10:30 Nazarick Time
“You’re making too much noise. Quiet down.”
Ainz motioned with his left hand, and held that pose.
He took a step back and returned to his original position.
“You’re making too much noise. Quiet down.”
Once again, he motioned with his left hand and froze mid-pose. He checked the reflection of himself in the mirror and slightly adjusted the position of his left hand.
“…Good? …Is this the spot? No… Would it be cooler if I extended my hand a bit more to the left?”
He returned to his initial position.
“You’re making too much noise. Quiet down.”
Finally satisfied with the pose, Ainz grabbed the memo pad on the table beside him.
“Since I’ve finished the pose… I should practice the lines while I have extra time.”
He circled the phrase he was practicing earlier with a pen, and then turned a page.
The majority of the sentences written on there were variations on the phrase “I shall consider it.” The phrases that were too dull or too over-the-top and thus too lame were all crossed out.
For Ainz, who used to be an average person, acting like a leader was difficult. Thus, he repeatedly practiced playing that role just in case a situation called for it. Of course, the entire memo pad was filled with phrases Ainz came up with.
Even though an hour had passed since Ainz started practicing, he did not require any rest.
Ainz was the supreme overlord, but in reality, he barely did anything. Unless there were important decisions or emergency situation that required his leadership, there was nothing to do. Albedo took care of all the details and all Ainz had to do was skim through the reports.
Since there was never anything in the reports that required his attention, he really just skimmed through them all. It was a little dangerous for a ruler, but as long as Albedo was around, and there was no emergency, there would be no problem.
All proper organizations should be like this anyways. It’s not good for someone who stands above others to work on the frontlines.
It was a foolish move for the supreme commander of an army to participate in the fighting on the frontlines unless he was there to raise morale. If he did, it would be very dangerous.
I should give up this adventurer business and gather knowledge to deal with emergency situations— I know I have to train my mind as well, but what should I do? Who’s going to teach me…? How can I not ruin the image of Ainz Ooal Gown that everybody believes in…
Everyone inside Nazarick respected Ainz as an absolute ruler and knelt before him. That was right. Ainz received respect from his subordinates which his had former comrades created, who were, in some ways, their children. Just like how a father could not the respect his children placed in him, he could not betray them as well. That was why he practiced acting, in the hope that he could at least appear to play the part.
Of ciue0rse, Ainz was fully aware that it was embarrassing.
Otherwise, why would he lock the door and forbid the maids and the Eight Edge Assassins that guarded him from entering? Sometimes, he would even plant his face in the pillow and scream “Arrrgghhh—!” when he could not stand it anymore.
“Something fitting the supreme overlord of Nazarick… A form that one can respect…”
Ainz felt like he would cough up blood as he flipped through the pages. There were still many more lines which he had come up with in his spare time, and the finish line seemed nowhere in sight.
Ainz Ooal Gown was undead and emotions over a certain threshold were suppressed. But—
“I need a break…”
The remnant of Suzuki Satoru was weary from mental fatigue, and he wailed. “I’m sick of this,” he cried.
However ─ Ainz silenced that cry with a grinding of his teeth,
“What am I doing? I need to work harder.”
After rebuking himself for trying to run away, AInz’s eyes filled with strength, and he looked himself in the mirror again.
Suddenly, a digital “pipipipipi” noise rang out.
The sound coming from the bracelet on his left arm was like music to Ainz’s ears. He turned off the sudden beeping and sighed deeply.
“If time’s up, then it can’t be helped. Yes, time’s up.”
Ainz returned the memo pad to a box. When he closed the lid, he could hear the sound of several locks engaging. If someone tried to forcefully open the box, it would trigger an extensive array of attack spells, all of which would be centered on the box to destroy it. The defenses on the box were formidable enough that nobody but a level 90 rogue-type character or a level 80 specialized rogue character could breach them.
After securely locking the item, he returned it to his pocket dimension. There were many other rare items in there as well. Still, a high level thief could steal items from a place like that as well. That said, a thief could not just immobilize his opponents and rob them blind. They were limited to one or two items at the most. Still, the prospect of being robbed just once or twice made Ainz —who should have known no fear as one of the undead— shudder in terror.
In addition, unknown powers such as Talents existed as well.. That was why he placed the box among other rare items, so thieves would steal them instead of the box.
After he put it away, he checked it again to make sure.
It was as though he were a housewife checking that the main door was locked before heading on a trip. After he did so, he finally breathed a sigh of relief.
Only after doing all that did Ainz finally leave his bedroom. The place he was headed to was the room he regularly used as the study. The ones who bowed deeply to him there were the regular maid, Albedo, and Mare.
The first two were hardly a rare sight, but the boy did not come here often, and it surprised Ainz. He cut across the room, circle around his ebony table and sat down, in a way which he had practiced over 30 times before.
Sitting in this way meant not stepping on his robe or making noise when pushing his chair out of the way.
After that, he had to be careful about how he leaned back in the chair. It would not look good if his movements were too rushed or if he put too much weight into the back of his chair. Kings had a kingly way — maybe — of sitting down.
But I don’t know how kings take a seat… I should go observe how a king sits down…
It was recommended for company men to lightly sit in the middle of the chair without leaning on the backrest. But Ainz Ooal Gown was no longer a company man.
Therefore, all Ainz could do was realize the image of an ideal king within his mind.
“Raise your heads.”
It was only than that the three of them looked up. Ainz was annoyed by the fact that they would not raise their heads without an explicit command, and he felt that it was a waste of time. Still, he could not disregard the loyalty they showed their master. Therefore, Ainz bore with it every time and replied in the same way.
“Then I shall begin with a question. Mare. What business do you have?”
Perhaps Mare was nervous, but his voice cracked a little. Ainz smiled. Of course, there was no way his fleshless face could twist itself, but he still did his best to exude an air of kindness. Perhaps Mare had sensed it, but he breathed a sigh of relief. He seemed less stiff now.
“Ah… that, this, er, I brought it.”
Ainz was not a cruel superior who would go, “what did you bring”. Since Mare had brought it, Ainz ought to receive it from him. For all he knew, it might have been an order he had given and forgotten about.
“Really now ─ no, that’s fine.”
Ainz reached out a hand to stop the day’s duty maid as she sought to take the item from Mare.
“Mare, hand it to me in person.”
Mare held his chest high as he walked up to Ainz and gave him the folder he was holding.
AInz magnanimously accepted the folder and opened it.
This is… the circular I sent out.
All three Guardians had circled “Going” to Ainz’s invitation.
“By right, Cocytus should have sent a minion to deliver this to me. Thank you for going to all this trouble, Mare.”
“N-not at all, it’s nothing, nothing of the sort! Cocytus-san was busy, so I insisted on helping him. And besides─”
Mare lovingly caressed the ring on his left ring finger.
…That’s the Ring of Ainz Ooal Gown. No, I’m glad he values it so highly, but putting it on that finger means… More to the point, why is that boy looking at me with dewy eyes…
Ainz shivered, and then he glanced aside to Albedo. She was smiling kindly, as always.
Ainz line of sight shifted to Albedo’s left ring finger.
As expected, she had worn her Ring there, just like Mare. It seemed as though it was the right place to wear the ring.
Where did that practice come from? It was from ancient Greece, right?
He recalled what Yamaiko had once told him about the meaning of wearing a ring on different fingers.
Apparently, the ancient Greeks believed there was a blood vessel which ran from the left ring finger to the heart, and so if the left ring finger touched something harmful to the body, it would send a signal to the heart, which was why they dispensed medicine with their left ring fingers… Does Sous-Chef do the same thing too? Ah, this is bad… he’s gazing at me again.
Ainz meshed his fingers on the table.
“What is it, Mare? Did you see something? Has something gotten onto my face?”
He chose his words carefully, making sure his reply did not sound like mockery.
“No… not at all. I simply thought you looked very handsome, Ainz-sama.”
“I… am handsome?”
Ainz unconsciously stroked his bony face.
“Fuhaha… You’re quite the flatterer, Mare.”
“It’s not flattery!”
The loudness of that voice did not sound like it could have come from Mare.
“F-forgive me, Ainz-sama. But, I really do think you look handsome. Even just now, the way you sat down looked just like how the supreme ruler of Nazarick ought to be…”
Ainz looked questioningly at the duty maid. The homunculus sensed her master’s intentions and nodded silently and vigorously, as if to say, “precisely”. Ainz did not look at Albedo, yet she was also nodding vigorously, and there was a patapata sound as her wings flapped.
“Really now. That is good to hear.”
After that brief reply, Ainz rose from his seat and walked before Mare, then gently patted the head of the boy who had tensed up in anticipation of a scolding.
It was a casual act, yet one filled with kindness.
“Thank you, Mare. Your words have always pleased me.”
It was incredibly embarrassing to say that, but he did not display any of these Suzuki Satoru-like emotions.
“I have always been thinking this; I ought to thank my friends.”
“Do you mean the Supreme Beings?”
Ainz knelt, so his eyes were level with Mare’s.
“Precisely. I want to thank them for making the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, and for making you and everyone else. You ─ and by this I mean Albedo and Sixth as well ─”
Albedo’s wings stood fully erect.
The maid who had just been suddenly addressed was in a panic. She was typically calm, so after seeing this rare side of her, Ainz laughed cheerfully.
“You are all my treasures.”
Ainz scooped up Mare.
“I can hardly bear to let Bukubukuchagama-san have you.”
“Thank you, Ainz-sama.”
Tears of joys streamed down Sixth’s cheeks as she answered on behalf of Mare.
“When all the Supreme Beings left this place, only you remained here until the end, and everyone in Nazarick is grateful for that. Perhaps we have failed to meet your expectations and perhaps we have often upset you. I understand that speaking in this way to our creator is deeply rude, but I pray you will allow ─ that you will permit us to pledge our undying loyalty to you.”
