Overlord Light Novel Volume 4 Chapter 5

Overlord Light Novel Volume 4 Chapter 5

Overlord Light Novel Volume 4 Chapter 5

Chapter 5: The Freezing God



Part 1


Ainz’s headquarters was the same as the place Cocytus used yesterday — the fortress which Aura was building. If one listened closely, one could hear the faint sounds of work in progress coming from the distance.







Once they entered the room, the hitherto silent Victim suddenly spoke to Ainz:


“Emoh gniog m’I ,syug uoy wercs. (Then, I shall take my leave now, Ainz-sama.)”


“Thank you for your hard work. Please take care of Nazarick’s First Floor for me before we get back.”


“Kek esiarp. (Understood.)”


“「Gate」.”


Victim passed through the door of darkness which Ainz had conjured. It led to the First Floor of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick.


After watching that Guardian — whose death would activate a powerful movement restriction skill — leave through the 「Gate」, Ainz turned back to the rest of the room. At the same time, he sensed Aura behind him, her head bowed.


It would seem she had done her best to pretty the room up to welcome Ainz. It was quite moving to see the signs of her hard work that could be seen in every corner of the room. However, this room was far plainer than Nazarick. Perhaps Aura felt ashamed of that.


It’s not like it’s that bad…


Ainz had originally been a plebeian, so he did not really mind. While his room as the master of Nazarick was not a bad thing, sometimes excessive luxury made him feel uncomfortable. He could relax a little in this place, so it was pretty good.


I want an eight tatami room. Maybe I should secretly set one up somewhere. Ah, I need to reward my subordinates. I need to tell Aura that I’m pleased with her hard work.


People had to thank and rely on others for their hard work in order to succeed.


Ainz remembered when he had been running an errand at a certain company, and had overheard something from the director’s room. He did not know who had said it, but it was a truly wonderful line. It made him think that it was how an ideal superior should be.


You need to express the gratitude in your heart. If you don’t praise your people, they won’t work… something like that?


“Forgive me for keeping you here, Aura. I am not displeased in the slightest. I am very satisfied with your hard work, and it is the equivalent of Nazarick because you decorated it for me.”


“…Yes.”


Aura’s eyes widened slightly. Ainz did not know if that counted as comforting her, but he was out of ideas. All he could do was try and bluff his way through by looking around.


The room still smelled of wood.


Under normal circumstances, it would have been better to return to Nazarick than stay in this nearly indefensible place. That was because without the application of defensive spells, this location was little more than a house of papier-mache. On the other hand, this was a very good spot to use oneself as bait to lure out a big fish.


It was quite far from the lake, so anyone who could pursue them here — if there were any — would probably be an YGGDRASIL player or people of comparable power to them.


In other words, this place had been built to take the attack of a powerful opponent.


It was dangerous, of course. But Ainz felt that one could not seize the tiger’s cubs without entering its den.


So they still haven’t come. Or is it that… this operation failed as well? Still… what is that?


“…Aura, a question for you. What is that thing over there?”


Ainz’s gaze fell on a white-colored chair within the room. It had a high back and looked very solid. Due to the exquisite craftsmanship that had gone into its construction, it easily qualified as a work of art. Well, as long as one did not dwell on its sole fault.


“It is a little plain, but it is a throne that was specially made for you.”


One of the subordinates behind him — Demiurge — confidently responded on Aura’s behalf. Having anticipated that, Ainz continued asking:


“…And whose bones went into its construction?”


“They came from all sorts of animals. I selected choice bones from Griffins and Wyverns.”


“…I see… Is that so…”


This throne of bone was not furniture from Nazarick, so it was probably something Demiurge had made outside before bringing it here. Also, the throne’s construction seemed to use a lot of human or demihuman bones. While it was not stained with blood or flesh and was completely made out of pure white bones, he still imagined that he could smell the gore.


Slightly revulsed, Ainz hesitated over whether or not to take a seat on it. However, it would be hard to simply ignore a chair which had been specially made for him. That said, if he had a good reason, it would be a different matter—


Ainz thought about the matter, and then he suddenly brought his hands together.


“…Shalltear, I believe I said I would punish you earlier? I shall now mete it out. Yes… I shall humiliate you.”


“Yes!”


Shalltear seemed a little startled at having been mentioned.


“Kneel there and lower your head. Get on your hands and knees.”


“Yes!”


Confused, Shalltear went to the place Ainz indicated — the center of the room — before getting into a supplicatory position.


After moving to Shalltear’s side, Ainz immediately sat upon her slender back.


“—Ai-Ainz-sama!”


Shalltear’s off-key cry of surprise come out as something like “Heinzsh-sama.” She seemed panicked, but she remained still, because Ainz was seated on her back.


“You are here to be my chair, understand?”


“Yes!”


Ainz turned from the abnormally happy Shalltear to look at Demiurge.


“—Forgive me, Demiurge. That’s how it is.”


“I see! How remarkable! To think you would sit upon a Guardian! Indeed, that is a chair which nobody can make — in other words, a proper seat for a Supreme Being. Ainz-sama, you have surpassed my expectations once more, as is befitting of yourself!”


“Is, is that so…”


Demiurge was beaming as he radiated his loyalty to his master. Ainz had no idea why he was smiling so brightly and turned away uneasily. Then, a beautiful woman who was all smiles addressed Ainz.


“Forgive me, Ainz-sama, may I be excused for a moment? I will be back soon.”


“What’s the matter, Albedo? Never mind, it’s all right. Go, then.”


After thanking Ainz, Albedo left the room. After that, there was a feminine voice going “DORYAAAAA—!” from outside the room, followed by a tremendous impact against the wall, which made the house shake violently.


About a minute later, Albedo returned to the silent room, with her usual gentle smile on her face.


“I’m back, Ainz-sama. Oh yes, Aura, I accidentally bumped into the wall on my way out, and there seems to be some damage. Could you fix it later? Sorry about that.”


“Ah, er, all right… okay~ I’ll go fix it.”


Ainz sighed, swallowing a lot of the things he wanted to say. He recalled his gaze that had nearly drifted away and focused it on the staff which radiated an evil aura.


Obviously, he would not bring the true Staff of Ainz Ooal Gown to such a dangerous place. This was an experimental specimen that had been built in imitation of the Guild Weapon. After fitting it with magic items used for special effects testing in the Treasury, it looked almost like the real thing, and it made for a good decoy.


The guild would disband if the Guild Weapon was destroyed. Therefore, he could not casually carry it with him. It was currently in the care of the Guardian of the Sakura Sanctuary on the Eighth Floor.


I’ve considered countermeasures against the Ring being stolen as well, but I just can’t find a place where I can conduct the experiment…


As Ainz thought about this, Shalltear’s body suddenly twitched. That movement seemed like an adjustment so Ainz could sit more comfortably. A bizarre sense of unease drove Ainz to look at the back of Shalltear’s head.


She was panting.


He was probably too heavy for her. Shalltear’s back that he sat upon was about as slender as that of a fourteen year old girl’s and it was quite slender. To think an adult would be sitting on such a slender back. Ainz was deeply convinced that he was a shamelessly cruel pervert, and had gone too far.


Shalltear was an NPC made by one of his friends from the past, Peroroncino. In all likelihood, he had not expected Shalltear would have ended up being tormented like this. Since this was essentially an action which cast shame upon his former comrades, Ainz believed that this was a form of punishment for himself as well. However, he now realized that he was foolish for having thought so.


To think I’m actually torturing Shalltear like this… I’m beyond saving.


“Shalltear, is it uncomfortable?”


If it is, then I’ll stop it — just as Ainz was about to say that, Shalltear looked back, staring at Ainz. Her face was flushed, and her eyes burned brightly.


“Not at all! In fact, I feel this is practically a reward!”


Every word she spoke carried the heat brewing within her body, and her glazed eyes reflected Ainz’s face. Her bright red tongue licked at her lips, leaving a seductive sheen. The way her body writhed ever so slightly was reminiscent of a snake.


There was no mistaking this for anything other than carnal desire.


“…Uwah…”


It made him want to run away.


Ainz almost stood up.


I can’t, how could I do that?


This was a punishment for Shalltear, and Shalltear’s mistake had been because of Ainz’s miscalculation. Therefore, resisting the urge to stand up was also a way of punishing himself.


Ainz crushed the rising tide of complex emotions within him.


He tried his best to bear with the squirming, panting chair beneath him. Even so, he could not help but wonder How perverted did Peroroncino make her, anyway?


“…Then, let’s talk business. Are the Lizardmen as frightened as expected?”


“Indeed, Ainz-sama.”


“That’s right, just look at the Lizardmen’s faces.”


Ainz laughed as he heard the Guardians’ responses. In truth, he could hardly tell how the Lizardmen’s expressions had changed. While Lizardmen looked more like humans than reptiles, their facial expressions were completely different from those of humans.


“Really now. Then, we can consider the first part of the impression which Cocytus is going to make a success.”


Ainz sighed in relief.


He had expected at least that much from super tier spells, which could only be used four times a day. Ainz had gone out of his way to use one of them — 「The Creation」 — and if that failed to impress, then all he could say was that it was sad.


“Then, Demiurge, when will you finish tallying the information on how far the lake was frozen?”


“We are still gathering the relevant data, but the radius of freezing was larger than expected, which presents some difficulties. If possible, I hope we might be given a bit more time.”


Ainz reached out to stop Demiurge from kneeling, and then cupped his jaw with a skeletal hand, before settling into contemplation. It would seem the spell’s effective radius had been larger than he imagined, but as a magical experiment, it was quite a success.


「The Creation」 was a super tier spell that could change terrain special effects. In YGGDRASIL, one would use it to ward off the heat in hot regions or to suppress the freezing chill of icy areas.


In truth, he could have awed them into submission without using a super tier spell.


However, he had used it anyway because he wanted to conduct an experiment on how large a spell’s radius could be. In YGGDRASIL, 「The Creation」 could affect quite a large area, and when they tested it in Nazarick, it managed to cover the whole of the Eighth Floor. However, they did not know how it would fare outdoors.


In YGGDRASIL, it could cover one area, but he wanted to know how large that zone was in this world. It would be too much if he cast it on a plain and it covered the entire plain.


Similarly, it would be too much if it covered the entire lake. It would seem he had to be very careful when using super tier magic.


“Then, Aura, what about our security net?”


“Yes! We’ve dispatched the undead we borrowed from you to patrol within a two kilometer radius, but we haven’t picked up any exceptional intrusions. Also, I’ve sent out some of my magical beasts who are adept at reconnaissance to patrol a four kilometer radius around us, but there haven’t been reports of anything suspicious so far.”


“Is that so… Our foe might make their approach by some perfectly undetectable means. Have you prepared against that yet?”


“It’ll be fine. Shalltear was helping me out, so we’ve also deployed undead which are good at surveillance.”


“Very good.”


Aura was all smiles after Ainz’s praise. Her previous depression was nowhere to be seen.


“Still, has the person who used the World Class Item on Shalltear still not made a move even after we’ve exposed ourselves like this?”


All eyes were on Ainz as he asked that question again, but he was not directing it at anyone in particular.


“Why isn’t the opposition spying on this place and Nazarick?”


“Could it be that the enemy is keeping an eye on us with a World Class Item which renders him immune to regular surveillance?”


Ainz tilted his head in confusion after Demiurge answered with his question.


“…I used Momon because I thought they might use such means… if the enemy uses World Class Items to spy on us, they won’t be able to observe Momon, since he also possesses a World Class Item. Therefore, I’ve been operating on the assumption that they’ll be using physical or direct observation… well, it might be magical too, but in short, I’ve been assuming that they’ll use more conventional methods to keep an eye on us…”


Ainz sensed that the Guardians around him seemed puzzled, and he realised that his explanation was not sufficiently clear.


“Well… how shall I put this… in the past, we once owned a mine that produced a rare metal. The price went through the roof because we monopolized it, so a group of people schemed to steal it from us. Back then, our opposition used 「οὐροβόρος」. That was one of the World Class Items known as The Twenty.”
(TL Note: Ouroboros)


Ainz narrowed his eyes.


He had been furious when the mine had been stolen away, but thinking back on it now, it was a good memory. It held true even as he recalled how they had been hunted and lost quite a few rare pieces of gear.


“What!? Someone actually dared seize territory which had been claimed by the Supreme Beings? Unforgivable! Please order us to retake it at once!”


Ainz hurriedly shifted his gaze as he heard Albedo vent her anger.


He saw all the Guardians seething with hostility and murderous intent. Even the ever-serene Demiurge had a savage expression on his face. That was not all; Ainz could glimpse the determination to take it back on Mare’s shy and retiring face.


Incidentally, Ainz could not see Shalltear’s expression on account of her being a chair, but he could feel her body tense up, sending her iron will travelling up through his rump.


“Calm down! That’s in the past.”


Ainz raised a hand to order the Guardians to cool their heads. While it looked as though they had somewhat regained their composure, they still seemed unstable, as though magma were flowing beneath the surface. Ainz decided to pick up the previous topic to change the subject.


“Our enemy used 「οὐροβόρος」 and made it impossible for us to enter the world where the mine was. They probably used that time to search for and find the mine. Once the seal was broken and we could enter the world, we found that the mine had already been taken.”


They had fought recklessly to retake the mine and a great deal of the guild members had died at least once, but Ainz resisted the urge to speak of that.


“Then, this is the point I wanted to make. While I said the world was sealed, people with World Class items could still enter that world during that time. Therefore, it should be impossible for them to spot us even if they use World Class Items for surveillance.


As Ainz listened to the gasps of enlightenment from his subordinates, he wondered if that was really the case.


It was very likely, but there was no proof that they could not be found.


When 「Five Element Progression」 — one of the Twenty, just like 「οὐροβόρος」 — had been used, the game company sent a message to all World Class Item holders. In addition to an apology, they also included an item as compensation. The apology went: “Dear holders of World Class Items, you should not have been affected by changes in the world, but we have learned that keeping your data unaffected will be a very difficult task for the system. Therefore, we are making a special exception and changing your data as well.”


Therefore, he could not conclude that it was a perfect defense. Still, that incident had been a special case.


In particular, one of the World Class Items defending Nazarick had the effect of protecting against divination spells. If it could not block surveillance from World Class Items, then it would be meaningless.


“Therefore, I feel the enemy will try to approach Momon… but the ones who have come to him are all mothers clutching their newborn children or adventurers.”


The ones who came forward begged him to touch their children’s heads in the hope that they would grow up strong, or they asked to shake hands with him in the hopes of becoming stronger themselves. None of them had asked to speak with him in private.


Therefore, Ainz had created many openings like this on purpose, waiting for the enemy to make a move.


Not giving Cocytus a World Class Item was part of that plan. Ainz intended to use him as bait to draw out the opposition. Their foe was fearsome precisely because he did not know their identity. That being the case, learning about their opponent would probably help them find a way to deal with them.


“May I share my humble opinion on this matter?”


“What is it, Albedo?”


“Ainz-sama, as you have said just now, your aim is to divine the enemy’s identity and learn more about them. In that case, is it not possible that the enemy is unwilling to get close because they have not been exposed yet?”


…Ah.


“It… it’s fine, Albedo. I have considered that point as well.”


As if. Ainz had already assumed that his enemy was like himself, and would want to learn about their opposition.


…What a gaffe. What if I’ve been going about it all wrong from the start?


“Forgive me. Also…”


Albedo, could you please stop — Ainz could not bring himself to beg that of her. He felt like he had finished a multiple choice exam, and then, when he went through his work one more time, he found that all his answers were incorrectly shifted one space down.


“There’s the matter of announcing that Shalltear was defeated by a magic item…”


“Yes. I reported as much to the Guild. That was in order to avoid people fearing Momon’s strength. Spell-sealing crystals are extremely rare items, so breaking one for an experiment should be difficult. Therefore, saying that the spell-sealing crystal went out of control — that the monster was defeated through the use of a magic item — is more convincing and it means fewer people will be on guard against Momon.”


“Indeed, it is as you say. It would work well against people who think spell-sealing crystals are rare items.”


Albedo’s subtle qualification of her statement made Ainz feel very uneasy.


“…However, what if our enemy had multiple such crystals like yourself, Ainz-sama?”


“…Hm? Ah, so that’s what you mean.”


Ainz put on a show of sudden realization, but he had no idea what she meant.


So what if the opposition had many spell-sealing crystals? The fact was that they were very valuable items in this world. Was Albedo worried that someone would break a crystal as an experiment?


Still, it did not feel like that.


A sense of foreboding filled Ainz’s heart. He wanted Albedo to explain herself, but he resented having the pretense of knowledge he had put on just now.


Come to think of it, is it really all right if I act as a ruler and decide the direction of Nazarick? What if I end up steering us into an iceberg?


He wanted to run away from all of this and be done with it.


Unable to bear the strain of leadership — which was only amplified when he messed up — he wept within his soul.


However, he could not just run off. Since he had called himself Ainz Ooal Gown, he could not abandon the things — the NPCs and the treasures of Nazarick — that his friends had made. The most important thing was that he did not want to become a deadbeat father.


I sometimes worry if you’ll betray, abandon, or give up on me. However, that just means I have to be the Ainz Ooal Gown you expect and believe in.


Therefore, Ainz put on a confident front, the pose of a ruler with utmost confidence in himself, which he had practiced in the mirror.


“It’s fine. However, I understand your unease.”


Then, Ainz looked around.


“Albedo… share your worries with the other Guardians.”


“Ah, yes! If the opposition possesses multiple crystals like you do, Ainz-sama… anyone who knows their abilities will probably see through that news immediately. In other words, they will believe that Shalltear was not defeated by the crystal. Although the enemy might not know if Shalltear fought with all her strength, anyone with a World Class Item would probably think that Shalltear and Momon were of equivalent strength. Therefore, they would probably consider Momon — a mysterious warrior who suddenly appeared in E-Rantel — a threat, no? In addition, the opposition might also suspect something about the link between Shalltear and Momon…”


“…Albedo, and the Guardians. What do you think the enemy will do next?”


“Permit me to answer, then. I feel that if our enemy intends to oppose you, Ainz-sama, they will respond by spreading rumors of Momon and the Vampire being in league with each other — even if there is no basis to them — and lash out at him. Our opposition will surely not want Momon to become more and more famous.”


Uwah, Ainz groaned internally.


His original aim of going to E-Rantel was to gather information, but his main objective was to make the character Momon famous — that, and he also wanted to get away from all this. The original plan was to turn Momon into a great hero and then reveal his true identity, whereupon the fame and glory he had accumulated would be transferred to Ainz Ooal Gown, and resound throughout the world.


In addition, it would also serve to show that a former PK guild had changed its image, fighting injustice through the name of Momon. But now, those plans were little more than soap bubbles vanishing in the wind.


“Oh? Demiurge, I’ve got a question. Wouldn’t it be more damaging to spread the rumors of working with that Vampire after he became famous?”


“Aura, doing so at that time would be a poor move. Once Ainz-sama is sufficiently famous, people would discount those rumors as malicious gossip. That reputation must be eliminated before it grows and becomes widespread.”


“A very astute observation, Demiurge.”


Ainz nodded magnanimously in response to Demiurge’s bow, as though he had been thinking the same thing as well.


“Then, I have another question. If that is the case, why has the enemy not spread these rumors yet?”


Demiurge raised a finger after hearing Ainz’s question.


