There were a total of four people in the room.
There were two paladins, who had come straight here after the fighting and were thus still in bloodstained armor — Remedios Custodio and Gustav Montagnes. There was the person in charge of the surviving priests, a middle-aged man who could use third tier spells — Siliaco Naranho. And then there was Prince Caspond Bessarez.
Two of them had come from the battlefield and one of them had been in charge of healing the wounded. As a result, Prince Caspond’s room was filled with the stench of blood.
Remedios had not removed her helmet even now. That was not proper etiquette for visiting a prince’s chambers at all — one could even call it disrespectful — but Caspond did not seem bothered by it and he appeared very calm.
At the same time, the atmosphere in the room was terrible, though not because of the preceding point. It was true that it reeked in here, but the reason was because the mood in the air was harsh. It was so weighty that it even seemed to dull the sunlight entering through the window.
This was not how people who had beaten overwhelmingly unfavorable odds and emerged victorious ought to be.
Caspond was the first person to speak in this weighty silence. Still, who else could speak first but him?
“Then tell me about our casualty situation.”
“Of the 6,000 militiamen we brought onto the battlefield, roughly 2,400 of them have been injured or killed.”
“...If I may add to the Vice Captain-dono’s words, there were around 1,000 wounded. The priests tried to heal them, but we failed to reach about half of them in time and they died.
“...And then half of the paladins survived, and eight priests died.”
Caspond closed his eyes and shook his head as he heard Gustav’s words.
“Against a demihuman army like that… while we can’t say losses like these are a good thing, should we be grateful that those were all we took? Or should we be sad for the sheer number of casualties—”
Remedios’s still, small voice interrupted Caspond.
“...Captain Custodio is right. We ought to be sad to have suffered such losses.”
Gustav and Siliaco looked down as they heard Caspond’s words.
They knew that it was a miracle — albeit a man-made one — that the woefully outnumbered Holy Kingdom Liberation Army had so many survivors when they had taken on a 40,000-strong army of demihumans. However, they also understood that saying something like this would be disruptive and unproductive, so they had no choice but to do this instead.
“Was it the Sorcerer King who defeated the demihuman forces in their formation?”
“Yes. We’re unsure about the details due to the of lack eyewitness reports during the chaos of defending the city walls, but there’s talk of mysterious undead beings destroying the army.”
“I see. That matches up with what I heard from the Sorcerer KIng. So he used the undead he created to clean them up — wiped out a massive army like that, hm? In that case… do you think the Sorcerer King can defeat Jaldabaoth?”
Caspond shifted his gaze to Remedios, but she simply pursed her lips and remained silent. The highly volatile air around the Holy KIngdom’s strongest paladin made her a figure of dread to the weak. Caspond turned away from her and toward Gustav, who immediately returned his gaze with a deeply apologetic look in his eyes and bowed his head.
“Hahh… is it really alright to bet the entire KIngdom on him? Or rather — should we think of what to do if the Sorcerer King loses to Jaldabaoth? Does anyone have any ideas for the next best thing we can do if that comes to pass?”
He was answered by silence. Amidst all this, Remedios spoke up.
“In that case, how about calling Momon over?”
The three people other than Remedios looked at each other with severe expressions on their faces.
Remedios — who felt it was a good idea — frowned.
“What? Do you have any better ideas? It’s more proper than that damn undead, no?”
“...Captain. We are now discussing what to do if the Sorcerer King dies. In such a situation, expecting to go to the Sorcerous Kingdom to get more help would be very risky.”
“Not necessarily,” Siliaco said as he stroked his white moustache.
“A moment please, Vice Captain-dono. The Captain-dono’s idea is risky, but not a bad move. How about lying about the Sorcerer King being captured by Jaldabaoth and getting Momon to come over?”
“Priest-dono, that would be too dangerous. Even if Momon defeated Jaldabaoth, discovery of the lie could trigger a war. Even if all goes well, the Sorcerous Kingdom’s impression of our country will plunge to rock bottom. And if things go badly, Momon might very well become a second Jaldabaoth and lead the Sorcerous Kingdom’s undead army into our nation.”
“Precisely, you two. And the worst thing is that the Sorcerous Kingdom will have a justified grievance against us.”
Remedios tilted her head at Caspond’s explanation.
“We’re not adjacent to the Sorcerous Kingdom, so that’s okay, right?”
“...Captain Custodio, please stop thinking of dangerous things. I don’t want to adopt any policies that will endanger us… that said, I don’t have any good ideas. How about you two?”
Siliaco and Gustav could not think of anything either.
The room was plunged into a brief silence.
Eventually, Caspond quietly spoke up.
“...For the time being, let’s each go back and think about it on our own. There’ll be no problems if the Sorcerer King can defeat Jaldabaoth.” Caspond clapped his hands together. “Then let’s talk about something else. What about the rations that the demihumans brought? Can we eat them normally? And if we can consume them, how long can they last?”
Normally, they would belong to the Sorcerer King since he had defeated the demihuman army, but he had already said that he would hand them over free of charge.
Gustav answered. He was in charge of sundry tasks like that.
“There seem to be a lot of hardened bread-like objects and vegetables that we should be able to eat. Thanks to the attack of the Sorcerer King’s undead creatures, they were captured intact, so they are in very good condition. In addition, there are also some food items which need to be further investigated, such as sour-smelling vegetables and so on.”
Preserved food was very common in the Holy Kingdom. However, these were demihuman rations, so they might belong to a species which ate rotting food, which was why Gustav said they had to investigate further.
“There is only one problem. That would be the meat.”
Gustav’s face was dark as he looked at Caspond.
“A portion of the meat looks like it came from humans. That conclusion came from looking at its shape and we’re not certain about it. Maybe we could tell if we ate it, but I’d rather not sample it, if you don’t mind.”
“How much meat are we talking about here?”
Siliaco had a disgusted look on his face.
“Many demihumans eat meat, so there was a lot of it. At a glance, it seems like half of the rations they brought were meat.”
“What!? Half of the rations for an army of 40,000 troops is meat?”
Hypothetically, if a demihuman ate a kilogram of meat a day, that would make 40 tons. If they had enough for two weeks, that would be 560 tons. In that case — the Prince grabbed his face.
“...How much of that is human meat?”
“We don’t know. Checking each and every piece would take a lot of time, and if they aren’t in their original shapes…”
“It would be a shame to pointlessly discard food when the future seems grim. I would like to separate the human meat from the other meat… Priest Naranho, can your spells do anything on that front?”
“My apologies, Prince. We cannot do something like that. I feel my colleagues among the paladins should be the same way.”
Caspond saw Gustav nod and sighed deeply.
“So magic can’t do everything huh? How about having the captive demihumans eat it to find out?”
“We should let the dead rest in peace. If there’s human meat, we ought to return it to the earth.”
“Exactly, Captain Custodio… what do you think, Vice-Captain Montagnes?”
“Yes, I agree with the Captain. I feel that no matter what, we won’t have enough time to investigate each and every barrel of meat. We ought to use our time and effort on other areas.”
“I see… very well, I understand. So with regards to the demihuman meat, we’ll dispose of everything that looks questionable. In that case how about the demihumans’ arms and armor?”
The Sorcerer King had also handed them over for free, but he had also said that that he would be expecting something in gratitude, so they would have to hand over the appropriate items if the time came.
If they could defeat Jaldabaoth or take back the Royal Capital, Caspond planned to announce to the people that he would be handing the nation’s riches over to the Sorcerous Kingdom.
“Firstly, recovering the equipment from the demihumans and burying the corpses will need time, therefore we won’t even have time to check their quality… Priest-dono, if any undead spring up here, will they become the Sorcerer King’s minions?”
Undead spawned easily in places where many people died. A place where more than 10,000 demihumans had died fit perfectly.
Upon being addressed, a profoundly distressed look appeared on Siliaco’s face.
“I do not know. I truly do not know. But anything could happen, so we ought to deal with the bodies and sanctify the land as soon as possible. I would like to rely on our strength alone for that, but we simply cannot manage that way, so I would like to get some help from the paladins.”
“Ahh, leave it to us. We’re used to dealing with the undead, after all.”
“I’d expect no less from Captain Remedios, it puts my heart at ease… If only the Holy Queen-sama or Kelart-sama were here…”
Everyone fell silent as Siliaco’s words tapered off.
After what seemed like a period of silent prayer, Caspond spoke.
“Ah, something on that point, Vice-Captain Montagnes. The Sorcerer King seems to want to take the magic items back to his nation, so he picked them out first. Of course, he’ll return anything that belongs to the Holy Kingdom.”
“Understood. That said, while we have some knowledge of swords and armor, we’ll have difficulty with other items. If anyone here has knowledge of magical items, I would like them to step up and help.”
“I could help when it comes to items passed down through the royal family. As for religious items, though—” Siliaco nodded as Caspond looked to him. “—In that case, we’ll go get helpers from among the civilians. Still, this was really unexpected. No, we should say it was more than we hoped for. We ought to thank the Sorcerer King’s power for surpassing our expectations.”
Nobody present voiced any objections. Amidst the silence, Caspond spoke again, like he was their representative.
“This city did not fall thanks to the Sorcerer King’s power.”
There was a very audible sound of teeth grinding, and Caspond looked worriedly at Gustav.
“After this, I will need to thank him on behalf of the Holy Kingdom. When the time comes, I hope you will all be present… in any event, being able to draw on the Sorcerer King’s power and achieve victory is a joyous occasion.”
“We did our best too. Don’t forget that.”
Remedios’s words seemed to freeze the air in the room. No, it was two people who had frozen up; Gustav and Siliaco.
Gustav’s mouth opened and closed like a koi. He looked like he had no idea how to apologize for his superior’s outburst.
“...Indeed. Captain Remedios, it is a fact that we would not have won this battle without the fierce resistance that you and the people put up.”
Caspond saw Remedios nod, and then he continued speaking,
“However — it is also a fact that without the Sorcerer King’s help, we would have lost, and it is just as true that he could have won by himself. Am I wrong?”
Remedios savagely ripped off her helmet and flung it at the wall, making a loud bang.
“Your Highness! Did something happen!?”
The door to the room flew open, and the paladins on guard outside rushed in.
“Nothing happened. Continue waiting outside.”
The paladins’ eyes went back and forth between Remedios’s helmet and the look on her face, and they realized what had happened. After indicating that they understood, they quietly left the room.
“Captain Custodio, please do not get worked up. I ask you to be calm.”
“How can I be calm!? Almost everyone I’ve met on the way here was praising him! It’s as though he won the whole thing by himself! Didn’t he only show up halfway? How many people died before he won!? That was a victory paid for by the lives of the people, the paladins, the priests, men, women, elderly, and children!”
Remedios glared at Caspond.
“It’s not true that he won by himself!”
Gustav could no longer hide his fear at the way Remedios was acting in front of the prince. Remedios had never been one for thinking, but at the very least she was smart enough to know who was her superior. However, things were different now — she seemed like a pain-maddened beast.
“That bony bastard was flying around in the sky when it was all over to show himself off! Is war a game to him!?”
“...Captain Custodio, it seems witnessing the deaths of so many of the smallfolk has upset you. Would you like to take a rest?”
In response to Caspond’s mature answer, Gustav shot the man a grateful look.
“Before that, there’s one thing I’ve been thinking of. I’m sure Jaldabaoth and the Sorcerer King are in league with each other.”
The three people other than Remedios looked at each other.
“Do you have a single fact to back that up, Captain-dono?”
Siliaco looked coolly at Remedios. If one looked calmly at what she had done until now, she was clearly saying that because she hated the Sorcerer King and wanted to bring him down. Now was not the time to let one’s personal preferences dictate one’s decisions.
“Isn’t he the only one gaining from this? Both the demihumans and the people of the Holy Kingdom are dead. He — the Sorcerous Kingdom is wearing away at our fighting strength in order to someday take control of the nation and the hills! That’s why he came here!”
“...I see. That certainly makes sense from the perspective of profit. What do the two of you think?”
Gustav furrowed his brows as he answered Caspond’s question.
“The Sorcerer King came here because we asked him. Also, was it not the Captain’s suggestion to have the two of them fight?”
“...Indeed it was. That masked bitch in Blue Rose is also one of them. If not for what she said, we would never have gone to the Sorcerous Kingdom. If not for that suggestion, we would have gone to the Empire or the Theocracy. And who knows, he might have come anyway even if we didn’t say anything.”
Haaaaah, Caspond sighed deeply.
“Captain Custodio, your logic has been nothing but self-serving from the start. You’re simply twisting the facts to match what you’re saying. I recall the Sorcerer King saying he wanted the maid demons, am I wrong?”
“...Please forgive me for saying these things which are unbecoming of a priest. I hear that those maid demons are quite powerful. In that case, I can understand why the Sorcerer King would like to obtain them. Demons do not need to eat or drink and they do not have a maximum lifespan. Being able to dominate such powerful demons might be better than gaining an army.”
“In that case, it would mean the Sorcerer King is aiding our nation because he felt there was sufficient value in it. It is only common sense for a king who rules a nation.”
“Still, nobody’s seen those maid demons before, right!?”
As Remedios screamed while in the grip of her emotions, Caspond looked at her like she was a pitiful, sad child.
“Captain Custodio. I would like to have a reasoned conversation with you, and not an emotional one… but it seems you are tired. Go and rest. That is an order.”
The red-faced Remedios still looked like she wanted to shriek something else, but Caspond was a step ahead of her and continued speaking.
“Go visit the wounded men. That’s part of your duties as a field commander, am I wrong?”
Remedios picked up her helmet and left the room.
There was no way to describe how the air in the room relaxed after that. It felt like the sense of fatigue one would have after a storm had passed and all the pieces had been picked up, mixed with a sense of relief at the fact that one had managed to survive.
However, one man was not finished yet.
“Your Highness! I sincerely apologize for Captain Custodio’s actions!”
Caspond smiled bitterly to Gustav as the latter bowed his head.
“It must have been really hard on you too. However, could you think about the future too? I honestly have no idea what’s going to become of this country after this war is over. If only we could find my sister, the Holy Queen… what happened to the Holy Queen during the battle of Kalinsha? Did you hear anything from Captain Custodio?”
Gustav was Remedios’s personal assistant. Therefore, he would have been present when Remedios told Caspond about it.
The fact that he knew but was asking again proved one thing — the prince suspected that Remedios might have been lying to him.
“...My Prince, I heard the same thing from Captain Custodio that she told Your Highness when we met for the first time.”
She had been sent flying by a shockwave and when she came to, the Holy Queen and her sister — Kelart Custodio — were nowhere to be seen. Although there were corpses of paladins and adventurers and priests everywhere, the bodies of those two were nowhere to be found.
“Is that so? Maybe I was worrying too much… Captain Custodio does not seem like one of those people who say one thing and mean another. It would be better if they were captured by him. If they were killed… the matter of the succession would become very complicated.”
Startled, Siliaco asked him a question.
“Caspond-sama, are you tired of the position of Holy King?”
“Are you flattering me? In truth that might be the case if my sister had perished of an accident under normal circumstances. However, things are different now. The North is tired and the South still has the ability to fight. In that case, it’s very likely that the South might support someone else to be Holy King. Frankly speaking, it’s very likely that one of the great nobles from the South might end up as Holy King.”
Caspond smiled as he looked at Siliaco’s shocked face.
“I don’t think that should come as such a surprise… in that case, with regard to what Vice-Captain Montagnes said earlier, if things go well, the first thing the Southern nobles will do is request that Captain Custodio take responsibility for the whole affair and place her under house arrest.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Then I’ll ask you, Vice-Captain Montagnes — why would they not do that? Is a paladin who failed to protect Her Majesty not the perfect outlet for their unhappiness? And of course, that’s not the only reason either. She can beat an army single-handedly. In that case, surely defanging your enemy is a basic tactic in warfare, am I wrong?”
“The enemy!? Who’s the enemy!?”
“The enemies of the Southern nobles. In other words, the Holy Queen’s faction. Remedios Custodio was a confidant of the Holy Queen. Surely the paladins she leads would also be seen as the enemy, am I wrong?”
“In that case, what about the priests that Kelart Custodio-sama led?”
“While there are priests who climbed the ranks thanks to their connections with the Southern nobles… don’t you think that would be the case too? Priestly magic is indispensable in everyday life. While I feel that anyone knows how stupid it is to put someone incompetent in high office, people sometimes do things that can only be described as foolish by others.”
“My Prince… what should we do?”
“Vice-Captain Montagnes, what do you mean by that? Do you want to keep her from being placed under house arrest? Or do you want to keep the paladins from getting involved?”
“I want a better future for the Holy Kingdom.”
“...We need to find my sister. Then, we need an achievement that all the people will accept as having saved the nation. For instance, by driving out the enemy without having to draw on the strength of the South.”
“That’s impossible… we can’t possibly win without the Sorcerer King’s power.”
Caspond looked at Gustav, who was complaining unconsciously, and shrugged.
“Still, that has to be done. Otherwise there won’t be any way to stop the pressure from the South after we win. Hm, yes, or we could damage the South as badly as the North. All that matters is that the balance of power is preserved in the end.” Caspond looked up at the ceiling. “If only we’d made a deal with the South sooner. She was too kind for her own good. And I understand how all this might have struck a nerve with Captain Custodio. After all, the only one who looked good in this battle was the Sorcerer King. If things go badly, the Sorcerer King might end up becoming the Holy King as well, am I wrong?”
The other two felt it was impossible, but neither of them could deny it.
“In that case, we need to start thinking about our plans from now on. While I would like Captain Custodio to be here, will she disobey a direct order?”
“...I feel it would be fine as long as it’s in keeping with this country’s justice.”
“I see… I’ve been thinking about how to attack the prison camps. The reason for that is—”
Caspond began to explain.
Roughly 100,000 demihumans had attacked the nation.
Since they had not heard of any movements from the demihumans squaring off against the forces of the Southern Holy Kingdom, they estimated that the 40,000 demihumans that had attacked them this time round were a large portion of the forces assigned to manage the prison camps in the North.
“I agree with your opinion. By attacking the undermanned prison camps, we can both destroy them piecemeal and increase our own forces at the same time. I feel it will kill two birds with one stone.”
“Captain Montagnes, I am glad to hear you approve. How about yourself, Priest Naranho?”
Siliaco also agreed with Caspond’s suggestion.
“The Sorcerer King is in this city. Since he can keep us safe, I would like the paladins to attack the prison camps… can you do that? Also, one more thing. I would like Captain Remedios to stay here while you are launching the attack. Make her think that she’s in charge of bodyguarding me.”
“Thank you very much, my Prince!”
“...I don’t think I’ve said anything you need to thank me for, Vice-Captain Montagnes,” Caspond said as the smile faded from his face. “...The absence of the country’s strongest paladin means that if there’s someone like the Grand King at the prison camp you’re attacking, you might all be wiped out, am I wrong?”
“Can we decide which camp to attack?”
“But of course. I’ll leave it to you. There’s no need to force yourself to attack a large camp that’s more dangerous.”
“Understood. In that case, I feel only we should go.”
“Captain Montagnes, may several of our battle-capable priests go with you?”
“Certainly. Then we’ll set out in a couple of days’ time.”