“I permit this. I recall that in the past, Albedo and Demiurge said something similar to me, so hear this ─ I am the master of Nazarick; I am your master, Ainz Ooal Gown.”
Ainz had never rehearsed these lines before, so he was quite surprised by how smoothly he could recite them. However, when he thought about it, that was only to be expected. Since he was speaking from the heart, it made sense that he could do so in such a natural manner.
Mare hugged Ainz and buried his face in Ainz’s shoulder.
Good thing I’m not wearing my usual gear, the calm part of Ainz’s mind said.
He felt a wet sensation spreading through the shoulder of his robe, but Ainz left Mare where he was. As the sound of Mare’s sniffling gradually died down. Ainz gently caressed his head.
Ainz produced a handkerchief from his pocket.
He had never wiped someone else’s face before, so perhaps his movements were a bit rough, but Mare allowed Ainz to wipe him.
“Come now, Mare. Go wash your face.”
“Ah… what about you, Ainz-sama?”
“Ah, I’ll be heading over to E-Rantel afterwards. I need to meet the Guildmaster. I’ve been putting it off because it’s annoying, but I can’t delay it any longer. Now then ─”
Ainz glanced at Albedo, who had been remaining silent all this while. Her long hair covered her face, and he could not see her expression. However, the non-stop quivering of her body was enough to strike terror into Ainz’s heart. The image of a volcano simmering with anger, on the verge of eruption, flashed through his mind.
“What’s wrong, Albedo?”
And in that moment─
─Ainz’s field of vision shifted just as he felt an impact on his back.
Naturally, it did not hurt. Ainz’s body could only be harmed by magical means. He did not feel pain from the light impacts which resulted from bumping into things. However, the remnants of his humanity made him shut his eyes in reflex.
This sudden development left him unable to think. The mental makeup of the undead meant that they did not panic or the like, so this confusion must have been Suzuki Satoru’s.
He opened his eyes, and saw the Eight Edge Assassins on the ceiling. In other words, he was on his back. When he realized this, Ainz immediately tried to stand up, but a strangely soft object pinned his entire body down, and thanks to that, it was hard to move.
Impossible. My items grant me immunity to mobility impediments such as pinning. I should have been liberated the moment I was completely immobilized… in other words, someone’s using a very powerful binding technique on me!
Ainz checked to see what was the soft lifeform pinning him down, and as expected ─ it was Albedo.
Albedo was straddling Ainz in a full mount and pushed him back down as he tried to rise.
“What… what’s this? What’s happening?”
“ I─ I can’t take it any more!”
Albedo’s suddenly opened her eyes. Her flaring golden pupils sent a chill down Ainz’s spine.
“You… what are you saying?!”
Albedo ignored Ainz’s panicked question and instead brought her hands to the front of her dress. With a “hng” of effort, she tried to pull it off, but she could not budge it.
“Magical clothing is so annoying. You need a skill to destroy it or take it off normally.”
“Calm yourself, Albedo! Get off me!”
Ainz thought to push her off with sheer brute force, but Albedo was a level 100 warrior. Also, whenever Ainz tried to push her away, his hands made contact with something soft and squishy, so he could not use his full strength. Albedo’s hands moved, seeking to remove Ainz’s robe.
“Don’t take my clothes off! Stop wiggling your hips! Wai─”
“It’s your fault, Ainz-sama! I’ve been bearing with it for so long, but then you said that and I couldn’t take it any more! It’s all your fault, Ainz-sama! I just need a little bit! Just a bit! Just a little bit! A little bit of your love! Just count the Eight Edge Assassins on the ceiling and it’ll be over before you’re done!”
If Albedo had chosen this moment to scold Ainz for changing her backstory, perhaps he would have lost the will to resist. However, Albedo looked like she was going to swallow him whole, and so he did not feel guilt, but the terror of one who was about to be devoured. That instead caused him to struggle even more desperately.
It was only then that his subordinates, who had been stunned by the sudden development, finally went into action.
“Albedo-sama has gone mad!”
“Albedo-sama has gone mad!”
The Eight Edge Assassins descended as one from the ceiling.
“Pull her off Ainz-sama! No, don’t try to immobilize her, she’ll slip free right away! Just pull her away with brute force!”
“No good! What’s with this strength! I’d expect nothing less of the Guardian Overseer! Mare-sama, we request your aid!”
In the end, Ainz was finally freed, and after smoothing out his rumpled robes, he looked to Albedo, who was seized hand and foot by the Eight Edge Assassins, and said:
“Albedo shall be confined for three days.”
The Eight Edge Assassins dragged Albedo from the room.
“Ah… Ainz-sama… are you alright?”
“I’m perfectly fine… has Albedo always been that strange? Did she eat something funny? …Granted, demons don’t need to eat or drink, but it’s not like they can’t.”
As Ainz asked that question, Mare averted his eyes.
“I see… no, well, hm. She must have a lot going on. For all I know, it could be pent-up stress from work.”
Ainz rose to his feet and called out to the maid. He regained his dignity ─ which had been previously scattered to the winds ─ and spoke in a commanding tone.
“…Summon Narberal and Hamsuke. It is time for me to leave for E-Rantel.”
13:35 Nazarick Time
Ainz pulled on the reins from where he was mounted on Hamsuke’s back, bringing Hamsuke to a halt. He silently regarded E-Rantel’s city gates.
Ainz quite liked these thick and sturdy gates, which looked like they could repel an army. While there were many gates in YGGDRASIL which were bigger and cooler-looking than this one, this gate was not a mass of data, but made by the hands of mankind ─ although they might have had magical assistance.
As he stood before these gigantic steel gates, an indescribable feeling welled up inside him.
There were guilds in YGGDRASIL who conquered cities too. In the past, I thought it was troublesome to use a location that was so difficult to defend as a guild base, but… I think I can understand those guilds now. Ruling a big city might be a male ambition.
In YGGDRASIL, there were frequent city battles between guilds. Many of Ainz Ooal Gown’s members simply watched coldly from the side, unable to understand them, but there had been those who said they wanted to take part.
Were they battle maniacs…
In the past, Ainz had not like those words much, but when he thought about it now, they were good memories.
“Is something the matter, milord?”
“Not at all, don’t worry about it.”
Hamsuke had been curious and asked its question because its master had bade it stop, and yet had not done anything. Ainz’s flat reply had shut down that topic. He felt embarrassed about letting Hamsuke know that he was reminiscing about the past.
“Now then, to the Adventurer’s Guild, where we’ll show our faces for the meeting and then immediately take on a monster extermination quest.”
He could have stayed in an E-Rantel inn, but he did not have the luxury of making such pointless expenditures. The reason why Ainz ─ who did not eat or drink ─ had to book a room in the highest-end inns was purely to highlight his status as the most highly-placed of adventurers. After that, it was a matter of making connections. However, he had already met all the influential people in this city, and he was assured that they would receive him warmly if he sought them out. Therefore, Ainz had no need to book a room at an inn.
Besides, whenever AInz checked into an inn, he would immediately teleport back to Nazarick, where he would produce undead and work on other things. That being the case, it would be wiser to take a monster extermination mission and leave the city as soon as possible.
Frankly speaking, he did not feel that there was further merit in staying around E-Rantel.
“Is that so? Verily, milord does enjoy battle.”
“It’s not like I enjoy it or anything. Besides, when I wipe out monsters, I take them out right away and spend most of the time in Nazarick.”
Ainz lightly rapped Hamsuke’s large head.
“I intend to give you all sorts of training so you can use weapons and armor.”
“This one has always been working hard! This one has asked the Lizardmen to teach this one all manner of tricks, and soon this one will surely be able to learn a super move!”
“Ho. Well now, it would be perfect if you could learn martial arts. Also, how about your fellow disciple? Do you think he’ll be able to use martial arts?”
“You mean him? He never speaks so this one does not know. However, this one feels he cannot use them yet.”
Indeed, Ainz thought. There was no way that one would enjoy speaking, and Ainz felt that the chances of it being able to learn martial arts were slim. It was little more than an experiment. That said, if it ─ a Death Knight created by Ainz ─ could actually learn warrior techniques, their future plans would have to be greatly altered. That was because if he could strengthen monsters by training them, then it would most likely become a top priority.
“The undead do not need to sleep, and neither do they tire. They can perform combat training forever. So in theory, he ought to have learned martial arts before Hamsuke. The fact that he has not probably indicates that it’s not possible.”
“A moment please! He strives hard in his own way! Even after this one returns to this one’s abode, he continues training without a single word of complaint… I pray thee spare his life!”
“…No, I did not intend to kill him, you know? What exactly did you take me for?”
“Indeed, there is nobody more merciful in all this world than Ainz-sama. Ainz-sama even took pity on a pathetic little creature like you and spared your life.”
Those frigid words came from Narberal, who was riding behind them, and they made Hamsuke shudder.
“─Nabe, we’re coming up on E-Rantel. Address me as Momon from now on.”
“Also, Hamsuke is a being with an important part to play in the plan to strengthen Nazarick… you must take the appropriate attitude with those who work for Nazarick’s sake. I am not simply referring to Hamsuke, so keep that in mind.”
“Yes! My deepest apologies.”
Also, stop calling humans ticks or lice or whatever, Ainz wanted to say, but no matter how he ordered her, Narberal would not listen, so recently he had decided not to bother. That was because if Narberal Gamma had been designed to unconsciously refer to human beings in such a manner, forcing her to correct herself would essentially be trampling the wishes of his friend who had designed her that way.
“Alright, let’s go.”
Ainz rode forth on Hamsuke.
He could see several people lined up in front of the gate. It was only to be expected that immigration would be more strictly vetted than emigration, and all items they carried would be carefully inspected. Therefore, if travelling merchants or peddlers wanted to enter E-Rantel, they might have to spend a long time queuing up for an inspection.
“I hope it won’t take too long…”
“Should you not have priority in going in, Momon sa─n?” Narberal asked while they were lined up behind several travellers ─ including a group in adventurer’s garb.