“Firstly, the enemy has not completed their investigation into Momon-sama. If it turned out that Momon-sama defeated Shalltear in open combat, they would wish to avoid incurring his ire, or perhaps they would like to recruit him to their side. Secondly—”


He raised another finger.


“What if the opposition only ran into Shalltear by chance? Or what if they encountered her on the way to another objective, and they were a completely unrelated third party?”


“That’s not possible now, is it, Demiurge. How unlikely would that be…”


Ainz said that, but in his heart, he realized that it was not impossible.


He was dead set on the idea that this was an attack targeted at Shalltear — or the personnel of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. However, Shalltear had been attacked shortly after they had all been brought to this new world. Under those circumstances, it would require preternatural precision to target and attack Shalltear.


Was he being overly paranoid of some hidden mastermind?


Ainz narrowed his eyes — the points of red light in his eye sockets.


Ultimately, the lack of information remained a problem. He did not have enough manpower and he needed more strength.


In any case, the biggest problem right now is our lack of an intelligence-gathering network.


Currently, he had ordered Sebas to handle this sort of work. However, there was a limit to how much intelligence that limited numbers of intelligence personnel could gather. At first, he had only wanted to learn the basic facts of this world, but they were now at a stage where such information was no longer sufficient.


They could not learn what they wanted to know by going through adventurers and traders alone. It was similar to how an average citizen and a high ranking government official had access to information of differing importance.


In addition, he had no idea what sort of person could analyze the data they had gathered and determine whether or not any particular piece of information was important.


“Good grief. In any case, our main challenge now is a lack of information. Our hands are tied because we have to be wary of an unseen foe…”


Demiurge flashed Ainz a conspiratorial smile as he heard Ainz mumble.


“In that case, why not seek a nation to support you?”


After a brief silence, Albedo went “Oh” to indicate that she understood. Soon, Ainz made the same noise.


“I see, Demiurge. So that was what you meant.”


However, the other three Guardians still looked quite confused. After that, Aura came out and asked:


“Ainz-sama, what’s this all about?”


As Aura asked that question, Ainz gave thanks that he did not have any facial expressions.


“Honestly… Mare, Shalltear, do you not understand what Demiurge was trying to say?”
  
The two of them shook their heads in unison.


“I see. Then it can’t be helped. Tell them, Demiurge.”


“Yes, I understand. Now then, everyone. Ainz-sama is worried about the existence of a hidden, powerful enemy. I feel that if we encounter said enemy and they are hostile to us, we need to have some kind of leverage that we can use during negotiations.”


Sensei, I don’t get it — that look appeared on the faces of three students and one adult. Demiurge-sensei seemed to realise that his explanation was too complicated and decided to continue explaining after dumbing himself down to match the students.


“What would you do if Ainz-sama was dominated by some World Class Item?”


“I’d kill the bastard who did it.”


“…No, that’s not what I mean, Aura. What I’m trying to say is, don’t you think the very fact that being mind controlled would count as an alibi? The fact is that there are people out there who really can dominate their opposition with World Class Items, so we can convincingly say that Ainz-sama was controlled by a World Class Item.”


Assistant Teacher Albedo supplemented Head Teacher Demiurge’s lecture:


“In other words, by pretending to support another country, we have an excuse for any action which Nazarick takes. By saying that we were ordered to do so by that country and we had no choice but to obey, we could use that to deflect blame from ourselves, assuming there was an enemy on our level. Also, if the other party does not want an open conflict, they will have no choice but to bear with it.”


“I see… so even if someone wasn’t happy with what we did, as long as we had a good reason, we could drag a third party into becoming an ally… so that’s what it is, as expected of Ainz-sama…”


Ainz reached out and stroked the head of Shalltear the chair. It was like a mob boss stroking a Siamese cat


“Demiurge came up with that scheme, not me, so your thanks should go to him.”


“No, it’s not true. It would seem you already came to the same answer, Ainz-sama.”


“Ah, er… um. It feels like I’m taking credit for your hard work. Sorry about that. Also… I believe it will be easier to obtain information if we support another country.”


A country would probably have the intelligence-gathering network that they were struggling to build. That being the case, infiltrating them with Nazarick’s people ought to be much better for gathering usable information.


Demiurge smiled at the thought that his suggestion had been useful on something which had bothered Ainz, and at Ainz’s words, which seemed to validate his and Albedo’s opinions.


“Indeed.”


Ainz was aware of the subtext: “You picked up on it as well, Ainz-sama.”


“Ah, indeed. As expected of Ainz-sama — to think you had such clear insights… in that case, even inferior lifeforms like human beings could prove surprisingly useful.”


After Albedo spoke up, the other Guardians — including Shalltear the chair — looked at Ainz with sparkly eyes filled with pure loyalty.


Ainz felt very uncomfortable, but he consoled himself with the fact that the two of them had given him their approval.


“Then… let’s find a country to infiltrate. Which country will it be?”


“If we pick from the neighboring countries, we would have the Kingdom, the Empire, and the Theocracy.”


“How, how about a country that was further away? Like say, the Council Alliance or the Holy Kingdom…”


“I would rather not select a distant country, and I would prefer not to make contact with the Theocracy before we learn enough about them. That leaves the Kingdom and the Empire… judging by Sebas’s  report, the Kingdom is not particularly interesting. However… this matter requires further study. Anyway—”


Ainz interrupted the conversation by extending his hand to the mirror.


“We’ve given the Lizardmen some time. Let’s see if they’ve done anything unexpected.”


A bird’s eye view of the Lizardmen’s village appeared on the Mirror of Remote Viewing.


Ainz reached out to the mirror and with a subtle shift of his hand, he changed the scenery it showed.


Naturally, he began by zooming in the image.


In this way, they could see every detail of the Lizardmen’s preparations for battle.


“Such futile effort,” Demiurge muttered gently to the Lizardmen.


Let’s see, where are they? It’s hard to tell one Lizardman from another.


Ainz frowned as he searched for the six Lizardmen he had seen earlier.


“Oh — there’s the armor. Is this the rock-throwing fellow? And then, the one with the greatsword is here. The differences are really fine. Maybe color, gear, or obvious physical variations would be good ways to tell them apart… ah, there’s a distinctive one.”


After that, Ainz moved the mirror’s image around in confusion.


“…I don’t see that white Lizardman and the one with a magic weapon.”


“Hm… is his name Zaryusu?”


“Ah, that’s right, that’s his name.”


After Aura reminded him, Ainz remembered the name of the Lizardman who had stepped forward to negotiate with him.


“Could he be in his house?”


“Perhaps.”


The Mirror of Remote Viewing could not peer into structures. However, that was only under normal circumstances.


“Demiurge, fetch me the Infinite Haversack.”


“Understood.”


With a bow, Demiurge picked up the Infinite Backpack which lay on the table which had been shifted to the corner of the room before courteously presenting it to Ainz. Ainz took a scroll out of it.


After that, he cast the spell inscribed within it.


The spell produced an invisible and incorporeal sensor. It could not penetrate magical barriers, but it could pass through conventional walls regardless of their thickness. If it could not pass through said walls, that would imply there was a powerful foe present, and they had to be wary.


He linked the sensor to the Mirror of Remote Viewing, so the Guardians could see what Ainz could see. Then he moved the eye-like, floating sensor.


“Let’s see what’s inside this house.”


Ainz selected one of the nearest houses — a pretty run-down affair — and sent the sensor inside. Despite the darkness of the interior, it appeared as bright as day through the eyes of the sensor.


The white Lizardman was pressed against the floor of the house. Her tail was tucked up and there was a black Lizardman mounted on her.


Ainz was utterly confused.


For a moment, he had no idea what was going on. In the next moment, he had no idea why they would be doing something like that at a time like this.


After that, Ainz silently steered the sensor outside.


“…”


Ainz grabbed his head in a moment of infinite weakness. The Guardians around him had no idea what to say, and looked at the ground with puzzled expressions on their faces.


“—What a displeasing lot. Cocytus will be attacking any moment now and they’re still indulging themselves!”


“Exactly!”


“Er, ah, a-about that…”


“Demiurge’s right! We need to make those two suffer!”


“I’m so jealous…”


Ainz waved his hand to silence the Guardians.


“…Forget it, they’ll all be dead soon. I once saw a movie which said that situations like these stimulate the desire to propagate the species.”


Ainz nodded, certain of his opinion.


“Indeed, it is so!”


“Well, if that’s all, we should probably let them off the hook.”


“Exactly!”


“Er, ah, a-about that…”


“I agree with Demiurge-sama…”


“…Quiet, all of you.”


After the Guardians had fallen silent, Ainz sighed.


“…Well, there goes my motivation. Never mind, there’s probably nobody to worry about in the Lizardman village. Still, we can’t be careless, because someone might be heading for us right now. Aura…”


Ainz froze, and looked at the twins.


Crap! What should I do now!? Those two haven’t been given sex education yet… no, it’s too early for that!


Ainz suddenly understood what it was like for a father to see a lewd scene on the television during a family gathering.


Dammit, how would a father or mother answer if they were asked where babies came from!? This is bad! I can’t believe I let Bukubukuchagama’s children see that — though, it shouldn’t be too bad. Let’s not consider Albedo, and Demiurge… he’d probably teach them from a clinical perspective. Shalltear… not too bad either. Let’s handle this another day.


After pushing the question to the back of his mind, Ainz coughed and asked:


“If the security net picks up anything, all the Guardians — myself included — will move out together.”


If there were any other players around, he would not adhere to his agreement of sparing the Lizardmen. If they would not become allies, then they would have to be terminated with extreme prejudice to avoid any information leaks. When they happened, they would destroy the village, even if they had to draw on all the forces of the Eighth Floor to do so.


Ainz thrust aside the guilt he felt at violating his promise to Cocytus. A little white lie would be preferable if it was for a good reason.


“…Now then, the show’s about to begin… let’s enjoy watching Cocytus in action.”


Part 2


The four hours passed in a flash.


The frozen marsh had long since melted, and the warriors were gathered there — at the main gate of the village. After the intense battle several days ago, there were precious few of them who had survived to fight in this battle.


There were three hundred and sixteen of them in total.


Nobody but the warriors would participate in this battle, because Shasuryu had said, “The enemy is few in number, so too many people on our part will just get in the way.”


That seemed like a logical enough explanation, but that was not all.


Zaryusu stood some distance ahead of the Lizardmen and looked on the warriors.


Everyone was painted with markings which showed that the ancestors had descended upon them. Their iron will was readily apparent on their faces, and they looked confident of victory.


The Lizardmen around them were cheering their warriors on. Still, he could see quite a few worried-looking people in the crowd.


Zaryusu strove to keep a nonchalant expression in order to keep his uneasiness from showing on his face. He did not want the other Lizardmen to know that this battle was essentially a live sacrifice to the king of death.


Indeed, this was a battle that was intended to demonstrate the undead king’s power to the Lizardmen. Its purpose was to thoroughly eradicate the very possibility of rebellion among the Lizardmen. They had no chance of surviving, which meant that the subtext behind Shasuryu’s words was “so that we can reduce casualties to the minimum.”


Zaryusu looked away from the Lizardmen, and he turned his keen gaze on the enemy formation.


The skeletal army remained where it was. There was no sign of the monster called Cocytus among them. Zaryusu doubted that it was a skeleton. As a trusted subordinate of that king of death, how could he be a mook like that? He must be some being whose strength was apparent at a glance.


A loud splashing came from behind the worried Zaryusu—


“—Hey, Zaryusu.”


—And Zenberu greeted him as casually as always. He was the same person even when he was headed for certain death.


“Morale’s at its peak.”


“Well, it would be nice if it could stay that way when we faced that Cocytus fellow…”


“Yup. Oh, is it time?”


Shasuryu was at the main gate, and all the Lizardmen’s eyes were on the two Swamp Elementals by his side.


Crusch was not here because she had spent all her mana on summoning the elementals. The drain of that, on top of casting a plethora of long-duration defensive spells on Zaryusu, had left her almost immobile. In fact, when they had left their house, Crusch had already told him that she would be passing out from using too much mana, and they would never see each other again.


Alone now, Zaryusu looked towards the place where Crusch was. The way she had looked when they had parted made Zaryusu feel like he had been stabbed in the heart.


“Warriors, let’s go!”


With a rousing cry, Shasuryu stoked the flames of the Lizardmen’s fighting spirit, and the air was filled with eager tension.


He had to think like a warrior again. Zaryusu reined in his rampaging thoughts.


The Lizardmen advanced slowly, led by Shasuryu and the two Swamp Elementals.


They were leaving the village so it would not be caught up in the fighting.


Zaryusu and Zenberu followed behind them.


Just then, Zaryusu suddenly looked back to the village. There were the broken-down dirt walls, the worried Lizardmen watching them go, and—


Zaryusu sighed quietly, and cast all his worries away as he strode forward. He did not speak the name of the female which was on his lips.


♦ ♦ ♦


The Lizardmen marched into the marsh, and formed up at the region between the skeletal army and the village.


That said, they had no formation to speak of. They simply sprawled themselves out to wait for the fight. At their head were the various tribal chiefs and the two Swamp Elementals.


The skeletal army had probably been waiting for their arrival. They banged on their shields and stomped.


The many small delays between footfalls would normally make an army’s march sound like a shower of bird droppings. However, the undead army marched with perfect coordination, producing a harmonious sound. If the circumstances were any different, it would be worthy of applause.


Just as the Lizardmen were drawn in by the sound of their movements, several trees fell — behind the skeletal army.


There was only one reason why those gigantic trees would fall — because someone had cut them down.


This sparked a commotion among the Lizardmen.


Since nobody was visible yet, it was reasonable to assume that several people had worked together to fell those trees. However, if that were the case, then the trees were falling with far too much uniformity. Granted, after seeing the unity of the skeletal army, an observer might think that they could chop down trees with such precision, but none of the Lizardmen felt that way.


A bizarre thought ran through their minds — that all this had been done by one person.


That was because there was no sound of blades striking wood before the trees fell. In other words, it might be possible (however surprising it was) that some incredibly strong person had chopped the trees down with one swing.


How strong an arm and how mighty a weapon would be needed to cut a massive tree in half with a single stroke?


The earthshaking tremors of the falling trees blended with the sound of the skeletons pounding on their shields, and both crept closer to the Lizardmen.


Anxiety began to brew. That was only to be expected — who could remain calm under such circumstances? Even Zenberu — who was prepared to die — was shaken, though he tried to hide it.


Soon, the creature which had cleaved a path through the forest finally appeared. At the same time, the pounding on the shields suddenly stopped.


In the preternatural silence, the first thing they saw was a mass of glossy blue light. How much more brightly would it have shone had the sky not been overcast?


It looked like a two-legged insect, its massive body standing around two hundred fifty centimeters high. It resembled an ant or a mantis, and it looked like some hybrid made by an utterly depraved fiend.


Its hard exoskeleton was wreathed in freezing cold, and it glittered like diamond dust.


It had a savage tail that was as long as its body and studded with countless spikes. Its mighty jaws looked like they could easily bite a man’s hands clean off.


It had four arms tipped in razor-sharp claws, each of which was sheathed in a shiny gauntlet. It wore a disc-like amulet on a golden necklace and platinum rings around its ankles.


This was how the being of matchless might, follower of the king of death, made its entrance.


♦ ♦ ♦


Was he Cocytus?


Zaryusu’s heart pounded. Unconsciously, his breathing had grown faster.


None of the Lizardmen spoke. Everyone’s attention was drawn to the monster that had shown itself, and they were so frightened that they could not tear their eyes away.


They had begun backing away slowly without realizing it. Be they Lizardman warriors who had come in high spirits, or Zaryusu and the others who had come here prepared to die, all of them were shocked to the core by the appearance of this unimaginably powerful entity.


I know the king of death didn’t use his full strength on us, but even so, I didn’t expect the warrior he sent to fight in earnest to be so frightening.


Even with a spell that removed his fear, the impulse to run away still surged within Zaryusu’s heart. It was a miracle that the warriors, who were not protected by such magic, were not already trampling each other as they fled.


Cocytus slowly drew closer.


He strode proudly into the marsh, past the skeletal army—


—And then Cocytus stopped, roughly thirty meters away from the Lizardmen. After that, his insectoid face swivelled atop his slender neck, as though looking for someone.


Zaryusu had the feeling that Cocytus’s eyes were on him.


“—All right. Since. Ainz-sama. Is. Watching. I Shall. Ensure. You. Get. A. Chance. To. Shine. However. Before. That. 「Ice Pillar」.”


As the spell activated, two pillars of ice erupted from the water between the Lizardmen and Cocytus, about twenty meters apart.


“This. Might. Be. Rude. To. Warriors. Who. Are. Ready. To. Give. Their. Lives. But. I. Must. Inform. You. That. My. Side. Of. These. Pillars. Will. Be. Your. Grave. Any. Who. Cross. It. Shall. Die.”


Cocytus folded his arms, as though to say, The choice is yours.


“Oi oi oi, he doesn’t look like it but he’s a pretty decent chap, isn’t he?”


Zaryusu nodded deeply at Zenberu’s words.


Then, he stepped forward. Zenberu and the other two chiefs followed him.


Shasuryu looked back, at the warriors who were about to follow him.


“You should stay here… no, return to the village. Otherwise… you’ll die with us.”


“What!? We want to fight too! It’s scary, but… even if it’s scary, we still want to fight!”


“Retreat is not cowardice. Living is true courage.”


“Then—”


“There’s some of us who can’t fall back either. Besides, as chiefs, we can’t accept other people ruling us without a fight, no?”


“We still want to fight, Chief.”


“Hold on a second! Get out of here, young ones! This is a job for us old folks!”


The Lizardmen who shoved their way forward were all advanced in years, but none of them was old enough to be considered elderly. There were fifty seven of them, and none of the others could say anything after seeing their faces.


Perhaps if they looked like they were resolved to die or had given up on themselves, they would have asked to come along. However, their expressions were a plea for the younger Lizardmen to live on and celebrate the miracle of life.


With nothing left to say, the rest of the warriors turned back.


Shasuryu turned to face Cocytus once more.


“…Sorry for the wait, Cocytus.”


Cocytus extended a hand to the Lizardmen and curled it towards him. “Bring it,” the gesture seemed to say. In response to this taunt, Shasuryu shouted:


“CHARGE—!”


“Ohhhhh!”


Fully resolved to die, the Lizardmen gave voice to a cry from the depths of their souls, a roar which seemed to split the very sky, and rushed at Cocytus.



Cocytus calmly regarded the warriors charging him.


“…This. Might. Be. A. Bit. Disrespectful. To. Warriors. Like. You. But. I. Shall. Cull. Your. Numbers.”


Cocytus was sure that he would not be defeated even if all of the warriors reached him, but still, he had to weed his opponents out.


Personally speaking, Cocytus would have liked to allow his foes to reach a range where they could fight. However, he had received far more largesse than he deserved, and allowing this ragtag band of misfits to do battle with a Guardian of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick would be disrespectful to Ainz-sama.


Thus, he unleashed his aura.


It was a skill derived from the Knight of Niflheim class — 「Frost Aura」. This special ability damaged and slowed the foe through the use of extreme cold temperatures. At full power, it could even engulf the Lizardmen spectating from the sides.


So he had to suppress its power.


He had to narrow its radius and reduce its damage.


“This ought to do it…”


A wave of freezing cold expanded from Cocytus, instantly filling a radius of twenty five meters across.


The temperature plummeted upon exposure to the intense cold, and the very air seemed to groan.


“…Hm. That. Ought. To. Do.”


He drew back his aura.