Ainz used 「Greater Teleportation」 to reach his destination, which was in front of the log cabin on the surface of Nazarick. Albedo, Demiurge, and Lupusregina were all standing there already, although he did not know how long they had been waiting.
Albedo and Demiurge had been summoned by Ainz, while Lupusregina must have been the one on duty in the cabin.
Since Lupusregina was in charge of all matters concerning Carne Village, she should have been excused from the log cabin’s duty roster, but that was not set in stone.
Perhaps someone else was on duty, but they had not been able to make it, so Lupusregina had rushed over instead. That would be wonderful it it were the case. After all, that would imply that even if there was a lack of manpower for a shift after completing a mission, there was a system to immediately swap someone else in to make up the shortfall.
Still, hang on.
While the Pleiades each had completely different job abilities, their maid skills were all equal. It only made sense that they could substitute for each other in a professional capacity.
However, in contrast to that, there were also personnel who were hard to replace. Starting with the Floor Guardians and the Guardian Overseer, there were some NPCs with highly specialized abilities who might need someone to take over them for one reason or another. This was especially true because Ainz had been working hard towards establishing a vacation system.
After all, letting Pandora’s Actor substitute for all of them is also dangerous.
To take an extreme case, what if Ainz himself was not around? For instance, if he were imprisoned, or if he were charmed, or something else. While he did not think that everything would break down without him there to make decisions, he had the feeling that Albedo and Demiurge would both say, “Ainz-sama would never let that happen to himself,” and thus not plan for unforeseen circumstances.
I need to seriously assess the need for this, and quickly.
In a grave tone, Ainz bade the three people bowing to him to raise their heads.
“It has been a while, Demiurge.”
In truth, Ainz agonized over the Holy Kingdom’s affairs every day, and he also thought about Demiurge every day, so it did not actually feel that way. However, it had been quite a long time since they had last met in person.
“Now then, you probably have questions about why I acted as I did. While I would like to answer you, speaking in this place is not quite appropriate. Let us go somewhere else.”
Ainz was the first to enter the log cabin.
He could have come here straight away because there was a Gate Mirror set up, but he did not use it today.
There was a table in the center of the room, and there were two chairs facing each other on either side of it. Ainz took the seat of honor with familiarity and without hesitation. He had already experienced the problems which came of not doing so many times already. While he had once needed to ponder which was the top seat before sitting down, he had now reached the point where he could unconsciously take the seat of honor
As he approached the chair, Lupusregina immediately pulled it out for him.
In truth, he was of the opinion that he ought to pull his chair out himself. However, his observations of Jircniv had made him understand that it was very important for a ruler to let his subordinates do work. Still, letting them handle even trivial tasks like this gave Ainz the commoner a bit of difficulty.
After Ainz sat down, Albedo and Demiurge did not take a seat, but instead knelt on the floor. Behind them, Lupusregina went to her knees as well.
“—I permit the two of you to sit down.”
The two Guardians politely refused in unison. Ainz once again granted his permission to the two Guardians, whereupon they finally sat opposite Ainz after a great deal of thanks and gratitude. Lupusregina, on the other hand, stood stock still behind the two of them.
This takes so long and it’s a waste of time. Couldn’t it be simpler like… ugh.
“Then let us continue our previous topic. While I said there was nobody who needed to be saved, I rescued the people of the Holy Kingdom nonetheless. I am sure you have your questions about that, do you not?”
“No, not at all.”
Demiurge shook his head gently, unable to resist the urge to sigh in admiration.
“Everything you do is correct, Ainz-sama. I feel that the reason why you did so was because you saw that it held merits which I could not imagine.”
“That is correct. If you feel it needs to be done, then it must be correct, Ainz-sama.”
Albedo’s words froze Ainz’s facial expressions solid. But of course, Ainz had no facial expressions to speak of.
The way the two Guardians — who were also the most knowledgeable Guardians in Nazarick — nodded in unison before him filled him with various flavors of terror and anxiety.
“Wait, wait. Indeed… yes, it is true.” Ainz began to panic. The conversation had travelled a path that was slightly different from what he had foreseen, and so he had become confused and could not clearly think of what he wanted to say. However— “—Indeed, under normal circumstances I would have acted as you had imagined.”
Huh? Ainz was slightly confused. He struggled to piece some words together and threw them out as appropriate. Even so, the two of them continued nodding vigorously, and Ainz found that a little odd. He continued speaking, desperately hoping for a last second save.
“However, yes, however. This time was slightly different. I did not do this because I was planning something.” Having found a way to amend his words, Ainz delightedly continued, “This time round, I was deliberately introducing a flaw into the plan.”
“What would be the reason for that, Ainz-sama?”
Ainz slowly leaned on the back of the chair with a Hm. Then he adopted a well-practiced posture, a grand one that was befitting of a ruler, which a master ought to have, and then spoke.
“Demiurge. Albedo. The two of you are more intelligent than me.”
Ainz held up his hand to stop the two of them from speaking.
“I am just saying that this is how I feel. In that case, what would happen if something unexpected occurred during parts of the event described in your plan? If everything proceeded as you outlined, then everything would have been perfect and ended in excellent form.”
That said, your plan was really over the top, Ainz grumbled in his heart. I felt I was sure to fail given how you threw everything in your operation outline at me.
“Therefore, a question suddenly came to mind, Demiurge. A perfect tactical mind cannot only function when everything is going on course; it must also be able to work when the situation changes dramatically or when it diverges from your expectations. That is to say, I wanted to know if your adaptability was also as laudable.”
“I see, so that’s it!”
Eh—!? He already got it!? And he sounds like he understands it all too!
Ainz resisted the urge to make a jab about Demiurge’s preternatural processing speed, something along the lines of, You’re already so smart, why do you think I’m smarter? Are you bullying me!?
“As expected of, ah… you’re as impressive as I expected, Demiurge.”
“Thank you very much, Ainz-sama.”
“Still, I, ah, apologize, though it feels like I was testing you…”
“Certainly not, Ainz-sama. To me, the fact that you would wish to assess my abilities is an honor that knows no equal. I will assuredly return results that match your expectations, Ainz-sama!”
“Umu. I’ll leave that to you, Demiurge. In that case, during the course of our activities in the Holy Kingdom, I will cause problems as needed and you will amend the plan in response. Will that be alright?”
“Yes! I understand!”
All right—! Ainz rejoiced within his heart. He was so happy that the emotion was suppressed.
Even so, excitement still remained inside him.
Good, good, good. This way, even if I screw up, I can say that I was doing it on purpose! No, of course, I need to try not to screw up in the first place. If I’d known, I should have said this from the start.
While he did not have the bad habit of gloating when a subordinate’s plan went awry, it was possible that he might accidentally do something to make them worry. In this way, they would not have to guess if he had some intention in mind, but instead move on to revising the plan as needed. Ainz felt the sense of bliss which came with taking a heavy weight off his shoulders.
“...Your servant understands your concerns, Ainz-sama. So does that mean that you will be simultaneously assessing the abilities of each Floor and Area Guardian as well?”
As he heard Albedo’s question, Ainz was briefly puzzled for a moment and thought, What’s she saying? However—
“There’s no need to do so right now. I am doing so for Demiurge because he must work outside Nazarick for extended periods. As for the others, I will test them when it becomes necessary.”
“Umu. Now, for the next topic… the initial plan was to take those people of the Holy King who were enthralled with me and proceed to the eastern part of the Holy Kingdom, to the Abelion Hills where the demihumans lived. However, I am going to amend this part of the plan. I will go there first. From there, spread the news of my death.”
It felt like time had stopped for a moment. And then—
“—Eh? What are you saying, Ainz-sama!? How could we announce the death of the Supreme One, Ainz-sama!?”
That protest came from Albedo. This might have been the first time he had seen Albedo’s expression crumble in this way. At least, that was how the look on her face made him feel. But before Ainz could explain his true intentions to Albedo, it was Demiurge’s turn to speak up.
“Albedo. Since Ainz-sama has stated this, he must have some wonderful aim in mind. Do you not think rejecting it on an emotional basis is inappropriate?”
“Demiurge. I question where your calm comes from. Would you react in this way if Ulbert Alain Odle …-sama were to say the same thing? Or…?”
“Fufu… Albedo. Could you tell me what you mean by that? Or do you mean that you have something to say to me afterwards?”
The two Guardians glared at each other, one with a freezing-cold gaze, the other with boiling-hot eyes, and a strange atmosphere began to brew between the two of them. This choking sensation was much like what had happened when Ainz had been fighting Shalltear. Perhaps it was due to fear or tension, but even Lupusregina was starting to pant heavily.
The dangerous mood in the air instantly vanished as Ainz shouted. The sudden change made Ainz wonder if he had been mistaken about what had happened just now. However, Lupusregina’s labored breathing proved that it had not been an illusion.
“Calm down, both of you. This is the reason why I must fake my death. There are activities called disaster drills. We must mentally prepare ourselves and plan ahead of time in case of an emergency. In that case, what would you do if I died? I’ll start with you, Albedo. Tell me what you have in mind.”
“Yes! I would immediately subject the person who dared disrespect you to all the suffering in this world, and resurrect you, Ainz-sama!”
“I see. Your turn, Demiurge.”
“Yes! While preparing for your resurrection, I would strengthen Nazarick’s defenses and then obtain information on the person who offended you.”
Albedo glared at Demiurge out of the corner of her eye.
“Merely gathering information on them is too lenient. Regardless of who dares offend the Supreme One, they must be captured with all the strength Nazarick can bring to bear and then tormented to the point where their ego breaks down.”
“Albedo, I feel what you say is very sensible. However, the enemy is someone who can kill Ainz-sama. Thus, we cannot be careless. Learning the enemy’s movements and strengths is vital. If the enemy is stronger than we can imagine, then the place in which we resurrect Ainz-sama will become very important.”
Before Albedo’s expression could turn even more grim, Ainz rapped his staff on the floorboards. The hard impact was like splashing a bucket of ice water on the two of them, and their faces immediately regained their calm.
“I did not specify that I was killed by someone. If things go badly… it is not impossible that I might end up dying naturally from some unforeseen circumstances.”
In truth, he could not think of any natural cause from which he could die, which was why he was using such vague terms.
“However, it would seem that even the two people that I consider the most intelligent of all have differing opinions. That distresses me. That is why we must undertake this training, so that there will be no problems if this imagined scenario comes to pass.”
The two of them bowed their heads.
“Of course, I am not the only one who could suffer that fate. Demiurge, as Nazarick’s defensive commander during a time of attack, if an unexpected situation occurs and you are struck down, could Nazarick continue functioning normally?”
“Yes! I have made thorough preparations in that respect. I recall submitting a report on that to you in the past, Ainz-sama.”
Eh, did I receive something like that? Ainz decided that it would be better to trust Demiurge’s memory than his own.
“Umu. Still, that is only on paper, is it not? The reason I am asking is because I would like to know if you have tested to see if it truly works out.”
“I sincerely apologize! I have not done so!”
Demiurge bowed his head, his face a mask of deepest regret as his voice trembled.
“My, my deepest apologies, Ainz-sama! Signing off on the document without making that suggestion was foolishness on my part!”
Albedo had the same look on her face as Demiurge as she bowed her head.
Ainz was filled with a tremendous sense of guilt. Whose fault was it? The answer was that it was his own. If he had been more reliable, the two of them would not need to apologize like this. Was he not a scummy boss?
“—There is no need for you two to apologize. It was my fault for not properly explaining matters to you. I was the one who should have noticed that no test had occurred. The mistake is mine.” Ainz bowed his head until his forehead touched the desk. “All this was due to my unworthiness, and I seek everyone’s forgiveness.”
“Please, please do not do that!”
The two of them hurriedly tried to stop Ainz. However, Ainz did not raise his head. He was too ashamed to show them his face, because he knew that he was so shallow that he could not even come clean when apologizing.
“Lu-Lupusregina! Hurry and raise Ainz’s head!”
“Eh! Me? Please, please forgive me, I can’t possibly raise Ainz-sama’s head by force!”
“Please, please raise your head!” they all said in unison.
It was only after the three of them — Demiurge in particular — started looking especially flustered that Ainz hurriedly looked up. After that, he heard sighs of relief from the three of them.
“...I am grateful that you have accepted my apology. Now then, when I reach the Abelion Hills, we will use my death as the basis for an exercise. Yes. Since this is a rare opportunity, why don’t we conduct other exercises as well? For instance, if Demiurge and I were killed off by someone, that sort of thing…”
At this point, Ainz began to feel uneasy about his own suggestions.
“That said, even I have not fully planned out the details when it comes to this training. Therefore, if you have come up with a better plan, go ahead and carry it out. Ahh, no need to ask my permission. After all, this is an exercise founded on the premise that I am dead.”
The two of them smiled bitterly.
“Ainz-sama, having to consider you dead from the start of the exercise’s planning phase is a little…”
“It is as Demiurge says, Ainz-sama.”
Hahahaha, the laughter of three people rang through the cabin.
Two of them were laughing from the heart, but one was merely pretending.
“Still, you don’t need to take it too seriously, you know? After all, the objective of this exercise is not to spread ill-will throughout Nazarick, like what happened with the two of you just now. However, I would like to conduct various kinds of training and accumulate knowledge in that field, so that every Guardian can become interchangeable — well, I know what I’ve said is pointless given your respective intellects. Do what you feel needs to be done, to whatever extent you deem fit. Can I leave that to you?”
Now that he thought about it, Suzuki Satoru had never been the type of person who had seriously carried out disaster drills, so was it really convincing when someone like that told others to do their best? That was why he could not forget to tell them to take it easy.
After seeing the two of them bow deeply to him, Ainz said, “Now then, while this is a different matter—”
Let’s go, me!
The reason why he had drawn up all these flowcharts and simulated ways of talking down the two Guardians was for this aim.
“—You are to freeze all progress on the giant statue of me that is currently in planning.”
“I understand. We will do as you direct.”
Albedo’s single sentence seemed to put an end to the entire topic.
Huh? Ainz’s attitude turned from baffled to fearful as he nervously asked what was on his mind.
“...Is that alright? It was your idea, was it not, Albedo?”
“How could anyone contradict a decision that the Supreme Being has made, Ainz-sama? If you say it is white, then it will be white even though it is black. That is all.”
Ainz gulped. That line of thought frightened him, and he trembled.
“...I do not like that way of thinking, Albedo. That is just like abandoning all thought, and even I will most certainly make mistakes at some point.”
He was just saying “most certainly,” but it felt like it had been happening all the time.
“And in that case, won’t everything be over if I’m captured? The person who brainwashed Shalltear is still out there, you know? While there is no need to question each and every one of my aims, if I suggest something and you think of something, you ought to bring it up.”
Albedo and Demiurge glanced briefly at each other through narrowed eyes.
“Then, may I ask why you wish to cease construction? Is the aim of that statue not to let the world better understand your glory, Ainz-sama?”
“Umu,” Ainz laughed coldly in his heart. “My greatness is not something that can only be expressed through material objects.”
He recalled that this line had received approval from Neia.
“Would it not be better to teach them with material objects? After all, fools are those who can only understand what they see before their eyes.”
Albedo’s words froze Ainz in place. It was just like a pitcher throwing a ball at a batter, but instead of having it being hit back at him the batter caught it instead and threw it back at full force.
“...I see. You have a point, Albedo, but—”
As Ainz thanked his voice for not trembling, he struggled to work his brain, and then gave up when nothing came to mind. While he nearly rounded his shoulders, he could not allow his image as a ruler to crumble before his subordinates.
“—No, forget it. I’m sure that Albedo can pick out at least five of the flaws I’ve spotted, and the merits outweigh them. In that case, there is nothing else for me to say.”
“Five, five flaws? ...Demiurge, I need to discuss something with you later. May I borrow your intellect for a while?”
“But, but of course. I, I expected nothing less of you, Ainz-sama, to think you would say our minds were superior… truly, you are too humble.”
The two of them began to get flustered, and Albedo bowed her head deeply.
“I, I am truly sorry, Ainz-sama. While my plan to build your statue has already received your approval, please allow me to temporarily suspend construction. I sincerely apologize.”
“Hm, mm. Well, it can’t be helped then. Proceed, Albedo.”
Ainz had merely tossed out an offhand remark, but Albedo and Demiurge seemed abnormally shaken by it. He could even hear Lupusregina whisper “amazing” from behind them.
He looked away, feeling guilty because he had once again confused the two of them by talking nonsense. However, he was glad that the plan to build the giant statue would be briefly halted.
Next, I need to do something about the four festivals with my name on it, like the Sorcerer King Grand Thanksgiving, the Sorcerer King’s Birthday and so on! If the Sorcerer King Grand Thanksgiving is cancelled because the statue’s been cancelled as well, that just leaves three of them! Besides, if these were normal festivals, I wouldn’t want to stop them either!
In truth, Ainz had once nonchalantly suggested a plan for organizing festivals. However, that had led to the formation of a strange and embarrassing festival committee. Ainz sighed long and loud in his heart, and then looked at Demiurge.
“Alright, that leaves the details which I need to discuss with Demiurge. After this, you’ll have the demon you summoned, that is to say, Jaldabaoth, attack that city, right?”
“Yes. Indeed, that is so.”
“Therefore… I have a couple of requests. The first concerns a personal project I am carrying out which is not going too well, for which I will need your help. Ah, don’t worry, there’s no need to get too flashy with it. And the second thing is, can you command that summoned demon to fight in earnest with me?”
Neia quietly closed the door to the Sorcerer King’s room and turned on her heel. And then… her body quivered.
She lightly patted her somewhat scalding cheeks to force her face to tighten up before she completely lost her composure. One reason for that was because she knew how her relaxed face made others wary, while the other, more important reason was because it deeply embarrassed her.
Neia did not want to walk around outside with an unseemly look on her face. She would have to meet others later, so at the very least she had to look presentable.
More to the point, Neia was the squire of the Sorcerer King, so anything disgraceful that she did would also damage the Sorcerer King’s reputation.
Still, I’m only acting as his temporary squire, so it’s the Holy Kingdom which would be disgraced…
However, the people who hated the Sorcerer King would not think that way. As the saying went, one was blinded by one’s hate. Or rather, it was like how those who hated swords hated swordsmiths as well.
Neia did not want the Sorcerer King to regret the fact that she was his squire. In other words, all Neia had to do was her job.
As Neia headed for the place where she had arranged to meet, she thought incessantly about the kindness that the Sorcerer King had shown just now.
—Is that so, is that how it is, what a shame.
She had sensed deep regret from the Sorcerer King when he said those words back then. There was no way he could have been rattling them off casually.
...His Majesty really is a kind person…
The Sorcerer King had grieved for someone from another country who had died in battle as though she had been one of his own people. Where in the world could you find a king like that? Of course, Neia did not know any other kings, so perhaps that simply reflected her dreams.
For instance, if Neia and the others had held on a little longer, they would have been saved along with Neia, and that father who had lost his child would also have survived.
Neia was not unhappy that the Sorcerer King had been late in his rescue. In the first place, she was grateful for the fact that he had come to rescue her, because he had already said that he had to conserve his mana for the battle with Jaldabaoth. In addition, she had heard some of the militiamen in Remedios’s unit say that he had fought several powerful demihumans at the west gate before he had come to rescue Neia.