She was right. When Ainz had first come here, he too had been subjected to extremely troublesome checks, but as his adventuring record grew, the inspection process had grown simpler, and now he practically had a free pass to walk right past them. In addition to that, sometimes he received permission for preferential entry to the city.
This privilege was not unique to Darkness; just about all mithril-ranked adventurers and above received such special treatment. Perhaps it was because the city did not want to displease their trump cards.
In that case, why not just do away with the entry toll as well…
The tolls were inexpensive compared to the payments adventurers received, but Ainz was the top outside earner for Nazarick and having to pay displeased him. That said, he could not bypass the walls with flight magic either.
Momon was a hero. Therefore─
“We can’t cut in line… unless there’s an emergency, or we have to enter the city with all due haste.
He saw Narberal bow from the corner of his eye, and Ainz looked ahead of him from where he was mounted on Hamsuke’s back.
“Still, they’re not moving at all…”
The queue was just like a highway choked up by a traffic jam; nobody was moving.
“What’s this…? It looks like they’re inspecting a cargo wagon… and doing a pretty good job of it too. No, they’re just surrounding it. Did they find some contraband? Excuse me.”
Ainz called out to an unsophisticated-looking man in front of him.
“Ah, yes. What is it?”
“Don’t worry, I just noticed that the line wasn’t moving, so I was wondering if you knew what was going on.”
“I’m not too clear about what’s going on, just that they took a village girl to the duty station. And then─”
After listening to the man, Ainz still had no idea what was going on. He stuck his neck out towards the duty station. He tilted his head to listen in, and heard the sound of an argument.
Suddenly, something piqued Ainz’s curiosity.
When he had first come to this city, they had asked him a whole pile of questions at the main gate, but he had not expected to be let past so easily. He had been surprised at the time, and thought that this world was surprisingly kind to rootless people like mercenaries, adventurers or travellers, but the truth had not been what he had expected. In that case, what were they asking this village girl?
Currently, Ainz’s status as an adamantite-ranked adventurer meant that very few cities would refuse him entry.
That was why Ainz wanted to know exactly what sort of questions were being asked. In the future, he might have to infiltrate a city in future outside the guise of Momon the adamantite-ranked adventurer. He had to learn more so there would be no difficulties when the time came.
“You two wait here for a while. I’ll go see what’s going on.”
“Please allow me to accompany you.”
“There’s no need for that. I’m just taking a look.”
He dismounted from Hamsuke’s back, and walked towards the duty station.
All the soldiers exclaimed in surprise as they saw Ainz. There was nobody here who did not know the adventurer Momon in E-Rantel.
Ainz took care to look as cool as possible as he approached the duty station. He saw an excited-looking magic caster, a soldier, and a seated village girl.
“We wish to enter the city, but… what’s going on?”
The two men exclaimed in the same surprise as the soldiers outside. The village girl was stunned when she saw it.
“If… if it isn’t Momon-sama himself! Forgive us!”
“Now, what’s going on here… hm? This girl is…”
She seemed familiar. Ainz felt that he knew her, and he searched his hippocampus ─ though he did not possess such an organ ─ for information confirming her.
“Yes! We were investigating a suspicious girl, which took some time. We sincerely apologize for inconveniencing you, Momon-sama─”
Ainz was beginning to find the man’s chatter intolerable. Then, inspiration struck, and he recalled the village girl’s name.
“─Enri , right. You must be Enri Emmot, am I correct?”
“Er, ah, who’re you… er, no, I am. Ah, you were the one who came with Nfirea that time, right? I don’t remember speaking to you… DId Nfirea tell you my name?”
At that moment, Ainz instinctively pressed his hand over his mouth.
He had met Enri when he was the masked magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown. Now, he was the adamantite-ranked adventurer in jet-black armor, Momon.
Crap! I spoke in my normal voice! This is terrible. I need to leave here right away. But still, what’s that village girl doing here? Won’t it be troublesome if she finds me ─ no, finds Ainz Ooal Gown here? I need to clarify the details with her.
She did not seem to have divined his true identity from the conversation just now, but he could not rule out the possibility that he had been exposed. Granted, he did not think she would have matched his voice from several months ago to a few words spoken through a layer of armor, but it was best to be prudent.
Ainz beckoned the magic caster over. He felt that the man ought to know more than the soldiers.
He led the magic caster out of the duty station, and they went some distance away to avoid being overheard by the sentries.
“It’s like this… that girl’s a friend of a friend. Can you tell me what happened with her?”
He was not lying, since Nfirea was indeed a friend of Ainz and Momon.
The magic caster’s eyes went wide. He appeared to be shocked, but that was not the case. It was more like connecting points of data to form a beautiful line. It was as though a mystery in his heart had been solved.
“I see… as I thought…”
Could you please hurry up the process of accepting the facts? Ainz very much wanted to say that, but he bore with it and waited for the man to speak.
“She said she was just a village girl, but she was carrying a powerful horn-shaped magic item. I wasn’t sure why she had such a powerful item, and I had other questions of my own, so I wanted to clarify things.”
“What sort of horn was it? What effects did it have?”
“Its effects were─”
After listening to the whole explanation, Ainz could not help looking up to the sky.
That was because he was trying to run away from the knowledge that it was an item which he had given her.
At that time, Ainz had not known that such an item was beyond the comprehension of this world. He had given her the horn simply for her to protect herself. Who could have imagined that it would have created so much trouble for her? Ainz could probably have come up with an excuse along the lines of “I did nothing wrong”, but ignoring her plight was not good either.
I’ll help her out a little. I didn’t do anything wrong, but I did give her the item, after all, so the responsibility lies with me… if I abandon her and it falls into someone else’s hands, it’ll end up being more troublesome for me. Besides, if she gets locked up─
Nfirea knew that Momon and Ainz Ooal Gown were one and the same. Given these circumstances, if Enri told him about this, he would surely think that Ainz had left her to her fate.
It’ll definitely leave a bad aftertaste between us… I don’t care about causing difficulties with worthless humans, but he’s a very valuable being. As the saying goes, I ought to turn this danger into an opportunity. If I lend her a hand, Nfirea ought to be grateful to me. If I do this, I can chain his heart closer to me with more obligations.
Ainz spoke, in a tone which he believed combined calmness and dignity:
“There is no need for you to worry. I am very familiar with her character. She will not go around causing trouble, so could I impose upon you to let her pass? ─Could you?”
“But of course. If she is a friend of Momon from ‘Darkness’, and you are vouching for her, then we would allow her in, no matter how vicious a criminal she was.”
“Really now, my apologies, then. In that case, I’ll leave that to you. Also, I apologize for this, but could you allow us ─ Darkness ─ to enter the city first?”
After receiving permission, Ainz returned to Narberal and Hamsuke.
“We’ve been allowed in. Let’s enter the city.”
He mounted up on Hamsuke’s back and bypassed the line of people. The queuing people all looked at him, but once they saw his black armor, his greatswords, Hamsuke and Narberal, they all averted their eyes. They understood that Ainz’s status was far greater than theirs.
The gate sentries bowed deeply to them as they passed by, and then they entered E-Rantel.
“Now then, Nabe. I have something to ask of you.”
“Understood. Please command me as you see fit.”
SInce they were both adventurers, it did not seem good for her to display such loyalty on the streets. However, Ainz had gradually realized that it was pointless to lecture her, and so he continued speaking:
“The girl driving the wagon from just now ─ Enri ─ will be entering the city soon. Go ask her why she came to E-Rantel.”
After that, Ainz found a place to hide himself. This was because he wanted to avoid speaking with Enri too much.
He surveyed his surroundings and saw a stack of tall wooden crates he could probably hide behind, and so he commanded Hamsuke to make haste towards it. The soldiers working there panicked when they saw Ainz and Hamsuke approaching them.
“Gentlemen, are you free? I’d like to ask about these crates.”
Once he was certain that he would not be spotted from the city gates, Ainz addressed one of the soldiers. Of course, he was not interested in the crates at all. He had simply made up a pretext to be there because he was worried others might chase him away for interfering with their work.
“Ah…alright. We’re very glad that you’d take an interest in our work, Momon-sama. The crates are filled with vegetables from the Grandel Province, known as Kinshu. These vegetables─”
As Ainz listened to the soldier’s earnest explanation, he mumbled replies like “I see” and “So that’s how it is”. The soldier did not seem to mind the half-hearted responses and continued his lecture. After learning how to cook the vegetables called Kinshu in exacting detail, he sensed Narberal approaching from behind him.
“─Forgive me for interrupting your explanation. I learned a lot, thank you. However, my companion has returned, and so I must leave.”
After his one-sided farewell to the soldier, Ainz ordered Hamsuke forward.
“How did it go?”
“Firstly, she wanted me to thank you, Momon-san. After that, she said that she had three aims, namely selling off the herbs she had collected, checking the temples for people who might want to move to the village, and finally, travelling to the Adventurer’s Guild.”
“The Adventurer’s Guild? What kind of request is she putting in?”
“Forgive me, but I did not ask about that. Shall I capture her and force her to talk?”
“There’s no need for that. Besides, we’ll be heading to the Adventurer’s Guild too, so we can just ask the Guild when we get there.”
Surely she did not intend to directly thank Ainz Ooal Gown. If it was for that objective, she could simply leave a message with Lupusregina, whom he occasionally sent to the village.
“Oh yes, Nabe. Have you received any special reports from Lupusregina?”
Narberal shook her head, and Ainz furrowed his ─ naturally, they were nonexistent ─ brows.
He had originally planned to station a Shadow Demon in the village, but he had instead sent Lupusregina over in order to forge friendly relations. He had ordered Lupusregina to report anything that happened in the village to him immediately. However, no information had made its way to Ainz up till this point.
Therefore, he had believed that Carne VIllage was fine. Was that not the case?
While there was no need to tell him about trivia such as “Enri went to E-Rantel by herself”, uneasiness still shrouded Ainz’s heart like a cloud.