The momentary exposure meant that the savage, blizzard like snap-frost had vanished like it had never been. However, it was no illusion or trick of the senses. The best proof of that was the fifty seven Lizardman corpses that covered the marsh.


Only five more still remained. However, they were the five strongest Lizardmen. Unfazed by Cocytus’s might or the deaths of their comrades, they moved out as one.


A stone flew through the air. The armored Lizardman led the charge, followed by two more behind it. In addition, the two Swamp Elementals had cracks all over them after the cold attack, and lagged behind the Lizardmen because they were slower. The one at the rear incanted spell after spell.


♦ ♦ ♦


The first strike was a stone, which was aimed at Cocytus’s throat. However, it was completely meaningless, because—


“—We. Guardians. Are. Equipped. With. Items. That. Resist. Ranged. Attacks.”


—An invisible barrier which appeared to cover his body deflected the stone.


It was followed by a charging Lizardman. The armor he wore was an ancestral heirloom, one of the Four Treasures — the White Dragon Bone. It was strong enough to deflect Frost Pain, itself one of the Four Treasures, and it was hailed as the hardest armor among the Lizardmen.


Facing it was a sword which Cocytus drew out of nothing, as though it had been sheathed in the air.


The sword Cocytus unsheathed was an odachi — its blade over one hundred eighty centimeters long, named God-Slaying Slash Emperor. It was the sharpest of the twenty one weapons which Cocytus possessed.


Then, he swung it at the incoming Lizardman.


The fluid cut whooshed quietly through the air. If not for the present situation, it would have been a sound which people would want to listen for.


After that sound, the chief’s body and his armor split into two halves from head to tail, which fell to the left and right, into the marsh.


God-Slaying Slash Emperor was unscathed despite cleaving through the strongest armor of the Lizardmen.


The other two Lizardmen did not seem affected by the death of their comrade. They raised their weapons and executed a pincer attack.


“Yeeart!”


On the right, Zenberu sent a karate chop at Cocytus’s face, having enhanced it with 「Iron Natural Weapon」 and 「Iron Skin」.


“Guooooh—!”


On the left was Frost Pain, stabbing at the belly.


This attack was calculated to exploit the fact that long weapons were unwieldy in melee combat.


Of course, that only applied to regular people.


Cocytus shifted slightly and intercepted Zenberu’s arm with the blade of God-Slaying Slash Emperor. His preternatural movements made it seem as though the weapon in his hand was an extension of his limbs.


Zenberu’s skin could rival the hardness of steel under the effects of Iron Skin, but the armor from just now had already proven the sharpness of God-Slaying Slash Emperor.


The blade which entered Zenberu’s arm carved it off like it was going through water.


“Guwaaargh—!”


As Zenberu’s severed right arm sprayed fresh arterial blood, Cocytus’s other hand casually gripped Frost Pain, which was headed at his belly.


“—Oh. I. See. This. Is. A. Pretty. Good. Sword.”


“Waaah!”


Zaryusu gave up on pulling back the immovable Frost Pain, and immediately lashed out at Cocytus’s knee with a kick. Cocytus did not dodge it; he simply took the blow. In the end, when Zaryusu’s foot connected with Cocytus’s knee, it was Zaryusu who felt the pain.


It felt just like kicking an iron wall with all his might.


“「Over Magic – Mass Light Cure Wounds」.”


Through the use of prodigious amounts of mana, one could forcibly cast a spell that should not have been normally usable. Aided by this metamagic enhancement, Shasuryu cast a spell that healed everyone’s wounds.


“Oh…”


Cocytus looked at Shasuryu with interest as the latter used a metamagic technique he had never heard of before. However, the two Swamp Elementals blocked his line of sight. While Zenberu’s arm gradually resumed its original form, the two Swamp Elementals attacked Cocytus with their tentacles. However, Cocytus had already slashed at the Swamp Elementals’ bodies.


Just as the the Swamp Elementals dissolved into clumps of mud, Zaryusu punched at Cocytus’s  compound eyes, his belly, and his chest. Naturally, it was Zaryusu who was hurt instead. The skin on his knuckles split and wept tears of fresh blood.


“How. Bothersome.”


Cocytus swatted at Zaryusu’s chest with his spiked tail.


♦ ♦ ♦


“Guaargh!”


Zaryusu flew into the distance like he had been hit by a baseball bat, accompanied by the sound of cracking. In the end, he hit the marsh, rolling several times before coming to a halt. However, the agony in his chest and the bright red blood he was coughing up made it hard for Zaryusu to breathe.


The broken ribs had probably pierced his lungs, because he could not take air in no matter how hard he tried to breathe. It felt as though he were in water. The hot fluid pouring into his throat made him want to vomit. He looked down at his chest, and the wound — which looked like someone had stabbed him with a sharp blade — was gushing with blood.


—-Just one hit had reduced Zaryusu to this pitiful state.


Zaryusu glared at Cocytus, the fighting spirit still burning in his eyes even as he struggled to keep breathing.


“So. You. Still. Wish. To. Fight. Then. I. Shall. Return. This. To. You.”


After casually tossing Frost Pain back to the fallen Zaryusu, Cocytus ignored him and turned to the remaining Lizardmen.


Shasuryu cast a healing spell on Zenberu, who had regrown his arm, but whose health had been greatly depleted.


Just as Cocytus was about to reach them, another stone flew at him, attempting to divert his attention — however, the attack was useless, and was easily deflected.


“—How. Annoying,” Cocytus grumbled, and then extended his hand at the Small Fang’s chief.


“「Piercing Icicle」.”


Several dozen razor-sharp icicles, each the size of an arm, showered down on a large area.


One of the Lizardmen was within the attack radius and the icicles pierced him instantly.


He took one in the chest, two in the belly, and one in the right thigh — each of them easily penetrated his body


The Small Fang chief — the best ranger among the Lizardmen, crumpled to the swamp like a puppet whose strings had been cut, where he expired.


“Uoooooh—!”


“「Over Magic – Mass Light Cure Wounds」!”


Zenberu charged ahead while Shasuryu cast a healing spell again. Zenberu was trying to buy time for Zaryusu’s wounds to mend.


He knew this was a reckless course of action, and that he was nothing before the might of Cocytus. Even so, Zenberu sprinted ahead without a moment’s hesitation.


Cocytus swung lightly at Zenberu, who had entered his attack range.


The swing was faster than Zenberu could see—


Its speed was beyond Zenberu’s dexterity—


The blade sheared easily through Zenberu’s flesh—


The decapitated corpse of Zenberu spurted blood like a geyser as it collapsed gently to the marshlands. Shortly after that, his head joined it on the sod.


“…Now. Only. The. Two. Of. You. Are. Left… I. Had. Heard. Of. Your. Strength. From. Ainz-sama. But. In. The. End. Only. The. Two. Of. You. Remained.”


Cocytus — who had not moved so much as an inch since the battle had started — studied the two of them, and flicked his sword. There was no trace of blood or fat on the gleaming white blade. That beautiful movement looked like it could sweep everything away in a single stroke.
 
Facing it was Zaryusu, who had recovered to the point where he could barely stand, and Shasuryu, who had drawn his greatsword. The two of them flanked Cocytus front and rear. Zaryusu dabbed his fingers in the blood flowing from his chest and smeared it on his face.


The way he applied the blood to himself made it seem as though he was summoning the ancestral spirits down upon himself.


“—Zaryusu, how are your wounds?”


“Not good. It’s still aching. Still, I can take a few more swings.”


“Really now… that should be enough, right? Frankly speaking, I’m almost out of mana. If I’m not careful, I might keel over.”


Shasuryu’s teeth ground against each other. Perhaps he was laughing. As Zaryusu heard this, his expression changed as well.


“…Oh, really? Ani-ja, you’re pushing yourself pretty hard too.”


Zaryusu smiled, and then he sighed, relaxing his shoulders. His sword arm sagged.


A torrent of pain erupted from near his chest, but Zaryusu fought to ignore it.


He would not give up until the last moment — Zaryusu intended to fight until the end.


From the beginning, he had known full well that victory was impossible.


Defeat was unavoidable, yet they could not accept it.


That was because it would be like lying to countless people, telling them that they could win. Since others had actually believed them, they could not accept the fact that they would be defeated.


They had to give everything they had until the final moment—


“Then swing that sword you’re wielding!!”


Zaryusu’s cry echoed throughout the surrounding area.


The sound of clacking came from Cocytus’s mandibles.


“A. Fine. Cry.”


Cocytus was probably laughing. But this was not the laughter of the strong mocking the weak, but a warrior laughing with a fellow fighter.


“Very well, Zaryusu. That’s it, then. I’ll fight with you to the bitter end as well.”


Shasuryu smiled as well.


“Then… Sorry to keep you waiting, Cocytus-dono.”


Cocytus shrugged as Shasuryu said this.


“It. Is. Fine. I. Am. Not. So. Thoughtless. As. To. Interrupt. A. Farewell. Between. Brothers. Now. Prepare. To Meet. Your. Fate… No. Pardon. Me. You. Were. Ready. For. It. From. The. Start.”


As Zaryusu and Shasuryu began moving, Cocytus flourished God-Slaying Slash Emperor and asked:


“State. Your. Names.”


“Shasuryu Shasha.”


”Zaryusu Shasha.”


“…I. Will. Remember. You. Warriors. Also. I. Apologise. Ahead. Of. Time. For. Not. Using. The. Weapons. In. All. My. Hands. It. Is. Not. That. I. Wish. To. Scorn. You. But. You. Are. Simply. Not. Strong. Enough. To. Warrant. Their. Use.”


“What a shame.”
“Indeed — here I come!”


♦ ♦ ♦


The two of them lunged at Cocytus, splashing across the marsh.


The uncoordinated timing of their attacks baffled Cocytus.


The two of them did not enter his range at the same time. Shasuryu was the first to do so. Sensing a scheme, Cocytus awaited their next move.


Since Shasuryu was the first to enter his strike zone, Cocytus carefully studied Shasuryu’s next move.


Shasuryu stopped just before Cocytus could reach him, and—


“「Earth Bind」!”


—And cast a spell.


Countless chains formed of mud leapt at Cocytus, and Zaryusu broke into a wild sprint. He had even hidden Frost Pain behind his back so his opponent would not be able to gauge his attack range.


Shasuryu’s declaration that “I’m almost out of mana,” was merely a ruse to deceive Cocytus. If he had taken the bait, perhaps he might have been bound by the mystic chains and been hit by Zaryusu’s charge from behind.


However tough their opponent’s exoskeleton was, he should still be able to break through if he poured all his strength into the edge. With that in mind, Zaryusu had abandoned defense to focus on the attack, and the resulting strike should have been quite strong.


He seems quite confident in his sword.


Cocytus could understand how he felt, because much like him, Cocytus felt strongly about the weapons he owned. In particular, the sword he now wielded — which had once been used by his creator — was especially significant to him. Therefore, despite how lopsided it would make the battle, Cocytus insisted on doing battle with God-Slaying Slash Emperor in hand, as a sign of his supreme respect.


However, they had made a miscalculation; which was that their opponent was Cocytus, Guardian of the Fifth Floor of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick.


“…My. Defenses. Cannot. Be. Breached. By. Someone. Whose. Level. Is. Below. Mine.”


The chains of mud rebounded off Cocytus an instant before they reached him, reverting to regular dirt and sinking back into the mire. Low tier spells could not pierce Cocytus’s magical defenses.


“—「Icy Burst」!”


As the shout rang out, a vortex of ivory fog swirled out and surrounded Cocytus.


A futile effort.


Cocytus was immune to cold damage, so as the gentle breeze of the supercooled mist blew around him, he patiently waited for Zaryusu and Shasuryu to enter his attack range.


Soon enough, the moment he had been waiting for arrived. However, Cocytus hesitated briefly; he thought, Can my foe be stopped just by cutting off his head?


In the face of Zaryusu’s full attack, Cocytus did not think that mere decapitation would stop his advance. The mental image of a headless body rushing him appeared in his mind.


In that case, he ought to chop his hands off first, and then his head.


No, that wouldn’t be clean enough. Best to finish him off in one stroke.


Zaryusu charged with all his strength, devoting every fiber of his being to the attack, but he was still too slow for Cocytus.


A black shadow appeared amidst the white mist — Zaryusu thrust his sword, and Cocytus caught it lightly between his fingers, like before.


Cocytus did not feel any cold from his fingertips. Perhaps Zaryusu knew that Cocytus was immune to the cold and did not use the ability.


The charge was fast, but he had blocked it so easily. That puzzled Cocytus. However, those doubts faded in an instant. His foe’s life would end with a swing of God-Slaying Slash Emperor, so there was nothing more to think about.


And then there would only be one of them left.


So it was just an unplanned charge, then…


Just as a somewhat disappointed Cocytus was about to strike, he changed his mind.


I. See…


“Ohhhhh!”


With a mighty roar, the greatsword hacked down through the freezing mist which hung in the air. Shasuryu’s swing carried a gale in its wake, which dispersed the frozen fog.


The 「Earth Bind」, Zaryusu’s charge, 「Icy Burst」, all of them were decoys.


While he had to be wary of Zaryusu stabbing him with Frost Pain, Shasuryu’s overhead chop with the greatsword was more damaging, so that must have been their true intention. However—


“Surprise attacks ought to be conducted in silence.”


As long as they could not erase the sound they made as they ran across the marsh, it could not truly qualify as an unexpected attack. Cocytus was puzzled — was this really worth taking cold damage? Or was it just a meaningless struggle.


Still, it was true that his foe had entered his strike zone.


Now that Zaryusu’s weapon was within his grasp, there was nothing to fear from him. Only the order in which they died would change. Having decided that, Cocytus swung God-Slaying Slash Emperor.


It struck.


Shasuryu was cloven in half along with his greatsword. Before the body could hit the ground, Cocytus withdrew his blade, planning to attack Zaryusu—


♦ ♦ ♦


—And then, the fingers grasping Frost Pain slipped.


Surprised, Cocytus looked at his fingers to see what had made it slide forward.


He saw the bright red of blood amidst the white mist hanging in the air.


In an instant, Cocytus realised why his fingers had slipped.


—Blood?


He was confused.


He wondered when it had gotten there, and then as he saw Zaryusu’s face through the mist, it suddenly dawned on him.


The blood smeared on his face was not to paint himself, but to coat his sword.


Neither had 「Icy Burst」 been intended to hurt Cocytus, or conceal Shasuryu’s form. Its purpose had been to hide the blood coating the sword. So was keeping it behind his back.


When he blocked Zaryusu’s attack, Cocytus had done so with his fingers. Zaryusu remembered it, and had bet on the slim chance that he would do it again. Thus he had gone to these lengths to set up the battlefield to pull it off. Just then, a flash of lightning surged through Cocytus’s  brain.


So that was why his thrust felt so weak! No wonder! There’s no way the plan to lubricate the sword with blood so it could pierce through would work every time. In order to create this chance, he slowed his strike to make me think it was easy to catch!


The blade slowly slid over, inching towards Cocytus’s pale blue body. Now that Zaryusu had thrown his full strength and even body weight into the thrust, not even Cocytus could stop it — not with two bloodstained fingers.


If he had grasped it further away from him, there might be something else he could do. But at this short range, he was out of options.


Cocytus was so moved that he trembled.


While it had relied on a bit of luck, this was an attack which had required multiple gambles, each of which had paid off. The most important thing was that without Shasuryu, none of this would have been possible.


Shasuryu should not have understood Zaryusu’s gambit, but as an elder brother, he had placed all his trust in his younger brother, to the point of sacrificing his own life. That pointless surprise attack and shouting were all to divert Cocytus’s attention from his brother for just a moment.


A single moment.


And for just a single moment — as Zaryusu was forcing Frost Pain at him with all his might — Cocytus’s mandibles trembled.


“Truly. Marvellous—”


And so the blade struck Cocytus’s body — only to deflect lightly off. His body, which glowed a faint blue, did not have so much as a scratch on it.


This was the result of the impassable gulf that separated the highest level NPCs of Nazarick from mere Lizardmen.


“—Forgive. Me. But. I. Possess. A. Skill. Which. Briefly. Negates. Weakly-Enchanted. Weapon. Attacks. Once. I Activate. It. Your. Attack. Is. Useless.”


That blow had been well-struck, and Cocytus felt that leaving a scar as a mark of respect for these warriors would be appropriate. However, he was under the eyes of a Supreme Being, and he could not do so in his position as a Guardian.


Cocytus deliberately took one step back, splashing up the mud and staining his beautiful blue body.


It was just a single step.


There was no meaning to it. Backing up would not have made any difference to him. Zaryusu would still die, and Cocytus would still win.


However, that step back was a sign of praise from the strong — Cocytus — to the weak — Zaryusu.


Zaryusu smiled, in the way someone did when he knew full well what sort of fate was in store for him, yet ran towards it anyway. As he did, Cocytus swung his sword down—


Part 3


“That was a spectacular battle,” Ainz said in praise to Cocytus, who was kneeling before him.


“Thank. You.”


“However, I trust you understand that while we we used the stick this time, you must employ the carrot in the future. You are not to rule them through fear.”


“I. Understand.”
After Ainz nodded, he looked to the other Guardians in the room.


“Very good. Now then, listen well, you Guardians. Like I said earlier in the Throne Room, Cocytus will administer the Lizardman village. If he needs help, I hope you will give it to him. Cocytus, I hope you will foster a deeply-rooted loyalty to Nazarick in the Lizardmen. I also hope that you will cultivate the growth of talented members of their species. I will leave these tasks to you. If you need 「Wings of Ascension」 or other special items, let me know. I will also lend you a 「Powered Suit」 for the time being.”


Players could change their character races in YGGDRASIL, but that did not imply that one could freely change race. Some requirements had to be met for the change, and the changes were irreversible.


Part of the requirements were items. Someone who wanted to become an Elder Lich would need a 「Book of the Dead」. Someone who wanted to become an Imp would need a 「Fallen Seed」. The 「Angel Wing」 item which Ainz had mentioned was used for becoming an Angel.


Ainz had mentioned it because he thought that it might be possible to change races in that manner.


“I. Shall. Count. On. You. When. The. Time. Comes. Ainz-sama. May. I. Know. How. You. Wish. To. Deal. With. Those. Lizardmen?”


“Those Lizardmen?”


“Yes. The. Ones. Called. Zaryusu. And. Shasuryu.”


The two who fought to the end. Their corpses should still be in the marsh. However, why did he bring them up?


“Hmm… Recover their corpses and use them for raw materials when I’m not making undead with my skills.”


“—That. Would. Be. A. Bit. Of. A. Waste.”


“Oh? Why is that? Are they that valuable?”


Ainz had watched the battle through the Mirror of Remote Viewing and saw an overwhelming victory. Nothing about them recommended themselves to his eye.


“…They. Might. Be. Weak. However. I. Saw. Their. Fearless. Warrior. Spirit. Turning. Them. Into. Raw. Materials. Is. A. Bit. Of. A. Waste. I. Feel. That. They. Could. Become. Stronger. Perhaps. Even. Exceeding. Our. Expectations. Ainz-sama. I. Believe. You. Have. Not. Yet. Conducted. Any. Practical. Experiments. With. Resurrecting. The. Dead. Could. You. Not. Do. So. With. Them?”


…Does he like those Lizardmen?