The Sorcerer King had fought two demihumans who could each kill a paladin in a single attack and another one whose strength was on par with that of the Holy Kingdom’s strongest paladin.
The militiamen telling Neia all this had been hard-pressed to hide their excitement as they rattled the proceedings off like a machine gun, and they added, “We’d all have been killed if not for the Sorcerer King.”
Indeed. Neia felt a surge of heat in her chest.
The Sorcerer King had gone elsewhere to help others before coming to save Neia.
While she was slightly disappointed that the Sorcerer King had not prioritized helping her, it was wrong to feel that way. The defense of the city wall was important, but it would be a far worse matter if the city gate were to fall. If the gate had been breached and the demihumans managed to get into the city, there would have been merciless slaughters everywhere.
Anyone with any sense would have prioritized the city gate to save more lives.
People who acted according to logic were more reliable than people who were ruled by their emotions.
That’s the Sorcerer King for you!
Neia thought of the strongest paladin in her country.
Just comparing the two of them is disrespecting His Majesty!
After that, the Sorcerer King had also hunted down the few demihumans who had made it into the city, and many people had been saved as a result. In fact—
“Ohhh! If it isn’t His Majesty’s squire-sama! Did you tell him for us?”
It would seem that Neia had reached her meeting point while she was pondering how cool the Sorcerer King had been.
In a certain sector of the city, six men gathered on a street which still smelled of the battlefield.
They addressed Neia like they had been waiting impatiently for her. In fact, they had actually been quite impatient.
“Yes, I’ve relayed your gratitude to His Majesty.”
Several people unconsciously went on the defensive as Neia looked at them, but after hearing her words, they smiled and thanked her.
“Ah, thank you very much. It’s hard to express your gratitude to the king of another nation. No, it’s hard enough just to thank the Holy Queen-sama.”
“That’s true, you can’t even meet her to begin with.”
The people before her had ages which ranged from fourteen to forty. However, all of them were squad leaders. Some of them had even been professional soldiers once.
Judging by their attitude, they did not feel any sense of dread toward the Sorcerer King because he was undead.
It was true that some people were still wary of the Sorcerer King because of his undead nature. In addition, people like that were more common among the smallfolk than the priests or paladins. They often said that the Sorcerer King was being kind in order to betray them at the right moment, and other such things.
However, Neia felt that their reaction was because they did not understand the Sorcerer King and had simply acted out of the usual disdain for the undead. The reason for that was the group of people before her. There were many people who had changed their way of thinking once they got to know the Sorcerer King.
“No, please don’t worry about it. I simply conveyed your gratitude to His Majesty. Ah, yes, His Majesty said that your thanks made him very happy.”
There were bashful looks on the representatives from the militiamen.
“No, we’re the ones who should be happy… oh, what should we do…”
“That’s right, His Majesty really is compassionate. I’m embarrassed by how we used to fear him because he was undead.”
“His Majesty is truly a kind person. However, I hope you will not expect such good fortune to happen again and again. After all, His Majesty did say that he had used a great deal of mana in this battle, and he would not be able to help you again next time.”
The group’s faces immediately sobered up.
“So we might not have His Majesty’s help next time… this is bad.”
“A lot of people will be afraid if they know they can’t rely on His Majesty to help them, my team especially.”
“It’s not just your guys. It’s the same on my side too… we can’t tell them about this.”
Neia quietly addressed the shaken group.
“Everyone, I have come to understand one thing. That is: weakness itself is a sin.”
As puzzled looks appeared on their faces, Neia slowly explained herself.
“Do you get it? If we were strong enough, things would not have gotten to where they are now. We could have saved our parents, our children, our wives, our friends, we could have saved all of them with our own hands. The Sorcerer King once said that we are the ones who place the most value on the things which are important to us. After all, His Majesty is not the king of this country, and he simply came to assist us for a special reason.”
Neia took a breath.
Neia raised her voice, so the people watching her and the people of the Holy Kingdom passing by would hear her words.
“...When the Sorcerer King defeats Jaldabaoth and returns to his own country, what will we do when the demihumans attack again? Will we cry and beg the Sorcerer King, the king of another country, for help once more? For all we know, the Sorcerer King might not help us next time. That’s because this time was an exception. Have you ever heard of a country’s king working so hard for another nation?”
Nobody answered Neia, because such a thing was nowhere to be found.
“Maybe you don’t feel happy that a girl like me is telling you this. But who can protect the things that are important to you other than yourselves? That’s why I want to become stronger. When I become stronger, I can protect myself and I won’t need to borrow the Sorcerer King’s strength.”
“Yes, you’re right. Exactly. I’ll train myself too.”
“Ah, me too. Next time, I’ll be the one to protect my wife and kids.”
“...I’ll do that too. I didn’t want to when I was first conscripted… but now I feel glad that I was drafted.”
“Still, the Sorcerer King does make a lot of sense. Valuing the things important to us… mm, when you think about it, that really is true.”
“So if someone else values my wife the most highly, I have to kill him, then?”
“...I, I don’t think so, right? I don’t think the Sorcerer King was talking about something like that, right?”
“...Hey, I’m just kidding, you know?”
“It didn’t sound like a joke...”
As the crowd laughed, Neia made a suggestion.
“Everyone, would you like to train with me? While I can’t teach you all swordsmanship, I know a thing or two about archery.”
Weakness was a sin. That was because the weak only created problems for the Sorcerer King, who was justice. In that case, all they had to do was become strong. She could not allow herself to cause trouble for the Sorcerer King next time. She had to allow His Majesty to focus on fighting Jaldabaoth. That was what she ought to do, as a squire.
“Ah, that’s a good idea.”
“We need to become strong. I’ll protect them next time.”
“—Why are you all gathering here? Are you discussing something?”
“Ah — Captain.”
After being questioned out of nowhere, Neia looked back and saw Remedios Custodio standing behind her. In fact, Neia had heard footsteps approaching, but she had not thought that it would be Remedios.
Here comes trouble, Neia thought as she tried to keep her face from revealing how she felt. The representatives, on the other hand, were visibly uncomfortable.
“Can you answer my question?”
“Yes, ma’am! I was telling these gentlemen that I had conveyed their gratitude to His Majesty.”
“To him, you say?”
“...It is hardly appropriate to address the king of another nation as ‘him.’”
Remedios glared at Neia.
“The strong protecting the weak is common sense, is it not?”
“...I do not know if it is common sense, but I feel that only the strong are qualified to say such things, and not the weak.”
“What!? Are you saying that I’m weak?”
“Yes,” Neia replied without any delay. “Compared to His Majesty, you are weak… Captain, have I said something wrong?”
Remedios glared at Neia, and Neia stared back forcefully at Remedios.
“Hmph, it doesn’t matter if you want to be friends with the Sorcerer King, but he’s undead, you know that, right? A monster who inhabits a different world from the living.”
“Yes, I know that.”
“I said that because I was worried about you. It seems my concern was wasted.”
Remedios looked disappointed, but it felt very fake to Neia. That was definitely not what the paladin before her really thought.
“I’m certain you must be busy with many things, Captain, and I would not dare take up your time. In addition, I have things to tell the others. Would it not be better for yourself to move on to the other places you have to be, Captain?
“...Very well then. You lot, it’s only natural for the Sorcerer King to help you. You don’t need to think too much about it, you know?”
After saying that, Remedios left. As they watched her go, someone quietly spoke up.
“How should I say this… that was amazing… is that the strongest paladin of this country…”
“Yes, that’s what she is.”
After hearing the representative speak his mind, Neia unconsciously replied to him. After that, the representatives covered their faces with their hands. It would seem they had suffered quite a shock.
Although Neia had not done anything wrong, she still felt a little guilty.
“The, the paladins aren’t, aren’t all like that. How shall I put it… she’s a little special. That’s… how she is. Yes.”
“It must be hard for you, Squire-sama… if you can drink, I’d like to buy you one.”
“I appreciate your intentions… uh, where was I again? Yes, training together. I can find a way to borrow a place and equipment. Can I contact you later once everything’s ready?”
“We’ll let you handle that,” “Alright, we’ll wait,” the men cheerily answered.
Neia drew her bowstring back in one smooth motion.
She turned her keen gaze to the target, and she could see the silent white wisps of her exhaled breath drawn to the edges of her vision by the wind, where it disappeared. Spring was close, but it was still cold.
Neia buried the random notions in her mind deep within her, staring at the target in a state of no thought, and then she slowly drew herself back.
During the defense of the city, Neia had come to understand that nobody had time to slowly take aim on the battlefield, but right now they were training to improve their accuracy, so quick-fire drills could be left for another time.
And then — she released her arrow.
The arrow whistled as it tore through the air. It flew in a straight line and hit the target dead center.
Hoo, Neia exhaled.
Of the ten arrows she had fired, not a single one had been off target.
This was an outstanding accuracy rate, but Neia took no joy in it.
She could not do it in the past, but right now, Neia could even split the arrow she had just launched. Of course, she would damage the arrow if she did that, so she did not.
The reason why she had ended up like this, why she could do something that was previously impossible for her was because after that battle, she was not just capable of archery, but of harnessing what they called divine power. However, the strange thing was that it was slightly different from the abilities that paladins were said to possess. This was because normally, paladins could only channel their powers through melee weapons, while she could imbue ranged weapons with her powers.
While she did not quite understand what that meant, the Sorcerer King had seemed quite interested when he had heard about this. Still, even the Sorcerer King had only said, “It’s hard to tell from just that, let me know if other abilities awaken.”
Applause rang out, and Neia smiled bitterly, because she felt uncomfortable.
“Wow, you’re amazing, Baraja-chan.”
“Oh yes, it’s the first time I’ve seen anyone who was so good with a bow. Nobody in my village could do that.”
“Ahh, it’s true. I used to be a hunter by trade, and I knew a few people in my own right, but none of them had Baraja-chan’s skills.”
The people praising Neia were the same ones sweating and training with her at the archery range. Many of their faces had not been seen on these streets during the defense of the city three weeks ago.
The reason for that was because people had been rescued from the nearby prison camps, and the city’s population rose swiftly as a result. Those with a knack for archery or who had used bows before were drafted into archery units and placed under Neia’s command.
Normally, people would balk at being made subordinate to a squire girl, especially if some of them were old enough to be her father. However, none of the men — and women — gathered here protested.
The main reason was because nobody dared voice any objections after being subjected to her vicious gaze, and also because they had to acknowledge her skill with the bow. Some of them were even more grateful to Neia after learning that she was the Sorcerer King’s squire.
There were also some who were afraid she was undead because they had heard that she was the Sorcerer King’s squire, but not everyone was like that.
In these three weeks, the paladins had been sent out to liberate prison camps, but at the same time, the Sorcerer King and Neia had also gone out to attack camps and rescue prisoners.
When the Sorcerer King had first broached the subject, there had been a shocking number of objections. However, the Sorcerer King then said, “Now that the Demihuman Alliance is short on manpower, they will start to execute the captives if they judge that they lack the ability to run the prison camps, so they must be rescued without delay,” and that had convinced Caspond to accept the Sorcerer King’s suggestion and send the two of them out.
Neia had originally wanted to argue that the Sorcerer King ought to conserve his mana in order to battle Jaldabaoth. However, Neia admired how he acted to protect the people of another country and felt the justice emanating from him, so she could not bring herself to stop him.
And so, Neia and the Sorcerer King had freed many captives and brought them to this city. For this reason, there were people who were happy to serve under Neia.
“Ahhh~ I ought to learn a few things from Baraja-chan.”
“Yeah, that’s right. She’s amazing. Also, that bow you borrowed from the Sorcerer King — the Ultimate Shootingstar Super — you can do even more amazing things with that bow, right?”
“The Ultimate Shootingstar Super, huh. What an amazing bow…”
All their eyes went to the bow stowed behind Neia’s back — the Ultimate Shootingstar Super.
She ought to have used it during her training, but she had avoided doing so because she did not want to rely too heavily on her weapon.
“Yes, during the battle for the city walls, it was thanks to the Ultimate Shootingstar Super that I was able to survive until His Majesty arrived… no, that’s not it. It wasn’t just the Ultimate Shootingstar Super, but the armor I borrowed from His Majesty and all his other items that helped me too…”
Neia caressed Grand King Buser’s armor.
“This armor came from a renowned demihuman, it looks amazing to me no matter how many times I look at it…”
“I was allowed to touch it once, its hardness is amazing. I chopped at it with a sword and it just bounced off.”
“Seriously? I’ve never heard that before.”
As Neia’s wargear became a hot topic, she clapped to get everyone’s attention.
“Alright, enough chitchat, back to training. According to the Sorcerer King, Jaldabaoth’s preparing to make another move soon, so we can’t waste a single moment.
There was a chorus of acknowledgements.
“Alright, it’s time to begin practical shooting. Let’s start, everyone.”
As she watched her subordinates — the word made her feel like a big shot, and it embarrassed her a little — disperse, Neia removed the item which covered half her face. It was an item she had borrowed from the Sorcerer King.
This magic item was a visor-shaped set of mirrorshades that allowed her to use a special ability known as the Serpent Shot once every three minutes. It was a technique that allowed an arrow to twist and turn in front of one’s opponent, pouncing them like an animal bringing down its prey.
She was not too sure what it did because she had not fired it at anyone, but in all likelihood, one would need to be very agile to avoid it.
It was a very handy item for someone like Neia, who used the bow as her main weapon, but more importantly, the fact that it hid her eyes was amazing. Or rather, without that item, she could not have gotten along so well with the others.
Neia put her visor on once more, and took up her bow again.
Everyone here was experienced, and now that time was tight, she did not need to instruct them on the finer points of finger positioning. She had touched briefly on how to fire quickly, and after that all that was needed was to give them individual coaching and have them practice until their fingers ached. The most important thing for them was to accumulate shooting experience.
As usual, Neia wondered about requesting healing magic from the priests as she loosed an arrow.
Just at that moment, Neia’s keen ears picked up a noise.
It had come from the outside. While Neia’s shooting form nearly broke down, she managed to keep it together. It might not have been what she expected, and even if it was the person she had hoped to meet, they might have only been passing by, and not intended to come here.
However, the being that appeared at the door to the training yard was the great king with the skeletal face — the Sorcerer King.
In the beginning, everyone had feared the undead, but many of them had been rescued by the Sorcerer King during the defense of the city and from the prison camps. The clamor of respectful and thankful voices soon came to herald the arrival of the Sorcerer King.
However, nobody stopped practicing. Normally, they would have knelt before the Sorcerer King when he appeared, but the Sorcerer King himself had put a stop to it.
This isn’t a public place, so you don’t need to do that when I’m just looking in on you, am I wrong?
No king, especially one who was a nation-saving hero, should have been treated that way.
Even so, the Sorcerer King had said that they did not need to do so.
What an amazing person he is…
After sighing in awe, Neia went to the Sorcerer King’s side, and tightly shut her open mouth.
She kept her visor on.
The Sorcerer King had said that she she did not need to take it off, since she ought to be ready to fight at any time.
He was probably concerned about whether she could use a magic item like it was part of her own body and thinking that she ought to be on guard no matter what unexpected things happened. Neia was deeply impressed by the depth of the Sorcerer King’s considerations.
Neia understood that the Sorcerer King’s eyes had gone from looking into his hands to herself as she ran over. For some reason, observing the Sorcerer King’s habitual movements made Neia a little happy.
The thought that she understood the tiny quirks of an extraordinary individual made Neia’s cheeks relax.
“Your Majesty! We are grateful that you have chosen to visit a place like this in person!”
Neia was still the Sorcerer King’s squire, even after being appointed the commander of the archery unit. That said, it was hard to say that she had done a squire’s job properly when she had left his side to train others in archery, not to mention she had even made him come here instead.
Neia wanted to prioritize her work as the Sorcerer King’s squire, but instead she had chosen to do this, because she no longer wanted to be a burden to him. And there was also another reason, which she had not told anyone else.
That was because the Sorcerer King refused to have anyone except Neia serve as his follower. He had said that to Caspond’s face with Neia in attendance.
The number of people here was steadily increasing. There were many more skilful or charming people than this mad-eyed maiden. Even so, he had said that Neia would be fine. The person she viewed as justice had said that about her.
Could anything have made her happier?
“—Umu. While I know you’re being humble, I don’t think this is a mere ‘place like this.’ After all, it is where you sharpen your fangs, is it not?”
“Th-Thank you very much, Your Majesty!”
She looked around — perhaps it would be disrespectful to look away from the Sorcerer King, but the visor she wore made it possible — and saw that her people had heard it and the tips of their ears were turning red. The problem was that their performance deteriorated, possibly because they were nervous, or because they had stiffened up their shoulders in order to look good for the Sorcerer King.
That said, her own ears felt a little hot too.
“...Miss Baraja. Your men have made a great deal of progress since last time. Surely that must be due to your hard work as their leader.”
His pleasantries both embarrassed Neia and left her at a loss for how to answer.
It would be embarrassing to say that they got nervous and can’t show their full ability because Your Majesty arrived. They would think so too.
Therefore, Neia decided to take his words as they were given. However—
“No, it’s nothing of the sort. I hardly taught them anything. They could have done that by themselves.”
“Is that so? Well, if you say so, then it must be true.”
In other words — the Sorcerer King did not think so. Which meant that the Sorcerer King thought very highly of Neia.
Neia raised her voice a little to try and hide her desire to skip in delight.
“In, in that case, Your Majesty, does your presence here mean that the meetings are over?”
“Ah, yes. They’re done for the day, but that said, I did not make any special suggestions.”
Right now, this city had a mountain of problems, all of which stemmed from the increasing population. The small city of Lloyds had originally been home to less than 20,000 people, but after gathering the people from the liberated camps, there were more than 150,000 people here now.
The most recent of these overpopulation problems was the slimes used in the sewers — the Sanitary Slimes — whose own population had surged due to an abundance in food and had thus caused a panic when they erupted from the waterways.
When the slime population grew, they were typically burned back down with magic items, but the unexpectedly rapid growth meant that this was not done in time and several men and women had been attacked.
When these men and women were surrounded by the slimes, a group of rubbish-clearing monsters called the Filth Eaters appeared from the sewers to help them.
Unlike how they appeared, the Filth Eaters were intelligent monsters, and they knew that humans could produce a great deal of their food, and so they saved the people with their acid-resistant bodies.
However, the people were not grateful to the Filth Eaters. That was because Sanitary Slimes were not infectious themselves, but the Filth Eaters who helped them were masses of disease. Thus, the people they had helped had fallen ill and were in a very bad state, particularly those who had contracted encephalitis.
In addition, it was winter now, so firewood and other fuels were scarce. Then there was the fact that there had been delays in the construction of housing. While there was no food shortage yet, that would become a danger in the future.
The Sorcerer King had been invited to many of the meetings to deal with these problems, possibly because they were counting on his prodigious knowledge to solve their problems.
While the Sorcerer King had simply said that he did not know that much and had merely sat aside to listen, such a person could not have been summoned to meetings time and time again.
The fact that he conducted himself so humbly despite being the king of a nation only deepened Neia’s respect for him.
“What do you intend to do next, Your Majesty?”
“Umu. I had intended to see if the transportation of logs was going well… Are you busy with practice, Miss Baraja? If you don’t mind, would you like to accompany me?”