“I’ve always thought Lupusregina was a hard worker. Nabe, what do you think?”
“It is as you say, Ainz-sama. While her tone makes her seem very casual, that is only an act. She is cruel and cunning; an excellent maid.”
There was no way cruelty and slyness could be taken as compliments. Ainz glanced at Narberal’s face, wondering if she thought ill of Lupusregina, but her cool expression only contained her respect for a colleague.
“Then milord, shall we proceed presently to the Adventurer’s Guild as you said earlier?”
“Yes, do you know its location? Narberal, you sit behind me. Since you’ve already put away the Statue of Animal: Warhorse, there’s no need to go to the trouble of taking it out again.”
Ainz grabbed Narberal’s hand and sat her behind him. Hamsuke seemed eager to move off and picked up the pace. He was no longer embarrassed to ride Hamsuke through the streets. In addition, Hamsuke could understand language and take orders, which pleased him. It felt just like riding a cab.
Soon, the Adventurer’s Guild appeared before his eyes. At the same time, he saw the wagon from earlier, and Enri’s back as she entered the Guild.
“…There’s nothing else to be done. Hamsuke, we’ll go in through the back door. Circle round the back.”
Usually, adventurers were not allowed to enter the Guild through the back door. However, anything was possible for adamantite-ranked adventurers. Incidentally, it was also Ainz’s first time doing this. He might be of a privileged class, but abusing his privileges would damage his reputation.
After entering the Guild through the back door, he asked the first Guild employee he saw to take him to the Guildmaster’s room. Fortunately, the Guildmaster was in.
“Oh, if it isn’t Momon-kun! Welcome!”
The Guildmaster ─ Ainzach ─ opened his arms wide to welcome Ainz, and then he warmly embraced Ainz. While he thought nothing of it because he was wearing his armor and a helmet, there were many reasons which would have chosen made him avoid that ardent embrace if he were in a thin layer of clothing. He patted Ainz intimately on the back before slowly releasing him.
“I’ve been so lonely because you haven’t come around lately. Come, come, have a seat. Let’s chat a bit before the others show up.”
The Guildmaster looked like he was welcoming a friend he had not seen for a long time as he happily indicated the sofa.
After Ainz took a seat, the Guildmaster sat down beside him.
The two of them were very close. Their knees were touching, and it was stifling.
“Momon-kun, we’ve known each other for so long; surely we can speak more freely around each other, hm?”
“No, there must be politeness even as there’s familiarity. This is very important; it’s what my seniors taught me.”
Granted, if he were a salaryman, he would have spoken with more closeness ─ sometimes, he even spoke to customers in a normal tone. However, he did not wish to get so close to the Guildmaster. He felt that maintaining a business-like attitude was the right answer.
Getting too close to the group will only become a burden. I don’t want to be too closely tied to the Adventurer’s Guild of a single city. Should I leave for greener pastures soon? Besides─
Ainz glanced at the Guildmaster through the eyeslits of his helmet.
Besides, why the heck is he sitting so close to me? Normally, you’d let Narberal sit beside me, and you’d sit opposite me, right?
Their proximity made him feel uncomfortable; it was no wonder Ainz began to suspect if the Guildmaster was gay.
I heard the Magician’s Guildmaster say he had a wife… or is his wife just a beard? I thought he was just trying to get me on his side… but it’s having the opposite effect. Or does he think I’m gay?
That final mental image made Ainz shudder.
Ainz was heterosexual. No, to be precise, he used to be. Incidentally, Suzuki Satoru preferred larger breasts. That point had (probably) not changed, even after gaining this body. That was because he preferred Albedo slightly more to, say, Cocytus.
Ainz adjusted his sitting position, moving slightly away from the Guildmaster, and then he turned to face him.
“Forgive my rudeness, but I came here with a question. It’s like this ─ one of my friends should have come to the Adventurer’s Guild by now, and I’d like to know what sort of request she put in.”
“Well, the rules make it somewhat difficult to tell you about this.”
“Thus, I seek your understanding in the matter. I do understand I’m imposing, and I understand the need to obey the Guild’s rules. However, I hope you will lend me your help in this.”
Ainz bowed his head, to which the Guildmaster responded by folding his arms and staring at the ceiling, a stern look on his face. However, he only held that pose for a short while.
“I understand,” he smiled to Ainz. “Since it’s you asking, Momon-kun, I can’t exactly reject it either. Then, could you tell me that person’s name?”
“She is Enri of Carne VIllage, no, Enri Emmot.”
“Enri, is it? Then, could you give me a little time?”
Before long, the Guildmaster returned. He was followed by one of the receptionists which Ainz had seen before. She moved stiffly as she entered the room.
“Momon-sama! My apologies!”
This was the first time Ainz had ever seen someone walk while moving both the arms and legs on the same sides of their body at the same time. He thought, that’s quite something and there’s no need to be so tense, but in the end, he still nodded haughtily. Part of the challenge of being an adamantite-ranked adventurer that he could not appear too relaxed.
“This receptionist attended to Enri Emmot of Carne Village. It would be better for you to ask her directly. Ask her anything you wish to know.”
“Is that so? Then ─ no, before that, perhaps she should have a seat, Guildmaster. But this is your room, and it is not up to me to─”
“No! There’s no need to bother you! I’m fine with standing!”
Perhaps Suzuki Satoru might have felt that it was very wrong to be seated while his opposite number was standing. However, in the process of being Ainz Ooal Gown ─ of being the leader of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick ─ he had gradually lost such feelings. He was slowly becoming used to the difference between a leader and a follower. Perhaps this was an indication that his actions as a master (roleplaying) were not a waste of effort, but he had indeed accumulated experience points.
…How much more until I level up… Oops.
“I see. Then, let’ get down to business. I would like you to tell me about her request, in as much detail and possible. This is a very important matter, so can you tell me everything about it?”
The receptionist’s forehead was beaded in cold sweat.
“What is it? Is there a problem?”
“No, I mean…:”
The receptionist’s eyes were flickering from side to side.
“Am I asking the wrong questions? …Perhaps, so let’s try this. Was she looking for someone in particular to help with her request?”
“No… it’s not, it’s not like that.”
“Ah, I see… then, what sort of request was it? Or was it not even a request?”
“…Actually, she did not make a request right away, just said that she might make one in future. And then she mentioned something about monsters called the Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West, who were comparable to the Wise King of the Forest which you tamed, Momon-sama. That, er, that’s all.”
Ainz was quite surprised by how tongue-tied she sounded, but he continued asking:
“So it’s a future request, then?”
“No… it’s not! I… I didn’t know she was a friend of yours, Momon-sama! If I’d known, I would have asked more carefully! Really!”
AInz was quite perturbed by the receptionist, who was wailing while on the verge of tears. Could someone as emotional as this really man a counter?
“…My apologies. We did not oversee this adequately.”
“Why’s it like that? Isn’t that how the guild’s rules work?!”
After listening to their conversation, Ainz realized how they had misinterpreted his intentions.
The receptionist and Guildmaster believed that Ainz and Enri were friends, and while he had intended to take her job for free, he had decided to give the Adventurer’s Guild their due deference and thus they hand arranged for him to accept her request through the Guild.
However, the receptionist had coldly chased away Enri by bringing up the manner of fees. Therefore, the two of them were arguing about who should be taking the responsibility for chasing away the friend of an adamantite-ranked adventurer.
No, if this was a rule of the organization, then wouldn’t she be right to have obeyed it?
Ainz stared at the Guildmaster as he rebuked the receptionist, and his opinion of the man took a sharp dive in his eyes.
If a subordinate makes a mistake, her superior ought to cover for her. Or is this some sort of high-level technique where he savagely scolds her in front of a customer to earn the customer’s sympathy and thus his forgiveness? I mean, look at how he’s laying into her.
Ainz felt that that the receptionist had handled this correctly, and the Guildmaster should have known that as well. However, just like how he had come in through the back door and leaned on the Guildmaster for a favor, adamantite-ranked adventurers could easily bend the rules. That was because they were valuable enough that the Guild wanted to keep them around, even if they flouted the rules. That was probably why the two of them were arguing now.
“I didn’t know!”
Ainz gently spoke to comfort the weeping receptionist.
“The fault is not yours.”
The receptionist’s eyes went wide, and her tears flowed out from them and rolled down her cheeks.
“Obeying the organization’s rules is very important, even if they must be overlooked from time to time. I will not hold this incident against you.”
“Thank you! Thank you so much!”
“Then, I hope I can trouble you to go get the details from her. Please don’t say I’ll be taking it, only that I want to be ready to make a move at any time.”
“I understand! I! I’ll go ask now! I’m very sorry!”
The receptionist turned and ran off like the passing of a typhoon.
“…While I know you wanted to gain my sympathy, I would prefer if you did not falsely blame someone who was innocent. It displeases me.”
“As I thought… I can’t pull the wool over your eyes, Momon-kun.”
Those words sounded like they had been squeezed out of the depths of his soul, and Ainz knew that his guess had been correct.
So the techniques of the Japanese salaryman are universally applicable. However, the problem is─
The form of Lupusregina came to Ainz’s mind.
Why didn’t Lupusregina have any information about monsters that even a village girl like Enri was aware of? Was it a failure in the construction of the intelligence network? I need to make sure.
As Ainz waited for the receptionist to report to him, he mused that he would need to return to Nazarick and sort this out.
♦ ♦ ♦
16:41 Nazarick Time
A nervous-looking Lupusregina entered Ainz’s office. The panic and unease of being suddenly summoned was written all over her face. Inside the office were Lupusregina, the regular maid Sixth, the battle maid Narberal, Aura, who was the one most familiar with the forest, the Eight Edge Assassins on the ceiling, and the owner of the room, Ainz. Incidentally, Albedo was still in confinement.
Lupusregina was about to prostrate before Ainz when he interrupted her.