In all honesty, Ainz did not feel anything when he heard things like “warrior spirit.” He had heard of terms like “killing intent” in manga and light novels, but he thought nothing of them. It was kind of like how Narberal responded with, “Ah, so that’s what it is, oh~” and so on while he was lecturing her. Similarly, Ainz had no idea what this warrior’s empathy business was about.


That was because Ainz had originally been a normal salaryman, despite his current state. An average citizen who actually knew about a warrior’s spirit or killing intent would probably be considered dangerous. Now, he could understand something like a bureaucrat’s spirit instead.


“I see… So it would be a shame, then?”


However, when Ainz heard about Cocytus’s approval of the Lizardmen, his true thoughts were, Well, you might call it a shame, but I have no idea what that means.


Still, when he thought about it, Cocytus’s words made a lot of sense.


He had wanted to find a place to experiment with resurrection anyway, and Ainz felt that using them for those experiments would be very beneficial. In addition, unlike how Cocytus had been waffling around in the Throne Room, he had now proposed a useful solution for them. If that was a sign of improvement, then he had passed with flying colors.


He paused briefly to think, and then Ainz thought of his other exceptional subordinates.


He thought of them as they stood around him, in a suitably subservient posture — silent and unmoving.


“Albedo, what is your opinion?”


“It would be the same as yours, Ainz-sama.”


“…What do you think, Demiurge?”


“I feel whatever you decide would be best, Ainz-sama.”


“…How about you, Shalltear?”


“Like Demiurge, I shall abide by your ruling, Ainz-sama.”


“…Aura?”


“Yeah, I’m with everyone else.”
“…Mare.”


“Ah, ah, ah… yes. I think so too.”


They might as well not have answered at all. Ainz’s head ached.


Ainz thought hard, and finally realized something — perhaps the Guardians did not think it was a big deal. In other words, no matter how he decided, they did not feel there would be any major benefits or drawbacks.


Of course, he had to consider their respective situations. Sometimes, problems might arise due to their varying circumstances.


Simply put, when a rich person said, “Oh, that sum’s not a problem,” one would immediately doubt the truth of those words. In other words, it was the result of differing values and priorities.


I wasted my time asking… still, that means resurrecting the Lizardmen should be fine, right? I was planning to think carefully on this, because I’ve made too many mistakes recently.


With no recourse, Ainz had to ponder the merits and demerits of the situation by himself.


“…We have decided to subordinate the Lizardman village to our rule, but is there a suitable candidate for leader? Do they have a group that manages the entire village?”


“No, but there is a person who is suitable to be the village’s representative.”


“Oh? Who is that?”


“It. Is. The. White. Lizardman. Who. Did. Not. Take. Part. In. The. Fighting. She. Appears. To. Have. Druidic. Powers.”


“Her, then! Hm, well, that is workable…


She should be worth using, Ainz thought. We could also use her to keep an eye on the others.


However, having her execute Ainz’s plan might undermine Cocytus’s  plan to administer the village. That being the case, what should he do?


At this point, a flash of inspiration struck Ainz.


…Wouldn’t it be faster to ask her directly? Granted, I didn’t get any usable answers just now…


Ainz shared his plans with Cocytus, who replied in the affirmative.


Given Cocytus’s reaction, the fact that he might be caving in to his master’s wishes could not be ruled out. However, after glancing at Demiurge and Albedo, he noted that neither of them seemed to be acting out of the ordinary, which reassured Ainz that he was doing the right thing.


“Very well. How soon before she can be brought here?”


“Forgive. Me. If. I. Have. Overstepped. Myself. But. I. Sensed. That. You. Might. Wish. To. See. Her. And. So. I. Ordered. Her. To. Wait. In. A. Nearby. Room.”


Ainz glanced at Demiurge, who shook his head.


Nicely done indeed. He’s settled the matter without anyone’s instructions and it doesn’t look like someone else gave him the idea.


Ainz wondered if this was how a superior felt when he saw his subordinate grow as a person. He was all smiles — although one could not tell his expression given that he was a skeleton.


“No no no, you’ve done well, Cocytus. Wasting time is foolish, and your judgement was correct. All right, bring her in, then.”


“Ah, please wait!”


“What’s the matter, Aura?”


“While they are not strangers, meeting them in an unremarkable place like this will damage your reputation, Ainz-sama. I feel you should receive her in Nazarick’s Throne Room.”


The other Guardians nodded, with the exception of Mare.


“…My. Apologies. I. Had. Not. Considered. That. Please. Forgive. Me!”


“Hm…”


I hadn’t thought of that at all. With that in mind, Ainz wondered how he should resolve this problem. At that moment, he remembered the words from back then. In that case —


“—Aura.”


“Yes!”


“Did you not once say that you built this place in imitation of Nazarick? You were right. Cocytus, bring her over. I shall meet her here.”


“Ai—Ainz-sama!”


“Aura, that’s enough.”


“Albedo!”


Not knowing why she had been told to stand down, Aura looked at Albedo, her face red with protest. However, Albedo merely glanced at her and then paid her no heed, looking at the main door instead. It was Demiurge who answered the angry Aura.


“…Ainz-sama would not make a mistake. That being the case, if Ainz-sama says this place is as good as Nazarick, then—”


“—It can’t be wrong,” Shalltear continued.


Well, I don’t think I’m totally correct, and I hope they don’t think that way… Still, it ended up helping me out here.


“Aura, I shall say it again. I feel that this place — built by you, one of my most trusted subordinates — is as good as Nazarick, even if it is still a work in progress… Do you understand?”


“…Thank you, Ainz-sama!”


Aura bowed in gratitude, and so did the other Guardians.


There’s no need to be so moved, I guess… I feel so embarrassed now.


“In that case, bring her over, Cocytus.”


“At. Once!”


♦ ♦ ♦


Cocytus immediately brought the white Lizardman to the room. She knelt with her head bowed before Ainz.


“What is your name?”


“I am Crusch Lulu, representative of the Lizardmen, oh Supreme Overlord of Death, Ainz Ooal Gown-sama.”


Well, that’s pretty far-fetched. Ainz wondered who had come up with that title, but in the end he decided to adopt the calm, poised attitude of a king.  


“…Mm, welcome.”


“Thank you, Gown-sama. Please accept the utmost loyalty of we, the Lizardmen.”


“Hm…”


Ainz studied Crusch carefully.


These scales are beautiful. They glittered under the light of the magical lighting.


I wonder how they’d feel, Ainz wondered out of curiosity.


Just as Ainz lost himself in his thoughts, he realised that Crusch’s shoulders were trembling. Cocytus should have disabled his cold-emanating skills, so it was probably due to some other reason.


As he thought on the matter, Ainz realised that her shuddering made perfect sense.


If Ainz said that he was displeased with the Lizardmen, every single one of them would be deprived of their heads. Therefore, Crusch was hanging on to every word Ainz said. Given that she was jumpy and nervous as it was, Ainz’s unnatural silence would have filled her with terror.


Ainz was not the sort of person who amused himself by tormenting the weak. He could commit atrocities for the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, but his mental state had not degraded to the point where he would perform such acts as part of daily life.


“The Lizardmen shall live under my banner from this day forth. However, Cocytus will be ruling you in my place. I trust there are no problems with that?”


“—No.”


“That’s it, then. You may return.”


“Eh? May I?” Crusch exclaimed in surprise from where she was bowing. She had thought Ainz would demand the moon from her, so this utter betrayal of her expectations brought that reaction forth from her.


“You may go back for the time being, Crusch Lulu. The Lizardmen will soon enter a period of prosperity. Your future generations will give thanks with all their hearts that they were allowed to swear themselves to me.”


“You are too kind. We are already deeply grateful for the mercy you have shown us despite our opposition to a supreme being like yourself.”


Ainz slowly rose from his throne, and then approached Crusch. He knelt down, and put a hand on her shoulder.


Surprised, Crusch shuddered, and the vibration travelled up Ainz’s hand.


“Also, I have a special request for you.”


“May I know what it is? If it is within my power, then I shall strive to fulfill your desires as your faithful servant, Gown-dono…”


“The idea was not originally mine — but if you agree, I shall restore Zaryusu to life in exchange.”


As he spoke the name he had heard from Cocytus, Crusch suddenly raised her head, the very picture of shock.


Ainz smugly studied Crusch’s face. She seemed to be trying to hide her feelings, but her expression changed by the moment. Lizardmen and humans had very different facial expressions, so Ainz could not be certain what was there, but at the very least he could pick out joy, anger, and sorrow.


“Is that even possible…?”


“I possess power over life and death. Death is nothing more than a state of being to me.”


After hearing Crusch’s almost imperceptible words, Ainz continued:


“It is like being sick or poisoned, but I cannot extend one’s lifespan.”


Perhaps it would be impossible to do so through conventional means, but it might be possible with 「Wish Upon A Star」… but now was not the time for such things.


“…Then, what do you wish of your loyal slave? … My body, perhaps?”


Ainz was dumbfounded.


“No, that’s a bit too…”


As if! Even if I did desire that sort of thing, it’s not as though I’d go so far as to breed with a reptile… Having nearly said that, Ainz struggled to maintain his image.


He decided to ignore the sound of grinding teeth that came from nearby.


“Ahem! Of course not. It is simple — I want you to observe the Lizardmen and see if any of them are going to betray me.”


“No Lizardman will betray you.”


After hearing Crusch’s firm reply, Ainz smiled coldly to her.


“I am not nearly stupid enough to believe that. Indeed, I am not mighty enough to know what every Lizardman thinks, but if they are sufficiently human-like, treachery will be common enough. Therefore, I would like someone to quietly keep an eye on them.”


Crusch resumed her blank expression, which made Ainz worry that he had phrased it poorly. While he had wanted to resurrect Zaryusu from the beginning, Ainz wanted her to ask for it and thus bind her to him with chains of obligation. What should he do if she refused?


If I’d known, I shouldn’t have been so greedy… Well, I guess there’s no point crying over spilt milk.


“…A miracle hangs before you right now, but it will not last forever. If you do not seize the moment, it will be gone forever.”


Crusch’s face seemed to be twitching.


“It is not as though I am going to conduct some horrific ceremony. Does resurrection magic not exist in this world? I am simply going to use a spell like that.”


“That’s legendary…”


As Crusch hesitated over whether or not to speak, Ainz spoke to her in tender tones, but with an arrogant attitude.


“Crusch, I would like you to think about what is most important to you.”


Ainz watched Crusch’s eyes as his words slowly got to her. It felt like he was about to clinch a sale.


After this, Ainz would need to impress upon Crusch that the miracle he provided did not come free of charge. After all, people would suspect free things, but their suspicions would be eased if there was a reasonable fee attached to them.


“I want you to secretly observe your fellow Lizardmen. Depending on how things turn out, you may be faced with a dangerous choice. In addition, to guard against your treachery, I will cast a certain spell on Zaryusu when I resurrect him. It is a spell that will instantly kill Zaryusu if I judge that you have betrayed me. It might be hard on you, but it ought to be worth it if you can get Zaryusu back, am I wrong?”


That said, there’s no such spell.


Ainz stood up, as though to say that he had said his piece, and then he spread his arms.


Crusch looked at Ainz with a tormented expression in her eyes.


“Ah, yes, when Zaryusu is resurrected, I will tell him that he was recalled to life because he was useful to me. I can guarantee that your name will not come up. Well then, Crusch Lulu, make your choice. This is the last chance you have to return your beloved Zaryusu to your side. What will you do? Will you seize this opportunity, or abandon it? Decide.”


Ainz slowly extended a hand to Crusch as he looked to the Guardians and said:

“If she refuses, none of you are to do anything. Well then, Crusch Lulu, what is your answer?”

Overlord Light Novel Volume 4 Chapter 4

Overlord Light Novel Volume 4 Chapter 4

Overlord Light Novel Volume 4 Chapter 4


Part 1

Cocytus’s footsteps were heavy as he plodded towards the Throne Room. It seemed to be contagious, because the tread of his vassals behind him was slow and ponderous as well.

The reason for that was because he had lost against the Lizardmen. They had led the forces of the Nazarick into battle, and it had ended in defeat.

Cocytus personally thought quite highly of the Lizardmen. Having been created as a warrior himself, Cocytus had a deep respect for excellent warriors.

However, this was something else entirely.

Nazarick could not be permitted to suffer a defeat. In addition, this was not a defensive battle, but their first campaign into the outside world. Anyone would be upset that such a glorious first battle had ended in ignominious defeat.

It was true that his forces were inadequate. That made him recall Demiurge’s words. However, that was merely an excuse. Even if his master had considered the possibility of failure, it would still be better to win.

Soon, he saw the room before the Throne Room — the Lesser Key of Solomon (Lemegeton). His steps grew heavier, to the point where onlookers might think he had been hit by some kind of spell.

Cocytus did not mind if his master reprimanded him. He had already prepared himself to be slain or ordered to commit suicide in order to erase the stain of his dishonor.

What Cocytus feared was disappointing his master.

What should he do if they were abandoned by the sole remaining Supreme Being?

Cocytus considered himself to be a sword. He was a sword that was wielded by his master, that cut obediently when swung. Therefore, the most frightening thing he could imagine was to be deemed useless and unhelpful.

Worse still, how could he make it up to the other Guardians if they were cast aside as well?

They. Will. Never. Forgive. Me. If. Things. Get. That. Bad. Not. Even. My. Life. Will. Be. Enough. To. Atone.

And also—

If. The. Master. Is. Disappointed. And. Leaves. Like. The. Other. Supreme. Beings. What. Should. I. Do…

Cocytus trembled. He was immune to cold, so the shuddering was not due to an external source, but an internal cause. Had Cocytus been a human being, he would have started vomiting under the tremendous mental pressure that filled him.

No. That. Cannot. Be. Ainz-sama. Would. Never… Abandon. Us.

He was the sole remaining Supreme Being in the Great Tomb, after all the others had left.

He was their supreme overlord, and their absolute ruler.

How. Could. Such. A. Merciful. Master. Abandon. Us?

He tried to console himself with that thought, but deep in his heart, a quiet voice of denial said that such a thing was not impossible.

He reached the Lemegeton.

Under normal circumstances, there would be nobody here besides the surrounding Golems and the crystal monsters. However, there were many beings present. Specifically, they were Demiurge, Aura, Mare, and Shalltear, along with their hand-picked high level vassals.

Their eyes rested on Cocytus, and his guilt caused panic to briefly flash across his face.

This was because he felt like everyone was castigating him for his failure. Or no — Cocytus felt that they might be blaming themselves instead. The thought from just now crossed his mind once more. Who was to say that they might not feel the same way?

Upon closer inspection, he found that there was no sign of rebuke in their eyes.

“Forgive. My. Lateness. Even. Demiurge. Who. Was. On. A. Distant. Assignment. Reached. Here. Before. Me.”

“Think nothing of it. There is no need to apologize for such trivial matters.”

Demiurge spoke for the others.

His tone was as calm as ever, with no hint of any negative emotions within. However, Demiurge was a Guardian who was adept at scheming, skilled at manipulating emotions, and concealing his true feelings, so Cocytus could not tell if he was truly displeased or not.

From that point of view, one could say that Demiurge’s state while spectating the battle between Ainz and Shalltear was quite a rare thing for him. Granted, that was a display of the depths of his devotion.

“I’ve already informed the other Guardians, but I’ll be taking Albedo’s place as the Overseer this time round. Are there any objections?”

“No. Everything will be fine if you’re in charge.”

Albedo was not around because she was accompanying her master in Sebas’s place.

“Good. Then, once everyone is here, we will proceed to the Throne Room together. However, since Albedo is not here, I’d like to sort out the order in which we show our respects. While this sort of thing should be rehearsed beforehand, there is no time for that now. I shall thus give a verbal explanation to speed things up, so please pay attention.”

The Guardians and their servants indicated their understanding, but despite that, Cocytus had a question. All the Guardians were here, so who exactly were they waiting for?

However, his questions were answered once that person showed up.

Cocytus sensed the presence of a living being moving towards this place.

As he looked in that direction, he saw a heteromorphic creature floating in mid-air, towards the Lemegeton.

It resembled an infant — no, perhaps an embryo might be more accurate. It had a long tail, and its body was bright pink. It had an angelic halo around its head, and a pair of withered, featherless wings on its back. It was roughly one meter long, and it was slowly heading this way.

“Who’s that?”

Demiurge answered Aura’s question:

“He is Victim, Guardian of the Eighth Floor.”

“So that’s Victim…”

Victim reached the Lemegeton, and then turned a full circle. Cocytus had the feeling he was looking around.

Since Victim had no neck, he had to turn his entire body to look around him.

“KeK esiarp ,sbud esoht kcehc. (How do you do, everyone? I am Victim.)”

Demiurge seemed completely unfazed by Victim’s peculiar manner of speech, and responded on everyone else’s behalf:

“Welcome, Victim. I am Demiurge, and I am taking Albedo’s place for this meeting.”

“Krelc knab edarg-wol a fo ecnaraeppa eht dna ,gar pmad a fo amsirahc eht evah uoy. (I heard about that from Ainz-sama).”

After saying that, Victim turned his entire body to regard everyone once more.

“Noisiced doog a edam eh -nam a rof reh tfel dnabsuh remrof reh yhw dnatsrednu ylluf I .tuo dna edisni htob evitcarttanu si notgniffuH anaira. (I know about everyone, so I hope you’ll understand if I ask that we dispense with the introductions.)”

“Is that so? I see. Then, since we’re all here, I shall explain what I was just talking about.”

Everyone paid close attention to Demiurge’s explanation, because they would soon be meeting their supreme master, Ainz-sama, in the heart of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. The slightest mistake might well be punished by death.

After he finished speaking, Demiurge gave everyone some time to digest what they had heard before he led the Guardians and their vassals into the Throne Room.

Cocytus’s heart soared as he stepped into this room, which he had only entered a few times before.

With its outstanding construction, the flags which represented the Supreme Beings and the World Class Item in its depths, this room truly deserved its name as the heart of Nazarick. The spectacular display before him allowed him to briefly forget the torment within his soul.

Along the way, the Guardians left their vassals behind and formed a line at the steps before the throne. Then, they saluted the guild emblem of Ainz Ooal Gown which hung upon the walls as a sign of their respect and loyalty.

After that, they genuflected with heads lowered, awaiting the arrival of their master.

Soon, the sound of heavy doors opening came from behind, and a pair of footsteps made their way into the hall. Needless to say, it was not the sound of their master, because the owner of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick would never move unaccompanied.

“A warm welcome for Ainz Ooal Gown-sama, Supreme Overlord of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, as well as Albedo-sama, Guardian Overseer.”

That voice belonged to Yuri Alpha, of the Pleiades.

They could hear the doors opening once more, and this time there was the crisp sound of booted feet and a staff tapping against the ground. It was followed by that of high-heeled shoes treading across the ground.

Normally, when their master entered, they should have bowed to show their respect for him. However, nobody present did so. That was because they had already demonstrated their utmost respect.

However, that was not the case for Cocytus.

The unease that filled his soul manifested in his body as a physical movement. It was a tiny thing, but it greatly influenced the mood in the air.

Through the use of a skill, Cocytus could sense the other Guardians shifting their attention to him. Albedo, walking behind her master, was also radiating an anger that she was trying in vain to suppress. However, nobody dared to speak under these circumstances.

The footsteps slowly passed around the line of Guardians, ascended the steps, and then reached the throne, whereupon it ended in the sound of someone sitting down. Albedo’s voice then echoed loudly through the Throne Room.

“You may raise your heads to gaze upon the glory of Ainz Ooal Gown-sama.”