In order to solve the lack of fuel and housing, they were using the Sorcerer King’s undead horses to transport logs from a distant forest. Initially, many people had been averse to using undead horses for transport, but now there was a steady stream of praise for the merits of these undead horses.
“No, please allow me to go with you! I am Your Majesty’s Squire, after all!”
The knowledge that she would be able to perform her squirely duties at long last and her delight at being alone with the Sorcerer King caused Neia to unconsciously speak faster and louder.
As a result, Neia’s ears burned.
“Is, is that so? Then let us proceed.”
Then, as though to interrupt her, a sky-scorching inferno erupted in the distance.
For a moment, Neia wondered what was burning.
But that was wrong. She had been too far off. That could not have been caused by any form of natural combustion.
That fire seemed to be enveloping the city. In other words, it was a wall of fire ― Neia’s mind immediately recalled what the members of Blue Rose had said.
“—Your Majesty! That’s—”
“Ah, it is as you are thinking, and the same as what I heard from Momon… the time has come at last. It’s Jaldabaoth. He’s attacking at last. Miss Baraja, I’m heading out.”
Had he anticipated this series of events? As though influenced by the Sorcerer King’s calm attitude, Neia’s heart calmed down as well. Or no, it would be better to say that the presence of a supreme being like the Sorcerer King gave her peace of mind.
“Ah ― hm. Jaldabaoth’s aim is still unclear. So, ah ― he might just be here to slaughter indiscriminately. However, if he has an objective, he’ll either be targeting me or the Holy Kingdom’s leadership, so it would be best if we met up. Tell your men to get ready for battle and then have them flee to a safe place.”
“They’ll be of no use against Jaldabaoth. In that case, it would be better to have them prepare to deal with any demons which might appear. Since the city will probably be in chaos now, once you form up your unit, won’t it be better to have them head outside the city?”
While his words had been unclear at first, perhaps he had organized his thoughts later on, because the middle part onwards was a nonstop series of instructions to Neia.
“Yes! Thank you very much, Your Majesty! Alright, everyone!”
While they had made plans in case Jaldabaoth led an army against them, they had not expected a blaze to surround the entire city. Another big problem was the fact that they did not know the extent of the preparations that the enemy had made.
Neia gave her instructions. There was only a single squad here and they could not do as they pleased, but as a team leader, she had a responsibility to do several things before her orders came.
The instructions went roughly like this:
Everyone in the squad was to take their families and head to the east gate, because if the enemy attacked, it was more likely that they would attack from the west gate. After that, they would form up at the east gate, and if there were demons outside the east gate, they would climb the walls near the east gate and attack them. In addition, they were to listen to Neia’s adjutant until she arrived and adapt to changes in the battlefield conditions.
Neia’s subordinates obeyed her instructions and moved swiftly into action.
After giving her orders, Neia turned back and saw that the Sorcerer King’s eyes were on his hands, while he had used a flight spell to rise to somewhere around the level of Neia’s head.
“Your Majesty! Let me go with you!”
Perhaps he was startled by Neia’s shout, but the Sorcerer King suddenly closed his hand and a quiet sound came from within.
“Hmm… well, all right.”
The Sorcerer King cast a flying spell on Neia as well. In that moment, she realized the greatness of magic as she learned what it was to fly.
Neia and the Sorcerer King moved as though they were skimming along the ground. They did not leave the surface except to soar over crowds of people, who had descended into chaos, because they could not get a grip on the situation. The reason for that was because flying in the air without cover made them very obvious, and if there were demons about, they might be subjected to attack spells from all directions.
Neia bit her lip in unhappiness, feeling like she was being a burden. Whatever spells the demons used, they could not possibly pose a problem for the Sorcerer King. She could not help but think that he had chosen to go the long way around instead of flying directly to his destination because she was around.
Eventually, they reached their destination ― the headquarters, which also doubled as Caspond’s chambers.
The two paladins at the door had their hands full trying to manage the people jammed up near the door.
“Miss Baraja, we’ll go in from above.”
After seeing that it would be a little difficult to enter from the front door, the two of them floated up and arrived at the balcony. Just then, the window facing them opened up.
“Your Majesty! Thank you for coming.”
It was a paladin.
“Are the others here yet?”
“No, Your Majesty. The priests are assembling. Vice-Captain Montagnes is off to liberate a prison camp and isn’t expected to return today. Right now, only Captain Custodio and Prince Caspond are present.”
“Is that so? Still, it’s good that the two of them are here. Lead the way.”
After the paladin led them to Caspond’s room, they could hear a loud discussion through the door. It seemed quite chaotic.
The paladin opened the door for them, and over a dozen pairs of bloodshot eyes greeted them.
“Sorry I’m late. We’re out of time, so what plans were you discussing just now?”
Everyone glanced at each other, and Caspond spoke up on their behalf.
“We have not spotted Jaldabaoth yet. Your Majesty, could this fire have been made by a magic item or a demon other than Jaldabaoth?”
“I am unsure. After all, even I could not do such a thing.”
The others were shaken. The Sorcerer King employed magic that beggared the imagination. How powerful must Jaldabaoth be if he could use a spell that even the Sorcerer King could not?
“In that case, what effects does that fire have? Blue Rose said that they managed to pass through it, then surely normal people can do so as well, right?”
After saying so, Remedios turned to look straight at the Sorcerer King.
“That won’t be a problem. As for its effects, demons standing inside the fire benefit from improved attributes, negative-karma spells will do slightly more damage, item drop rates will increase, and many others. But according to the results from the investigation team, none of those were in effect. Still, whether it does anything else remains to be seen.”
“Which means we can freely move in and out of it, right?”
“Hm? Didn’t I say that at the beginning?”
“In that case, we ought to evacuate as long as there are no demihumans or demons around, and then form up into units there. After all, I heard that demons appeared within the area surrounded by the fire when it was last seen in the Kingdom. Let’s go with that plan of action, everyone.”
After giving the paladins their orders, he asked the Sorcerer King again, “Can you use your magic to pinpoint Jaldabaoth’s location, Your Majesty?”
“If I could, I wouldn’t need to stay in this city now, would I?”
“You have a point.”
Just as the Sorcerer King was dealing with one question after another, everyone heard an ominous creaking.
It started out quietly enough, and then it steadily grew to drown out the clamor in the room. One by one, they all quieted down, and finally, the only sound in the silence was the creaking.
Everyone looked around uneasily. Just then, Neia noticed something odd on the outside wall of the building and exclaimed an “Ah―”
A crack appeared on the wall, and as everyone watched, it began to spread. The wall bulged, and then—
Just as Remedios shouted, the Sorcerer King stood in front of Neia.
The wall broke apart with a mighty crash. Bricks flew through the room like a spray of shotgun pellets. Groans filled the air; they came from those people who had been hit by the fast-moving masonry.
If the Sorcerer King had not shielded Neia with his body, Neia might have ended up wailing on the ground with them.
The Sorcerer King held up his hand to stop Neia before she could thank him, and then he pointed at the smoke-spewing gap in the wall to draw her attention there.
There was a gigantic silhouette there, the color of a roaring blaze.
“―Thank you for the warm welcome, humans.”
It was a deep and powerful voice.
As though cutting through the smoke, that being slowly leaned in through the hole in the wall and entered the room.
It was ― a demon.
Due to his vast size, he had to bend down in order to barely fit inside the room. His posture looked a little stupid, but now was definitely not the time for laughter. Her throat could not work properly; she wanted to swallow the saliva pooling in her mouth, but it stuck there instead.
This was an overwhelming mass of power.
Neia had never been very good at judging the strength of her foes relative to herself, but she understood that she could not win against him even with tens of thousands of Neias. She was swallowed by a wave of power comparable to the Sorcerer King after removing his ring, and she could not move a muscle.
It was then that she realized who she was facing.
That, that’s Jaldabaoth… the Demon Emperor Jaldabaoth…
His face was filled with wrath, his wings were red, and his burning arms ― he seemed to be holding something in one hand, and Neia could not help but doubt her eyes.
That was ― though she dared not believe it ― a lower body. It emanated a vile stench, one of advanced decay.
It was a shout ― no, a scream. It was a sound that only one who had burst the shackles on their emotions and fallen into madness would make. It came from behind Neia.
Neia’s back shuddered. The person making that sound was Remedios.
Remedios raised her holy sword high and charged straight at Jaldabaoth, not caring about her own defense.
This was too rash. Even Neia, who was not skilled with swords, felt that it was a foolish charge.
Those weighty, quiet words were accompanied by the sound of splashing. At the same time, Remedios flew in a straight line and crashed into a wall. Her impact was so loud it seemed as though the entire building would collapse. After that, Remedios ― who had been swatted aside like a fly ― collapsed limply from the wall.
It would seem Jaldabaoth had sent Remedios flying with the object that looked like a human’s lower body.
Neia would have surely died if she had taken that hit. But as expected of the country’s strongest paladin, her life did not seem to be in danger.
In its place, a revolting odor began to spread through the air.
The room was filled with chunks of meat from the decayed lower body that Jaldabaoth had used to strike Remedios.
“Ahh… what a mess. I sincerely apologize for getting the room dirty. Of course, it would not have ended up like this if that woman had not charged at me without thinking ― well, that’s just an excuse. Please forgive me.”
Jaldabaoth slowly bowed his head. He seemed genuinely apologetic, but that only made everyone else more afraid.
And then, he casually dumped what he was holding ― something that looked like the charred remains of a human ankle ― to the ground.
“My my, I guess I got a little too carried away while swinging it around and the top half flew off somewhere. It’s a dirty little thing, so I’ve been looking for a chance to dispose of it… but in the end I managed to make good use of her. Am I not a kind demon? She must be thanking me from the afterlife.”
Jaldabaoth muttered to himself.
Remedios touched herself as she wailed in anguish, fresh blood streaming from the corner of her mouth. No, she was collecting the chunks of meat that were stuck to her. What was she doing? Has she lost her mind? Neia wondered.
No, there was a meaning to her bizarre actions.
Don’t tell me, that corpse was… how could this be…
Although the lower body had tattered bits of what looked like armor stuck to it, it should have belonged to a woman. In that case, she could imagine two people that it could have been.
If that was really the case…
“What a lovely sound,” Jaldabaoth waved his hand like a conductor. “In that case, I believe this is the first time we have met, Sorcerer King Ainz Ooal Gown-dono ― or perhaps -sama would be a better form of address?”
“It doesn’t matter. Now then, I trust you’re here for a showdown with me?”
“Indeed. No amount of weaklings will make a difference.”
“I concur on that point. I have no intention of generating meaningless deaths.”
Still sniffling, Remedios looked towards the Sorcerer King.
“Your Majesty, you are strong. Stronger even than Momon. I hope you will allow me to adopt a strategy that will guarantee my victory.”
Jaldabaoth raised his hand, and a head poked itself through the hole.
It was a woman wearing a mask and a maid’s outfit. There were two of them, in fact.
“I trust you will not call me despicable?”
“―Uh, hm. Well, this is… mhm… uh… um.”
The Sorcerer King was starting to get worried. No, that was only to be expected.
Nobody could have expected Jaldabaoth to arrive with his maid demons in tow. However—
That’s probably not the case. The Sorcerer King is wise, and he must have anticipated this. In that case, why is he like this? Could it be that it’s because we’re here? Perhaps he’s not confident of protecting us all as well, which is why he’s worried!
“Your Majesty, please do not worry about us.”
The Sorcerer King made a tiny exclamation of surprise.
Neia knew very well that the maid demons were beings who could kill everyone in this room, and they were so powerful that she could not be at ease even if someone told her not to worry. Compared to someone on the Sorcerer King’s level, Neia and the others, probably including Remedios, were little more than valueless pawns.
However ― she would rather die than get in his way.
She had once heard that the Sorcerer King’s subordinates were prepared to die if they became hostages. While the Sorcerer King said it had disturbed him, Neia could finally understand how his subordinates had felt. They did not want to become a burden to the person they respected.
“Hahaha! Do not worry, humans. I will slowly torture you all to death afterwards. We will be waiting in the fountain at the center of town. Of course, you may flee if you wish, Sorcerer King.”
“I take those words and return them to you, Jaldabaoth.”
The Sorcerer King and Jaldabaoth stared each other down.
After that, Jaldabaoth turned ― and Remedios jumped up, her holy sword in hand, and rushed at him.
The weakly glowing holy sword looked like a band of flowing light.
And then, she stabbed it into Jaldabaoth’s back.
“What? This is… Are you satisfied?”
―It was a cold, flat voice.
“Why… why… after taking a strike from the holy sword… you should be evil…”
Remedios’s back looked far too tiny and insignificant in comparison.
“I have no idea what to make of that. Why? What do you mean by why? It felt like a little prick. Is that enough for you? If you’re done, would you mind getting out of the way? I don’t intend to kill you here. That comes after I kill the Sorcerer King.”
Jaldabaoth paid no heed to Remedios and spread his enormous, fiery wings. He flapped them, and Remedios collapsed to the ground.
Jaldabaoth ignore her as she lay on the ground and took off. The maid demons followed him.
“...Then I’ll be going too. You should go take shelter so you don’t get caught up in the fighting. While I don’t think it’ll be a problem, I hope you’ll understand if this city ends up demolished.”
“Your Majesty, will you be alright?”
Caspond rose from where he had dived for cover to avoid the debris flying about the room. His eyes looked at Remedios, who looked utterly defeated and could not rise to her feet.
“It’ll be fine ― I can’t say that for sure, but there ought to be a chance. It would have been very troublesome if he’d brought the demihumans along as shields. Looks like he’s still underestimating me, and this is also a chance to bring the maid demons into my fold.”
“It’ll be fine. It’s okay. My sister is still here. Kelart is still here. As long as she’s around, Calca-sama might…”
Remedios smacked her face as she muttered to herself, and then she forcefully rose to her feet.
“Sorcerer King! I’ll go too! Lend me a weapon that can harm him! I’ll become your sword for the time being!”
The Sorcerer King looked at Remedios, her eyes bloodshot and filled with hate, and then shook his head.
“...Forget about it. You would only get in the way.”
“What did you say!?”
“Do you not understand? I speak of the disparity in strength. Or do you mean to say you understand it, but refuse to accept it? Simply put ― you are a burden.”
Remedios glared at the Sorcerer King like he was her nemesis.
The Sorcerer King’s words were very harsh, but they were also true. Or rather, they were hard to accept precisely because they were true.
“Captain Custodio! I have another task for you. Evacuate these people outside the city!”
Caspond gave the order in a stern, commanding tone.
“The original plan was to let His Majesty handle Jaldabaoth. You agreed to that too, didn’t you?”
“...Ahh, I know,” Remedios bit her lip, and then she forced out her next words. “You must kill that bastard.”
“―Paladins, carefully gather the remains of that body. Don’t leave a single piece behind.”
“Captain… that body is…”
The paladin had an idea of what was going on, and ventured his question in a trembling voice. Remedios replied in a tone that seemed to be telling him not to ask any more.
“Don’t forget that there might be demonic trickery at work.”
Remedios left without looking back. Several paladins followed her, with half-frightened looks on their faces.
“Your Majesty, I sincerely apologize for the way she treated you… May I apologize on her behalf?” Caspond lowered his head. “Please, I beg your forgiveness.”
“...I accept your apology. Now then, hurry up and evacuate. If he has to wait too long, he might decide to go back on his word. I’ll be heading off first to buy time, but I hope you understand that I can only give you about thirty minutes.”
“I understand. Everyone hear that? Get moving!”
Several priests and paladins moved out with Caspond.
The only people left in the room were the Sorcerer King and Neia, as well as several paladins and priests who were stuffing the remains of a certain someone’s body into a bag. In that case—
“Your Majesty, may I come with you!?”
There were gasps of awe and sudden intakes of air from all around her. But Neia ignored those irrelevant people. She took off her visor and looked straight at the Sorcerer King.
“...Umu. I cannot. He may have said all that just now, but he’s a demon. If pressed, he will reveal his true nature and use you as a hostage.”
“But if that happens, Your Majesty will kill me without hesitation, will you not?”
“When you say that with such a serious look on your face, you make me sound like a cruel person. Well, if I can’t save you, I’ll discard you. I’ll hit you with an attack spell as well.”
“In that case―”
“―I! I am not doing this because I want to kill hostages, you know?”
“Ah! Forgive me…”
That was how it was. He would do it because it was the best choice available. If there were a better alternative, this merciful man would surely choose that instead. Thus, not letting Neia accompany him was because it was the best of the best alternatives.
“But… Your Majesty, you have used many spells and even your magic items and mana in order to free this city. As a magic caster, surely you must be weakened now. Will that be alright?”
“Mhm! Indeed, it might be dangerous, but I came here to defeat Jaldabaoth. Fortunately, he came to find me instead. Now I’ll destroy him and claim the maid demons… ugh, saying that I want the maids makes me sound like a dirty old man, hm…”
Neia smiled bitterly at the Sorcerer King, who could still make a lame joke at a time like this. She wanted to speak, but the Sorcerer King cut her off with a raise of his hand.
“Besides, I’ll be a laughingstock if I run away here.”
The Sorcerer King shrugged, like he was kidding. Neia sensed that he was not being serious, and so she raised her voice.
“Your Majesty! If they want to laugh, let them! I humbly submit that you should only fight him in top condition! Also, you came here to battle Jaldabaoth, but you ended up using a vast amount of mana and strength on the behalf of the Holy Kingdom. That’s not what you agreed to in the beginning. If we say that, the people of my country will…”
“Indeed, that is true. But humans are creatures who only believe what they want to believe. Even if you spread the word, nobody would take it to heart, Miss Baraja.”
“That…! In that case, I can be a witness! And…”
Neia looked out the corner of her eye at the paladins and priests listening to their conversation. Surely they would be willing to be witnesses.
“...Neia Baraja. I thank you, but there is no need for that. I will not change my intention to fight Jaldabaoth.”
“This ― why is that?”
“Simple. It is because it is a promise I have made as a king.”
Neia had nothing to say. There was nothing she could say in response to that. A commoner like herself could not possibly say anything that could change the mind of a King.
There were murmurs of admiration around her. Indeed, this great and proud person was none other than His Majesty the Sorcerer King Ainz Ooal Gown.
Neia was filled with pride for the king that she held in such high esteem.
“Your Majesty, I know this is deeply disrespectful, but if you feel there is danger, I beg you to flee.”
Perhaps mentioning the possibility of his loss might make him unhappy, but even so she still had to say it.
“...But of course. It is a fool who fights without preparing a means of escape. Even if you lose one battle, you can make good use of the information gained in the next one. It doesn’t matter if you lose the first battle.”
“I expected nothing less of you, Your Majesty.”
An extreme interpretation of that was that if his aim was to defeat Jaldabaoth, then all he needed was to be victorious in the end. Neia was excited by this line of thinking, which was not a warrior’s mindset, but that of a king.
“Then I’ll be heading out.”
Ainz walked toward the place Jaldabaoth had indicated. Along the way, he used 「Message」 to order the two Hanzos who had followed him to check for tails and if anyone was observing from afar.
After receiving a negative report on both those items, Ainz had originally intended to terminate the transmission immediately, but then he received a somewhat confused report that there were members of the Pleiades present.
Ainz acknowledged it and ended the 「Message」.