“Lupusregina, is there something you’ve kept from me?”
After seeing the confused look on her face, he wondered if she did not know about it after all. Ainz decided to repeat what he had heard about the Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West from the Adventurer’s Guild.
However, as he saw that Lupusregina seemed to have known about this long before, Ainz’s mood rapidly deteriorated. He exhaled long and loud.
“So you were aware of this, then?”
“Yes. About that—”
Ruled by anger, Ainz’s wrath-filled shout echoed through the room.
As the others recoiled like they had been struck by lightning, Ainz felt something suppress his emotions, but even after the peak of rage was cut off, his anger surged up again, and there was no way he could fully rein in his ire.
“Why did you not report this to me? Were you trying to keep this from me?”
“N-no! Nothing like that!”
“Then why? Why did none of this reach me at all! What was the reason for that?”
“B-because I th-thought it wasn’t a big deal, s-so I didn’t report…”
For some reason, the sight of the frightened battle maid peeking up at him only incensed him further.
“Lupusregina Beta! I am thoroughly disappointed in you!!”
Lupusregina was not the only one who flinched at this. Nabe and Sixth were trembling too, and the Eight Edge Assassins on the ceiling seemed to have frozen up as well.
“I gave you discretion over handling the village, but that does not mean you can do as you please! You were told to report anything that happened in the village, anything at all, so what is the meaning of this!”
Ainz’s face twisted as he looked down on Lupusregina, who was unable to answer him.
This was an unforgivable sin for a worker; no, for anyone.
These rules were obvious for anyone who did business, or rather, for anyone who worked in society at all: “Report, Communicate, Discuss”. It was an abbreviation of reporting what you had learned, communicating clearly with others and discussing issues as they came up. They were very important; the lifeblood of the giant that was working society.
If she can’t even do that, I don’t think I can forgive her from the perspective of a leader… no…
As he looked on the terrified Lupusregina, Ainz could not help but think that he was at least partially to blame. These mistakes would only result if a superior was unreliable and could not properly direct his subordinates.
A failure in the group’s communications is my fault. I couldn’t take proper control of this… maybe I should step back and let Demiurge or Albedo handle this sort of thing.
“…Lupusregina, are you aware of Carne Village’s value to Nazarick?”
“Hah? No… yes. Er, I heard you say that village is very valuable, Ainz-sama…”
“No, no, I mean, what do you, personally, feel is valuable about the village?”
“W-well, there’s a lot of toys there, and…”
“Ah, that’s how it is. Well then… I’m sorry. It was my mistake. I did not realize you thought like that…” Ainz laughed tiredly. He realized it had been his fault after all. “I take back what I said about you being a disappointment. I went too far. Please forgive me.”
“W-what are you saying? It was my foolish mistake!”
“In that case, just be more careful next time. Now then, I’ll explain again, so pay close attention. That village is very valuable to us. Especially that boy, Nfirea, and his grandmother Lizzie. They are of great importance to Nazarick.”
“Eeh? Is-is that so?”
“Indeed. I have handed the task of creating new potions to those two.”
“Ah, that-that’s right! I have something to show you, Ainz-sama!”
Lupusregina suddenly shouted that last part as her face turned pale. She took out a vial of purple potion and Narberal, who was closest to her, took it and handed it to Ainz.
Ainz looked at the potion through the light.
“Y-yes! This is Nfirea’s new healing potion!”
Ainz’s anger flared again, and he tried his best to quash it.
“With this potion, the Bareare family’s importance has risen again.”
Ainz laughed quietly as he saw Lupusregina’s clueless face.
This purple potion Nfirea made had been concocted using various items provided by Nazarick. The most important thing was that without possessing Yggdrasil’s potion creation skills, they had managed to use ingredients from Yggdrasil to create something other than this world’s “blue” potions or Yggdrasil’s “red” potions.
“For starters, the healing potions of this world are blue. But the healing potions I know of are red. Curious, don’t you think?” Ainz rambled.
The knowledge and powers of YGGDRASIL could be used in this world. From the angels he had first encountered, to the apparent existence of World-Class Items, there was a very high chance that players had been here in the past. In that case, why was it that the potions were not red like in YGGDRASIL?
There were three possibilities.
First, the downfall of a country might have resulted in the loss of those potion-making techniques. These techniques should have been quite widespread, and nothing short of an entire country’s destruction would be able to wipe them out.
The second reason might have been that Nfirea simply did not know these techniques since they had not spread to the nearby countries. Perhaps distant countries might be using red potions. After all, in Japan, the same noodle soup looked completely different when prepared on different sides of the country.
The third reason was optimization: making YGGDRASIL potions would require YGGDRASIL materials. Maybe those materials were difficult to find here, or they were not available at all, and that was why only blue potions were the best that could be made with this world’s materials.
“That is to say, except for the second possibility, this potion that Nfirea made—” Ainz swirled the purple potion in its vial. “This might be a once-in-a-century technological revolution, for all I know. Well, if it’s the third possibility, this might turn out to be a failed product after all. His hard work in the future will give me the answer.”
Wat Ainz wanted from Nfirea was for him to make YGGDRASIL potions without using YGGDRASIL materials. Or he might come up with something else and end up making a third, completely different potion.
“In that case, would it not be more effective to let more people research the subject?”
Narberal’s question made Ainz frown.
“That is a foolish question. Narberal. Indeed, the work would proceed more quickly, but it would be very dangerous. Knowledge is power, and freely distributing it is a foolish action.”
YGGDRASIL was also like that, so Ainz could confidently say that.
“For example, there is a possibility that his potion could be refined to the point where it could kill me with a single attack. Then, it would be safer to monopolize this knowledge than to spread it… It’s better for slaves to be a little ignorant, but one must always keep abreast of technological advancements. This is the same for Nfirea and his potions. Though I would like to lock him up in Nazarick and make him focus solely on research and development…”
This would both prevent the spread of the technique and the usage of the potion.
“Then, then why have you not done so?”
Narberal’s eyes seemed to say that she would do it immediately if ordered, and so AInz hurriedly squeezed out a reply.
“Rather than imprison him and force him to work, I will build his trust in us, as a long-term scheme that will bring better benefits to Nazarick. Demiurge analyzed the situation and concluded that it was better to shackle him to us with a debt of obligation— Hm? What’s wrong, Lupusregina?”
“There’s one thing I don’t understand, could you explain it to a fool like me? Why did you give the potion to someone like Brita, Ainz-sama?”
Ainz had no idea who Brita was, going by her name alone. While trying to maintain a look which said “all is within the palm of my hand” —which was to say, a carefully blank expression— he struggled frantically to think of a solution.
Could it be that potion?
Ainz recalled the first night he spent in E-Rantel.
As he remembered what he had said then, Ainz was grateful that his body could no longer sweat.
—What should I do? What should I say?
He could not keep silent forever.
Demiurge! Albedo! Why aren’t you here! No, Demiurge is currently abroad performing his tasks, and Albedo is in confinement! It’s too late to call her over!
“—Is that so? You really don’t understand?”
“Yes. I apologize for my lack of knowledge. Please enlighten me.”
Just don’t ask! Ainz wanted to shout. However, he had no other options, so all he could do was roll the dice and hope for the best. Courage filled him as he decided on his course.
“Fufu… hahahaha. Indeed, it was a dangerous move that you, Lupusregina, have the right to be curious about. It could have resulted in a development that we would not be able to control. However, there was a motive for taking such risks.”
“A-a motive? Wasn’t it just meant to compensate her for the loss of her potion?”
Narberal’s interruption made Ainz swallow the words he was about to say. His brain spun into high gear, and he struggled to recall that encounter in E-Rantel.
That’s right! At that time, I just did it so I wouldn’t get a bad rep! Damn!
Ainz maintained his calm demeanour. He would have to lie to cover up another lie. He struggled to muster up the vestiges of his rapidly-vanishing courage.
“…Is that all you thought I was doing, Narberal?”
“I am very sorry!”
“…No, this isn’t something you should apologize for. At the time, I wasn’t confident my plan would work out, so I chose a simpler explanation.”
“Then… what was your real aim?”
In the face of Narberal’s questions, Ainz’s jaw hung open for a moment at a loss for words. But in that moment, inspiration struck. With that as the basis for his confidence, Ainz prepared to speak.
“…It was Nfirea…”
As Ainz slowly opened his mouth, he took in the subordinates around him. If Demiurge or Albedo were present, they would probably interrupt and say, “Ah, so that’s how it is. As expected of Ainz-sama.”
Narberal, on the other hand, could only furiously furrow her brows.
Ainz cupped his chin with a silent “Umu”. Fear began creeping over the faces of Narberal and the others, because they thought Ainz’s pose meant, “do you still not understand, even after I’ve said this much?” In truth, Ainz had made that gesture unconsciously, not knowing what to do with his hands.
In a short period of time, Ainz had been subjected to extreme tension and the emotion suppression that blanked it out. Between these two clashing forces, an epiphany came upon Ainz. Without knowing where he would end up, Ainz clung to that last straw and took a step into the darkness.
“…Mm. I managed to get the attention of the pharmacist known as Nfirea; was that enough of an answer…? That’s right… Normally, what would you do if you got your hands on a potion that was completely different from any other potion that you had ever encountered?”
“…Discuss it with someone?”
“Exactly! Lupusregina, it is exactly as you said. As I predicted, Brita brought the potion to the pharmacist she trusted the most. That was how I came into contact with Nfirea.”
He remembered that Nfirea had apparently said something similar when they met at Carne Village.
“Ah! So that’s how it is! That was your objective all along!”
“You seem to get it. That was the bait for my hook to catch a master alchemist. Although there was a chance it could have ended up in a strange place and caused problems, it was still worth a try.”
A sense of understanding filled the air, and there were looks of admiration on their faces.
I managed to join the stories together…
Just as Ainz was about to mentally sigh in relief, a sudden, unexpected question came.