The assembled Guardians looked up — the sounds of their movement perfectly coordinated — to their master who was seated on his throne.

Cocytus also raised his head immediately.

There, he saw the supreme ruler of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, the Supreme Being whose staff of office was wreathed in a dreadful aura, backlit by a mysterious black radiance — Ainz Ooal Gown.

Before him stood Albedo, who cast her gaze down on the massed Guardians, including Cocytus. Satisfied with what she saw, she nodded and then turned to Ainz.

“Ainz-sama, the Guardians of Nazarick are gathered before you. Please bestow your orders upon us.”

Ainz went “Umu” in deep, regal tones, before thumping his staff heavily upon the floor. The gesture drew everyone’s attention, and then Ainz slowly spoke:

“Welcome, you Guardians who are assembled before me. Now then, I shall first convey my thanks. Demiurge!”

“Yes!”

“I have called upon you every time something came up. Well done. Thank you for your loyal service.”

“Oh, your praise is too lavish, Ainz-sama. I am but your humble servant; it is only natural for me to appear before you whenever I am summoned. That requires no thanks.”

Demiurge bowed deeply. He seemed to be trembling in delight.

“Is that so? Ah, that’s right. Has anyone suspicious appeared on your end?”

“No. I have been very careful, and it should be easy to detect anyone who approaches…”

“…That’s good. However, do not allow yourself to grow lax. After all, our enemies might come up with a way we have not anticipated. In addition, there’s the matter of the skin you have brought me… according to the Head Librarian, it can be used to make low tier spell scrolls. Can you ensure a stable supply?”

“Yes! There will be no problems at all in that respect. We have already captured an adequate quantity.”

“Really now… Then, what were those beasts called again?”

“Beasts…? Ah! The beasts of which you speak, Ainz-sama…”

Demiurge paused briefly to think, and then continued:

“They are two legged sheep from the Holy Kingdom. What do you think of the name Abelion Sheep?”

Demiurge’s joyful tone puzzled Cocytus. Demiurge was fundamentally a good-tempered, possibly even compassionate person. However, that was only where his fellow creations of the Supreme Beings were concerned. He was extremely cruel to everyone else.

One could glimpse shades of that cruelty under his good-humored facade. While his deeply-seated malice ought to have been directed at the aforementioned beasts, would he really refer to unintelligent creatures with such an attitude?

Given Demiurge’s personality, something seemed off. However, now was not the time to inquire further.

“I see… sheep, then.”

Their master seemed amused, which in turn put a smile on Demiurge and Albedo’s faces.

“While I think goats would be better… that name will do. Then, skin those sheep, by all means… Will excessive capture affect the local ecosystem?”

“I doubt it. In addition, the use of healing magic allows us to skin them again. Therefore, we will not need to capture them en masse if we do not engage in large-scale production. That too is thanks to the monsters called Torturers.”

“Hm? Don’t severed body parts vanish when healing magic is applied?”

“About that… we have learned something during our experiments with healing magic. Once some great change has occurred to the severed body parts — mincing, for example — those parts will remain. In other words, once the flayed skin has been processed, the healing magic no longer recognizes it as part of the body and it will not vanish even when the source is healed. This is also why they will not die when they are fed meat. Also, this is not exactly related, but when either the healer or the healed one rejects the magic, it will not be able to operate properly and will leave a scar. Similarly, lower tier spells are more likely to leave scars as time passes.”

“I see… magic is quite impressive. Very well, carry on, then.”

“Understood. I shall begin harvesting them according to age and gender. Once that is done, could you tell me which age of skin is most suitable?”

“I will let the Head Librarian handle that. Next, Victim.”

“Tihs fo stnap ,tif gnihguoc. (Yes, Ainz-sama.)”

“I have summoned you here for only one reason. If something unexpected happens, I may need you to protect us and the other Guardians with your skill… I apologize for that, and I promise I will resurrect you immediately. I hope you understand.”

“Retteb eht ,ssarg ot tuo tup er’uoy renoos eht dna ,uoy tnaw t’nod ew ,uoy wonk t’nod eW :gniyas ni elpoep hsitirB fo ytirojam eht fo flaheb no kaeps I taht ecnedifnoc htiw yas nac I dna ,lla ta boj siht ni ycamitigel on evah uoy ,riS .etarotcetorp a naht erom gnihton ot decuder eceerG nees ev’ew ,revo koot uoy ecnis tuB .yrtnuoc-non a hcum ytterp si hcihw ,muigleB morf emoc uoy esuaceb s’taht spahrep – setats noitan fo ecnetsixe eht fo tpecnoc yrev eht rof gnihtaol a evah ot raeppa uoy. (Demiurge has already told me about that. Please do not worry, Ainz-sama. After all, I am also your servant. In addition, the goal of my life is death, so there is no greater joy for me than to aid the Supreme Beings in even the slightest of ways.”

“Is that so… still, forgive me.”

Victim gasped in surprise as he saw his master bow to him. There was a look of bewilderment and shock on his face.

“Yssup eht yb reh barg tsuj! (I would not dare!)”

“If special circumstances arise, we may need to kill you in order to keep the foe from escaping. Even in that case, I hope you will accept that we are not killing you out of malice. You are one of my beloved children and I do not wish to hurt you, but we may all suffer if we let an unknown enemy be.”

“Nuf erom era semeM .sgniht rehto dna sroloc fo sgnirts sselgninaem s’ti ,ees nac uoy sA .elprup eulb rabannic rehco noitareneg yarg hcaep ynoep hcaep neerg eulb :esenapaJ ro esenihC ni ekil sdaer naihconE ekaf s’mitciV tahw fo elpmas a si siht. (There is no need to explain, Ainz-sama. I am fully aware of your intentions.)”

“There is a phrase used in one of Nazarick’s mechanisms. It goes, ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ That phrase describes you perfectly. Thank you for your love.”

Ainz’s gaze moved from the Guardian who had pledged his loyalty to the death, and shifted to another Guardian.

“Next, Shalltear.”

Shalltear’s shoulders trembled. She had not expected she would be called, and her reply seemed abnormally high-pitched.

“Y-Yes!”

“…Come to me.”

Unlike the other Guardians, Shalltear was the only one who had been summoned to her master’s side. She rose to her feet, both surprised and panicked. Her unease was clearly apparent from her back, and she looked like a condemned criminal being sent to the chopping block. Still, she held her head high and thrust out her chest, as though she were walking to glory.

After ascending the steps, Shalltear immediately genuflected a short distance before the throne.

“Shalltear, I wish to speak of the matter which coils around your heart in thorns.”

As her master spoke those words, Shalltear immediately knew what he was talking about, and her face filled with shame and guilt.

“Ahhh! Ainz-sama! Please, please hand down your punishment! I am a Guardian, but still I committed such a foolish mistake! Please give me the harshest punishment possible!”

Shalltear’s anguished wail echoed through the Throne Room, and Cocytus found himself empathizing with her. No, any Guardian — in fact, anyone who was made by the Supreme Beings — would be able to understand how she felt.

Even if she had been mind controlled, she could not forgive herself for turning her lance on the Supreme Beings.

“Really now… then, Shalltear, come over here.”

As she saw her master beckon her over, Shalltear slowly crawled towards the Throne.

Ainz extended a bony hand to Shalltear, whose head was bowed before the throne, and gently caressed her head.

“Ai-Ainz-sama…” Shalltear ventured as she nervously lifted her head, almost scared to death.

“…That failure was due to a miscalculation on my part. In addition, you were dealing with a World Class Item, which meant that you were at a great disadvantage. Shalltear — I love all of you who serve Nazarick loyally, you who were created from nothing. That includes you as well. Do you wish to force me to punish you, who bears no sin, and whom I love?”

The master shifted his gaze, as though he felt uncomfortable. Cocytus had no idea where his master was looking, but he seemed to have spoken quietly. His master’s face was skeletal, so there were no lips he could read, but he had probably said someone’s name.

“Oh, Ainz-sama! You actually said you loved me!”

Shalltear’s moved voice echoed through the hall.

Cocytus was behind Shalltear, so he could not see her face. However, her attitude said everything. Her voice sounded choked up, while her shoulders twitched.

He could see his master’s other hand gently caressing Shalltear’s face. It was holding a white handkerchief.

“There there, Shalltear. Don’t cry. It’ll spoil your beauty.”

Shalltear did not answer. She simply pressed her face — probably her lips — to the back of the hand stroking her hair.

Mare and Aura were already shedding tears.

Demiurge too dabbed at the corner of his eyes. Cocytus was somewhat envious of those people who could cry, and he looked longingly at the backs of his utterly loyal colleagues.

What Shalltear feared most was to be deemed useless, a troublemaker and disloyal, and then abandoned by the final, merciful Supreme Being who had remained with them.

However, her master thoroughly obliterated that unease.

He did so with the word “love.”

How happy must Shalltear be now? As someone in the same situation as her — no, his own situation was worse — Cocytus could only watch her back silently, with unbridled jealousy in his eyes.

“Then, Shalltear, you may lea—”

“—Ainz-sama.”

A cold voice interrupted her master’s words. Cocytus glared angrily at Albedo for her disrespect. And then, a thrill of dread ran through him as a wisp of unease curled through his heart.

“The meting out of appropriate punishment and reward is the way of the world. I feel she must still be punished.”

“…Albedo, do you dispute my deci…”

Her master’s words trailed off. He must have been left unable to speak by some reason about which Cocytus knew nothing, In the end, it was Shalltear’s words which swayed his final decision.

“Ainz-sama, I agree with what Albedo said. Please punish me as you see fit. The chance to fully express my loyalty would delight me as well.”

“…I understand. I shall do so after deciding on the appropriate form of punishment. You may return to your place.”

“Yes, Ainz-sama.”

Shalltear descended down the stairs, her already red eyes made even redder. She returned to her original position, and bowed with a matchless devotion to her master.

And then—

“Cocytus, Ainz-sama has something to tell you. Pay close attention.”

The air filled with tension.

It was his turn now.

Cocytus’s head was bowed very low. While that posture, which only allowed him to see the floor, was a clear display of respect, Cocytus had done so because he lacked the courage to look directly at his master.

“I have seen your battle with the Lizardmen, Cocytus.”

“Yes!”

“It ended in defeat.”

“Yes! The. Blame. For. That. Failure. Lies. With. Me. Please. Accept. My. Sincerest. Apologies. And. I. Pray. You. Will. Allow. Me. To—”

The sound of the staff striking the ground interrupted Cocytus’s apology. Then, Albedo’s cold voice made his hearing organs tremble.

“…You are being very rude to Ainz-sama, Cocytus. If you wish to apologize, do so with your head raised.”

“Forgive. Me!”

He raised his head and looked upon his master, who was seated at the top of the stairs.

“…Cocytus, what do you have to say as the general of a defeated army? How do you feel, given that you did not take the field and merely acted as a commander?”

“I. Am. Deeply. Remorseful. For. My. Inability. To. Achieve. Victory. Even. After. Receiving. Command. Of. My. Own. Troops. And. For. The. Loss. Of. The. Elder. Lich. Commander. That. You. Personally. Made. Ainz-sama.”

“Hm? Ah, you can get undead like that from just about anywhere, so it’s hardly a shame. There’s no need to worry about it, Cocytus. What I want to ask is how you felt when commanding a battle. Let me get this out of the way first — I do not intend to blame you for this defeat.”

The Guardians and the vassals behind them were confused by those words, with the exception of Albedo and Demiurge.

So Demiurge was right… oh!

Cocytus sensed his master was about to continue speaking, and hurriedly refocused on him.

“After all, anyone can fail. Even me.”

The air in the Throne Room turned uneasy. How on earth could the Supreme Being Ainz Ooal Gown fail? In fact, he had never once made a mistake up till now.

In other words, he was only saying this to comfort Cocytus.

“However, the question is what you learned from that battle. Put in a different way, what do you think you should have done to win, Cocytus?”

Cocytus began thinking in silence. He now knew what he had to do to win, and so he spoke freely of his own deficiencies.

“I. Underestimated. The. Lizardmen. I. Should. Have. Been. More. Careful.”

“Umu. Just so. No matter how weak your opponent is, you can’t look down on them… I should have let Narberal see that battle too. Is there anything else?”

“Yes. I. Did. Not. Have. Enough. Information. From. This. Battle. I. Learned. That. My. Chances. Of. Victory. Would. Be. Slim. If. I. Did. Not. Know. The. Enemy’s. Strength. And. The. Terrain.”

“Very good. Anything else?”

“The. Commander. Was. Inadequate. Since. The. Troops. In. The. Field. Were. Low Tier Undead. I. Should. Have. Accompanied. Them. With. Commanders. Who. Could. Adapt. To. The. Circumstances. And. Issue. Timely. And. Accurate. Orders. In. Addition. After. Considering. The. Lizardman’s. Weaponry. I. Should. Have. Attacked. With. The. Zombies. To. Tire. The. Foe. Or. At. Least. Kept. The. Troops. Together. And. Attacked. All. At. Once.”

“Is that all?”

“…My. Deepest. Apologies. But. That. Is. All. I. Can. Think. Of. For Now.”

“There is no need to apologize. You have said nothing wrong, and that was an excellent analysis. Of course, there is room for improvement, but you seem to have learned quite a lot. In truth, I hoped that you would not have to consult others and discovered those flaws on your own… but that is still acceptable. Then, why did you not do all those things earlier?”

“…I. Did. Not. Think. Of. Them. I. Felt. That. I. Could. Overwhelm. Them. With. My. Forces.”

“I see. However, you did think of them after the undead were destroyed, no? Very good! As long as you can improve yourself and avoid future mistakes, then there is meaning to this defeat.”

Cocytus sensed that his master was smiling.

“There are many kinds of failure, but yours was not of the lethal kind. All the undead save the Elder Lich were automatic spawns. Their destruction does not affect Nazarick in any way. Rather, if they enabled a Guardian to learn something and avoid future errors, then this failure is actually quite a bargain.”

“Thank. You. Very. Much. Ainz-sama!”

“However, the fact is that you were defeated. Thus, you must be punished like Shalltear…”

At this point, his master fell silent. This brief interruption made Cocytus uneasy as he waited for his master to pass judgement. That said, he was greatly relieved now that he knew that he had not disappointed his master. However, what he heard next made Cocytus freeze up.

“I had originally planned to have you retreat and act as a rear guard, but I think it’ll be better this way. Cocytus, you will personally erase the stain of your shame… in other words, you will exterminate the Lizardmen. This time, you are not allowed to call on anyone else for help.”

If they annihilated the Lizardmen and kept word from getting out, then this would not count as a defeat for Nazarick.

Those who viewed everyone outside Nazarick as inferior lifeforms would gladly accept this duty, wiping away their shame and that of Nazarick with slaughter. Indeed, if this had been the Cocytus from earlier, he would have accepted this order without hesitation. However—

Cocytus shuddered.

This was because he knew what that order meant.

He breathed in and out several times.

Just as everyone began wondering why Cocytus had not responded to his master’s command, he finally spoke.

“I. Have. A. Request. Ainz-sama!”

The world seemed to stand still as everyone’s attention rested on Cocytus.

Cocytus was a Guardian, one of the most powerful and highest ranked beings of Nazarick. There were scant few people who were in his league, but even someone like himself felt a chill run through his entire body.

While regret stampeded through his heart like an avalanche, it was too late now.

Since he had said it, there was no turning back.

Cocytus had compound eyes and thus a very broad field of vision, but from his bowed posture, he could not see his master’s face. That was the only solace he had. If his master displayed any anger or displeasure, Cocytus would be trembling so hard that he would not be able to do anything.

“Please. Hear. Me. Out. Ainz-sama!”

Before his master could respond, someone else interrupted Cocytus.

“How dare you!”

It was Albedo. Her deafening shout roared like thunder, filled with the gravitas which befitted the Guardian Overseer. Cocytus shuddered, like a child being rebuked by his mother.

“What right do you have to ask anything of Ainz-sama after staining the glory of Nazarick with defeat? The audacity!”

Cocytus remained silent. He was determined not to raise his head until his master acknowledged him. He would remain as he was even if Albedo hammered him with the full force of her wrath.

“Hurry up and—”

However, a calm male voice dispersed Albedo’s roar like mist in sunlight.

“—It’s fine, Albedo.”

His master repeated himself, to soothe the shocked Albedo.

“Raise your head, Cocytus. Could you tell me your request?”

There was no anger in that even voice, which only made it more frightening. The fear Cocytus felt was akin to seeing the bottom of a clear lake and knowing that one was about to be sucked in.

Cocytus’s equipment granted him resistance to fear and mind-affecting effects originating from external sources. Therefore, the fear assailing him now sprang from within his own heart.

After gulping — to be precise, it would be like swallowing a mouthful of venom — Cocytus slowly raised his head and looked at his master and ruler.

Points of bright red fire danced within the empty orbits of his eye sockets.

“I say again, can you tell me your request?”

He could not speak. He had tried several times, but the words caught in his throat and nothing came out of his mouth.

“What’s wrong? Cocytus?”

A weighty silence filled the air.

“…I am not angry at you. I merely wish to know what you are thinking, and what you are asking.”

His tone was gentle, as though trying to placate a quiet child. In the face of this, Cocytus finally managed to speak

“I oppose the extermination of the Lizardmen, and I beg that you will show them your mercy, Ainz-sama.”

After that simple, direct statement, Cocytus thought that the air was trembling. No, it was actually trembling.

The greatest source of that came from in front of him — from Albedo’s murderous intent, followed by the quailing of the other Guardians’ hearts. In contrast, Demiurge and his master seemed as calm as still water.

“…Cocytus, do you understand what you are saying?”

Albedo’s frigid, murderous tone made Cocytus shudder, despite his immunity to the cold.

“Ainz-sama ordered you to exterminate the Lizardman to expiate your sins, but you would deny his will, as the guilty party… Cocytus, Guardian of the Fifth Floor, are you afraid of the Lizardmen?”

She sounded like she was mocking him, but Cocytus could not retort with anything.

Albedo’s attitude was only to be expected. If he were in her place, Cocytus would most likely be quite angry too.

“Why don’t you speak—”

What silenced Albedo was not the sound of speech, but the sound of a collision. It was the high-pitched impact of a staff against the ground.

“Be quiet, Albedo. I am asking Cocytus a question. Contain yourself.”

“My deepest apologies! I, I beg your forgiveness!”

Albedo bowed in in apology and returned to her previous location.

Cocytus’s master turned to transfix him with a keen gaze. There was no reading his expression. He looked like he was brimming with anger, but at the same time he appeared quite bemused.

“Then, Cocytus, does that request of yours hold any benefit to the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick? Tell me.”

“Yes! In. The. Future. They. Might. Breed. Mighty. Warriors. Therefore. It. Would. Be. A Shame. To. Wipe. Them. All. Out. Right. Now. Your. Servant. Submits. That. It. Would. Be. Better. To.. Instill. A. Strong. Sense. Of. Loyalty. Among. Them. So. That. When. Stronger. Lizardmen. Appear. We. Can. Take. Them. As. Minions.“

“…That is quite a good idea. There’s little difference in the levels of the undead made from Lizardman corpses compared to those made with human corpses. There is no need to worry about Lizardman corpses if we can efficiently recover the bodies buried in E-Rantel.”

Just as Cocytus was about to continue, he sensed that his master was not finished yet. The unease within his heart took material form.