...We didn’t find any other players or World Class Item holders this time round either. I keep thinking they ought to have shown themselves by now… but if they don’t exist, how do you explain what happened to Shalltear? Was it some kind of coincidence? It should have been the effect of a World Class Item, right? Or was it the work of some Talent?
The fact that nothing had turned up despite going to these lengths made the whole thing feel like a trap for him. For all he knew, the opposition was waiting for him to lower his guard before striking.
Honestly… well, it doesn’t matter. Careful planning for the future won’t be wasted.
Therefore, Ainz contacted the other Hanzo teams with 「Message」 to verify their readiness and that his orders had been received.
All right, preparations are complete. The next part is simple, I just need to follow Demiurge’s playbook. Even if I make a mistake, I can always say “I was just testing you” and so on.
That was good.
Ainz was moved by how light his tread was. This the first time he had felt so relaxed since coming to this world, and it was like floating through the sky.
Soon, Ainz came to an average-sized square.
This had originally been a fountain that regularly sprayed water for the citizens’ leisure. However, water no longer flowed through here after the demihumans had wrecked it. There were no plans to restore it for the time being, and the surroundings looked very austere.
A demon stood proudly there.
It was a huge demon with burning wings and two crimson, brawny fists.
This was the Evil Lord of Wrath from Nazarick. However, what stood here was merely a monster that Demiurge had called up with his Evil Lord Summons. It could only be used once every fifty hours, but it could be freely controlled for a time. Nazarick would not be diminished even if it were killed.
It was level 84.
As a physical-attacker type Evil Lord, it had a very high HP total.
Of all the special abilities that Evil Lords possessed, the most dangerous one was the ability to summon another Evil Lord which was lower level than themselves. However, summoned monsters could not in turn summon more monsters. Therefore, the Evil Lord of Wrath that Demiurge had summoned could not summon another Evil Lord.
If this Evil Lord had been created or made, then it could summon additional creatures. For instance, the Evil Lord of Sloth would often summon pack after pack of demons and undead, making them very hard to deal with.
In addition, one troublesome point about the Evil Lord of Wrath was that it was very hard to manage its hate.
The Evil Lord of Wrath built aggro more easily than other Evil Lords. He had heard tanks say that the most aggravating thing about dealing with multiple Evil Lords at once was how to keep the Evil Lord of Wrath from going off-target.
In addition, it had the special ability of doing more damage and gaining more defense the higher its hate value became. Still, that was not too frightening. The only thing that Ainz had to be worried about was its ability called 「Soul-Bought Miracle」, which produced unknown effects.
The Evil Lord could cast the following spells:
Tenth tier spells: 「Meteor Fall」, 「Time Stop」, 「Field of Unclean」
Ninth tier spells: 「Greater Rejection」, 「Vermillion Nova」
Eighth tier spells: 「Distort Moral」, 「Insanity」, 「Astral Smite」, 「Wave of Pain」
Seventh tier spells: 「Napalm」, 「Hellflame」, 「Greater Word of Curse」, 「Greater Teleportation」, 「Blasphemy」
Sixth tier spells: 「Flamewing」. 「Wall of Hell」
Third tier spells: 「Fireball」, 「Slow」
While the exact number of spells that monsters could use varied with their level and type, it was typically around 8. However, high level monsters like Dragons, Demons, and Angels were an exception.
Still, as a pure warrior type, the Evil Lord of Wrath’s spells were not particularly fearsome.
It had no skills to strengthen its spells, and its magic-related stats were very low. While the Evil Lord’s attack spells were of the fire element and thus targeted a weakness of the undead, there was no need for him to be wary. Its mind-affecting spells were also useless against the undead, and Ainz’s karma values were negative to begin with, so spells like 「Distort Moral」 were a waste of time.
Since Ainz’s karma value was negative, Angels were harder for him to deal with than Demons.
As he contemplated his opposition’s data, Ainz glanced at the two maids behind the Evil Lord. He would think about them later.
“Now then, have you been told?”
“But of course, Ainz-sama.”
Hearing that weighty voice made Suzuki Satoru smile unconsciously from inside Ainz’s heart. That was because this demon ― and all the monsters of Nazarick ― were designed in accordance with their image.
Those voices were probably what the developers or their creators had envisioned for them. In that case, who had come up with the adorable voice that Lip Bugs had before consuming any vocal cords? Or did the whole seiyuu-in-your-mind thing that Peroroncino was talking about really exist?
No, that was impossible.
Pandora’s Actor was a good example. He was a being who did not feel like he reflected what his creator had in mind. And then there was the fact that even a being without vocal cords like Ainz could speak. All he could say was that magical worlds were truly astounding.
“If you’re addressing me with that name and in that tone, I take it the surroundings are clear?”
“Then I will ask you the most important question of all. Are you truly prepared to fight with the intent of killing me?”“Yes, I was ordered to do so.”
Ainz nodded as he heard the Evil Lord’s reply.
One thing that had made Ainz uneasy in the past was a lack of strong opponents to fight. Ever since the battle with Shalltear, Ainz had been worrying about not having chances to fight with all his strength.
After training and gaining experience in close combat, he could skilfully move his body as Momonga and fight as a warrior of roughly level 33.
However, the question of how he would fare in higher level combat still remained.
He should have conducted combat training against high level opponents. Unfortunately, he had not had the chance to encounter such high level monsters until now.
That was why he had ordered Demiurge to command the summoned Evil Lord to kill Ainz.
He would defeat this powerful foe who wanted to kill him, and thus strengthen himself.
That had been easier said than done. The two of them had been strongly opposed to the idea and persuading them had taken a lot of time. One could not fault a mentally exhausted Ainz from thinking, “I thought we agreed that my word was law...”
In the end, after countless concessions and conditions, the stage had been set for this life-and-death battle.
A chill coursed through his body as he considered that he might die. It was a completely different sensation from what he had felt during the battle with Shalltear, because this was an unnecessary battle.
While I had a lot of PVP experience in YGGDRASIL, I realized in the battle against Shalltear that this world is not a game. If the time comes when I must face off against a level 100 player with a great deal of real combat experience, I won’t be able to win without an equivalent amount of experience. I know that cowardice leads to defeat.
Ainz was very glad that he was undead and could suppress the fear he might have felt at the prospect of death. If he were still human, he would probably have called it off by now.
“Now then, Yuri,” Ainz said to the maids behind the Evil Lord. “Since you and Lupusregina are here, does that mean you will be fighting me together with the Evil Lord? Are the others not here?”
He saw no sign of Solution, Entoma, or CZ. They must have been off doing work elsewhere.
“We are the only two who have come here. We sisters will challenge you together with the Evil Lord of Wrath. The reason is because Albedo-sama feels that allowing the people of this country to witness the maid demons is not a bad thing. In addition, the Evil Lord of Wrath alone might not be enough to satisfy your request, Ainz-sama.”
It was true that a single level 80ish Evil Lord would be hard-pressed to stand against Ainz. However, even the addition of Yuri and Lupusregina did not make it a very powerful opponent.
That said, troublesome factors can become bad news. Suffering because I underestimated my opponent would be foolish. I’d best stay on my guard.
“In addition, Albedo-sama ordered us to check something with you, Ainz-sama. Are you really alright with the condition that you will not leave Nazarick for the coming year if you are defeated?”
“Ah, that was one of the conditions Albedo insisted on before agreeing to this bout. If I lose, I will spend the next year working hard within the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, with Albedo, in the same room… aren’t you going to verify the conditions that Demiurge mentioned?”
Ainz looked at the Evil Lord, but it said nothing. It probably felt that there was no need to check.
“Thank you very much.”
Now there would be no margin for him to change the plan. As he thought of how dire the situation was, Ainz could not help but sweat internally.
It would be easy enough to kill Yuri and the others due to the tremendous disparity in their respective strength, but Ainz Ooal Gown would never allow that. Killing an NPC for the sake of training was utterly ridiculous.
In other words–
I have to kill the Evil Lord without harming Yuri and Lupusregina.
Ainz could not help laughing. This would be one hell of a challenge. Still, there would make for good training.
“Is something wrong, Ainz-sama?”
“No, it’s nothing, don’t worry about it.”
“Also, Cocytus-sama requested that we record this battle so everyone in Nazarick can learn from it. Do you mind?”
While he did not want to do so because he felt it was embarrassing, recording battles was very common in YGGDRASIL. With that in mind, he ought to accept that request.
“Still, recording the battle proceedings will trigger interference from the anti-divination offensive barriers. Shall I lower it?”
“Surely you mean divination-detecting spells, do you not, Ainz-sama? And not the linked offensive spell model?”
“Ah, yes, that’s the one. After all, if it were the latter, it would be bad if someone from Nazarick were trying to find my position and triggered it.”
If he deployed the linked offensive spell barrier, as he had used to in the past, any member of Nazarick trying to cast a divination on Ainz would be very badly hurt. While he used to cast that spell all the time because friendly fire was off, doing so now would be dangerous.
Of course, the denizens of Nazarick would not be hurt by the offensive barrier, given that they were protected by a World Class Item, but the defense would incur a cost in gold coins. If things went badly, expenses like that would be more painful for him.
“Then there’s no need to worry ~su.”
“No, I’d best deactivate it. Besides, offensive barriers disappear once they activate and have to be reset. In that case, I might as well just deactivate it from the start and have some peace of mind.”
“I see ~su, then I’ll leave it to you ~su.”
Ainz deactivated his offensive barrier.
“Alright ― then let’s begin the combat recording. Whose point of view are you using? I don’t mind if it’s mine, you know?”
“I think I was supposed to do the recording ~su.”
In truth, Ainz was fine with anything. Anyone’s perspective would have been alright.
In addition, the memories of sparring with his friends were coming back to him, and Ainz began to enjoy himself.
Simulated battles with his friends were a fundamental part of devising new techniques and using new equipment.
He had often sparred with Touch Me, but those battles did not count and had not been entered in Ainz’s PVP record.
Since Ainz had never won even once, his win rate would have dropped if they had been recorded. He had never taken it seriously, simply treating it as “training” since he knew he could not win. Ainz always emphasized that.
“Shall we begin, then? You need to prepare yourself to kill me. Of course, I won’t kill you.”
“No, actually, it’s alright if you kill us.”
Before Ainz could say that he did not want to do so, Yuri stated the reason.
“Ainz-sama, we are not the actual members of the Pleiades. All of us are Greater Doppelgangers.”
“What!? What did you say?”
“We are musicians of the Erich String Orchestra under Chacmool-sama of the Five Worsts. By Albedo-sama’s order, we have transformed into members of the Pleiades.”
“―Is that so?”
He looked at them several more times, but Ainz could not tell the difference between them and the Yuri and Lupusregina which he knew. He could not help but wonder if this was a lie they were telling so he could kill them without worries during the fight.
Perhaps one of them was fake. He had once heard that the best lies were those that had a little bit of the truth sprinkled into it.
Ainz could not see through the Doppelgangers’ disguise. There was a spell that could dispel the Doppelgangers’ shapeshifting, but using that spell would keep them from transforming again for a period of time due to the spell’s effect. In that case, having them transform into the Pleiades would be meaningless. It would be a different matter if Ainz had learned lower tier spells but—
“Hm, it does seem like Lupusregina is speaking differently from normal. What’s going on?”
Lupusregina’s face went blank for a moment.
“Is that strange, Ainz-sama?”
The Greater Doppelganger pretending to be Lupusregina changed its way of speaking. That was probably its usual speech pattern.
“Ah, those aren’t the usual expressions she uses.”
“But Lupusregina-sama always spoke like that in front of us…”
When a Doppelganger impersonated someone, it was more difficult for people closer to the target to see through their disguise. That was because they used a form of telepathy during their shapeshifting to read the surface thoughts of the people they were speaking to and those around them in order to extract information related to the target they were impersonating and then apply it to their impersonation act ― at least, that was what their entry in the monster encyclopedia said.
According to Pandora’s Actor, that ability had become real in this world.
However, that was simply to discern the possible reactions that the impersonated subject might have, and it did not read minds or search through memories.
In addition, since this ability was a form of psychic attack, it was useless on Ainz and other undead creatures. One could also simply resist it if the level difference was great enough. That was probably why it could not discern Lupusregina’s possible reactions from Ainz and had given the game away.
Incidentally, it was more likely that Doppelgangers would out themselves when facing multiple people, because each of them would have a different impression of the target.
Umu. Why did Lupu always add a ~su at the end of her sentences in front of them? Ahh, I see, so it was to make them sound out of place. Perhaps she was trying to help me. What a cute little rascal she is...
“...Hm? My apologies. I have another question that is unrelated to combat. While Albedo has given you an order, who would have priority if I were to tell you to abandon that order?
“Naturally, the words of the Supreme One would have priority, Ainz-sama. However, I must sincerely apologize that we will obey orders from our summoner, Anyami Shirabe-sama, above all else.”
“...Hm? Who’s that?”
Was there an NPC like that? As the question grew in his heart, the flames in Ainz’s eyes flared as he heard Doppel-Yuri’s answer.
“That would be Temperance-sama.”
“Eh? Temperance-san? Anyami? Ahhh… well, that does work as a physical description… but still, Anyami Shirabe?”
“Yes. Temperance-sama once asked to be addressed that way, so Chacmool-sama instructed us to do so as well.”
“...After I return to Nazarick, I would like to hear all about this. Anyami Shirabe, huh.”
This was the first time he had ever heard him refer to himself that way.
Ainz could not help laughing as he learned that a former friend had referred to himself that way in a place where nobody else knew. This was truly a cunning trap, set to decrease his fighting spirit.
Ahh, no, no. I mustn’t fall for Anyami Shirabe’s trap! Fu, fufu...
Though he knew it was not the right time to do so, he recalled the guild member in question.
How had he looked and felt when he had given that name?
Ainz narrowed his eyes as he reminisced about his friend from the past, and then he saw a surprised look on the face of Doppel-Yuri as it tilted its head. Ainz sensed that he had become careless and pulled himself together.
He could remember his old friends later. Right now, he ought to analyze the Doppelganger’s words.
After this, I’d like to question all the vassals and NPCs about the sides of themselves that they’ve been hiding. Fufufu ― now then! Another question comes to mind...
In the absence of a direct order, vassals like Doppelgangers would obey the NPC in charge of them. In that case, what would happen if a certain NPC wanted to kill Ainz and gathered many high level vassals and ordered them to attack Ainz with their strongest moves? Of course, this would happen while Ainz was unable to detect or stop them.
Would they carry out that order? Or would they disobey it?
“...You’re also ready to come at me like you want to kill me, is that it?”
“Yes. Those are the orders I have received, and I have determined that I also have your permission, Ainz-sama.”
Doppel-Yuri’s answer made Ainz wrinkle his ― nonexistent ― brows.
...Isn’t this dangerous? It’s probably best to see exactly where the boundary lies.
If even Ainz could think of this, then Albedo had most likely verified it herself, Still, he ought to make sure, just in case. He could not let a hole in security go unpatched.
“...Indeed. I permit you to use your full abilities to kill me in this battle. Then swear on the name of Ainz Ooal Gown once more. Can you swear that what you said about your true identities just now was the truth?”
“Yes. This we do swear, upon the names of all the Supreme Beings.”
Yuri and Lupusregina transformed their hands into alien-looking objects.
“What? What is it, Doppel-Yuri?”
“Ainz-sama, there is one thing I forgot. Our equipment was borrowed from the Pleiades. Therefore, can we trouble you to recover them for us if we are killed?”
Doppelgangers could even copy the clothing and equipment of their targets if they wanted to. However, they could only duplicate appearances, and not the equipment’s abilities. Since they would gain no benefits from the gear, when fighting a magic caster like Ainz, the difference between them would be like that between heaven and earth. Therefore, they had no choice but to borrow the real thing from the originals.
Greater Doppelgangers can imitate people of up to level 60. However, unlike the NPCs, they can only copy up to 90% of the originals’ abilities. Even if they possess gear from the Pleiades, there’s no need to be worried… is there? In that case, killing them would be too much of a waste. After all, they’re mercenary vassals, which means summoning them cost money ― as I thought, I should just leave them powerless. Do I need to put that into the rules after all?
“Alright! I will add one more rule. Once you Greater Doppelgangers are near death, you are out. I will monitor your health with 「Life Essence」. You can hide your HP totals, right?” After Yuri replied in the affirmative, Ainz nodded. “Then suppress that ability for a while. If I judge that you’ll die after a light hit, I will call your name and rule you out. In that case, you will count as dead. Leave the battle area immediately. In addition, the same thing applies to the Evil Lord of Wrath. If I declare victory, the combat will end. Do you understand?”
The Evil Lord of Wrath and the two Doppelgangers indicated that they understood.
“Very well. Then we’ll start when the coin hits the ground… about twenty five minutes has passed, so I guess they won’t complain even if we start.”
Ainz cast 「Life Essence」 and then took out a gold coin. Of course, this was not a YGGDRASIL gold coin, but a trading gold coin used in this world.
“Will you not buff yourself?”
“Making time to buff yourself is also part of combat training.”
After replying thus to Doppel-Lupusregina, Ainz backed away from them, then flicked the coin up with his thumb so it landed between the two of them.
As the coin hit the ground, Ainz jumped back, then threw his hands out and shouted:
“Absolute Immunity Barrier!”
He saw the Evil Lord and the two Doppelgangers freeze up for a moment. However, the Evil Lord and Doppel-Yuri immediately rushed in.
That was it. That was the right answer.
Ainz’s previous actions were meaningless. There was no ability called Absolute Immunity Barrier in YGGDRASIL ― or at least, there should not have been, as far as Ainz knew. Still, Ainz had shouted that name not simply to fake them out, but also for a different reason.
Ah― it feels like they’re a little slow. Could it be that they think something was done to them and they’ve become a little timid now? Well, that’s what happens when you wonder if you’ve fallen into the enemy’s trap.
Their movements were restricted by the uneasiness that came from the fact that such a technique might actually exist in this world. One could say that this feint had succeeded because there were still unknown things out there.
Of course, that was not simply because of the unknown. A good example was Ainz’s ability to create undead.
In YGGDRASIL, there was no such thing as using a corpse as a medium to ignore the duration on created undead. This aberration had only sprung up after coming to this world. One could imagine that there were many other such changes that had happened in the process of coming to this world from the game. No, only a fool would not think about such things.
In other words, making decisions with YGGDRASIL knowledge alone was very dangerous.
I ought to discuss this with Albedo… and the others, Cocytus included.
Ainz cast a silent 「Fly」 spell and began thinking as he retreated to the rear while keeping a fixed distance from his pursuers.
Albedo said destroying the Kingdom would take about two years of preparation. Should I collect information until then? Expanding one’s nation means expanding contact with the outside… I ought to throw these questions at Albedo and Demiurge and get their opinions. Hm ― illusions seem to be surprisingly powerful, it might be very bad if we don’t watch out for them. It feels like you could do a lot with them if you were smart. If I meet a skilled illusionist, I should probably treat them well in order to recruit them. Fluder ― whoa!
The Evil Lord had outpaced Ainz’s 「Fly」 spell on foot. Unfortunately, flying was not that fast.
After taking a punch from the Evil Lord’s maul-like fist, Ainz felt pain ― though it was immediately suppressed. Though he had felt the same way during the fight with Shalltear, he was once again thankful for this body of his that could suppress his pain. Ainz could fight thanks to it.
