted away. However, her body still felt heavy. She felt like something had been scraped away from herself, but matching it ― no, exceeding it ― was a warmth in the core of her body.
She could get up like this. While her body still hurt so much that her tears had leaked out, she could not remain in such a disgraceful posture in front of the person who had come to save her.
“Stop ― Miss Baraja. There’s no need to force yourself to stand.”
While she wanted to get up, Neia obediently lay back as he pushed her shoulders down.
“Yes, like that… I’ll get someone to carry you. ―You lot, over here!”
The Sorcerer King waved to what seemed to be militiamen.
It was at this point that Neia realized that for the sake of expressing her gratitude, she had not yet asked a question which had to be asked.
“Your Majesty, will you be alright? You came to help us and used the mana you should have been saving to fight Jaldabaoth.”
“It’s fine. When you think about it, it couldn’t be helped considering that it was for the sake of saving you.”
“Your Majesty…” A weighty stone seemed to have fallen from her chest. “I understand now.”
“Hm? What is it?”
The Sorcerer King waited for Neia’s reply.
“I understand what justice is.”
“―Ah, so you’ve found the justice that belongs to you? That’s good. ...Is it protecting the weak, or something?”
His voice was full of tenderness, and so Neia replied with confidence.
“Your Highness is justice.”
For a moment, the Sorcerer King froze.
“I understand now! Your Highness is justice!”
“...Ah, is that so. You must be tired. Don’t you think it would be better to rest? You’ll think of strange things when you’re tired. Surely you won’t want to roll around on the bed and make weird noises after you calm down, right?”
“I’m a little tired, but more importantly, my heart has cleared up. I am absolutely certain that Your Highness is justice!”
“No, nono, I said so back then, but I’m not justice. Look, what they call justice ought to be something like protecting the weak is common sense, that kind of… uh, abstract concept. Right? I mean, normally speaking.”
“No. Justice without power is meaningless, but power like what Jaldabaoth possesses is not justice either. Therefore, being strong, and using that strength to aid others is truly justice; in other words, you are the incarnation of justice, Your Majesty!!”
As Neia’s eyes went wide while she spoke, the Sorcerer King suddenly raised his hand, and then placed it over Neia’s eyes like he was coaxing her to sleep. The pleasant coolness of his fingerbones made Neia’s cheeks relax.
“...Ah. If you shout too loud, won’t it make your wounds hurt? After this, we can slowly continue what you were talking about just now.”
“Yes! Your Majesty!”
She heard the sound of several footsteps, and by shifting her gaze, she saw the forms of paladins and militiamen approaching her.
“Your Highness! Thank you very much for coming here to help us!”
“Don’t mention it.”
As he answered, the Sorcerer King slowly rose to his feet. Neia felt lonely as he stood up and wanted to reach for the Sorcerer King’s robe, but then she realised that doing so would be terribly shameful and so she curbed herself.
“―No, actually, maybe you should. Therefore, I hope you will take Squire Baraja to a safe place in order to show your gratitude. While you can’t see it from here, I’ve already sent the undead I made into the demihuman encampment, so it should be alright for you to stand down for a while.”
“―Neia Baraja. And also, the people of this country. Let me handle the rest. I promise you that I will do my best to save the people of this city.”
The Sorcerer King floated lightly into the air.
“Also, there’s one more thing. Can you help me move the bodies of those three demihumans over there? They were strong foes, so I want to study them carefully.”
The three corpses to which the Sorcerer King pointed looked like they had once been very impressive demihumans.
“Move them with their wargear. Don’t worry about being rough with them, but do not misplace their equipment. I’ll leave that to you.”
As he watched the Sorcerer King fly into the air, a paladin turned to Neia.
“Squire Neia Baraja, while we would like to carry you… the lack of materials for a stretcher makes things difficult. Can you stand?”
“Yes, though it’s difficult.”