“However, the undead I make with corpses are more economical than making use of Lizardmen. Not only can we be sure of their loyalty, but we will not have to worry about their care and feeding. The only advantage I can see in the Lizardmen is that they will naturally increase in population, and that increase will take a long time to be seen… Do tell me if I am missing anything out. Are there any sufficiently convincing advantages they possess?”

If Cocytus could persuade his merciful master, his wish could come true. However, Cocytus could not think of anything.

He had always thought of himself as a weapon to be wielded by his master. As a result, he had never thought on his own account before, which was why he could not convince his master. He had not considered what to do in order to benefit the group.

In addition, his master desired gains for the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. Cocytus did not wish to exterminate the Lizardmen because they had outstandingly brilliant people among them. In other words, he wished to spare the Lizardmen because he wanted to spare those talented individuals. That was a personal consideration, paying no heed to the bigger picture.

Cocytus’s heart burned with anxiety.

If he displeased or angered his silent master, this miraculous chance to make a suggestion would be all for naught, leaving him with the order to exterminate the Lizardmen.

He racked his brains as hard as he could, but he could not find an answer.

“What’s wrong, Cocytus? Can’t think of anything? Then it’ll be extermination, no?”

It was the same question from before.

Cocytus’s mind was a complete blank. His mouth felt like it weighed a ton, and his thoughts simply spun in circles.

A quiet muttering filtered through the silent Throne Room:

“…Really now. What a shame.”

Just as those words of whispered regret threatened to crush the very breath from Cocytus, he was aided by a calm voice.

“Ainz-sama, please permit me to interject.”

“…What is it, Demiurge? Is something the matter?”

“Yes. It concerns the decision you made just now, Ainz-sama. If it pleases you, may I be allowed to supply my humble opinion?”

“…By all means.”

“Yes! Ainz-sama, I am certain you understand the importance of experiments. Therefore, should we not use the Lizardmen for experiments as well?”

“Oh, now that does sound interesting.”

Cocytus imagined that when his master leaned forward from his throne, his red eyes had met his own for a fraction of a second.

“Yes. To begin with, regardless of how Nazarick turns out in the end, we will ultimately need to gather various forces or exert control over various species. Your servant submits that when that time comes, there will be a great difference in the results depending on whether or not we have performed experiments in rulership.”

Demiurge straightened himself up further, looking his master — who was seated upon his throne — straight in the eye, and delivered his summation.

“I feel that we should take control of the Lizardman village and conduct experiments in ruling without the use of terror.”

The high-pitched ringing of the staff slamming into the floor echoed all around.

“…An excellent suggestion, Demiurge.”

“I am deeply grateful.”

“Then, I shall make use of Demiurge’s suggestion concerning the Lizardmen. They are not to be exterminated, but subjugated. Are there any objections? Raise your hands if there are.”

The crimson eyes swept across all the Guardians.

“…It seems there are none. Then it is decided.”

Everyone bowed in acknowledgement.

“That said, your suggestion was quite outstanding, Demiurge. Very impressive.”

Demiurge smiled.

“I would not dare, Ainz-sama. I imagine you must have already known about that, but you were only waiting for Cocytus to bring it up.”

His master did not answer, only smiled bitterly. However, his master’s attitude said everything.

Cocytus felt that his body had gone slack all of a sudden.

He had suffered an ignominious defeat while commanding the glorious armies of Nazarick. He had opposed his master’s wishes without preparing any other alternatives to his will. How could he describe his performance? He had been so—

Incompetent. How incompetent am I, anyway?

“…No, there’s nothing of the sort, Demiurge. You praise me too highly. I was merely hoping that you would express your opinions, regardless of what they were.”

His master’s gaze shifted again, lingering on Cocytus for the longest time. He understood what his master was implying, but he could not lower his head.

“The most important thing is to understand the true meaning of your orders. After doing so, you must take the most appropriate action. Listen well, Guardians. Do not blindly follow orders. You must think before you act, and consider how best Nazarick can prosper from your actions. If you feel your orders are in error, or if you have a better alternative, then you must tell me or the person proposing the idea. Then — Cocytus, I believe I said I was going to punish you, did I not?”

“Yes. You. Ordered. Me. To. Exterminate. The Lizardmen.”

“Indeed. Now, however, we will not destroy them, but place them under our rule. As a result, I will alter your punishment. You will rule the Lizardmen, and you will instil a deeply-rooted loyalty to Nazarick within them. You are forbidden from ruling them with fear. Instead, you will turn the Lizardmen into a model of rulership without terror.”

Cocytus had never borne such a weighty responsibility before — no, among the Guardians, only Demiurge had this sort of experience.

It’ll be hard to complete this mission by myself.

That thought appeared briefly in Cocytus’s mind, but how could he admit to such weakness now? He could not say such things to the compassionate ruler to whom he owed his ultimate fealty, or to the colleague who had lent him a helping hand

“Understood. I. Have. My. Concerns. About. The. Task. So. I. May. Need. To. Call. On. The. Aid. Of. Others.”

“Of course. In addition, this matter will require considerable resources, rations, and manpower. Nazarick will supply those.”

“Thank. You. Very. Much. I. Cocytus. Guarantee. That. I. Will. Show. You. Good. Results. And. That. The. Mercy. You. Have. Shown. Will. Not. Be. In. Vain. Ainz-sama!” Cocytus shouted.

“Very well. Then, I now order all the Guardians to move out. One team shall serve as distractions while another will demonstrate our power and show the Lizardmen that our strength is not limited to what they have seen. Of course, if you feel that may affect your future rule, I can rescind that order, Cocytus.”

Cocytus thought carefully about the matter and then replied:

“I. Feel. That. It. Will. Not. Pose. Any. Problems.”

“I see. Then, all Guardians, prepare to move out.”

As one, the gathered Guardians indicated their assent.

“Albedo, I will be heading out as well. Prepare our forces.”

“Understood. After considering that we may have foes who enjoy spying on us, can I assume that this is intended to deceive them about our true intentions?”

“Just so. However, do not forget that we must strike fear into the hearts of our opposition.”

“Then, perhaps we can send out the Old Guard of Nazarick as the main body of our forces so they will look more impressive.”

Cocytus agreed with Albedo’s response.

There was a type of undead guard called the Old Guard.

The Old Guard of Nazarick were high level undead sentries which were only found within the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. They wielded weapons with all sorts of magical effects, and they were equipped with enchanted armor and shields. In addition, they possessed many refined combat skills, making them excellent undead sentries.

“That should be fine. How many of them are there?”

“They number three thousand.”

“Seems a bit too little. It’ll be hard to convey the desired shock effect with those numbers… Our objective is to win a complete victory and frighten those who underestimate Nazarick. If we field fewer troops than before, it’ll mean nothing, so I would like to deploy at least double the forces from the previous engagement. What other forces can we use?”

“Then, how about mobilizing the Nazarick Elder Guards and the Nazarick Master Guards? That way we will have six thousand people.”

As expected of the Guardian Overseer, Albedo replied smoothly and immediately. Ainz’s response was simple and clear.

“Excellent! Then, were there any problems when activating Gargantua?”

“No, Ainz-sama. There were no problems in its activation.”

“Then, use 「Gate」 to send our forces over together.”

“However, my mana might run out if I have to do it alone.”

“Ask Pestonya to help. Have her transfer mana to you. If that’s not enough, get Lupusregina to help as well.”

“Understood.”

“After that, transfer Nigredo’s and Pandora’s Actor’s warning grid to me. This will weaken our surveillance on Sebas… but that just means we’ll need to focus on physical observation. Very well! Then, carry on, everyone. Tomorrow, we shall show the Lizardmen the power of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick.”

Part 2

“Thank. You. Demiurge.”

Once his master left, the first thing Cocytus did was express his gratitude to Demiurge. Demiurge responded to the deeply bowed Cocytus with the same serene smile as always.

“No, there’s no need for thanks.”

“How. Could. That. Be? Without. Your. Help. The. Lizardmen. Would. Have. Been. Exterminated.”

“…Cocytus, I believe the reason why Ainz-sama approved of your suggestion was because Ainz-sama had foreseen such a development.”

As Demiurge delivered his summation with an upraised finger, a startled gasp rang through the air. The sound seemed to have come from himself, or the Guardians around him.

“In other words, I believe Ainz-sama anticipated that you would say such a thing. That was why he sent you to the Lizardman village. I felt that was the case because Ainz-sama seemed most delighted to hear you oppose the destruction of the Lizardmen village. In contrast, he sounded quite disappointed when you could not bring up an alternative solution.”

“You. Mean. To. Say. Ainz-sama. Was. Disappointed. Because. Things. Did. Not. Go. According. To. Plan?”

“Precisely. In other words, even the conversation we are having now might well have been foreseen by Ainz-sama.”

“As. Expected. Of. Ainz-sama. He. Has. Planned. Everything. Out. With. Meticulous. Perfection.”

“B-But, a-ah…”

“…Spit it out.”

Aura bade her little brother Mare to speak, in a stern tone of voice.

“Ah, y-yes. Ah, I was wondering why he had sent out such weak undead at first. Ah, ah.. per-perhaps… Ainz-sama had planned on the attack failing from the start…”

“Well, rather than say that he had planned to be defeated, isn’t it more like our master had anticipated that Cocytus would have investigated the Lizardmen’s strength and then mentioned that victory might be in doubt?”

A profound sense of shame fell over Cocytus as he remembered his exchange with Demiurge back then. After all, he had messed everything up.

“He couldn’t have come up with something like that if he didn’t understand Cocytus so well. Well, that’s Ainz-sama for you…”

“While we have already seen Ainz-sama’s outstanding warrior prowess during the battle with Shalltear, to think he also possessed such extraordinary talent as a schemer. I cannot help but prostrate myself before him in awe. While Ainz-sama may have said otherwise, I feel that nothing can go wrong if we simply obey Ainz-sama’s orders…”

“He’s really amazing. He truly lives up to the name of the one who united all the Supreme Beings.”

Shalltear excitedly added her own praise after Demiurge’s. The other Guardians nodded in agreement.

♦ ♦ ♦

After returning to his room, Ainz jumped onto his bed. He hung briefly in the air before his body sank into the bed — and then he started to roll.
He rolled right, and then he rolled left.
The bed was big enough for him to do so.
His luxurious robe was crumpled from this, but Ainz paid it no heed, giggling quietly as he rolled around. The reason Ainz was doing such a childish thing was because there was nobody in this room besides him.
Soon, Ainz had indulged his childish desire for the soft sheets. He then lay on his back, facing the ceiling.
“Ahhh, I’m so tired… ah, I want to loosen up and get drunk… although I can’t do that now.”
After complaining to the air, he sighed deeply — although Ainz could not breathe, so he was just going through the motions.
Ainz was undead, so physical and mental exhaustion were foreign to him. However, in human terms, he had spent every day hard at work for the past month. If he had a stomach, it would be in ruins by now.
Ainz was currently filled with stress.
The warrior Momon had defeated the silver-haired Vampire — Shalltear. Perhaps someone who was not in full possession of the facts might think it was simply impressive, but to the mysterious person who had used a World Class Item on Shalltear, it would mean something else. The opposition might have their eye on Ainz, or they might try to make contact with him.
Therefore, Ainz spent his days on high alert, with many cash items ready so he could make his escape at any time. During his free time, he indulged in a little bit of mental roleplay — or exercising his imagination, more like — and studied whether he would be able to escape if the enemy came for him, while at the same time gathering information about his foe.
This nerve-wracking daily life had little effect on Ainz Ooal Gown, but it tired out the remnants of his humanity — of Suzuki Satoru’s personality. The reason why he indulged in immature behavior when he was alone and had free time was probably a sign that Suzuki Satoru was under a lot of stress, hidden beneath the facade of Ainz.
“I don’t remember ever working without rest or sleep like this… I wonder how much overtime I’ll get this month?”

Perhaps that griping had come from the personality of Suzuki Satoru overriding that of Ainz’s.

“The Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick… no, Ainz Ooal Gown… isn’t a stock corporation. As a joint venture company, we’re supposed to be a moral enterprise, so we ought to pay all employees the overtime they’re due…”

After whining to himself like that, Ainz furrowed his nonexistent eyebrows.

“Hm? …Don’t tell me I’m not entitled to overtime because I have a post allowance? Uwah…”

Ainz rolled around again, and then froze after about half a dozen iterations.

“All right… that’s enough useless thinking for one day… That said, I’m really impressed that Cocytus actually said something like that.”

It had come as quite a surprise. To think Cocytus actually felt sympathy for the Lizardmen.

In truth, Cocytus’s actions had been a big headache for Ainz.

Suzuki Satoru was the sort of person who would thoroughly research his sources and regurgitate them by rote when called upon to deliver a briefing. Therefore, he was not used to dealing with unexpected things. However, as long as it was written down in his notes, he could use them to deal with it. In other words, the success of Suzuki Satoru’s briefings rested on how much research he did and how well he could use it to respond to the circumstances. He was extremely inept in dealing with situations which required adaptability; in fact, he hated them.

He could not bring his notes into the Throne Room and say, “Ah, please look at the next page.” Therefore, Ainz had mentally rehearsed the events in the Throne Room over ten times beforehand. As he did, he prayed that nobody would do anything surprising.

And then, Cocytus had shattered that tiny wish of his.

He had been extremely worried about what Cocytus would say, but he was also very happy.

That was the joy a parent might have — as though a hitherto docile and obedient child had expressed his own opinion for once. The important thing was that Cocytus’s growth had far exceeded Ainz’s expectations.

When Ainz had returned to Nazarick earlier, he had asked one of the maids to cook something — a steak. Perhaps she might need practice when it came to the doneness and other major points of the meal, but Ainz did not have such high expectations of the steak. Neither did he want food which granted bonuses, like food in YGGDRASIL. All he wanted was something edible.

However, the result could only be described as a lump of charcoal.

No matter how often that maid practiced, she could only make chunks of charred meat.

Ainz had accepted that outcome as he accepted the maid’s heartfelt apologies. After all, it was the same as him trying to equip the greatsword in his wardrobe.

In YGGDRASIL, one needed specialized skills to make food. It was only to be expected, since food and drink could grant special bonuses when consumed. However, that maid did not possess such skills.

In other words, if one lacked the proper skills to perform a task, it would end in failure.

The matter of Cocytus was also an experiment of sorts. Ainz wanted to see if finalized characters like himself and the NPCs could learn anything new. This experiment was designed to see if they could grow strong by learning tactics and strategy.

He had given Cocytus command over the weak undead because he felt that he would be able to learn more from their defeat.

In the end, Ainz had been pleased with the results. Cocytus had shown Ainz that he had the possibility for growth.

Of course, there was a huge different between theory and practice.

Ainz’s upcoming objective was to thoroughly master the details of this world’s unique magic — if such magic existed. Currently, Ainz was still unclear whether magic was a skill or knowledge.

However, this experiment showed that one’s knowledge could still grow.

Cocytus had proved the possibility of that development. He had done very well.

Ainz thought.

A lack of growth was equivalent to stagnation. Even if he was powerful now, he might be surpassed one day.

Even if he had a hundred years’ advantage in military technology, he would still lose his pole position if he did not continue improving himself. There might be a strong nation nearby, but they would be utter fools if they assumed that they would always be a strong nation and did not seek improvement.

“Well, I think that… but while I’m happy that the kids have grown, I’m also worried if I’m a ruler who’s worthy of their loyalty…”

Ainz looked at the veiling as he muttered this.

“Ahhh, it’s so scary, I’m so scared…”

The remnants of Suzuki Satoru’s personality wailed in fear of the unknown.

Growth was change. Then, who could guarantee that their absolute loyalty would not change? Even if it did not, he was still afraid that someday they would consider him unworthy of being the ruler of the glorious Nazarick. He feared being forced out of his position as guildmaster.

“…I have to become a leader that the Guardians will want to follow… Why isn’t there anyone to teach me the path of rulership…”

There was probably nobody in Nazarick who was designed for such a purpose.

As Ainz fell into contemplation, he thought of two people, from the Five Worsts of Nazarick. One of them was Kyouhukou, who bore the title of Duke, and the other was Gashokukochuuou, who had the title of King. Ainz wondered if he could ask them to teach him, and his answer was simple and succinct.

“…Hell no.”

He did not want to learn from them unless he had no other choice,

“Forget it… as long as I don’t mess up too much, I won’t need to retire. Also… yes, about those two-legged sheep…”

Ainz had already surmised the true identity of the two-legged sheep which was why he had not asked about their appearance. They were monsters he had seen in YGGDRASIL before.

“They have the heads of a lion and a goat, and a serpentine tail. Their hands are those of lions and their feet are those of goats. They are Chimerae…”

In YGGDRASIL, Chimerae walked on two legs, attacking with lion’s paws, which served as arms. Each of them had two heads, one of a lion and one of a goat. That was because these monsters were based on the visual data of monsters known as Baphomets.

So why had Demiurge not come out and said that they were Chimerae? Ainz had his doubts, but then he also had an answer.

“In other words, they’re mutant Chimerae. Am I right, Demiurge?”

Ainz chuckled, and then he added a mental note to his opinion of Demiurge: he had terrible naming sense.

“Well, the Chimera Lords in YGGDRASIL looked kind of… no, fish-like Chimerae look disgusting. So these two-legged sheep are a new breed of Chimera… that makes them Holy Kingdom Chimerae… it might be good to bring one of them to Nazarick. And then there’s Victim… hm.”

Victim looked just like how Ainz remembered, but one thing stood out in his mind.

“The language he’s using… is that Enochian, the language of angels? It feels like he’s saying something else entirely…”

It was translated, so Ainz did not know what sort of language he was using, but it felt weird to him. Of course, that might be because Ainz did not know Enochian at all.

“Forget it, let’s not worry about it. All right, it’s about time to set out…”

Ainz rolled around again. He stopped when he was face down, to verify something that had been bothering him since just now.

He pressed his face to the bed, and sniffed.

Ainz had no lungs, so he was merely going through the motions. Strangely enough, he could smell something.

“This is the smell of flowers… did someone spray perfume on this bed? Are the beds of the wealthy like this? That’s pretty surprising… maybe I should keep them in mind when I’m pretending to be wealthy, then? Umu…”

Part 3

There was an ability known as danger sensing.

Among adventurers, thieves and those with sensory skills prized that ability. As the name implied, it allowed its user to sense danger.

There were two main variations of this ability. One kind disregarded logic and analysis, making snap decisions based on one’s perceptions. The other was the product of experienced reasoning and deduction. The proverbial sixth sense and intuition belonged to the first category, while those who picked up on minute sensory traces and observed changes in the environment fell into the latter category.

One would naturally learn the second type when on the battlefield or when travelling alone, even if one did not go out of the way to hone it. It was a form of experience gained from being in hazardous environments.

The Lizardmen were superior to humans in that aspect. This was because their biological abilities — their senses — were sharper, and because they lived in more hostile conditions. A human being would typically live in a safe place that was far away from monsters, but Lizardmen often had monsters as neighbors.

In Zaryusu’s case, he was a traveller, and thus used to long, solo journeys. Thus, he could accurately and keenly gauge the changes in the air and mood.

His eyes snapped open as he sensed a tension filtering through the air.

The familiar sight of the room — although he had only lived there for a few days — greeted him. However closely a human looked, they would not be able to see within the lightless interior, but that was not a problem for Lizardmen.

There was nothing unusual about the room.

Zaryusu looked around, and breathed a sigh of relief after making sure that there was nothing unusual around. At the same time, he sat up.