After that, the Evil Lord pursued Ainz ― who had been knocked flying ― and closed the distance to him.
To Ainz, this was the worst possible thing they could have done.
Yuri has circled around behind me. They’re using a pincer attack of two people who can do bludgeoning damage, which is my weakness. Meanwhile, Lupusregina is keeping her distance and casting spells… hm, that’s a buff. Good grief, this is the best way to deal with magic casters. Is this because of the Evil Lord’s combat AI? Or is it because it’s choosing moves from the mind of its summoner, Demiurge? Well, that’s fine.
If they would not let him keep his distance, then he would simply have to make his own space.
His field of vision immediately opened up, and the city spread below him. Under normal circumstances, he would not have been able to teleport to an unknown destination, but it would be alright as long as it was within line of sight. Having teleported one kilometer above the ground without any hesitation whatsoever, Ainz cast another spell.
It was 「Body of Effulgent Beryl」.
This spell was exceptionally effective because Yuri and the Evil Lord both did bludgeoning damage.
“Of course, that’s not all there is to it,” Ainz muttered as he looked to the ground. “...If Bukubukuchagama-san or Variable Talisman-san were here, the backliners wouldn’t be getting beaten up.”
When playing as a party, skilled aggro managers like tanks would not make mistakes like allowing the magic casters in the backline to be attacked.
During the time when they had stopped playing the game ― when Ainz had gone out to earn the money for Nazarick’s upkeep by himself, he had used mercenary NPCs to allow him to act with impunity. The only time he had truly fought alone was the battle with Shalltear. Perhaps that was why he could not help complaining.
They were quite some distance apart, so he had no idea where the Evil Lord was, but he had a rough idea of the square’s location. While carpetbombing the area with attack spells was a valid tactic, that would be pointless. One could say that the objective this time round was to win in a full-powered contest with the opposition.
“「Widen Magic Delay Teleportation」!”
Come to think of it, I used to get pissed off by the mercenary NPCs’ poor management of aggro. That was probably the devs’ way of saying “please group up with other players” or something.
He then confirmed that something large was going to teleport above him, within the area of the 「Delay Teleportation」 spell ― the Evil Lord. Thanks to the effect of the 「Delay Teleportation」, it would take a while before it appeared in the real world. In other words, it meant that these two weak enemies which had lost their strongest shield were completely exposed before him.
In order to weaken the enemy’s fighting strength, he ought to defeat the weaker two first. Ainz let gravity claim him, and then accelerated further with 「Fly」.
The added speed of the freefall meant that he was moving quite fast. The air struck Ainz’s face and flowed past him. At the same time, Ainz opened his eyes and observed the square.
“Though I think hiding in a house would have been better…”
Ainz muttered quietly and then selected Lupusregina ― who was proudly standing in the middle of the square ― as his target.
Yuri was some distance away. While she could see him, she did not look like she was prepared to intercept him. Leaving a healer alone was quite frustrating, but Yuri had made the right decision considering that she had to be wary of area-effect spells,.
Ainz ground to a halt as he skidded across the ground ― in truth, he would not have been hurt even if he had crashed straight into it ― and cast a spell.
Ainz chose one of the most destructive tenth tier spells in his arsenal, 「Reality Slash」. At the same time, he used a special ability to maximize the spell. While he could have tripled the spell or something similar to do a great deal of damage, it would be very dangerous while he did not know how much damage the Doppelgangers had taken. He had to avoid the possibility of killing them by accident.
As he raised his hand, his hand was struck and damaged, and the spell fizzled. The mana spent on casting the spell was wasted.
What? Interfering with a spell through a ranged attack? Is it some kind of special ability?
Perhaps it was because he was undead, or because he was a veteran player, but his confusion only lasted for a moment. Ainz immediately analyzed the attack he had received.
Neither the Evil Lord nor Yuri nor Lupusregina possessed abilities like this.
Perhaps it’s the World Class Item holder who brainwashed Shalltear―
And if the Hanzos missed him―
If it was a ranged weapon user―
If it was her, she could use a special ability to interfere with spells―
“―I fell for it!”
Ainz shouted as he found the answer.
Although Yuri closed in and delivered a punch, Ainz had already enhanced his defense with a spell, so he did not need to be so wary of her. After all, there was something more important than that.
The whole thing was a trap from the start! No, Yuri ― I see! “Here” was referring to the square! That was why the Hanzos said “the Pleiades” were present! Dammit! I was wondering why they said “all of us” when it was just the two of them!
All the points of data made a beautiful line.
CZ was attacking now.
It was not just Yuri and Lupusregina who were present. CZ was also on the battlefield. In all likelihood, Solution and Entoma were here too. All the Doppel-Pleiades were present in the city.
No, no, I need to calm down. Doppel-CZ was just lucky. It was easy enough for me to resist that because of the level difference between us. She won’t be so lucky ― well, unlucky for me ― next time.
“「Greater Word of Curse」!”
The Evil Lord had finally caught up and cast a spell, but Ainz resisted it without any problems. It was only threatening in close combat, so all he had to do was keep his distance.
Ainz ignored the Evil Lord above him and ignored Yuri, who had only done minimal damage to him from the start. He lunged straight at Lupusregina.
In that moment―
Countless Bullet Bugs flew over from the side. There was no doubt that it was Entoma.
He did not even need to use his High Tier Physical Immunity to stop it. That was because non-magical ranged attacks could not harm Ainz.
Perhaps if it was a weapon carried by the Pleiades, Ainz’s immunity would have been defeated thanks to the massive amount of data within them. The best example of that was CZ and Yuri’s attacks from just now. However, certain skills were calculated based on the user’s level. Entoma was a prime example, since she possessed many of these user level-based attacks.
Entoma was only around level 50, so her attacks did not bother Ainz at all. In addition, if all damage from an attack was nullified, none of the rider effects would take place either.
Therefore, he could ignore it.
Ainz did not even spare Entoma a glance as he moved in to finish off the healer, but just then, Solution erupted from her ambush point in front of Lupusregina. It would have been a futile gesture if she was facing an area-effect attack, but that was the only way to protect the healer.
However, Solution had made a fatal mistake. Ainz was a magic caster and did not need to close to attack. All he needed to do was cast attack spells from a distance. He had to think about why she would charge out from in front of Lupusregina.
Ainz had only one aim.
He wanted to expose the enemy and reveal whatever card they had up their sleeve.
Narberal’s not around?
He did not understand. She was not among the maid demons who had attacked the Royal Capital. However, one could not rule her out if all the Pleiades were present. It was possible that they were saving their ace in the hole for the last moment. Still, since he knew what kind of hand the opposition had, there was no reason to continue fighting in the middle of the enemy.
CZ did not interrupt his spell, and he managed to teleport under a roof within line of sight.
I need to remember what Yuri and the others can do. Who should I kill first? ―Lupusregina, the healer. While I need to be very careful of CZ… I have no idea where she is… so I’ll let the others go first. The Evil Lord will take the most time, so I’ll save him for last.
He saw Lupusregina casting a spell on Solution. Had they not pursued Ainz because drawing out the battle was not a problem for them? No, it was because they understood that since Ainz could move at will with 「Greater Teleportation」, they could be easily scattered and individually defeated. After all, Ainz was hoping for that too.
It did not matter if they saw through him.
All he had to do was harass them with ranged spells and then take them out one by one. While CZ the ranged combat specialist was present, she would eventually expose herself if she attacked continuously. Therefore, she would only attack at critical moments. In that case, she would not be so frightening. Or rather―
“I didn’t see her, so let me guess, you’re standing in for Narberal.”
Ainz muttered to himself as he watched the Evil Lord land.
“Haha, you’ve become fat, Narberal. Shall we call you Gorillal now? And your element’s changed greatly too. Well ― this is interesting. If the Doppel-Pleiades are my opponents―” Ainz flourished his cape. Of course, there was no meaning to it; he simply wanted to show off in a kingly way. “Then I ought to get a little serious.”
“「Twin Maximize Magic Re―”
Just as Ainz was about to cast a spell at Lupusregina, another bullet hit Ainz’s arm and interrupted his spell.
Even if she had succeeded once by luck, she could not have interrupted his spell twice in a row. CZ was far lower level than Ainz.
Could he have been unlucky enough to fail his resistance check twice in a row? How unlikely were those odds? Or perhaps this was not bad luck, but certainty ― for instance, if his opponent was not CZ at all?
The Evil Lord of Wrath spread his fiery wings and closed in on Ainz. Yuri came in from the right, and Entoma flew in from the left in a roundabout fashion.
What’s going on? Why is this happening? Is this some change that occurred after coming to this world? Or did Garnet-san give CZ something? Or is it not CZ? What did Yuri say just now? They’re sisters, but they’re Doppel… Pando ― ahhhh!
The Evil Lord had closed the distance and then cocked his hand back, preparing to deliver a haymaker.
Dammit! I hate people like that who just rush straight in and start punching! If you’re a substitute for Narberal than attack with magic! You damn Gorilla!
Well, if the Evil Lord had really cast a spell on Ainz, he would have resisted it, so it would have been boring anyway.
Ainz did not hesitate; he stepped in before his enemy could fully close the distance.
The Evil Lord had guessed that Ainz would flee, so his movements slowed by a beat. Behind him was Yuri, who was probably planning to flank Ainz with the Evil Lord.
The strike from the flaming fist ― was a feint, which was why Ainz had managed to evade it by stepping into the range of the blow.
The arms whistled past his ears, and the wind in its wake sounded like a scream.
A pure magic caster had evaded the attack of a warrior-type monster.
While he thought that this would be impossible if he were still a YGGDRASIL player, this was not due to luck. As mentioned before, the Evil Lord had not expected Ainz to step into the attack, so he had not used his full force. And then there was another point, which was that this was the result of his training.
Ainz had practiced this method of evading his opponent by closing in with them several hundred times with Cocytus. About one in every ten times, if Cocytus was not attacking in earnest, he could completely slip past them.
Cocytus did say that a good warrior would never make such incredibly flashy and telegraphed attacks, so I shouldn’t get careless… but it’s pretty useful in an actual fight, isn’t it?
And so, Ainz placed his bony hand on the Evil Lord’s sturdy chest.
And then he cast a touch spell.
While most spells had an effective range, some spells had a range that was practically zero. Such spells needed direct contact with the target to be cast, so only people with levels in spellcaster and warrior classes could use them well. It was because they were so inconvenient that they were more powerful than spells of a similar tier, being roughly a tier more effective,
Ainz’s specialty was necromancy, and this was an 8th tier spell from that field, 「Energy Drain」. It was a spell that drained the opponent’s levels and granted various benefits depending on the amount of levels drained. Naturally, this spell had also been maximized.
He beat the Evil Lord’s spell resistance and drained his levels. Thanks to that, he recovered almost all the damage Yuri had inflicted. That said, the healing provided by this spell was only supplementary in nature.
Ainz’s parameters were all temporarily enhanced, and he received a special buff which would fade in a short time. In turn, the Evil Lord had received a level down debuff which could not be removed by the passage of time.
This time, it was the Evil Lord who backed away.
His wrathful visage was tinted by something else.
Was it surprise, or was it admiration?
Ainz wanted to praise himself for successfully evading that blow too. That said, he had managed it because his opposition had been far too cocky. Just like how a magic trick became boring once you pointed out the gimmick, this move would probably not work a second time.
“Well, however good a plan is, only an idiot would use it more than once. Isn’t that right ― Pleiades! Aureole Omega!”
That was how it was.
He was fighting five Doppelgangers, the Evil Lord of Wrath and a level 100 NPC.
Is Albedo trying to make me lose? I didn’t think she’d even use Aureole.
Aureole Omega was the lastborn of the Pleiades Seven Sisters. She was an Area Guardian of the 8th Floor and a level 100 NPC specialized in commander-type classes. As a commander, she could issue orders which buffed her allies. CZ must have been able to beat their level difference thanks to that.
While he had no idea what kind of special ability Aureole had used, if one looked at party roles such as physical attacker, magical attacker, healer and so on, then she would be a wild card ― an all-rounder. It was hardly strange that she would be able to do anything.
What exactly could Punitto Moe-san do?
Ainz never went head-to-head with his opponents during PVP so Ainz had little experience in dealing with commander-type opponents.
She could not have left the 8th Floor and come here without my permission. That would mean that she must have buffed the Doppelgangers before they came here. That would mean she probably didn’t buff them too carefully — or no, is there a Doppelganger of Aureole here?
―No. There was no time to think about such pointless things. Only one thing mattered. Could they completely shut down Ainz’s spellcasting, and could they keep it up forever?
There were two kinds of special abilities in YGGDRASIL. One kind had a cooldown period after use. The other had a limited period of uses within a certain period. There were also combinations of the two.
In general, the more powerful the ability, the longer the cooldown or the fewer times it could be used. Ainz’s trump card ― 「The Goal Of All Life Is Death」 ― which could only be used once every 100 hours was just such an ability.
In that case, which type did CZ’s ability to interrupt Ainz’s spellcasting belong to?
That move just now was very handy, but it did not seem to have a long cooldown time. That would mean it was the use-limited type. However, he could not tell how long it would take for her to recover her uses. All he could do was hope that she could not recover them during the course of the battle after they were depleted.
―Though I think I ought to save my tenth tier spells for when they’ve been depleted...
Ainz quickly verified the positions of the Pleiades and the Evil Lord. The Evil Lord was in front of him. Yuri was behind him ― and preparing to slug Ainz. While her ki-enhanced attacks could even shatter steel, they were of little concern in the face of Ainz’s levels. After reconfirming that the Evil Lord was the real danger, he turned his attention to the others.
Entoma was inside a house on the left side of the square. Lupusregina was in the square. Solution stood in front of her, like she was protecting her. CZ’s location was unknown.
While not knowing a sniper’s position was the worst possible scenario, the fact that the enemy was now dispersed was the best case for him.
Though he knew that now was hardly a time to laugh, he could not resist the mirth welling up inside him.
Now this is interesting!
“Alright, now get out of my face. 「Maximize Magic Nuclear Blast」!”
Before Ainz’s eyes, the space between him and the Evil Lord flashed and swelled, consuming everything in an instant. Yuri was surprised, but that was only to be expected, because Ainz had been caught in it as well.
Using the ninth tier spell 「Nuclear Blast」 as an attack was a questionable choice. It did composite damage ― half fire, half bludgeoning ― and it was one of the weaker 9th tier spells in terms of damage.
Considering the Evil Lord of Wrath was immune to fire, this spell should not have even been considered for use. Even so, Ainz had his reasons for using this spell.
First of all, it had a very large area of effect. It was superior to almost all other spells in that respect. In addition, this spell also generated all kinds of negative status effects such as poisoning, blindness, deafness, and so on, but anything of the Evil Lord’s level would be able to resist it with their raw statistics alone and the Pleiades’ equipment ought to have made them immune to all these effects. The main reason he had chosen this spell was because it also possessed a very powerful knockback effect.
Of course, Ainz would also be damaged by this spell. While friendly fire was off in YGGDRASIL and so using a spell this recklessly would not be a problem, right now he would be hurting himself. Even if his magical defense was very high, there was no need for him to go out of the way to take damage to cast his spell. Rather than act like a suicide bomber, he ought to have chosen another spell.
However, Ainz had already worked it out.
If he expended the 「Body of Effulgent Beryl」 spell to stop all the bludgeoning damage, the fire-elemental damage would also be negated, which would mean he would not be harmed. In addition, all those negative statuses were ineffective on the undead.
In other words, Ainz was undamaged by the spell.
If he completely resisted its damage, the knockback would not take effect either, and so Ainz was the only one left standing in the heart of the explosion.
Ainz laughed. The feeling of everything going as planned was very refreshing, after all.
Ainz’s aim was to blow the enemy away and tear the enemy formation to shreds.
For a moment, Ainz briefly imagined the guild members who had taught him various things ― including this tactic.
Both the earlier simulated battle and even this battle where failure meant death reminded Ainz of YGGDRASIL, which made him strangely happy.
I’ve wondered about this before, but I don’t think I’m a battle maniac...
“Come, it’s not over yet. The battle’s just beginning. I’ll show you the strength that I nurtured with everyone.”
Unleashing the fury of that 9th tier spell meant that the surrounding buildings had all been swept away, and there was much more space all of a sudden.
That could not be helped. After all, this city had outlived its usefulness.
He could have widened the spell to try and catch CZ in the blast. However, Ainz was worried about the problems that might result from destroying too much of the city, so he had not done so. For all he knew, it might have been a mistake.
Forget it, let’s leave it at that. What’s left is―
Ainz looked in Lupusregina’s direction. The enemy envelopment was in shambles.
Even with Aureole’s buffs, they could not avoid the knockback, and Ainz could see the enemy hurriedly getting to their feet.
“That’s about all the damage 「Nuclear Blast」 ought to be able to do, so―”
Ainz flew towards Lupusregina and cast 「Reality Slash」.
This time, he was not interrupted by CZ, and Lupusregina’s body spurted a fountain of blood.
“「Widen Magic Shark Cyclone」.”
An extra large cyclone came into existence behind him, swallowing up Yuri and the Evil Lord. This was both to obscure Yuri and the Evil Lord’s vision and also to buy Ainz time. In truth, Ainz had planned to create a cyclone before the 「Nuclear Blast」 to block their vision and then get rid of Yuri first, but after considering that the Evil Lord could probably break out of the spell easily, he decided not to go with that plan. Instead, he had decided to use it when the enemy was confused.
Ainz heard the sound of displaced stones as he saw Entoma push a pillar off herself while rising to her feet.
He had no idea where CZ was even now. Ideally, she would be pinned under a fallen house.
“He’s coming here! Stop him!”
Solution shouted from her place in front of Lupusregina, but her voice could not reach the ears of Yuri and the Evil Lord, who were inside the cyclone. Yuri in particular was shifting desperately within the cyclone to avoid being blown away. While certain classes could use spells or special abilities to teleport or go incorporeal and thus escape the cyclone easily, she did not seem to possess such abilities.
And that would mean Yuri had focused on strengthening other things―
After reviewing this battle, they ought to understand what gear they need to have and what preparations they need to make, right? No, that’s not it...
If they were the true Pleiades, they might have been able to deal with this better. They were simply Doppelgangers copying the Pleiades’ abilities, after all. It only made sense that they would lose out to the real deal in terms of combat skills.
As Ainz closed the distance and prepared to cast 「Reality Slash」, bugs fell from the sky one after the other. They were large transport insects with no combat ability. The objective of this action was simply to block Ainz’s line of sight.
Such a use would not be possible in YGGDRASIL. Even so, Entoma ― though actually a Doppelganger ― could use them in this way. Ainz gave thanks in his heart as he incanted a spell.
After teleporting into the air and avoiding the rain of bugs, Ainz cast 「Twin Maximize Magic Reality Slash」.
Even if CZ had Ainz in his sights, the fact that her target had suddenly teleported into the air meant that she would lose him. After all, the weakness of the humanoid body was its inability to follow sudden up and down movement with the eyes.
That said, if he were facing an experienced shooter like Peroroncino, for example, they would be able to anticipate their opponent’s movements, even in the vertical plane. Therefore, it was possible that one could not even escape with teleportation magic.