Neia slowly got to her feet. Her legs were trembling, and they ached as soon as they took her weight. Neia leaned on a militiaman’s shoulder and hung on tightly to him.
Looking down from the city wall, the unit that was supposed to be defending the west gate was gone, and there were no bodies. The sound of clashing blades on the wind seemed to be coming from far away, so taking the shortest route down from the side tower ought to be fine.
Neia sought the form of the Sorcerer King who had disappeared into the sky, and as she thought that it was a shame that she could not see him, Neia entered the side tower.
As he greeted the demihumans invading the city with attack spells from the air, Ainz thought about the sequence of events which had transpired and wrinkled his nonexistent brows.
―That was a huge mistake. The order was all wrong. I should have prioritized Neia Baraja over that annoying woman.
Neia had died because he helped Remedios and was thus delayed in going to Neia’s side. He had to use a high level wand to resurrect Neia, because he was not sure how high level Neia was, and he was afraid of her turning to ash like the Lizardman from back then.
In truth, he had no idea whether the price of resurrecting Neia was justified by the benefits she could bring to Ainz and Nazarick. That said, since the plan to help Remedios and indebt her to him had been a complete failure, he ought to at least try again with Neia, which was why he had chosen to resurrect her. However―
...Would a Wand of Resurrection ― a seventh tier spell ― have been fine as well? ...It seems I was being too generous. Also, it’ll take an hour before I can swap out this ring.
Ainz was looking at one of his eight rings, the one on his right thumb.
It was the Ring of Wand Mastery.
Said ring was an ultra-rare artifact dropped by a boss.
Normally, only magic casters of the appropriate tradition would be able to use the spells stored within a wand. For instance, only a divine caster could use a wand imbued with the first tier divine spell 「Light Healing」. If they could be used by magic casters of other traditions, then they would be staves, which were more expensive.
That said, a patch had updated certain wands so they could be used by all players. Unfortunately, the wand imbued with the ninth tier spell 「True Resurrection」 that he had used to resurrect Neia was not one of them, and Ainz would not be able to use it under normal circumstances.
However, he could use it as long as he had this ring.
Yet every time the ring was used, it only applied to one wand at a time, and he would have to wait an hour before he could change it out. It also carried the drawback of requiring mana to use, but it was still a very valuable item regardless.
Due to its high rarity, very few people in the guild “Ainz Ooal Gown” possessed it, and the one which Ainz had was left to him by Amanomahitotsu when he had quit the game.
Well, it doesn’t look like I’ll need to use that wand anywhere else, so I shouldn’t let it bother me. Speaking of which, I just realized when I covered her eyes, it feels like she simply respects me. Given what she said… does that mean I’ve gained her trust? Umu. I wonder what happened?
Ainz recalled Neia’s reaction.
Her gratitude sounded sincere… but at the same time it felt like she was glaring at me. Is it because her face is scary? How about recommending she wear sunglasses or something?
Ainz might have thought that, but of course he could not actually say it. In the carriage, she had mentioned being conscious of how scary her eyes had looked.
If one encountered a lady with smelly armpits, how would they react when you said, “You stink,” and gave them a bottle of perfume?
It feels like all the respect I’ve cultivated would vanish and she would only resent me...
In addition, Ainz ― Suzuki Satoru ― was not brave enough to say such things.
Ainz spotted a cluster of demihumans nearby and discharged an area-effect spell at the ground, slaughtering them all. The militiamen who had been facing them waved to him. Ainz raised his arm as well by way of response. Originally, he had intended to just raise his hand, but there was a distance between them, so he put his arm up high in order for them to see him.
That’s right~ It’s the merciful Sorcerer King~ Be grateful to me~ speaking of which, does resurrection magic make people go mad or act weirdly? Compared to that, it would be better if she was just pumped up or on a buzz…
Ainz thought about Neia.
It felt strange no matter how he thought about it. She had been perfectly normal when he had parted ways with her, but she had ended up like that after being brought back to life.