“Then… I understand I’m being very rude, but could I ask one more question…”
No. Stop. Please don’t ask any more questions. Ainz was crying inside, but his face remained impassive.
“What’s the matter, Lupusregina? If you have something you need to discuss, feel free to look me up.”
“Yes,” Lupusregina swallowed, and with a serious expression on her face, she asked, “Do you always think two or three steps ahead when making plans, Ainz-sama?”
Most of the time, Ainz made things up on the spot. Of course, sometimes he tried to plan his next move, but more often than not, the results were completely different from what he intended. Of course, he could not say any of that.
Ainz laughed quietly. It was a practiced laugh.
“Of course. I am the ruler of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, Ainz Ooal Gown, am I not?”
Quiet exclamations of “Ohhhh!” rose up from all around him, and Lupusregina’s eyes went wide.
“What’s wrong, Lupusregina?”
“A wise king…”
Lupusregina’s gasped words made Aura frown, and she took a step forward. However, Ainz stopped her.
“Pay it no heed. Is that all you have to ask?”
“Then, er, then, I’ve got another one. Wouldn’t it be better if we let the monsters attack the village, and then Ainz-sama would swoop in to save them, wouldn’t that be better? I mean, wouldn’t Nfirea and his grandmother feel extra grateful to Ainz-sama for plucking them out of the fire? That would make them more useful… right?”
“Well, that is a very good plan, and worth considering, However, if that happened, Nfirea might end up hating the monsters too much and then he would no longer be willing to cooperate with us… now, it would be a different matter if it was humans who did it. In that case, perhaps it would be more effective if we saved Enri Emmot as well, the better to chain his heart up further.”
However, Carne Village was a village that had been saved by the magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown. It had its uses, so burning it down was of questionable value.
“By the way, the most important people in that village are —in descending order— Nfirea, his crush Enri Emmot and finally his grandmother Lizzie. You must protect these three people no matter the cost. Everyone else is expendable. If need be, sacrifice your life to protect Nfirea. That’s it. Is that all, Lupusregina?”
“Yes! Thank you very much!”
“Now then, Lupusregina, I will forgive you for this lapse. Now that you know my objectives, you will not be forgiven next time. Do you understand?”
“Very good. Then go. Complete your assigned tasks.”
Lupusregina bowed and exited the room, followed closely by Narberal, who seemed more like a policeman escorting a criminal. After the two of them vanished out the door, Ainz turned to the Guardian beside him.
“Now then, Aura. Do you know anything about the Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West—”
Suddenly, a loud shout came from outside the room.
“Seriously, Ainz-sama is amazing ~su! I can’t believe he thought so far ahead, and in such detail! He must be some kind of monster ~su!”
The voice that came through the thick door was not very loud, but it was enough to interrupt their conversation. Given that they could hear her words so clearly, how loudly was she yelling in the corridor, just outside?
“…Should we tell her how thin the doors are?”
“I think she’s just too excited, let me go pound some sense—”
There was a smashing sound from outside the door, and then the sound of something heavy being dragged into the distance.
“…Aura, I don’t think you need to go any more. Back to the previous topic; let me know what you’ve found.”
“Yes. Er, I’m very sorry, but I haven’t heard anything about the Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West. After we fought that tree monster called Zy’tl Q’ae, I did a quick sweep of the forest, aside from the underground caverns, which I didn’t investigate. I didn’t find any strong enemies…”
“Well, if they’re only as strong as Hamsuke, I understand why you wouldn’t have paid any attention to them.”
Even a gardener could not be expected to know how many ants were crawling in his domain. Missing out on things due to the difference in strength was a problem.
“I am truly sorry. Then, Ainz-sama, will we be doing house-cleaning?”
“That sounds like a good idea. We’ll swat those pesky flies and put the forest under Nazarick’s complete control.”
“Got it! Then, I’ll send some of my pets along!”
“Umu. It seems a little boring that way. I’d like to see what sort of monsters this Giant of the East and Serpent of the West are, who can rival Hamsuke.”
“Then, shall I drag them here in chains?”
“No, I think I shall go visit them in person. Thanks to Hamsuke, I’ve found another way of appreciating the value of antiques as well.”
Ainz laughed at the puzzled expression on Aura’s face.
“Well, of course that’s not all. I also want to see if I can arrange a test for Lupusregina…”
Nazarick Time 19:16
Fenrir crept leisurely through the night-time forest. Neither the branches which stuck out or the coiling vines hampered Fenrir’s movements or the two people on its back. In fact, they seemed to move like incorporeal wraiths, without even disturbing a twig.
This was the effect of one of Fenrir’s skills, [Landwalker].
“According to my vassals’ reports, the Giant of the East’s lair seems to be just ahead.”
There was no tension in Aura’s voice, even in this world of darkness, cut off from the starlight by the densely-packed trees. Ainz and the others were not like humans, who lacked special visual modes. They took in the darkened forest around them like it was broad daylight.
“Is that so. We would be very lucky if the Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West were to gather in the same place. However, that’s probably being greedy. If the Serpent of the West is not here, then I’ll leave its disposal to you, Aura.”
“Yes! I’ll do my best! But how shall I deal with these fools who dare make hostile moves on you, Ainz-sama?”
“Let’s try communication first.”
Aura looked behind herself ─ at Ainz ─ with a puzzled look on her face.
“Eh? Weren’t we going to make them swear themselves to us?”
“That’s because the Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West are unknown monsters. Starting with an attempt at rational communication ought to be better from just about every angle. If they’re monsters which don’t exist in YGGDRASIL, then I would like to keep them.
“You’re so kind, Ainz-sama.”
There was no mockery within Aura’s tone.
“Is… is that so? I feel that only the worthy deserve my kindness ─ followed by those who belong to Nazarick… I’m doing this because they might have some value if they’re on Hamsuke’s level. I suppose you could call this seizing an opportunity?”
“You mentioned Hamsuke just now, but is it really that valuable?”
“Oh yes. It’s quite useful as a guinea pig.”
Hamsuke was currently studying to be a warrior under Zaryusu of the Lizardmen. Incidentally, one of the Death Knights made by Ainz was also studying under him.
Training the two of them ─ a hamster and a monster ─ was intended to see if they could acquire warrior class levels. This was particularly true for the Death Knight. If he could gain warrior levels, that would greatly increase Nazarick’s combat power.
While he felt it was probably impossible, he still had to conduct the experiment to be sure.
“Are you having the blacksmith make armor for Hamsuke because it’s that important?”
“You’re quite well-informed. That’s also one of the reasons. If I have to ride it onto the battlefield in future, so enhancing its defense might be critical.”
Hamsuke should have no problem wearing full plate armor once he had warrior class levels. Currently, putting it in armor greatly decreased its evasion and mobility rates due to its weight. Ainz felt that it needed training for that reason. However─
Armor hampers its movements since it doesn’t have warrior levels, that much is the same as the game… no, I can’t even wear metal armor at all due to the game’s restrictions. From that point of view, its restrictions are a lot more lax… if only there were a second Hamsuke, then I could study the differences between the two…”
These restrictions which resembled those of the game were still a mystery even now. If he let Demiurge and the others perform in-depth investigations, they might be able to find the right answer, but for some reason, Ainz did not want to do that.
This is a magical world, and it might run on physics that are vastly different from ours. Perhaps all I can do is force myself to accept that this is just one of the principles of such a world. Just assume that anything could happen…
“Ainz-sama, what’s wrong?”
“Hm? No, it’s nothing, what is it?”
“No, it just seemed like you were thinking, and I wanted to ask if something was the matter.”
“Oh, indeed. I was just thinking about some things, it’s nothing much.”
Aura seemed relieved and faced forward once more. Ainz looked at the back of her head ─ which was covered in silky golden hair ─ and his eyes roved down. His eyes passed over her slender back, and then they focused on his hands ─ which were wrapped around her slender waist.
She’s so slim; are children’s waists all so thin?
Having never had children of his own, AInz was curious, and he could not resist the urge to pat her waist, like he was inspecting her. Then, Ainz raised his hand to lightly pat her back. However, he did not use much force because he was mounted on Fenrir.
However, Aura jumped up and suddenly jerked around.
“Uwaaaah! What… what is it, Ainz-sama?!”
Her face was very red.
In fact, it was so red that even someone without darkvision might be able to see how red it was.
“Ah, it’s nothing, I just thought your waist was very thin. Have you been eating well? You’re equipped with items that negate the need for eating and drinking but you can still eat, right?”
“I… I can. I won’t gain any magical enhancements from doing so, but I can still eat.”
In games like YGGDRASIL, humanoids and demihumans had designated lifespans, and in turn they could grow; conversely, heteromorphs had no maximum lifespans and so they would stop aging after a certain period. If that character aspect had carried over to this world, then Aura and Mare would slowly grow older. Ainz did not want their growth to be affected because they had not received proper nutrition as children.
While his companions were not around, the growth of these kids was Ainz’s responsibility.
“You need to eat well, okay.”
“Yes! I’ll eat well and make Shalltear regret it!”
Ainz had no idea why Shalltear had suddenly come up, but he did not inquire into it.
“…Items that remove the need for eating and drinking might affect growth, so depending on the situation, perhaps you should swap them out for other items. Growing up… perhaps one day, you two will have lovers of your own…”
Aura and Mare were very cute children, and when they grew up, they would surely be very handsome and beautiful. Ainz imagined men and women of all sorts confessing their love to them ─ although, Ainz had never had experiences like those, so what he imagined had all come from TV shows.
Perhaps he had been influenced by the previous topic, but for some reason he imagined a huge pile of Hamsukes.
He visualized a young Aura and Mare being surrounded by vast amounts of Hamsukes. It seemed quite pleasing, but it was completely different from the plan which Ainz had in mind.
Hamsuke’s related to rodents, so Hamsuke ought to be capable of reproducing in vast quantities. Is it best to sterilize it? Although I’d like to let it breed a little more… I wonder if there are any males of its species?