As an outstanding warrior, Zaryusu could go from sound asleep to fully awake in an instant. His eyes would not be weighed down by sleep — he could charge into battle right now with no problems.

This was also related to the Lizardman habit of light sleeping.

However, Crusch showed no signs of stirring from where she was sleeping beside him.

All she did was moan softly as she was deprived of Zaryusu’s warmth.

Under normal circumstances, Crusch should have sensed the change in the air and woken from her slumber. However, she did not seem to have done so.

A sense of regret filled Zaryusu — had he placed too much of a burden on Crusch?

As he recalled last night, he felt that perhaps Crusch’s burden was greater than his own. It would seem that the female Crusch had been under more strain than the male Zaryusu during the process of defeating the Elder Lich.

He would have liked for her to be able to continue sleeping, but upon listening carefully, he could hear the sounds of many Lizardmen hurrying around. In an emergency like this, it would be more dangerous to let her sleep than to wake her up.

“Crusch, Crusch.”

Zaryusu shook Crusch several times, using some force.

“Hm? Mmm…”

After twitching her tail, she opened her crimson eyes.

“Hm? Uuuu…?”

“Seems like something’s happened.”

Those words snapped a half-asleep Crusch to full wakefulness. Frost Pain lay by his side, and after taking it up he rose to his feet, followed shortly by Crusch.

The two of them headed outside, and they immediately realised the source of the disturbance.

The sky above the village was covered in a thick layer of dark clouds.

When they looked into the distance, they realized that these clouds were different from regular clouds, because the sky in the distance was bright and clear.

In other words, this meant that—

“They’re… coming again?”

A signal of another enemy attack—

“Looks like it.”

Crusch agreed with his assessment. Debate broke out among the Lizardmen of the Five Tribes as they gazed into the cloudy sky. However, there was no fear on their faces.

That was because they had achieved victory even in these dire circumstances, and it had made them all stronger.

The two of them ran to the main gate of the village, accompanied by the sound of splashing. They passed several Lizardmen preparing for battle, and reached their destination before long.

There were many warrior Lizardmen gathered at the main gate, and everyone was peering outside. There were some familiar faces among them, including Zenberu, who had fought and bled with them, and the chief of the Little Fang Tribe beside him.

Zenberu waved to the two of them as they splashed over, and then jerked his chin to indicate that they should look outside the gate.

Zaryusu and Crusch stood by Zenberu’s side and looked in that direction.

Facing them, on the other side of the boundary between the marsh and the forest, were serried ranks of skeletons.

“So they’ve come again.”

“Hm…”

Zaryusu clicked his tongue after answering Zenberu.

They had expected as much, but this was still too quick. They had thought that the heavy losses that they had inflicted would take the enemy some time to replace.

As it turned out they had been completely off the mark. Their foe had actually mobilized such a large army in such a short time.

“…Still, they ought to be weaker than the skeletons which that Elder Lich summoned.”

There was a hidden meaning to those words. Zenberu was implying that the skeletons before then were stronger than the Skeletons that had attacked earlier.

Zaryusu kept his eyes trained on the skeletons facing them. This was in order to grasp their opponents’ strength and prepare the appropriate defenses.

Indeed, they were all skeletal creatures, but they were dramatically different from the Skeletons they had fought previously.

By looks alone, the biggest difference lay in their equipment. The previous Skeletons were only armed with rusted swords, but these skeletons had full sets of gear. In addition, they looked more presentable than those from the earlier encounter. There seemed to be three broad classes of personal equipment on the skeletons present.

Most of the skeletons were outfitted in breastplates, bearing an inverted-triangle shield — a heater shield — in one hand, and all manner of hand weapons in the other. They even had quivers and bows on their backs. These armed skeletons were fully equipped for attack and defense and for fighting at close or long range.
Then, there were skeletons who were similarly accoutred with breastplates, but sporting tattered red capes and helmets, wielding bastard swords and round shields.
The last group comprised the least numerous, but best-equipped skeletons. They wore suits of shiny golden full plate armor and gripped shiny pikes. Not a single spot of dirt marred their brilliant red capes.
As Zaryusu inspected them, he realized something. He rubbed his eyes several times, wondering if they were mistaken. However, the reality before him remained as it was.
“Eh…? No way…”
“How, how could this be…”
Crusch realized that Zaryusu was muttering in a pained voice as she gasped in shock. Just then, Zenberu spoke up:
“…Oh, it seems you noticed too.”
Zenberu’s  voice sounded similarly tortured.
“Mm…”

Zaryusu stopped there. He did not want to continue, because he would be afraid if he continued to speak, but he had to say it:

“…Those look like magic weapons.”
Crusch nodded steadily from beside him.
All the weapons wielded by the skeleton army were magical in nature. Some had flaming swords, while others had hammers crackling with electricity. Some had pikes whose heads were sheathed in green light, while others had scythes which dripped a viscous purple fluid.
“Not just that. Take a look at their armor and shields. They’re all… enchanted as well.”
Zaryusu took a closer look as he heard Zenberu speak.
And then, he groaned in dismay. That was because Zaryusu realized that those shiny suits of armor did not reflect the sun’s light, but seemed to glow from within.
What kind of ruler could outfit this many skeletons in magic items? If it was only a matter of simple sharpening enchantments, Zaryusu had heard that certain great nations could amass quantities like this after long planning. However, imbuing this many magic weapons with elemental properties — and in the variety before him — was another matter entirely.
Zaryusu remembered the Dwarves Zenberu had spoken of several days ago.
The Dwarves were a mountain-dwelling species, who possessed exceptional skill concerning metal. During a drinking party, the Dwarves had once shared a heroic legend — that of the Emperor who founded the Dwarven Empire, a hero clad in adamantite armor, a man who felled Dragons by himself, and the “Magesmith” of the Thirteen Heroes. Even those legends had not spoken of an army — over five thousand strong — of this size, outfitted in magical equipment like this.

Then, what was Zaryusu looking at now?

“…Is that an army from the legends?”

If they had not come from a human myth, then it must have come from some kind of divine legend.

Zaryusu shuddered. He realized that he had challenged a foe who was not only beyond his expectations, but one that should never have been provoked.

However, he had gathered everyone here with the intention to die. How could someone who had come up with such a ridiculous plan be afraid now? He already knew this foe was beyond the bounds of his imagination. The solution was how they would deal with it.

“It can’t be. That must be an illusion or something.”

As everyone heard those words, a look crossed their faces which seemed to say, “What rubbish are you spouting?” Their enemy was not moving, but they felt real enough. They emanated a frightful presence and they could not possibly be mere illusions.

Still, these doubt-inducing words were spoken by the chief of the Small Fang Tribe. He had not said them because he had gone mad.

“What basis do you have for that?”

In response to Zaryusu’s question, the Small Fang chieftain replied confidently:

“We’ve sent out rotating scout patrols, but nobody reported seeing undead like that. There’s no way we wouldn’t have spotted them if they were in such numbers. Of course, all the scouts we sent out returned safely.”

“I see… Still, I don’t think they’re illusions.”

“…But… no, maybe they’re not. If they aren’t illusions, maybe they burrowed through the earth or used similar means of movement. A tunnel would explain why they weren’t spotted earlier.”

“It doesn’t matter if they dug through the ground or flew through the sky, what do we do about them? Though it doesn’t look like they’re going to fight just yet, they don’t look like they want to negotiate either.”

“That seems to be the case… although, given the present circumstances, I feel the enemy is going to try something…”

Zaryusu stared at the skeletal army.

He was looking for their commander — and then, a gust of bone-freezing wind blew over them. It was not a one-time occurrence — the chill wind blew over and over.

This preternaturally frigid wind was not a natural phenomenon. There was no doubt that it was the result of magic.

“Wind? Eh… it can’t be! Isn’t this the same kind of magic… how is that even possible…”

Crusch trembled as she hugged herself. She did not look like she was doing so purely because of the cold, so Zaryusu asked:

“Crusch, what’s with this cold wind…”

“…You might not believe me if I say this, but please listen to me. I originally thought that the weather changes from before were the result of the fourth tier spell 「Control Clouds」, but I was wrong. 「Control Clouds」 can control clouds, but it cannot generate cold winds like this. Therefore… this isn’t just controlling clouds, but altering the weather. In other words, I think the enemy used a sixth tier spell… 「Control Weather」.”

Crusch lowered her voice so nobody could hear, and continued, “However, that spell is beyond my ability to use, so I’m not too sure if that’s the case.”

Zaryusu knew how shocking spells of the sixth tier were. Magic like that was beyond even Igva, the strongest opponent Zaryusu had ever fought, and it was considered the most powerful form of magic in the world.

“Is this… the power of the Supreme One? I see… that would explain it.”

If he could use magic of the sixth tier, then the title of “Supreme” would be well-deserved.

“Oi oi oi, when I look around at everyone, it doesn’t look good.”

Zenberu’s mumbling highlighted the mood in the air.

Such cold winds could not blow in this weather — in other words, this was a supernatural change in the environment that was beyond their ability to comprehend. The Lizardmen’s morale plummeted to rock bottom.

Previously, only clouds had appeared. The priests could still control clouds if they gathered together, built a huge bonfire, and conducted a ritual. However, when the Lizardmen felt the chill kiss of this autumn-like wind, they realized how powerful their foe was to be able to manipulate such normally uncontrollable natural phenomena.

Even without Crusch’s words, the constantly-blowing wind clearly illustrated just how powerful their upcoming opponent was.

“Cheh, they’re making their move.”

Zaryusu gritted his teeth and suppressed the urge to swish his tail with sheer force of will. So they’re moving out now? he thought.

The warrior Lizardmen panicked as the skeletal army advanced with steps with such regularity that they seemed to have been measured with a pace stick. Some of them even growled in warning. However, Zaryusu was baffled as he watched the skeletal army move.

That was not a prelude to battle.

Just as Zaryusu and Zenberu were about to ask the panicking Lizardmen to calm down—

“—Calm yourselves!”

A shout that swallowed the land and shattered the sky rang forth.

Everyone looked in the direction of the voice. Their eyes settled on Shasuryu.

“I say again, calm yourselves.”

The only thing that could be heard in this silent space was his confident, dignified voice, echoing in their ears.

“Also, do not be afraid, warriors. Do not disappoint the ancestors who stand behind you.”

Shasuryu passed through the quiet, now-calm Lizardmen, and came to Zaryusu’s side.

“Little brother, what’s the enemy done now?”

“Mm, Ani-ja. They’ve started moving… but they don’t seem to be getting ready for a fight.”

“Muu.”

The five hundred skeletons who moved out formed up into ten ranks.

“What are they doing?”

As though waiting for that question, the skeletal army moved again.

With perfect coordination, they split in two from the center, leaving a space between them that was roughly twenty skeletons in size. Within that space was a figure.

It was not very large. Even at a distance of two hundred fifty meters, it was clearly smaller than Zaryusu.

It wore a black robe, and radiated a dreadful aura of evil. It looked similar to the Elder Lich they had fought yesterday, so it was probably a magic caster as well.

However, the key difference between the two was their power.

A chill ran up Zaryusu’s spine as he saw it. His instincts told him that the difference between the being before him and the Elder Lich from yesterday was like the difference between a warrior and an infant.

Even at this range, he could feel the ice-cold and malevolent presence it emanated. In addition, its equipment was in a league of its own.

It was like an avatar of irresistible death — an absolute ruler.

“A ruler of death… is it?
The words which fell unbidden from Zaryusu’s mouth perfectly described the monster before him.

Indeed, that person was a king that ruled death.

“…Oh!”

What did this ruler of death have in mind?

The Lizardmen panicked as one as they looked at that lord of extinction. Just then, an magic array roughly ten meters across expanded from around that magic caster in a hemisphere.

On the hemisphere were translucent sigils that resembled letters and symbols, glowing with a bluish-white light. These sigils shifted with bewildering speed, each different from one moment to the next.

The clear blue light changed shape continuously, illuminating the surroundings in phantasmagoric radiance. If this were not the work of an enemy, perhaps they might have been entranced by it, but right now they were not in the mood for such things.

Zaryusu, unable to understand what was going on, felt confused.

Most magic casters would not project magic arrays like that into the air when casting their spells. The enemy’s actions were far beyond Zaryusu’s knowledge. Therefore, Zaryusu asked the female who knew the most about magic:

“What is that?”

“I, I don’t know. I don’t know what that is either—”

Crusch’s reply sounded a little afraid. It would seem her knowledge of magic made her even more frightened of this unknown phenomenon.

Just as Zaryusu was about to comfort her with a pat—

Perhaps the spell had cast, but the magic circle fragmented and transformed into countless motes of light, which flew to the sky. And then, they spread from the air, like an explosion —

—And the lake froze over.

Nobody had any idea what was going on.

There was the outstanding chief Shasuryu, the incredibly talented priestess Crusch, and the widely-travelled Zaryusu. Even these individuals, who were extraordinarily gifted in their respective fields, could not immediately comprehend what was happening at the moment.

They had no idea why their feet were stuck in the ice.

Soon — after their brains managed to parse what was going on — the cries of despair rang out.

Indeed, every Lizardman was wailing.

Even Zaryusu was doing so. Crusch, Shasuryu, and even Zenberu, the boldest of them all, was no exception. The terror which sprang from the deepest reaches of their souls drove them to cry out in fear.

The scene before their eyes was too horrific to bear. The lake which could never freeze, which had never frozen ever since they had been born, was now a solid sheet of ice.

The Lizardmen hurriedly raised their feet. Fortunately, the ice was not very thick and broke immediately, but the shattered portions immediately froze back over. The bone-chilling cold from below proved that this was no mirage.

In a panic, Zaryusu hurriedly scaled a dirt wall and looked around, and then he was dumbstruck by the ridiculous sight around him.

Everything, as far as his eyes could see, was frozen over.

It was impossible to imagine that such a huge lake could have frozen solid, yet the glittering ice before his eyes was reality.

Zaryusu feared for the fish farms, but now was not the time to worry about such things.

“No way…”

Crusch, who had climbed up with Zaryusu to look around, was just as dumbfounded as he was. A despondent voice came from her gaping mouth.

Much like Zaryusu, she could not believe what she was seeing.

“Monster!”

He cursed loudly. At the same time, he hoped that the cursing would somewhat ameliorate the terror in his heart.

“Get them up here!” his brother Shasuryu bellowed.

Several Lizardmen had already collapsed. The warrior Lizardmen who could still move worked together to extricate their fallen friends from the frozen swamp.

The Lizardmen who had collapsed were ghastly pale and shook uncontrollably. Perhaps the cold had stolen their vitality.

“Ani-ja, I’ll go take a look around!”

With Frost Pain in hand, Zaryusu would not be affected by cold effects of that level.

“No… don’t go!”

“Why, Ani-ja!?”

“The enemy ought to be making their move soon! I forbid you to leave this place! Grasp the situation and don’t let any information slip past you! You’ve travelled the world and accumulated all sorts of knowledge; you’re the only one who can handle that task!”

Shasuryu’s eyes left Zaryusu, and he spoke to the warriors around him.

“I will now cast a spell that will defend against the cold, 「Protection Energy – Ice」. Tell everyone in the village not to touch the ice.”

“I’ll help with the spells too.”

“Thank you! Crusch, you split up from me. Heal anyone in critical condition!”

Crusch and Shasuryu began casting spells on the now-safe Lizardmen.

Zaryusu remained on the dirt wall, his keen gaze intently focused on the enemy formation and taking in every move the enemy made. He had to carry out the mission his elder brother had entrusted to him.

“There we go.”

Zenberu, who had climbed up beside him, leisurely regarded the enemy forces.

“Come on, loosen up a little. Your big bro’s counting on your knowledge, right? He won’t scold you if you miss something. What’s more important is that you don’t get overly focused and develop tunnel vision.”

Zenberu’s relaxed tone helped cool Zaryusu’s head down.

Much like how they had done in the battle with the Elder Lich, they could divide the load among themselves and work together, while he oversaw everything.

Zaryusu looked around and found that the warriors were climbing the dirt walls and observing the enemy. Indeed, he was not fighting alone, but with everyone.

It would seem he had been rattled by that overpowering force — by that spell.

Zaryusu exhaled, as if to expel the accumulated unclean air within himself.

“Sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry about.”

“…That’s true, because you’re here too, Zenberu.”

“Haah, don’t look at me when it comes to brainwork.”

Their eyes met and they laughed. Then they turned their attention back on the enemy.

“Still, that’s one hell of a monster out there.”

“Yes, it’s on a completely different level.”

The King of Death regarded Zaryusu and the Lizardman village with a majestic gaze as he stood, like the ruler of this world and the next. What should have been a tiny object in the distance seemed to have expanded to dozens of times its actual size.

“…He ought to be that Supreme One they were talking about.”

“Most likely. I hope he’s the only one who can freeze a lake with magic like that.”

“Yeah, me too. We Lizardmen must look like tiny ants to someone who can pull off something like that. Damn, dammit! We’re nothing more than worms to him. Speaking of which… they’re moving.”

The magic caster who had frozen the lake raised the hand which was not holding a staff and waved it at the village. He must be giving an order, Zaryusu’s instincts told him, and in the next moment his instincts were validated in a horrifying way.

“Ohhhhh!”

The voices came from everywhere in the village.

“What… what is that!? What the hell is going on!?”

Zaryusu had thought he could no longer be surprised, but after seeing what was before him, he could not help but wail in response.

Before his eyes was a massive statue hewn of stone, with a pair of arms and legs.

Its sturdy, slab-like chest pulsed with red light, like a heartbeat. Its limbs were thick and stubby, and it looked almost adorable… well, it would have been, if it were not over thirty meters tall.

This massive stone statue suddenly appeared from the forest. Calling it an illusion might actually have been easier to swallow.

The statue moved slowly, and produced a gigantic boulder out of nowhere.

And then, it tossed the boulder.

Zaryusu reflexively shielded his eyes. Certain death awaited anyone who was hit by that huge rock.

The earth shuddered and a tremendous crash assaulted Zaryusu in that world of darkness. The dirt wall shook violently.

After that was the sound of heavy rain — of the sand and debris which had been tossed up falling back to the earth. It was accompanied by surprised cries from the village.

They were prepared to die, but they were not prepared for this unimaginable terror. The shocking lesson from just now made even the veterans of that battle shriek like children.

Zaryusu breathed a sigh of relief as he realised that he was still alive. As he nervously opened his eyes, he saw the undead army on the move, and he noticed that the gigantic statue was nowhere to be seen.

The huge rock which had not been there before now stood between the two forces. The undead troops approached the rock, and then they fell to one knee after raising their shields as if to block the sky. The other skeletons jumped up on those shields, and after nimbly maintaining their balance, they raised their shields as well.

In the moment that Zaryusu realised what the enemy was doing, he trembled all over, as if he had been struck by lightning.

“Don’t tell me… stairs? They’re using a legendary army like that as stairs!?”

The skeletons drew close to the giant rock with startling speed, and then the staircase formed by the undead army finally took shape.

Then, the other undead soldiers made their move. They looked more refined than the skeletons from earlier, and there were about a hundred of them. They held lances with banners attached, of the kind that lancers might carry.

The bright red cloth — their banners — were embroidered with the same sigil.

Their capes rippling in the wind, these undead marched onto the marsh with immaculate coordination. They crunched the ice under their feet as they advanced in silence. Then, another group of skeletons marched onto the marsh with the same fluid movements, taking care to maintain the proper spacing from the first group. They crossed their lances with those of the warriors opposite them.

The crossed lances formed a passage which led to the huge rock.