Is she mad? Should I heal her with magic? It would be a little scary if it was a side effect of resurrection. I don’t want to end up warping her personality as time passes.
There had been a strange force in Neia’s murderous eyes, an insane, ferocious gleam that frightened him.
It’s so bad that she mistook me for justice, huh. Some rest ought to help with that… oh.
Ainz turned his gaze to the demihuman position.
Half of it had already been destroyed, and Soul Eaters were walking lazily among the fleeing demihumans. Even that much was enough to send the demihumans collapsing in droves from their instant death auras. The Soul Eaters who consumed their souls became stronger in turn.
When Soul Eaters appeared in YGGDRASIL, they were almost always level-appropriate encounters, so the chances of a player being downed by an instant death effect would only be one in a hundred or less. That was why this special ability of Soul Eaters rarely got the chance to see use.
However, it was different this time. This was the perfect opportunity to show it off.
“Souls, huh… oh no. I should have experimented with this.”
Ainz suddenly landed. Then he used his ability to create mid-tier undead to craft a Soul Eater.
After he issued a mental command, the Soul Eater immediately began to move. At the same time, he sent an order to the Soul Eaters who were obliterating the demihumans outside.
It went: leave some prey for the newly-made Soul Eater.
Undead created with corpses did not vanish with the passage of time. But why did they not vanish?
If it’s not because they’re using the corpse as a medium, but the soul, does it mean that Soul Eaters which have eaten souls won’t vanish? ...Well, even if I found the answer I wouldn’t know where to apply it. Still, knowing is better than not knowing.
He ascended into the sky once more, and verified that the city was safe. Most of the demihumans should have been wiped out by now, but he ought to be careful, just in case.
Muu, that annoying woman is there. Ignore her, ignore her.
Ainz looked away from Remedios and flew elsewhere.
As Ainz flew, he could hear cheers coming from below him, and Ainz responded with a wave of the hand. After verifying that there were no more demihumans ― that the fighting had ended, Ainz began making his way to the war room. He would need a lot of time to return to Nazarick and take care of all sorts of annoying meetings.
“I need to handle this properly…”
A crushing surge of uneasiness flooded into him, and then his emotion suppression calmed him down. The only thing that remained was a chilly sensation in his heart.
I need to use 「Message」 to tell Demiurge to meet me in Nazarick.
Once Ainz made his move, victory was all too easy. After wiping out the demihumans attacking the city and finishing a couple of other things, Ainz returned to his own room.
One of those things was to show his face at Caspond’s chambers and ask him for some minor favors in the future. The long and short of it was that after trampling the demihuman encampment underfoot, he had no issue with giving them the leftover rations and everything else ― magic items excepted.
Since Ainz had devastated the demihuman camp by himself, then the spoils from the demihumans should have rightfully belonged to him. Dumping them into the Exchange Box would have yielded quite a tidy sum. However, if he monopolized it all, the goodwill he had so painstakingly built up might end up losing its value. That being the case, he ought to write it off as an investment and give it all to the Holy Kingdom. Of course, there might be valuable magical items among the loot, and he had no intention of giving those up.
Normally, Ainz would have gone to the camp by himself and used 「Greater Magic Vision」, 「Detect Magic」 and other such divination spells to examine the scene, but he felt that there was no need to do so. In addition, Demiurge ought to have investigated what magic items the demihumans possessed ahead of time. Even if something had slipped the net, there ought to have been nothing there which could harm Ainz. If there was, then it would have been more eye-catching.
After that, he went to recover the equipment from those three demihumans. As expected, nobody had dared loot the corpses, and so Ainz recovered their magical items without incident. Of course, he had an idea of how powerful those items were from the mana they contained, but he still held out hope for something bizarre or unusual.
He dumped them onto the bed and prepared to magically investigate each and every one of them, but he had something he needed to do first.
He deliberately made noise.
Part of that was to psyche himself up, but there was another meaning to it.
There was something he needed to do before sending the 「Message」 to Demiurge.