Peroroncino-san’s aiming would have been like locking on to his target… CZ, you need to work hard to get on his level...
As he basked in the nostalgia, Ainz shouted:
Having to fight while keeping an eye on the HP of his opponents was very difficult. One could even call it a handicap. Therefore, if he was asked if Lupusregina’s HP was really depleted, Ainz would not be able to reply with any confidence. Even so, he had to avoid any chance of killing Lupusregina because of a moment’s carelessness.
She’s a Doppelganger, so not only is she weaker than the original, but her HP isn’t the same as the original Lupusregina’s. Alright, now that I’ve taken out the enemy’s magic caster, it’s time to be a real bastard. 「Perfect Unknowable」.
While there were ways to discover Ainz after he had cast 「Perfect Unknowable」, without the aid of magic items, the only member of the Pleiades who could do it was Lupusregina, and the Evil Lord ought to be unable to detect him too. Therefore, it would probably be safe to say that they had no way to deal with this underhanded means of attack.
Since I’ve taken out the enemy healer, I should go search for CZ. Don’t tell me she’s burning up consumable items?
Personally, Ainz could not forgive wasting the wealth of Nazarick on a battle like this.
“Where is he?”
“He’s gone! Is he using 「Invisibility」?”
“I can find him if he’s invisible! But he’s not there!”
“Is this some other kind of invisibility?”
He could hear their confusion.
“You idiots! He’s using 「Perfect Unknowable」!”
“Lupusregina! You’re cheating!” Ainz shouted, but thanks to 「Perfect Unknowable」, others could not hear him.
Ainz scratched his head.
The Evil Lord and Yuri seemed to have broken out of the cyclone, and they were now looking all around for Ainz. While the best option would have been to drop another 「Nuclear Blast」 on them, that might end up killing Lupusregina, so Ainz abandoned that notion. Instead, he descended and kept tabs on Yuri’s position at the same time. After that, he compared the amount of HP Yuri was missing to that of the others, and verified that in addition to the bludgeoning damage, she had also taken fire damage from the earlier magical attack―
“「Triplet Maximize Magic Vermilion Nova」!”
Ainz used the highest level ― super tier magic notwithstanding ― single target fire-element attack spell that he knew on Yuri.
It was only to be expected that there would be tenth tier spells that could do fire-element damage.
For instance, 「Stream of Lava」, 「Uriel」, and the like. However, the use of those presented problems for Ainz.
First off, Ainz could not cast 「Stream of Lava」. It was a divine spell which was only usable by a druid like Mare.
「Uriel」, on the other hand, was a spell that could be learned by a magic caster of any type as long as the requirements to learn it were met, but it only did its listed damage when cast by a magic caster with a maxed-out positive karma value. Its damage decreased as one’s karma value decreased, and for someone like Ainz, it would do less damage than a first tier spell.
Therefore, this spell was Ainz’s only choice when it came to usability.
Yuri’s health dropped drastically.
“He disappeared again!”
“If only Ainz-sama would fight us fair and square!”
No, no, you’re in the wrong for not even thinking of a way around this.
“And besides, I have no idea where CZ is! You three never said anything about who was taking part in this battle! Now who’s being unfair!?”
Ainz shouted, even though he knew the opposition could not hear him.
After coming to his senses, the Evil Lord charged at the place Ainz had been.
“Too bad, I’m not there anymore~”
Ainz had begun moving, so he was no longer there. However, he would still be within the area of effect if the Evil Lord decided to cast area-attack spells, but just as Ainz thought that, the Evil Lord suddenly changed direction and came straight at Ainz.
Was he not invisible? That question was soon pounded out of existence by the pain he felt.
The Evil Lord sent Ainz flying back. Since he was much more serious than just now, Ainz found it hard to defend against or evade the attack. No, Ainz had been too relaxed ― he had not even thought of evading.
Fortunately, the 「Fly」 spell helped control his posture and spared him the ignominy of rolling across the ground. It was just like how it had been during the battle with Shalltear.
The Evil Lord jumped over, hot on Ainz’s heels, and his line of sight was most definitely tracking Ainz’s flight path.
...The Evil Lord of Wrath shouldn’t have the ability to see through it… Ah, he used it! His trump card, 「Soul-Bought Miracle」!”
Inspired by stories of selling one’s soul to the devil to fulfill one’s wishes, this ability was truly miraculous. While he was not sure how the procedure worked, once one used this ability, one could use any one spell of under the 8th tier once.
Normally, when Evil Lords used this ability, they would almost always use healing spells ― that was an unwritten rule. However, this time he had probably used a spell to see through 「Perfect Unknowable」.
Ainz silently gave thanks that the Evil Lord had used the ability of which he was the most wary, even as he felt the pressing need to formulate a new battle plan.
As the Evil Lord closed in and punched him again, Ainz began to get worried.
While there was quite a large level difference between the two and he still had some room for laxity, he could not simply allow himself to continue getting beaten up like this.
“Cheh. Here, have some back. 「Triplet Maximize Magic Call Greater Thunder」.”
High level demons had very high elemental resistances. While their exact resistances varied between type, electricity was one of the more effective energy types against them. After taking three hits of a maximized-damage elemental attack spell, the Evil Lord’s body trembled.
Ainz cast another spell.
“Cheeeeeap! Ainz-sama, you’re so cheeeeeeap!”
Entoma stomped in frustration, while Lupusregina rolled around on the ground. Solution was the only one who was surveying her surroundings with a razor-sharp gaze.
In theory, each individual mercenary vassal should have been identical, yet they had developed divergent personalities like this. Was it because they had copied the relationships between the members of the Pleiades? Or had their personalities changed over time? The Evil Lord before Ainz followed his movements closely and shouted:
“Here! Use area attacks here, hit me with it too!”
Entoma did not hesitate, but breathed a black cloud from her mouth. It was her trump card, her Fly Breath.
However, it was useless against Ainz, because that move did piercing damage. In addition, Ainz was a skeleton; what would the flies eat? In the end, it only served to annoy the Evil Lord.
“Hey! It didn’t work on him! It only works on me!”
Being able to copy an ability and use it well were two different things altogether. Surely the real Entoma would not have made such an amateur mistake.
“I don’t have any area-effect attacks, how about you, Yuri-nee?”
“I’ve got this!”
Yuri gathered light between her palms.
The Kibakushou was a technique that acted as an anti-individual attack when it touched the enemy, but which became a spreading shockwave if it did not make contact. Naturally, as an attack intended for direct contact, it became very weak when dispersed. Since monks were a class focused on fighting individuals, they had very few area-effect attacks ― practically none, in fact ― therefore one could say that it was completely useless.
“There! He moved!”
Yuri launched her area Kibakushou at the location where Ainz had been. Ainz wrinkled his brow ― despite having no brow ― as he saw this and reached a hand out.
“...No, no, you should have prioritized healing.”
Yuri could have healed herself with her ki.
After making his jab at Yuri, Ainz cast his spell. Needless to say, it was a spell that he already knew to be effective.
“「Twin Maximize Magic Vermilion Nova」.”
Having cast an attack spell, Ainz came into view. He looked at Yuri, who was wreathed in flames, and made a cold pronouncement.
“Yuri, out ― 「Perfect Unknowable」.”
Now then, things will get bad if I don’t look for CZ in earnest. Having made that decision, Ainz began making a big detour as he kept an eye on the Evil Lord.
Many people stood on the city walls with Neia, watching the battle unfold.
While many of them were people who had been swayed to the Sorcerer King’s side after he had rescued them, they were not the only ones here.
There were priests and paladins here as well. Neia could not see Remedios from where she was standing, but she was close enough that Neia could hear her speak.
The only members of the command staff who were absent were Gustav and Caspond.
Everyone watching the battle was silent ― no. It was simply because there were no words to describe the battle.
They should have known this.
The members of Blue Rose had said that Jaldabaoth’s difficulty rating was above 200. In other words, this was like fighting a huge dragon in the form of a human. Just fighting said battle in the land of men would lead to a great tragedy.
They ought to have been grateful that only a single city district was destroyed. Many houses were on fire and white plumes of smoke reached to the sky, but the total casualties were almost nil.
While watching the battle, she had seen cyclones, blazes, strokes of lightning and other tremendous manifestations of power that were beyond man’s knowledge running wild. Each of these discharges of energy could have easily taken countless lives.
What had truly moved Neia’s heart was the ball of white light that she had seen twice.
It was power which consumed everything and made it disappear without a trace. It felt like something good to Neia, although she could not confirm whether it was truly the work of divine might. The incredible devastation she saw in the wake of the light’s disappearance frightened her, but her admiration of its great power had won out in the end.
It seems the fighting is still going on. I can’t believe the battle still isn’t over after using all those spells… Jaldabaoth is really strong.
She had heard about it, and she had even seen it with her own eyes. Yet, Neia’s thinking had still been too naive. That naivete was now thoroughly eradicated.
The king she served ― though only temporarily, and only within the Holy Kingdom ― was fighting. She felt that searing his heroic visage into her eyes was only natural as part of her squire’s duties, which was why Neia was keeping watch from here. Yet, if she could―
―Neia tightly squeezed the bow she was carrying.
If one looked closely, they would see several other shapes battling the Sorcerer King in addition to Jaldabaoth. Those were the maid demons, who were rated at difficulty 150. Neia could not do anything but admire the Sorcerer King’s power for fighting so many powerful adversaries at once without giving ground.
It was at this moment that Neia finally realized something about herself. She envied the people of the Sorcerous Kingdom ― those people who were protected by justice. How happy they must be to live in a country ruled by such a being.
“Weakness is a sin, so one must become strong, or humbly accept justice similar to that of His Majesty.”
At this point, Neia voiced the words she had been mulling over all this time. The way she repeated it over and over sounded very much like a prayer.
Suddenly, there was a large explosion as a meteor fell.
It threw the carcasses of buildings high into the air, and they rained back down to the earth amidst a shower of gravel and sand.
“Captain… isn’t Jaldabaoth… too powerful?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“The Sorcerer King ― His Majesty is also incredibly strong. If he becomes an enemy of our nation… what will we do?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
She could hear Remedios talking to three paladins.
The paladins asking her questions had probably not seen how Remedios had ended up being toyed with like a child even after unleashing the holy sword’s power and stabbing Jaldabaoth in the back.
Ahh, maybe they didn’t see it. Still, anyone who saw that fight would have understood. Both the Sorcerer King and Jaldabaoth were unimaginably powerful. Still, it was too late to think about things like that now. No―
If His Majesty could take this country under his rule, we would not have to suffer demihuman invasions again.
Neia was startled at how perfect that idea was, and even a little afraid.
Merging with the Holy Kingdom… if he were a frightening tyrant, even I wouldn’t think about it. But the Sorcerer King isn’t like that. He is justice. In that case… I ought to gather people who feel the same way as me!
Neia pondered the matter.
Many people had come to respect and idolize the Sorcerer King. There were those who were drawn to his overwhelming power, those who were grateful for being freed from suffering, those who hated the demihumans and who were glad that he had taken revenge on their behalf, and many such others.
From them she would select those people who had always been praying for the peace of this country, and then let them hear her words.
Neia knew that she was still young and lacked life experience. However, adults with good sense could stop Neia if they felt that her judgement was in error.
Let’s start by looking among my subordinates in the archery unit.
There were people among them who had lost their loved ones and harbored hate in their hearts. It might be better to try persuading them, because Neia could understand how they felt.
As she pondered this, she heard a doom as an exceptionally large explosion rang out.
After that, a tall building began to collapse far in the distance.
The Sorcerer King would not have destroyed that building for no reason. Neia narrowed her eyes to try and see what was going on, but she could not tell what was happening in the building as it collapsed amidst billowing clouds of dust.
It was followed by a massive stroke of lightning from the sky.
It would seem he was working towards some objective here, as she had expected.
After a while, all manner of spells wrecked the city, and the situation repeated itself.
Neia was uneasy.
That they were incredible spells went without saying, but could the Sorcerer King’s mana really hold out?
Neia shook her head and banished the fear and unease from her heart.
It’ll be fine! The Sorcerer King must have taken all this into account! He’s already wasted so much mana on this country, but even so―
Still, hypothetically, if Jaldabaoth won, there would be no salvation for this world, only despair. What should she do if that happened?
Your Majesty, I’m counting on you!
And then, two shapes soared into the sky, as though Neia’s wish had gotten through.
The first to ascend trailed darkness in his wake, while the one pursuing him flapped his crimson wings and left a streak of fire behind him.
The fact that the maids were not pursuing them meant one thing ― the Sorcerer King had defeated those difficulty 150 monsters among monsters while battling Jaldabaoth.
Neia was so moved that she shivered.
His Majesty is more powerful than Jaldabaoth!
Indeed. There was no need to think anything else.
In turn, the maids were far weaker than Jaldabaoth, who was a notch below the Sorcerer King. That was why he could defeat them while fighting Jaldabaoth.
Neia struggled to contain her delight. As she carefully engraved the greatness of the person she respected into her eyes, she was so filled with joy that it seemed like it would explode out of her.
Neia’s heart pounded, to the point where it almost hurt.
They were all watching a scene that would one day be enshrined in a heroic saga.
―No, that’s not right.
It would seem they were going to fight again in the air.
Crimson spheres and glowing spheres blossomed in the sky.
Each of these spells could probably destroy an entire city district by themselves, and they were hurling them at each other in wild flurries. However, they looked kind of cute from a distance.
Even so, that was an exchange of power within a realm that mankind could never reach.
As she looked out the corner of her eyes, she saw the people lining the city walls gulping as they saw all this. It would seem that they understood as well. They watched the aerial battle in silence, with earnest looks on their faces.
Someone put his hands together in prayer, and the people beside him followed suit ― and soon almost everyone on the city walls had their hands together as they looked to the sky.
It felt like they were at worship.
...This is mythology...
Neia did not know how much time had passed, but eventually ― there was a commotion among the people.
Before everyone’s eyes, one of the shapes in the sky fell towards the east ― and then it vanished.
The battle was over.
As everyone watched closely, the remaining shape slowly descended. Neia’s vision was better than most, and so she saw it first. It shocked her so much that she had to press her hand over her mouth.
When the others saw the crimson fire, the city walls were silent. However, nobody tried to flee. Everyone who had seen the battle knew that there was no point in running.
With a flap of his fiery wings, the victor (Jaldabaoth) showed himself.
Though he was the victor in name, he was a tragic sight.
His entire body was covered in electrical scorch marks. Half his face seemed to have been crushed, and his deep wounds oozed fresh blood. Perhaps it was due to its temperature, but the blood sizzled as it touched the city walls, and the sound did not stop for a moment.
No words could have described the intensity of their battle better than the way he looked now.
A weighty, yet somewhat pained voice echoed across the city walls, as though to wipe away Neia’s muttering.
“...What a mighty opponent. One of the strongest I faced since Momon. I underestimated him. How foolish. Leading the demihumans nearly became meaningless. However ― yes, however, he is dead.”
Neia could not believe this. Therefore, she cried out:
Jaldabaoth turned his intact eye toward Neia, but she did not budge despite being bathed in the gaze of a creature from a completely different order of life. The intense emotions within her heart left no room for fear to enter.
“I am not lying.”
“His Majesty is very bad at jokes… so you’re lying, right?”
“I am not lying.”
The words Jaldabaoth had repeated hit Neia hard enough to shatter her soul.
The world seemed to shake under her feet.
Neia instantly understood why the Sorcerer King had lost to Jaldabaoth. There was no need to even think about it.
It was simply because this country lacked Blue Rose’s Evileye and Darkness’s Nabe, the two magic casters who could hold the maid demons at bay.
No, there was another reason apart from that.
“If that undead had been in top condition, I might have been defeated instead. But to think he actually expended his mana for the sake of humans like you ― truly, he was a fool who did not know his priorities. For that, I thank you.”
I knew it! I knew it, weakness truly is a sin!
Neia was absolutely certain that she was correct.
“For that I shall reward you. The reward shall be your lives.”
“...What do you mean?”
Jaldabaoth snorted in delight at the question from an unknown source.
“I’m saying that I will spare you. At least, for now.”
Someone sighed in relief, but Neia was furious.
“Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! It’s all a pack of lies! Everything you say is a lie! Who would believe what a devil says!?”
“It seems you are unable to accept reality. Are you mad, human? Pitiful.” Jaldabaoth pointed to Neia. “Disapp… I see,” and then he immediately withdrew the finger.
“What’s wrong, Jaldabaoth!”
“You intend to provoke me and thus prove I am lying? ...Is losing your life worth that much? I cannot understand it, but it seems to be the case.”
Neia’s teeth creaked as she clenched them.
Jaldabaoth had to be lying.
He had to be a liar, the kind who would tell a ridiculous lie like the Sorcerer King was dead.
“I will not allow it. Your lives have been saved. Now then, I will return for now. I must recover from these wounds. During that time, you may weep your tears of despair.”
As Jaldabaoth was about to take off with a flap of his wings, Neia’s hands moved with a mind of their own.
She readied her bow ― and let loose a shot.
She had fired from directly behind him, without giving any warning of her intentions.
However, Jaldabaoth immediately turned and seized the arrow. Despite his terrible wounds, he was still very agile.
Jaldabaoth turned to face Neia, and then his eyes went to Neia’s bow, the Ultimate Shootingstar Super. After that, his wrath-twisted feature changed slightly.
“Ohh!? Ah! What an incredible weapon this is! I haven’t seen a weapon like this in so long! That was close, it almost finished me off!”
Jaldabaoth gesticulated wildly with his limbs as he said that. He seemed composed, but also quite anxious.
“What kind of weapon is this!? How was it made?”
“As if I’d tell you!”
What on earth is he thinking? Neia’s mind boiled over with scorching hate.
How could she tell this liar what she had learned from the Sorcerer King?
“How could I tell a liar like you!?”
“Muu, ah, don’t, don’t tell me, was it made by runecraft?”
Naia’s heart lurched for a moment as he hit the nail on the head. Although she had managed to calm down a little, as her broken heart recalled the compassionate figure of the Sorcerer King once more, her anger reawakened.
Neia screamed like she cared for nothing else, and Jaldabaoth groaned. Taking that as an opening, Neia fired again.
Her next target was his feet, which were hard for the hands to reach.
This time, Jaldabaoth frantically moved his feet to avoid the arrow.
He’s wary of it! Maybe this bow could―!
There could only be one reason why Jaldabaoth had so desperately evaded her shot when he had been indifferent to being stabbed in the back by the holy sword. What else could it be, if not that this bow could harm him?
A wave of regret assaulted Neia as her eyes filled with tears.
She realized that she should have joined that battle, even if she would have perished swiftly. If she could have hit him with the Ultimate Shootingstar Super, then she should have taken part, even if it was just to be a shield. If she had, then maybe―
Neia launched another arrow.
Jaldabaoth moved his head. The arrow missed and flew off to parts unknown.
“Hit, damn you!”
She fired again.
But none of her shots found their mark. Despite his size and his severe wounds, Jaldabaoth had still evaded Neia’s attacks with startling ease.
Neia fired another arrow to shut Jaldabaoth up.
However, it too missed.
Why? Why isn’t anyone attacking?