“Eh? It’s still too early for that, Ainz-sama. I’m only 70.”
“I… I see, you’re right. You’re still young. Well, anyway, Aura, who do you like most in Nazarick? What’s your type?”
While Ainz had no experience in love, he still got a little jealous whenever he saw dashing lads and pretty girls being all lovey-dovey on the roadside. However, Ainz was sure that he could genuinely wish the NPCs well if it were them.
“I like you the most, Ainz-sama.”
“Haha, well, that’s good to hear.”
Ainz was quite happy to hear such flattery from a young child like Aura. He loved the children (NPCs) very much, and how could he not be pleased to hear that they liked him too?
“Then, who do you like the most, Ainz-sama? Who do you like the most between Albedo and Shalltear?”
“Haha. Well now, I have to say I like you very much, Aura.”
Ainz caressed Aura’s head from behind. The soft strands of her hand fell from between his fingers.
Should I start considering the problem of sex education? If there are Dark Elf schools, should I send Aura and Mare there to study so they can grow into good adults? What would Bukubukuchagama-san think if she were here? But still, schools… school love comedies… Peroroncino-san once raved about it before, and he said he wanted to make a Nazarick Gakuen with Suuraatan-san. Where did the data for that go?
“What is it? You’re being too loud, Aura.”
“Ah! I… I’m sorry. The Giant of the East’s lair ought to be nearby, but…”
“It’s fine, there’s no need to apologize. Leaving that aside, about the future─”
“The… the future?”
“Y-yes. Is something the matter? You look flustered… did something happen?”
“No… not at all, it’s nothing. Yes. Um. You were talking about the future?”
“Oh, yes. I was thinking that if there was a kingdom of Dark Elves, it might be worth paying them a visit, and at that time, you ought to come along too.”
“Eh? …Ah, yes… of course! So that was what you meant by the future. I get it! Please allow me to accompany you there. Also ─ we’re almost there, Ainz-sama.”
In the darkness ahead of them, they could see a decidedly unnatural light source through the gaps in the forest.
“I see. Aura, forgive me, but could you station all the magical beasts you brought along around this region? I’ll be making some preparations on my end as well.”
Ainz used one of his skills and summoned powerful undead creatures.
An sinister-looking knight appeared, mounted on a pale white horse. More appeared every time Ainz used his skill.
“All right, four ought to be plenty. Now then, Pale Riders. Stand by in the sky, and if anyone tries to flee, capture them.”
The Pale Riders indicated their understanding without saying a word, and with a tug on their reins, the pale horses leapt up and galloped into the sky. The Pale Riders discorporated, passed through the tree branches, and flew into the air.
“Alright, we’ve set up an encirclement. Now all we have to do is appraise them.”
“Yes! Ah, don’t we need to test their durability?”
“We’ll save that for a last resort. My aim is to settle this without any combat. I’ll try and discuss mutually beneficial topics first.”
That was the truth. Ainz was not looking for a fight. While he was perfectly willing to be ruthless if there were benefits to it, that did not mean that he was a cruel person. Ainz would not step on the ants crawling around in his path. A rational dialogue would be best.
Fenrir approached the gap in the forest. It was called a gap in the forest, but the truth was that it was simply a place within the forest where trees did not grow.
This area was covered with withered trees, just like the mountainous region around the Evil Tree. There were some areas which ended up as withered forests for special reasons. There were many of those reasons, and in this case it was probably because of monsters.
The trees had been felled and scattered everywhere. It would seem someone had tried to build a large structure and failed, and had then thrown the logs around in a fit of rage.
“How laughable. Aura, they were probably trying to build a structure like yours. The work of fools is truly unsightly. They live in caves and don’t know how far out of their depth they are, resulting in this sort of thing.”
“Indeed. Ainz-sama, their lair is over there.”
There was a fissure in the scarred ground, which had been burnt barren.
“…Nobody’s standing watch. How careless. Alright, it can’t be helped. We’ll knock next time.”
With Aura by his side Ainz walked toward the entrance to the underground cave. He peered inside, and it looked like a gentle slope, and the interior seemed quite spacious. The ceiling was high, and it would seem even large creatures could live inside without problems.
…This reminds me of dungeon delves in YGGDRASIL. Back then, we used to get curious and excited every time we discovered mountain caves and the like.
If this were in the past, they would have let Tigris Euphrates and people like him lead the way, while Ainz ─ Momonga ─ would follow behind them. Then, they would summon monsters, and in Ainz’s case he would have the undead walk ahead of them, allowing them to trigger traps as they forged boldly ahead. This was known as a warrior’s disarm, or a summon disarm.
Those were the days…
The memories of the past lightened Ainz’s steps, but within a few seconds, his cheery mood vanished.
The stench from below made him wrinkle his nonexistent eyebrows. It was not poison gas, but rather, an odor of beast fat and decay which clouded up the air.
Is this a stinking gas cloud trap? I don’t think these cave dwellers could set such an elaborate trap… perhaps it formed naturally.
Ainz was undead and did not need to breathe. He was completely immune to gas-vector attacks. Aura was also protected by magic items, so if this stench was some sort of attack, it ought to be ineffective. That being the case, this was probably just an ordinary stink.
“It seems the Giant of the East is not a particularly clean person. I hope he’s at least a little intelligent and can speak with me.”
“Yup. Although, that might be a little difficult. Going by the footprints, this cave seems to house several lifeforms of the same kind, but they’re all barefooted. The footprints are large, and going by their size, they all seem to be over two meters tall.”
“I see… so he must be one of them.”
Ainz and Aura had not stopped walking, and as they descended the slope, they saw two monsters at the base of the slope.
“Ainz-sama, those are… Ogres.”
The two Ogres were tearing at something and shoving it into their mouths. A new reek wafted over to Ainz and Aura.
Ainz slowly extended his finger and smiled bitterly. If this were a simple dungeon hack, he would have killed the Ogres quietly, and then advanced forward without making a sound to wipe out all the other enemies; however, his objective this time was different.
“…I’m not here to massacre everyone, so I need to communicate in a friendly manner ─ oi, you Ogres over there, sorry to interrupt your meal.”
The two Ogres turned simultaneously to look at Ainz, and then they roared.
The echoes within the cave were intense, and there was no way to accurately judge position, but it would seem a similar howl had come from the depths of the cave.
“Well, this is quite a crude and noisy doorbell ─ stand back, Aura.”
He glared as the Ogres ran over. “What a pain,” Ainz sighed. That was because he realized that they did not wish to communicate with him.
“Skelton! Skelton! Enuh-my!”
The Ogre screamed hoarsely as it came up to Ainz, and then swung its club at Ainz without a moment’s pause.
The Ogre’s club whistled through the air as it swept at him.
“-To apologize for barging─”
It struck Ainz with a thump, but a mere nonmagical club could not possibly hurt him.
“─Into your home─”
The Ogre raised its club again and hammered at Ainz.
Ainz’s field of vision wobbled slightly as the club struck his head. While it did not hurt in the least, it was still quite annoying. That said, if anyone set foot into Nazarick, Ainz would certainly be angry enough to want to kill them. WIth that in mind, it was only natural for them to want to attack him, so Ainz should probably take the blows.
Once an envoy of peace drew a weapon, there would be nothing left to say.
The other Ogre approached slightly later. It did not swing its club, but reached a hand out at Ainz. It had probably seen how the attacks of the other Ogre had proven ineffective, and wanted to grab him instead.
Ainz quirked his eyebrows. Of course, there was nothing on a skeletal face which could move.
Ainz was originally willing to let the Ogre grab him. However, his darkvision-capable eyes saw the blood staining the Ogre’s hand.
Ainz immediately produced a staff from thin air and swung it. While this staff did not possess any special magic powers, it was focused on inflicting bludgeoning damage, and with a single strike, the head of the Ogre who was reaching out for Ainz burst like a rotten grape. A mix of fresh blood and brain matter showered the Ogre beside it, which dropped its club and took a step back.
“You… you, no, skelly…”
“It is quite vexing for you to lump me in with other Skeletons. I’m here to see your boss, the Giant of the East. Could you go fetch him? Although, I’m fairly sure he’ll come even if you don’t shout.”
Ainz waved to bid the Ogre get lost, and it promptly turned and fled into the cave.
“…Good grief. If they had seen the discrepancy in our respective strengths from the start, we wouldn’t have to waste this time.”
Ainz felt the area where the club had struck him as he finished descending the slope.
There were several Goblins ─ more of masticated corpses, really ─ where the Ogres had been just now. While their remains were little more than chunks of meat and it was impossible to tell how many there had been, there must have been more than just one or two.
Ainz and Aura detoured around that area as they continued downwards.
“What a gaffe. I was annoyed and used too much force. I’d originally planned to avoid killing before negotiations broke down, to proceed in as friendly a way as possible…”
“It couldn’t be helped! It’s the fault of those filthy Ogres who tried to touch you, Ainz-sama!”
“Hearing you say that pleases me. Punitto Moe-san once said, ‘punching them in the face is a good way to make the other party behave’… or was it Warrior Takemikazuchi-san who said that?”
“Since the Supreme Beings said so, then it must be correct!
Ainz could not recall which of these two polar opposites had said that. Just then, a horde of monsters emerged from the depths of the cave. All of them were far taller than a human being.
“Well, if it isn’t a pack of Trolls. While calling them Giants smacks of false advertising to me, it’s not as though it’s a complete lie.”
Trolls were giants with long ears and noses. They had very ugly faces and their muscular bodies were as revolting as that of any heteromorph. They wore what seemed to be tiger-skin clothes their heads emerged from their shoulders.
They were nearly three meters tall, stronger than Ogres, and possessed of powerful regenerative abilities. It was said that unless they were killed with fire or acid, they could come back from the dead even after being reduced to scraps of meat. There were six Trolls here, and 10 Ogres on top of that.