Ainz took out a scroll ― Demiurge-brand ― and cast a spell, whereupon a pair of bunny ears sprouted from Ainz’s head.
He used them to check for nearby sounds, and it seemed like there was nobody hiding to spy on him. However, that was not enough to put him at ease. After all, there was magic, such as the second tier spell 「Silence」, which could eliminate sound, and then there were also thief skills, so it was too early to conclude that there was nobody around just because he could not hear anything.
It’s thanks to Demiurge’s farm ― which allows us to obtain raw materials easily ― that I can use scrolls this casually. Dumping large quantities of produce into the Exchange Box means we can make back the gold spent on the scrolls without any problems. I’ve thought about this before, but I have a good feeling about the various ways in which Nazarick is developing.
They could still use the ordinary parchment from this world for first tier spells like 「Rabbit’s Ear」. One would need YGGDRASIL materials to go any higher. However, part of the supply problem had already been solved.
While it was true that they could only be used as substitutes for up to third tier scrolls, Demiurge had already done a great deal of work. The first and most indisputable thing was that when considering everything that had been done until now, he was the most deserving of commendation for his contributions. Next would be Albedo and her perfect management of Nazarick.
Ainz then went on to use his ability to create lesser undead and brought forth a Wraith.
Check the surroundings and see if anyone’s spying on me.
After receiving the order, the Wraith left the room without opening the door. Wraiths had astral bodies, and so they could move straight through walls and other such obstacles. Still, there was a limit depending on how thick those walls were, so it was hardly unlimited, but the thickness of the room’s walls were no problem for it.
Ainz focused his mind on the ears he had sprouted.
Even if there was a skillful thief lying in wait, could they really remain motionless if an undead creature suddenly appeared, especially if it was surrounded by an aura of fear? In addition, they would need a concealment ability that could hide them from detection by a Wraith. Of course, deceiving low tier undead was easy, but if someone actually possessed these abilities, then they must be very capable indeed.
Ainz concluded that there could not be such a person. If there was someone like that in this nation, then they should have had them take part in the previous two battles.
That said, I can’t rule out the possibility that someone like that might be wary of me and thus lying in wait. Still, given that woman’s personality, it shouldn’t be possible… if there was someone like that, it wouldn’t be unusual for Demiurge to inform me about them.
It would not be unusual. As he thought of those words, Ainz wondered, Is that really the case?
Surely Demiurge would not have felt that Ainz would have understood even if he did not say anything, right?
...Ah, the more I think about it, the more my stomach hurts…
If such a mistake had resulted, then he ought to gather his resolve and sit Albedo and Demiurge down for a good chat.
Eventually, the undead being returned.
“Was anyone there?”
The undead being replied in the negative. Ainz’s ears had not picked up any suspicious sounds either.
“Is that so? Then hide in the walls and keep an eye on the surroundings.”
After watching the undead being enter a wall, Ainz mentally prepared himself.
Now then, I’ll be casting 「Message」 next.
It was a simple thing, but he could not bring himself to do it.
He felt like an employee who knew he would be scolded by his boss after returning to the office.
Still, he could not stay this way forever. His heart would also be heavy if Demiurge contacted him first.
“Time to do it, me!”
After cheering himself up, he sent a 「Message」 to Demiurge. He had rehearsed what he wanted to say in his head countless times and had run more than enough simulations. All he had to do now was say it.
However the 「Message」 connected before he could breathe in deeply to ease his stress ― or rather, there was practically no delay between casting the spell and opening a channel to Demiurge. The response had been way too fast.
“Demiurge, is that you?”
『Indeed it is, Ainz-sama.』
“Umu.” He had practiced this many times. All he had to do now was say it.
“...I was wondering if you had any questions about the divergence of my actions from the report, and so I contacted you. While I understand what you want to say, I feel that Albedo ought to be present as well if there are detailed questions. Return to Nazarick without delay. I will be returning presently as well. We’ll meet in the log cabin on the surface.”