“…Is that a king’s path?”

Zenberu was right.

The magic caster of death walked down the path made by the undead. The silhouettes of several people were visible behind it. Nobody had noticed their arrival.

At their head walked the magic caster of unfathomable might.

He was dressed in a black robe that seemed to be made of darkness itself, and an ebony radiance emanated from the staff he carried. That radiance shaped itself into the tormented faces of human beings, which dissolved and disappeared into nothing. Beneath the hood of his robe was a skeletal face, and within its empty eye sockets danced points of bright red light.

He was adorned with countless items of magical jewelry, the likes of which were beyond Zaryusu’s comprehension. He strode forth with the air of a monarch.

A pale-skinned female trailed behind the king of death. She resembled a human being, but she differed from them in one key respect — which would be the wings at her waist.

“Could she be a… demon?”

♦ ♦ ♦

Demons.

There were devils who destroyed with brute force and fiends who corrupted with intellect. These outsiders were collectively known as demons. They were said to be monsters of legendary cruelty and malice, who existed to destroy all intelligent beings of good alignment. Their names were a byword for evil.

Zaryusu had heard of demons during his travels.

He had heard of their fearsome nature. Apparently, two hundred years ago there was a monster who was a king of demons — the Demon God, who rallied demons to his banner and nearly destroyed the world.

The Demon God was finally defeated by the Thirteen Heroes, and the traces of that battle could still be seen to this day.

If the undead were monsters that hated the living, then demons were monsters who wanted to make the living suffer.

Behind the demoness was a pair of Dark Elf twins, and then a silver-haired girl. In addition, there was a sinister-looking monster which floated in mid-air, and finally a tailed being who resembled a human male.

The creepy monster alone did not seem very strong, but the tip of his tail began to twitch just by looking at each of them. His primal instincts screamed at him to flee with all his might.

The group advanced in silence, passing beneath the lances and banners, climbing the stairs leading up the huge rock. They trod the undead soldiers with no hesitation whatsoever, standing like kings and queens atop the massive boulder. The king of death at their head waved his hand.

In an instant, a high-backed throne which glowed with a black light appeared, and the undead king promptly sat upon it.

Behind them, the people who seemed to be his confidantes formed a line, looking at the village as though they were waiting for something. However, they did not do anything else beyond that.

What was going on?

Several Lizardmen looked uncomfortably at each other, and in the end they finally decided to let the wisest of their number do the talking.

“…Ah, could, could you tell us  what we should do, Zaryusu-san? Should we prepare to run?”

That voice was utterly devoid of fighting spirit. The drooping tail spoke volumes about what was in his heart.

“No, there’s no need for that. Consider the Elder Lich from before. We now face a magic caster who vastly exceeds that Elder Lich, so it should be child’s play for him to launch an attack from a distance like this. In all likelihood… he wants to tell us something.”

Looks of understanding dawned on the Lizardmen’s faces.

Through all of this, Zaryusu’s eyes had been firmly fixed on the group before them. He was like a peasant looking up to his king as he ceaselessly examined the monsters atop that huge rock.

He did this so he would not miss anything about them.

Now that they were so close, he could examine them in great detail, and they could even meet each other’s eyes.

Was that king of death observing the Lizardmen from his place atop his throne? The Dark Elves did not seem particularly hostile. The silver-haired girl had a mocking smile on her face. The demoness’s gentle expression was paradoxically spine-chilling. The creepy monster’s expression was unreadable. The tailed man’s eyes were devoid of any emotion.

After they studied each other for a while, the undead king once more raised his free hand to his chest. Several Lizardmen saw this, and their tails thrashed violently.

“—Don’t be afraid. Don’t disgrace us in front of our opponents.”

Zaryusu’s razor-edged criticism drove all the Lizardmen to stand up straight and thrust out their chests.

Numerous clouds of black fog appeared before the king of death — twenty of them in total. They whirled ceaselessly, growing larger and larger, until they formed a single cloud of black fog about one hundred fifty centimeters in size. Soon, countless frightening faces appeared in the fog.

“That’s…”

Zaryusu recalled the monsters who had come to the villages as messengers, and the undead creatures he had seen during his travels.

Crusch had already explained this once in the village, but it was very difficult to harm incorporeal monsters without the aid of enchanted weapons, weapons made of special metals, magic, or specialized martial arts.

Even if one put all the Lizardman tribes together, they would only have a few magic weapons. In other words. Just defeating one would be very challenging.

To think that their foe could casually summon twenty such monsters with a wave of his hand.

“…So this is what they mean when they say one can control death.”

Our enemy is an incredibly powerful monster, one whom that powerful Elder Lich would pledge his loyalty to, Zaryusu thought despondently.

The king of the dead muttered something, and then cast his hand out, like he was ordering an attack. The monsters than flew over to encircle the village, and they began to recite in unison:

“We hereby relay the will of the Supreme One.”

“The Supreme One requests a dialogue. Dispatch your representatives forthwith.”

“Any delays will only incur the wrath of the Supreme One.”

After their monologue, the incorporeal undead returned to their master’s side.

“Wha? …Don’t tell me… that’s it?” Zaryusu asked, with a stupid look on his face.

He sent such powerful undead just to pass on a message?

However, the more unbelievable thing was what came next. After receiving directions from the ruler of death, the silver-haired girl behind him clapped forcefully.

WIth that clap — all those undead were annihilated.

“What!?”

Zaryusu could not hold back his cry of shock.

Those summoned monsters had not been recalled, but destroyed.

Clerics could destroy the undead. While just banishing them was hard enough, with a sufficient disparity in power levels, a cleric could not only turn undead, but outright destroy them. However, doing so to many undead at once was an arduous task.

In other words, the silver-haired girl was a follower who was as powerful as the king of death. That being the case, the people beside her might well be similarly puissant.

“Hahahaha—”

Zaryusu could not stop himself from laughing.

That was only to be expected. What else could he do but laugh? They were so much more powerful—

“Brother!”

“—Ah, Ani-ja!”

Zaryusu looked down in response to the call from below and found that Shasuryu and Crusch were at the foot of the wall. The two of them climbed the dirt wall and together they looked at the magic caster.

Crusch forced herself into the space between Zaryusu and Zenberu, almost making Zenberu fall. However, that should still have been forgivable.

“Is that the enemy general? He feels so powerful that I’m getting chills down my spine just looking at him. While he looks like the Elder Lich you defeated… there’s no comparing their strength, is there…”

“…Ani-ja, are you done on your side?”

“Muu. It’s over for the most part. Crusch and I have exhausted our mana. And after hearing those messengers… we felt that it would be better to settle this matter first. As for what those messengers said… Zaryusu, would you be willing to come with me?”

Zaryusu looked silently at Shasuryu, and then nodded deeply. Shasuryu looked briefly uncomfortable, but resumed his usual expression right away, so quickly that nobody had realized he had ever looked that way.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry, Ani-ja.”

Shasuryu jumped off the dirt wall with that apology, landing with a splash as he broke through the narrow ice of the marsh.

“Then, I’ll be going.”

“Be careful.”

Zaryusu hugged Crusch tightly, and then he jumped off into the marsh after Zaryusu.

Zaryusu and Shasuryu trod the thin ice on the surface of the lake underfoot as they set forth together. After leaving the main gate, Zaryusu could sense the undead king’s entourage eying them, as though their gazes were exerting an actual physical pressure. He could also sense the uneasy looks from behind him, and the most worried of them probably belonged to Crusch.

Zaryusu fought the urge to stay with her.

Just then, Shasuryu spoke.

“…I’m sorry.”

“…What are you sorry for, Ani-ja?”

“…If negotiations break down, they might kill us as an example to the others.”

Zaryusu had been prepared for this. That was why he had hugged Crusch tightly before going.

“…Given their numbers, I couldn’t let you go alone, Ani-ja. If only one person went, they’d probably think we were snubbing them.”

Zaryusu was a famous individual among the Lizardmen and he was ideal for negotiations. However, he was a traveler, and his death would not harm the unity of the Lizardmen. From that point of view, there would be no regrets if he died.

Even if a hero died, the tribe could still keep fighting as long as there were other chiefs around. The shame would be the loss of the Frost Pain he carried; without it, they would be unable to withstand the cold of the lake.

The two of them walked forward in silence, every step taking them closer to death.

They reached the stairway of undead which led to the throne, and raised their voices. If the throne had been set further back, perhaps they might have been allowed to climb up, but given that it was situated at the edge of the rock, it probably meant that they did not want to let the Lizardmen climb up.

Kings had to have a commanding vantage, after all.

There was no such rule among the Lizardmen, but many species had the practice of superior beings overlooking inferior ones. Granted, this would be very rude if they had come to conduct a dialogue.

In other words, this was a dialogue in name only. There was no intention to speak to them on even terms.

Instead, actually expecting equal treatment was a sign of their ignorance. Zaryusu and the others might have won the earlier battle, but after seeing the array of the enemy’s top people upon the huge rock, even they would be forced to conclude that their prior victory held no meaning whatsoever. It was nothing more than child’s play.

“We have arrived! I am Shasuryu Shasha, representative of the Lizardmen, and this is the greatest hero of the lizardmen!”

“I am Zaryusu Shasha!”

Even so, there was no flattery in their strident voices. They knew it was a foolish gesture, but it was the last inch of dignity they possessed. The earlier battle might have been a sideshow in the eyes of their opponents, but they could not abandon the pride of the warriors who had fallen on that battlefield.

There was no response. The king of death merely swiveled his head to regard them from atop his throne, eying them with no reservation whatsoever. There was no sign that he was going to do anything at all.

The person who answered them was the demoness who sprouted black wings from her waist.

“Our master feels you have not adopted a sufficiently respectful listening posture.”

“…What?”

After hearing their doubt-filled voices, she called on the tailed being who looked like a human male.

“—Demiurge.”

“『Kneel』.”

Zaryusu and Shasuryu suddenly fell to their knees, their heads sinking into the marsh. It seemed like a perfectly natural motion to onlookers.

The cold mud caked their bodies, and the shattered ice immediately froze over once more.

They could not stand. No matter how hard they tried, their bodies would not budge an inch. It was as though a pair of huge, invisible hands were pressing down on them and taking the freedom from their bodies.

“『Do not resist』.”

In the instant that voice filtered into their ears again, Zaryusu and Shasuryu felt as though their bodies had suddenly grown an additional brain — an organ that received commands from others, and which their bodies obeyed.

After seeing their powerless bodies kneeling pathetically in the mud, the demoness seemed quite pleased as she reported to her master:

“Ainz-sama, they are now ready to listen to you.”

“Thank you — raise your heads.”

“『You are permitted to raise your heads』.”

Zaryusu and Shasuryu turned their heads, the sole part of their bodies they could move, and looked up like they were desperate to see their king.

“I am… Ainz Ooal Gown, master of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. Firstly, I would like to thank you for helping me complete an experiment.”

An experiment? You killed so many of us (the Lizardmen) and you dare call it an experiment!?

His resentment fanned the flames of anger in his heart, but he resisted it. After all, now was not the time to make a scene.

“Well then, let’s get to the point… submit to my rule.”

The magic caster Ainz raised his hand, silencing Shasuryu, who was about to speak.

Shasuryu knew that trying to speak anyway would not be wise, so he could only keep his mouth shut.

“—However, you have just defeated us, and you are unwilling to be ruled by me. Therefore, we will attack again in four hours. If you can still win, I shall no longer act against you. In fact, I guarantee that I will pay you the appropriate reparations.”

“…May I ask a question?”

“That is fine. Ask away.”

“Will you be the one leading the attack… Gown-dono?”

The silver-haired girl behind him frowned, while the demoness’s smile only grew wider. Perhaps they were displeased by the addition of that honorific. However, they did not do anything out of the ordinary, possibly because their master had not brought it up either.

Ainz ignored them, and continued speaking.

“Hardly. I will not be making a move. The attacker shall be one of my trusted aides… and only him. His name is Cocytus.”

As Zaryusu heard this, a deep seated sense of despair filled him, like it was the end of the world.

If Ainz attacked with an army, the Lizardmen might have a chance of victory. In other words, he would be hoping to prolong that distasteful war he called an experiment. In that case, they might have a scant, fleeting chance of victory.

However, he was not dispatching an army.

Only one person would be attacking.

An army which had been defeated had arrayed its troops in a grand display, yet they were only sending one person to attack. Unless this was a punishment, what Ainz’s words meant was that he was absolutely confident in that person.

A person who had the trust of that unbelievably powerful king of death. Then, the only answer was that the person in question was also incredibly powerful, to the point where the Lizardmen had no hope of victory.

“We choose to surrender…”

“It would be too boring to surrender without a fight. Do put up some token resistance. We would like to enjoy our victory.”

Ainz interrupted Shasuryu, preventing him from speaking further.

So you’re going to make an example of us, you bastard!? Zaryusu cursed in his heart.

The reality was that the strong would use slaughter to wash away the stain of defeat.

In other words, they were going to carry out a live sacrifice. This would be a show of utter dominion, designed to wipe out any trace of rebellion within the Lizardmen.

“That is all I wish to say. Then, I shall look forward to the events of four hour’s time.”

“A moment please — will this ice melt?”

Whether they won or lost, it would be very hard for the Lizardmen to survive if the lake was frozen over.

“…Ah, I almost forgot,” Ainz replied casually. “I merely wished to avoid staining my robes in the marsh. I will dispel the magic once I return to the shore.”

What!?

Zaryusu and Shasuryu were so shocked that they could not speak. In fact, they wondered if they had misheard him.

He froze the lake just because he didn’t want to get dirty?

This was no longer merely unbelievable. They were going up against someone with such shocking power, who could easily bend the world to his whims, and for such a pointless little reason to boot.

So this was the kind of mighty being who was their opponent. Zaryusu and Shasuryu felt a terror they had experienced when they were alone by themselves as children.

“Then, see you later, Lizardmen — 「Gate」.”

Having said his piece, Ainz waved his hand, and a hemisphere of darkness appeared in front of the throne. He then stepped into the darkness.

“Farewell, Lizardmen.”

“Goodbye, Lizardman-sans.”

“Seeya, Lizardmen.”

The two women and the Dark Elf boy attending Ainz bade farewell to the lizardmen in a disinterested tone before stepping into the darkness as well.

“Er, erm, then, ah, bye bye, take care.”

“Kcab og ot evah uoy. (Goodbye, then.)”

The creepy monster vanished into the darkness after the Dark Elf girl.

“『Releasing control』. Then, do enjoy yourselves, Lizardmen.”

Finally, the tailed man stepped into the darkness. There was a gentle sound, and the force binding the two of them vanished with him.

Zaryusu and Shasuryu remained kneeling in the mud where they had been abandoned, without the strength to stand up.

They did not even pay attention to the continuous pain which came from the freezing cold filtering up into them. That was because the shock they had just experienced far exceeded any physical pain they might have felt.

“Bastards…”

That uncharacteristic curse from Shasuryu was filled with a complex blend of emotions.

♦ ♦ ♦

They were greeted by the various chiefs, who had climbed up onto the dirt walls to avoid the cold. There were no other Lizardmen around.

They had probably done so because they were looking forward to discussing matters in private. Sensing this, Shasuryu decided not to mince words and told them the events of the dialogue that was not a dialogue.

There was no great reaction to Shasuryu’s somber narrative, only mild surprise. It was probably because they had expected a conclusion like that.

“I see… but will the ice melt? If it doesn’t, we won’t even be able to fight.”

“It’ll be fine. They said they would melt the ice.”

“Did you bargain for it?”

Shasuryu did not answer the question from the Small Fang Tribe’s chief, merely smiling by way of reply. The chief knew what that meant, and shook his head in resignation.

“While you were heading out for those talks, we looked around… and we found traces of the enemy in the lake. probably skeletal troops. In all likelihood, they were surrounding us and awaiting orders.

“Don’t think… enemy… will let us go.”

“They seem quite serious about this, which means…”

“It’s probably as you’re guessing.”

The four chiefs who did not take part sighed deeply. They had probably reached the conclusion that what awaited them was a live sacrifice.

“Then, what should we do?”

“…Mobilize all the warrior Lizardmen, and… the ones present…”

“Ani-ja… can you allow only five people to take part?”

Zaryusu glanced at the baffled Crusch from the corner of his eye, and pleaded with all the males present.

“If the enemy’s aim is to demonstrate his power, they will probably not exterminate the Lizardmen. That being the case, we ought to have someone who can lead the surviving Lizardmen. If all of us here perish, it will be a great blow to the future of the Lizardmen.”

“…He’s got a point, doesn’t he, Shasuryu?”

“Mm, Zaryusu… you’re right.”

The two chiefs looked at Zaryusu and Crusch, and nodded.

“—That’s fine. I approve of it.”

After receiving the approval of Zenberu, the last chief, Shasuryu could no longer find any reason to deny his younger brother’s request.

“Then it’s decided. I also thought that someone would have to stay alive to lead the united tribes — Crusch ought to be good for that duty. Perhaps her albinism might affect her duties, but her priestly powers are irreplaceable.”

“Please wait, I want to fight too!” Crusch shouted as she protested her exclusion at this juncture. “Besides, if one of us has to stay behind, wouldn’t it be better if it was Shasuryu? He’s the chief that everyone trusts most!”

“It’s for precisely that reason that we can’t spare him. The enemy wants to fill us with despair and make us tractable with a show of overwhelming force. However, do you think they would spare a Lizardman who could inspire hope like him? I don’t think so.. right?”

“Also… Crusch is the least popular of the chiefs due to her albinism.”
Crusch was speechless. It was an unarguable fact that others thought poorly of her because of her condition.
Crusch knew she could not persuade the others, and instead turned to Zaryusu.
“I want to go too. When you called me here, I had already prepared myself. Why are you still saying something like this?”
“…At that time, I thought we might all die, but now there’s a chance that one of us might live.”
“Are you kidding me!?”
The air trembled, as if in response to Crusch’s anger. The sound of slapping resounded from the dirt wall, as Crusch’s tail thrashed wildly in the grip of her emotions.
“—Zaryusu, go convince her. See you in four hours.”
Shasuryu strode off after leaving those words behind. Then, there was the sound of ice cracking and water splashing. The other three chiefs leapt off the dirt wall, following behind Shasuryu. Zenberu waved to the two who remained as he left.
After watching them leave, Zaryusu turned to Crusch.
“Crusch, please understand.”
“What’s there to understand!? Besides, you might not lose! If I contributed with my priestly powers, we might win!”
How hollow those words sounded. Even Crusch, who had spoken them, could not bring herself to believe what she had just said.

“I don’t want the female I love to die. Please grant the last wish of this foolish male.”

Crusch embraced Zaryusu, a pained expression on her face.

“You’re too selfish!”

“I’m sorry…”

“You’re probably going to die…”

“Mm…”

Indeed, his chances of survival were very slim. No, he could conclude that they were nonexistent.

“In just a week you won my heart, and now you want me to watch you die?”

“Mm…”

“Meeting you was my fortune, and also my misfortune.”

Crusch poured her strength into the arms embracing Zaryusu, as though she never wanted to let go.

Zaryusu could not speak.

What should he say?

What could he say?

His mind revolved around the same question.

After some time, Crusch raised her head, her face filled with determination.

A wave of unease washed over Zaryusu. He had the feeling that Crusch would insist on following him. Then, Crusch issued a simple and forceful ultimatum to Zaryusu.

“—Get me pregnant.”

“—What?”

“Hurry!”