She could understand their inability to strike Jaldabaoth because he was airborne. However, even so, how could they simply let the lying demon who had killed the most merciful Sorcerer King go free?
“..Muu. Well, eh, I guess it can’t be helped… no? 「Greater Teleportation」.”
Jaldabaoth suddenly vanished.
“Get back here!!!”
Neia looked around.
All she saw were the wide-eyed faces of people who were shocked by what Neia had done. Jaldabaoth was nowhere in sight.
“Motherfucker! He ran away!”
“Calm down!” Remedios shouted.
The angry cry of a mighty being could exert a pressure of its own, and normally it would have brought Neia back to her senses or even made her freeze up. However, it did little more than annoy Neia right now.
“How can I calm down!?”
“Squire Neia Baraja! Did you borrow that weapon from the Sorcerer King? Why was he so interested in it?”
“Don’t ask me irrelevant questions like that! More importantly, we need to find His Majesty! I saw him fall to the east! We need to send out a rescue party!”
“Surely he must be dead.”
“How could he be dead!? How could His Majesty die!?”
Neia instinctively grabbed Remedios, but Remedios easily swept her aside and Neia fell to the ground.
“Have you cooled off yet? Nobody could survive a fall from that height.”
“Cooled off? You actually believe that demon’s words? Captain, did you sell your soul to him!?”
Remedios’s expression changed, and then it seized up.
“Squire! Damn you, there are things you can and can’t say!”
She grabbed Neia’s collar with tremendous force, and Neia found it hard to breathe.
“You two! Calm down! Calm down right now!”
The paladins, priests, soldiers, and such hurriedly made their way between Neia and Remedios, and pulled them apart.
Neia panted with all her might as she shouted:
“We need to send out a team to rescue His Majesty!”
“We can’t waste our resources on that!”
“How dare you call it a waste!”
Neia wanted to go up and punch Remedios, but the people between them stopped her.
“I’ve got nothing to say to you!” Having cooled down a little, Neia addressed the people holding her.
“Could you let go of me? There’s something I have to do.”
“Where are you going !?”
In response to that question, Neia looked at Remedios with an utterly incredulous expression on her face.
“What kind of eyes are those!? Is that how a squire should look at a paladin!?”
Hmph, Neia snorted.
“First, I will be asking His Highness the Prince to organize a rescue party for the Sorcerer King. After that, I will go straight to the Sorcerous Kingdom and tell them exactly what happened to His Majesty, and then I will ask for aid for His Majesty.”
Given the circumstances, nothing good would come of going to the Sorcerous Kingdom. Even so, she was still the Sorcerer King’s squire, and she had to complete her duty.
Neia was unsure if she could safely reach the Sorcerous Kingdom from here, but she had to go, even if it meant her death.
“Ohhh, if you’re going to the Sorcerous Kingdom, let me go with you, Baraja-san!”
The person who spoke was a middle-aged ex-soldier, who had retired and become a hunter. He had been lauded for his archery and had joined Neia’s unit.
“Don’t worry about me, I’m old enough as it is. I don’t have much longer left.”
From his tone, she knew that he understood what sort of fate awaited him even if they reached the Sorcerous Kingdom safely.
“Hey, Neia-chan. Don’t forget me!”
“You too, Codina-san!?”
“I’ll go too, lil’ miss. Not for you, but if it’s for the Sorcerer King then it can’t be helped.”
“Even you, Mena-san?”
All the skilled people in Neia’s unit stepped forward, one after the other. With their help, it might be possible for them to reach the Sorcerous Kingdom safely. However―
“Thank you very much. But everyone, could you join the rescue party?”
“What are you saying? You were all gathered to rescue the Holy Kingdom and the suffering people from the clutches of that demon, weren’t you? Where are your priorities!?”
“What are you saying, Captain!? Could anything be more important than rescuing His Majesty!?”
“Of course! Right now, at this very moment, how many people of the Holy Kingdom do you think there are living in the hell the demihumans made for them!? Could anything be more important than rescuing them!?”
“Of course! That’s―”
“―What on earth are you doing!? What’s all this shouting for!?”
The argument immediately stopped when the interloper showed up. It was Caspond.
“Captain Custodio, should you not have returned immediately? Where is His Majesty? What about Jaldabaoth? What happened? Could somebody please explain?”
Caspond sounded like he was completely lost, and his voice echoed loudly in the crushing silence.
The meeting room was very cramped. It was filled with paladins, priests, nobles who had been prisoners until recently, and honorary paladins. That said, there were no better rooms for them, since Jaldabaoth had destroyed the one which Caspond had previously used.
Caspond had called an emergency meeting after receiving a report from a paladin, and he had instructed all key personnel to gather in this room.
After everyone had assembled, Caspond and Remedios entered with quick strides.
Everyone bowed as the prince entered. Neia was one of them, because she held no grudges against Caspond.
Caspond stood in front of everyone and began to speak.
“Thank you all for coming here. I wish to discuss the course of action we will adopt in the future.”
Although it was supposed to be a discussion, there was only one thing Neia had to do, and she was certain that it was the right thing to do. Just as Neia was about to speak, Caspond raised his hand to stop her.
“I’m sure everyone has concerns of their own, but I pray you will hear me out first.”
Caspond slowly swept his gaze over everyone gathered here.
“I believe many people have witnessed the extent to which Jaldabaoth’s strength exceeds our imagination… yes. While I regret to say this, we must accept the fact that nobody in this country can triumph over him.”
Several people frowned in silence, then peeked at Remedios, who had been hailed as the strongest in the Holy Kingdom. After learning that she agreed with Caspond’s opinion, hints of fear and disappointment appeared on their faces.
“However, it is too early to give in to despair. If we cannot defeat him, then we will derail his plans in some other way and make him give up on trying to conquer the Holy Kingdom. We will not drive him out directly, but indirectly.” Caspond waited several seconds for his words to sink in, and then spoke his conclusion, “What we will do is slaughter all the demihumans he leads.”
“Why are we doing that?”
Caspond saw someone asking a question and nodded to them.
“In the past, Jaldabaoth made trouble in the Kingdom. Back then, he fought a certain warrior in a duel, and then he lost and ran away. At that time, he led an army of demons, but not an army of demihumans. In other words, he came to lead the demihuman army after losing to that warrior.”
Caspond looked around, as if to see if everyone understood.
“In other words, he is using the demihuman army as meat shields to avoid being forced into a one-on-one battle with that warrior. Didn’t Jaldabaoth say something like that when he defeated His Majesty? Something about leading the demihuman army almost becoming meaningless, or something.”
It made sense.
Back then, they did not understand it, but after hearing that explanation, it was hard to think of any other reason.
“In other words, the demihuman army is like armor and stamina for when he fights that warrior again. What will Jaldabaoth do if he loses the demihuman army? Will he remain stripped of his armor and stamina, when that warrior might appear in front of him again at any moment? Or perhaps ― would he choose to flee?”
“I see… then do you intend to abandon this city, defeat the southern demihuman army, and then join forces with the South to drive out the demihumans?” a priest asked. He was answered by one of the rescued nobles.
“That would be good. Thanks to the Sorcerer King’s power, almost 40,000 demihumans have been wiped out. The demihumans have lost a great deal of their fighting strength, no? The remainder ought to be staring down the South. If we rally all the people this city has rescued for an all-out attack and strike them from the back in a pincer attack, we ought to be able to rout the demihuman army. That way, we will be able to join up with the Southern forces and take back our land.”
“―I propose the opposite. We will take back the closest major city in the west, which is the northern stronghold of Kalinsha.”
“Why is that, may I ask?”
“Exactly! All the major cities to the west such as Kalinsha, Prart, Rimun and the capital of Hoburns will be very hard to take. Many lives will be lost. Why don’t we fight the southern demihumans instead? Would destroying the demihumans’ fighting power not fit more with your plans, my Prince?”
“I see. All of your concerns are valid. I am grateful for the fact that many of the people present here are wise. However, is that an action which everyone can understand?”
There were baffled looks on the faces of many of the people present.
“How about this? Going to the south implies that we will be abandoning ― though it is only temporary, we are still abandoning them ― all the imprisoned people that we will not rescue as a result. Can the masses ― can the people understand that?”
“That, that… but that makes more sense, there’ll be a higher chance of saving them, no?”“You’re a baron, I believe?”
Caspond turned to look at the middle-aged man who had asked the question.
“Y-Yes. I believe we met once, My Prince.”
“Ahh, just so. Now, have all the people of your domain been rescued?”
“Ah, no, not yet. I was imprisoned when I took the field beside Her Majesty, so I don’t know about my domain…”
“I see. So when you join up with the Southern forces and take back the North, people might say you fled to the South.”
The nobleman’s face froze up.
When one thought calmly about it, the nobleman was right. However, there was no guarantee that everyone ― especially those who were writhing in agony ― would be able to see the sense in what the nobleman had said. It was possible that there would be people who would say “Why didn’t you save us earlier, our families were slaughtered by the demihumans,” and turn the blades of their hatred on the nobles. Neia had seen such people before.
However, nobody had said that in the prison camps which the Sorcerer King had liberated. Given his overwhelmingly potent magic ― which could sometimes wreck city walls in a single blast ― and the fact that he was the king of another nation, nobody would dare take their anger out on him.
“Also, I had been intending to speak to the landholders one-on-one after this. In this case, we might as well do it now… We are all exhausted. In contrast, what will the nobles of the South do? In particular, what will the other nobles do about nobles who have abandoned their fiefs?”
The cloying stench of politics and power began to fill the air.
While it sounded unbelievable to Neia, was this what the nobles wanted? They nodded repeatedly.
“My Prince. Our domains…”
“I want you to pretend that you did not hear what comes next. That is because I cannot guarantee you anything. However, the Southern nobles will probably grow more powerful all of a sudden. That is why you must pick the best move to make, with an eye for what happens after the war.”
“A moment please!”
One of the paladins called out to him.
“How can we shed more of the people’s blood for courtly disputes!?”
“Indeed! Indeed!” The priest called Siliaco shouted in a voice which was said to have been trained for volume. “What’s important is how to save more people!”
“...Driving out the demihumans doesn’t mean it’s all over, you know? If the South takes all the credit, then we’ll have a hard time refusing the demands of the Southern nobles. And there’s no guarantee that they won’t impose heavy taxes on the exhausted people.”
“...Now that the Holy Queen is dead, it would be very bad if the next Holy King were to be chosen by the Southern nobles. However, if we can show concrete results with our strength, then at least…”
There were two factions in the room now.
They were the nobles’ faction and the paladins and priests’ faction.
Both sides were at odds. Speaking of Remedios, the paladins were trying to spoonfeed her a simplified version of what the Prince had said.
Neia was not part of either faction. She simply followed the flow of the conversation in silence. That was because Neia had already made up her mind about what she would be doing, so it did not matter what conclusion they reached in the end. Rather she wanted to bring up her own suggestion and set out as soon as possible.
That said, talking about irrelevant things here will only ruin the mood, and people who might have helped me won’t come to my aid...
After listening to numerous boring topics, she decided to toss the ball back to Caspond once both sides had worn themselves out with arguing.
“The My Prince brought up this topic. Perhaps we should let him finish speaking?”
“Ahh. Like I said earlier, I intend to take back Kalinsha. This is also militarily advantageous. In truth, this city is far too cramped, and much of it has already been destroyed. Living here is difficult, so I would like to have a larger, more solid home base. In addition, by taking back a major city, we’ll have an advantage when dealing with the Southern nobles. Also, Kalinsha was meant to stop enemy advances, so it ought to have ample stores of military supplies, assuming they haven’t been moved out yet.”
“...I support the proposal to secure a better base.”
“Ahhh, I’m a little uneasy about the sanitation of a city like this. Many people are shivering from the cold too.”
However, they went on to say, “We need to avoid large numbers of deaths.”
“Indeed. That is why it is the best time to attack the enemy strongholds. After all, Jaldabaoth cannot take action now.”
There was no telling how long Jaldabaoth’s wounds would take to heal, but surely he would recover before the demihuman army was completely defeated.
There was no telling how long Jaldabaoth’s wounds would take to heal, but surely he would recover before the demihuman army was completely defeated.
In addition, it was very unlikely that he would show his face before making a complete recovery. After knowing of the existence of a powerful warrior like Momon, he would surely take the possibility of Momon showing up into consideration before doing anything. Therefore, if he acted, it would not happen before he was almost completely recovered.
That said, once Jaldabaoth took the field, it would not matter how much force the Holy Kingdom could muster. Therefore, they had to take the fortress now.
So that was it. After listening to that agreeable explanation, Neia expressed her approval as well.
“―In that case, it seems the only thing you are unhappy with is the number of people who must die for this. Can I take that to mean that you will give me your support if I can minimize the number of deaths?”
Everyone present nodded, with the exception of Remedios. Neia did not mind either way, but after considering the flow of the conversation, she realized that it would be bad if only one person was not nodding, and so she nodded with everyone else.
As for Remedios, several people looked at her face and saw that she did not seem to have any special reasons for what she did, so they chose to ignore her.
“It’s decided then. We will discuss the details of retaking Kalinsha afterwards. Now then ― our next item.”
Caspond sighed loudly and then turned to Neia.
“This concerns the death of the Sorcerer King.”
“My Prince, I sincerely apologize, but I hope you will amend that statement immediately. The Sorcerer King’s death remains in question. That was simply what Jaldabaoth told us. It would be foolish to take a demon’s words at face value.”
Neia eyed Remedios and continued, “I think it is more likely that he is trying to deceive us.”
“In that case, why has he not come back? He can cast teleportation spells, can’t he?”
“Perhaps he was immobilized by his wounds, perhaps he is out of mana. There could be any number of reasons for it.”
Remedios did not ask any further.
“That’s true. That’s why I’d like to hear from all of you. What do you think we should do?”
“There’s no point in asking what we should do!” Neia shouted, forcing the words out like she was trying to strain them out through her teeth. “...I think we should dispatch a rescue party and relay this news to the Sorcerous Kingdom at the same time. If possible, I would like to be the messenger.”
“I see. That’s what you think, Squire Baraja. How about the others?”
As Caspond looked over the gathered people, one of the nobles spoke up.
“I have a question. While the Sorcerer King was supposed to have gone down in the east, considering we will be mounting a rescue operation in demihuman-controlled territory, would it not be better to wait until we have some concrete intelligence before…”
“It’ll be too late by then,” Neia immediately shot back. “The more we delay, the more His Majesty will be exposed to danger. I suggest we make our rescue as soon as possible.”
The majority agreed with Neia’s opinion. What she said made perfect sense.
“In that case, we ought to send out a search party at the same time as the envoys to the Sorcerous Kingdom.”
“...I have something I would like to confirm with you, since you have the role of His Majesty’s squire. Do you think the Sorcerer King told the people of his country that he was coming to the Holy Kingdom?”
Neia began to think.
“I apologize, but I am not sure. However, I feel it would not be strange for him to have told the people of the Sorcerous Kingdom, because there were times when he returned to his country with teleportation spells.”
“In that case, I feel we should not send an envoy to the Sorcerous Kingdom.”
Neia glared at the noble who had done nothing but naysay. The noble retreated two steps and his face went pale under that glare. The people around that noble also backed away from him.
“No, ah, please calm down and listen. That, uh, that is because it will bring trouble. Wait! Please calm down and listen to me. When you think about it normally, the possibility exists that the Sorcerous Kingdom’s undead armies would take revenge on us, am I wrong? And revenge would be one thing; they might annex the Holy Kingdom as well. And… ah, why is that? Who’s to say the Sorcerer King was not aiming for that all along?”
“Excuse me!” Neia was so angry that she actually felt dizzy. “In that case, permit me to ask a question of my own! If His Majesty returned to his country by teleportation, what will he think of the Holy Kingdom, who knew what happened but said nothing?”
Everyone she could see nodded in agreement. Amidst all this, Remedios spoke.
“Well, it can’t be helped then, can it? Our country doesn’t have the luxury of doing that now. All we have to do is apologize after everything is over, right?”
“Even if you―”
Neia was so worked up that she was about to shout, and then she heard the sound of clapping from beside her. She looked over, and saw that it was Caspond. Since the Prince wanted to speak, all Neia could do was remain silent.
“Squire Baraja. Allow me to pick the people who will go to the Sorcerous Kingdom. How about that? After all, if we send over a mere squire as a messenger, won’t the other country think we’re making fun of them?”
“That, that is as you say…”
His explanation made perfect sense. Under normal circumstances, they would surely pick a country’s ambassador over a squire who had borrowed a magic bow from the Sorcerer King. However, would he really send out an envoy? She found that part hard to believe. Even so, it would be very bad to show that she did not trust the Prince’s words.
“I am glad that you understand.”
“In that case, please allow me to lead several people to the east.”
“Indeed. I would very much like to send you as well, but we still do not know where the Sorcerer King fell. He might be ten kilometers away or a hundred. If things go badly, he might have fallen into the Abelion Hills, which Jaldabaoth controls. Even if I allowed you to go to such a desolate place, would you have any means of finding the Sorcerer King?”
Neia could not answer him.
Finding where the demihumans lived in unfamiliar terrain was an impossible task. She could easily imagine the scouting team meeting with difficulties and being wiped out.
“Surviving in the hills, slipping past demihuman observation and gathering information,” Caspond counted off on his fingers. “If you go there without preparing, you will simply be killing yourself indirectly, and what good is a rescue party that ends in failure?”
“Then, then do you have another way!?”
How could there be? As she thought about that question, it was easily answered. Neia’s eyes went wide in surprise, and then Caspond adjusted himself before telling Neia the answer.
“All you need is to find someone who knows the hills.”
Neia blinked, and Caspond smiled to her.
“Listen. All we need to do is to take a demihuman captive and have him lead the way. Would it not be safer to order a demihuman to act as your guide?”
Indeed, that was the case. Humans would be taking an absurd risk entering that land. However, it would be a different matter if they had guides.
However, there were also problems with it which could not be ignored.
If they simply threatened a demihuman prisoner into showing them the way, then if the prisoner was willing to sacrifice himself to kill them all, the search party would be going to their deaths. The Orcs she had met earlier seemed like the type who did not care about whether they lived or died.
They would need trustworthy demihumans, but where would they find those?
What could she do to make a demihuman act as a reliable guide?
Neia racked her brains, but when she thought of demihumans, she could only think of them trying to kill her, and she could not imagine them accepting an offer to turn their coats.
No, the Orcs and the Grand King Buser felt like humans ― I see, take their relatives hostage… no, if we could take a king like Buser prisoner, his tribe would probably obey us.
Or on the other hand, the angered tribe might put up stiff resistance. Besides, how would they capture a mighty demihuman king like Buser―
As Neia wandered aimlessly in a mental labyrinth, chasing an answer she could not find, the room’s door swung open and a paladin barged in.
He panted heavily and looked around the interior of the room, but he approached Caspond instead of Remedios.
Perhaps he did not want others to hear what news he had. He brought the Prince to a corner of the room and whispered in his ear, but Neia’s keen hearing picked up snippets of their exchange. Among them, the last piece of information piqued her interest.
He had said “maid demons.”
“Gentlemen, something urgent has come up, Unfortunately, the meeting will end here. I hope you will begin working on ways to take back Kalinsha. Also, Captain Custodio, come with me.”