『Understood. Then I will contact Albedo from my end.』
“Ahh, please do.”
He immediately cut off the 「Message」. After that, Ainz sighed deeply.
Ahhh, that’s good. He didn’t sound mad. Ahhh, that was scary.
What should I do if a talented subordinate gets mad at me? he had thought. Ainz’s heart was full of fear; in order to put himself at ease, he channelled new strength into his faltering body and stared at the wall.
The Wraith’s mission was complete. Thanks to friendly fire being on, he could destroy the undead like Shalltear had, but there was no need to waste his strength. Ordering it to return was also a simple task. Incidentally, there was no need to speak either; he could simply issue a mental command. In that way, he could break the tenuous link between them.
That said, there were countless such links stretching back towards E-Rantel. Over there, he was not confident of being able to give a clear order without speaking it. That much was true. However, Ainz had made very few undead in this place, so issuing a clear-cut command would be simple enough.
―Disappear. Now then, to return to Nazarick for a while...
After this would come a very frightening task ― a task of deception that had to be completed. He would have liked someone else to handle it if he could, but that was impossible, Besides, who could he hand it to?
He touched the magic items from the three demihumans on the table in the hopes of clearing away his unease.
Fufu. They’re weak, they’re cheap, but still, obtaining magic items in this world makes me happy… well, maybe I’m not as happy as Pandora’s Actor would be, but it does feel like I enjoy magic items too, huh?
The first thing he did was appraise the magic items belonging to the four-armed demihuman. Among them, was the armband that had protected against Ainz’s instant death spell, and its name was the Deathguard Armband. It could grant immunity to death magic once a day.
Ainz picked it up and twirled it in his hand several times, then put it back on the table.
Boring. If only there were better items. Now then―
Just as he was about to set out, he heard the sound of knocking on the door. A voice from the outside said, “Your Majesty, this is Neia Baraja.”
Ainz immediately inspected himself. Then he looked around the room to ensure that his bearing was that of the absolute sovereign that was the Sorcerer King. After that, he slowly settled himself into a chair and the pose he adopted was King Ainz No. 24.
He did his best to speak in a low, weighty voice. This change in pitch was also the result of repeated practice.
The door opened, and Neia ― her injuries now recovered ― entered the room and bowed to him.
“I am deeply grateful to be granted permission to enter, Your Highness. I have come here in order to discharge my duties as a squire.”
“Umu. I am glad you came, Miss Baraja. But there is no need to fulfill your squire’s obligations today. While your wounds might have healed, the fatigue of the battle must―”
Ah, it’s been taken care of, Ainz thought. The potion he had used back then was one which removed both fatigue and exhaustion. It was a potion that Nfirea ― his skin dry and rough ― had praised to the heavens.
“I am able to fulfil my obligations as a squire thanks to Your Majesty’s power. Also ― I am very happy to be allowed to stay by Your Majesty’s side.”
Neia smiled ― or was it a smirk? One’s body would naturally go on the defensive in the face of a hostile or evil smile, but Ainz’s kingly poise was unbreakable.
“...Is that so? However, I must return to the Sorcerous Kingdom for a while to handle some critical tasks. I apologize for wasting your trip.”
She looked very sad, but she did not look cute at all. All he could think was that she was glaring at him. However, Ainz had already thought of a way to deal with Neia.
All he had to do was close his eyes. That way, her eyes would not frighten him any more.
“Speaking of which, I am glad that you are well ― that you are alive, Miss Baraja.”
“Thank you very much, Your Majesty! All this is thanks to your power. In particular, without this suit of armor I might not have been able to hold out until Your Majesty arrived.”
But you didn’t hold out, you died… well, all’s well that ends well. Come to think of it, I heard she was fighting on the city walls, so giving her that armor which could defend against ranged attacks was the right choice!
“Fufu. Well, that is good to hear. How about the bow? Did you show off its power to the masses?”
“Yes… many people saw the the amazing power of this bow… although, they’re all dead now.”
“What!? ―I see, so that’s what happened. What a shame.”
He had failed again. Ainz was filled with a profound sense of regret. If everyone who saw it was dead, it was no different from nobody seeing it at all. Maybe I should give up on trying to promote rune weapons, Ainz thought. Still ― I think there ought to be more chances for it. Even if this plan fails, it doesn’t mean I’ve lost anything, and there’ll be great benefits if it succeeds.
“I am sure that without the gear which Your Majesty lent me, I would be in Heaven with the others… thank you very much, Your Majesty.”
Ainz sensed that her words came from the heart, and so Ainz thought, Well done. Of course, he could not express that emotion. He had to keep showing her a ruler’s poise, after all.
“Pay it no heed. All you need to know is that a master’s duty is to protect his followers.”
Ainz cracked his eyes open a fraction to study her reaction. Neia’s face had twisted slightly when she had heard the word “follower.” It was probably not anger, but it felt like some kind of unhappiness. If her present attitude and the flow of the conversation were to be trusted, that was not the case.
In other words, opening his eyes had been a mistake. Ainz closed his eyes again.
“Thank you very much, Your Majesty. Also, the people whom Your Majesty saved also wish me to express their gratitude to you.”
“Ho…” All right! Ainz struggled to hide the way he felt. “You need not worry about it. I simply happened to save them because they were there. However, I hope they will not expect this good fortune to repeat itself, I used quite a lot of mana in this battle, so I might not be able to help next time, you know?”
“Understood, I will convey your message to them.”
“Ahh. However… that’s right. Please inform these people that I am glad to receive their gratitude… and now, Miss Baraja, I apologize but I really must be going. After this ― yes, can you come back in four hours’ time?”
“Yes! No problem at all! Then, please excuse me, Your Majesty!”
Neia left the room, and Ainz opened his eyes.
Hm. Her gratitude does seem quite genuine. Looks like I’ve got one person at last. No, as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Should I give out free healing potions as advertisement? That ought to win me more gratitude… but can it make up for the mistake with the rune weapons?
Ainz took out the purple potion.
This was Nfirea’s potion. Its quality was slightly inferior to that of YGGDRASIL-made potions, and it was still in the development phase. However, its effects might catch up in the future, or he might end up being able to make YGGDRASIL’s red potions.
It would have been too wasteful to spread the news of YGGDRASIL’s red potions for nothing, so I didn’t use them… still, I don’t know whether people who are used to blue potions can accept purple potions. Using them here and collecting the results sounds like a good plan.
Right now, he intended to have Nazarick conceal the potions which Nfirea and his grandmother had made. He did not plan to distribute the technology. However, that plan might change in the future, and the time might come when he could sell that potion. It would be good to prime the pump for such a situation.
This is complicated. There’s merits and demerits on both sides...
Frankly speaking, the fact that he’s discussing his sex life with me is causing me a lot of problems. I mean, at least they’re not doing it in front of me, but wouldn’t it be bad if word got out that he was talking about his wife?
In the first place, why is Nfirea even discussing this with me? Is it because he has no male relatives and is far away from the city he had lived in until now, so he thought that he had nobody to talk to? For all I know, he might be thinking that Narberal and I have that sort of relationship.
But he ought to know that I’m a skeleton...
While Ainz had thought of spying on the two of them at night to satisfy his curiosity, he felt that doing so would change his attitude towards the two of them, so he had curbed the impulse. However, it took a great deal of effort to shake off the curiosity that flashed through his mind every time Nfirea came to discuss it with him.
I remember something about it feeling very good, so he was asked to do it a lot of times… could it be that the reason he made so much of that potion ― some kind of nutrient supplement, I think ― and then gave it to me was because...
In any case, he had decided to give it to those two Lizardmen so they would work hard on making more rare children.
The fruits of technology are first applied to the military, then sex and medicine. Is that true? ...Ah, time to go back.
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