The one which caught Ainz’s eye was the Troll standing at the head of these monsters.
It was more muscular than the other Trolls, and its ugly face exuded confidence.
It was better equipped than the other Trolls too.
It wore leather armor which looked like it had been sewn together from several animal hides. Its mighty arms bore a greatsword which was larger than the ones which Ainz used in his Momon guise. The greatsword seemed to be magical, and the central fuller oozed a slippery liquid towards its edge.
“Is he on Hamsuke’s level?”
“Feels that way.”
That being the case, this Troll ought to be the Giant of the East. That being the case, what sort of Troll was he? Ainz studied the Giant of the East carefully.
Trolls were highly adaptable monsters. They varied greatly according to their environment.
For instance, there were Volcano Trolls who lived in volcanoes and who were resistant to fire. There were Sea Trolls who were adept at swimming in the ocean and could breathe underwater. There were Mountain Trolls, who lived in the mountains and were especially strong. There were also Toll Trolls, rare trolls who lived under bridges. There was a never-ending variety of mutant species and subraces like those.
In that case, what was the Troll standing before Ainz specialized in?
Trolls adapted to cavern living were called Cave Trolls. But they looked different from this one.
This was a new species of Troll which he had encountered for the first time in this world ─ this unknown monster kindled Ainz’s collector spirit.
The Troll known as the Giant of the East had achieved a very rare form of evolution.
He was a Troll who had been born amidst countless battles, adapted to them, and specialized in fighting ability. If one had to name it, his species would be War Trolls, a particularly outstanding example among the many Troll subraces.
One could say that its combat prowess was unrivalled among others of the same age as him.
Granted, his body was smaller than that of a Mountain Troll. However, the muscles of his body ─ his physical abilities ─ far outstripped those of the latter species. In addition, he did not use a primitive club that could be easily swung with brute force, but instead used his inborn abilities to skillfully wield a sword ─ a weapon which was inferior even to a club if one did not know how to use one. One could say he was a Troll who had awakened his warrior abilities.
“You’re the Giant of the East, I take it?”
After hearing no denials, Ainz pointed slightly to the right of the Giant
“Then, I believe that chap over there is the Serpent of the West. Am I correct?”
Someone with ordinary eyesight would surely think he was pointing at empty air. However, Ainz could clearly see the heteromorph hiding there, as though it were illuminated by the sun’s light.
“Perhaps you think you’ve hidden yourself with invisibility, but my eyes can see through it. Stop wasting your effort and answer me.”
A monster appeared out of what had originally been thin air. It had probably dispelled its invisibility.
Indeed, it was a snake. No, to be precise, it had a snake’s body. It had an old man’s torso from the chest up, but it had a serpentine form below that. It was a heteromorphic monster.
Unlike the Giant of the East, Ainz had seen monsters like this in YGGDRASIL before, and so he could immediately state the name of his race.
“A Naga, then. While it wouldn’t be wrong to call you a Serpent, don’t you have a better name for yourself? No, there’s already the case of the Wise King of the Forest, so this was only to be expected, no?
“If thou couldst see through my invisibility, then thou art surely no ordinary─”
“─What are you doing here, skeleton?!”
The Naga was only halfway through his words when a thunderous voice filled the cave and drowned him out. The Giant of the East took a step forward.
Ainz turned to face his counterpart.
“First of all, let me get this straight; I am not a Skeleton. I wish to correct that mistake of yours.”
“What are you, if not a Skeleton? The king of the eastern lands, Gu, permits you to state your name!”
Ainz had no idea what he was talking about for a moment. He thought that it was some kind of title, like a King or a Chief, and it was only after a while that he realized it was the Troll’s name.
“I see, so your name is Gu. Pardon my delayed introduction; my name is Ainz Ooal Gown.”
At that moment, laughter filled the cavern.
“Fuafuafuafua! A coward’s name! A soft and weak name, unlike my strong and mighty name!”
The other Trolls laughed distastefully in response to those words.
Ainz stopped Aura before she could take a step forward.
“It’s fine. Don’t get upset over a trifling matter like this. Remain calm. We’re here to talk, we’re ambassadors of peace. Oh yes, just for reference, why do you think I’m a coward?”
“Ah, his ilk takes long names to be a sign of timidity, O mysterious undead,”
The old man’s face of the Naga creased with a mocking smile as he spoke from the side.
“So he’s not an antique, but trash. Then, do you feel my name is that of a coward’s as well?”
“This one certainly would not think so, because this one bears a long name as well. Indeed, this one is the Serpent of the West of which thou speak’st ─ Ryurarius Spenia Ai Indarun, O invader Ainz Ooal Gown. This one has often hoped that his mind would be as developed as his body, but if that were the case, he would have dominated this forest long ago; truly a dilemma.”
“…You have just saved your own life.”
A look of suspicion crossed Ryurarius’ face as Ainz let his innermost thoughts slip out. Unfortunately, just as he wanted to clarify, Gu and the Trolls stopped laughing.
“So what are you weaklings doing here?! Come to feed me? Bones are delicious and crunchy! I’ll eat you starting from your skull!”
“I am the one who ordered the undead and the Golems to build the fortress in the forest. You’ve heard of it, haven’t you?”
The mood changed in an instant. Gu and his band radiated vhostility, while Ryurarius was filled with caution.
“I know! You pest! If not for this damn snake making noise I’d have killed you long ago! This saves time! A coward and a black little runt!”
“Ah, so we can talk. In truth, I came to negotiate with you.”
Ainz gestured to Gu to kneel before him.
“Swear yourself to me if you want to live.”
“Are you retarded?! How could we serve a coward! I’ll eat you right here and now! Then I’ll eat that runt behind you!”
“Gu. He rules that fearsome structure. You underestimate him at your peril! And the Dark Elf behind him; this forest belonged to them before the Demon Tree chased them away. They might well be mighty foes ─ but he is not listening.”
Ainz could not help laughing merrily.
“Hahahaha! You’re better at barking than a dog, meatball. How about this. I, whom you call a coward, challenge you, who bears a mighty name, to a one on one fight. I trust you won’t run in fear? If you’re afraid, then get on your hands and knees and beg me for mercy, and I could find it in myself to rear you as a slave.”
“Very good! I can handle a mook like you by myself! I’ll chop you to bits and eat you all up!”
“Very well. Since you have made your choice, negotiations have broken down. Aura, stand back. I want to play with him by myself.“
Just as he finished saying that, the upraised sword hacked down on Ainz. This was the blow Gu had struck with the greatsword he held, which was over three meters long.
Ainz did not move, simply took the hit square on his body.
“What’s wrong? What’s so surprising?”
Ainz was untouched. Gu’s ugly face twisted in surprise, and this time he chose a sweeping slash. However, the result was the same as before; Ainz took the blow head-on.
Gu backed up several steps. He looked at his sword, and then at Ainz. He proudly turned his back on Ainz, then walked up to one of his minions.
In the next moment, the greatsword whirled and cut into one of this Troll minions. The sword cleaved into the troll’s neck and shoulder, effortlessly parting its flesh, and a geyser of fresh blood spewed forth.
The Troll screamed stupidly, at the top of its voice
Gu watched in satisfaction as his minion spun and fell to the ground, and he nodded. That was probably to verify that his weapon was working.
“I see, is that Trollish regeneration at work? Quite an impressive sight when you witness it with your own eyes.”
The wound surface healed over swiftly. It was not so much turning back time as a fast-forward of the recovery process.
Gu must have known that the Troll would regenerate before testing his blade on him; but the evil look on his face as he looked down on his fallen minion suggested that he would have cut the creature up anyway, even if it could not regenerate.
“It is the privilege of the strong to kill or spare the weak. However ─ it deeply displeases me.”
Ainz stepped forward. He was no longer in the mood to play around.
Gu gripped his greatsword tightly, waiting for Ainz to approach him, step by step.
“Gu! That Ainz Ooal Gown is no mundane individual! Let us band together to fight─”
“Shut up! You sit there and watch, coward! ─Ugooooooh!”
An explosive series of slashes rained down on Ainz. The combination attack was made using physical strength that far surpassed the capability of the human body, and it was among the most destructive assaults Ainz had ever faced from the inhabitants of this world.
However, his strikes could not blow away a castle wall, and neither could it scar the land. How could it possibly harm Ainz?
The greatsword’s edge sliced through the wind, and Ainz took it full on his body.
“Good grief. Could you not crumple my clothes?”
Ainz seemed to find it all uninteresting, and he turned away after tugging on his robes and straightening them out. Then, a thought apparently came to mind.
“Ah, are you satisfied yet?”
Gu decided that slashing attacks were ineffective, and so he took one hand off his greatsword and threw a punch. This blow struck like a huge maul. If it hit a human being, they would surely have been pulped by its power and sent flying.
Yet, Ainz took this blow ─ which was assuredly fatal for a human being ─ straight in the face. After that, he calmly dusted off the place where Gu had struck him, like he had been touched by dirty hands.
Gu ceased his attack. His ugly face contorted into an even uglier shape, and he glared at the unmoved Ainz.
“So, is that end of the attack you’re so proud, he of the brave name?”
“It’s only your defense ─ guwaaaargh!”
Ainz stepped forward to close the distance between them and swung his staff, which destroyed half of one of Gu’s legs. Unable to stand, Gu collapsed heavily to the ground..
“Even with that acorn-sized brain of yours, you should be starting to realize that cowards aren’t necessarily weak, no?”
The Trolls and Ogres watching the fight shouted in shock as they saw their leader’s disgraceful state.
“Haaaah.” Ainz was beginning to tire of this, and sighed. The fact that they did not understand the situation even at this point proved that these monsters were worthless. Of course, it would be a different matter if they were smart enough to try and flee.
“Aura, seize him. He is the only one who cannot be allowed to flee.”
Aura immediately understood Ainz’s terse order, and sprang into action. In the blink of an eye, she had caught up to the Naga, who was trying to sneak away invisibly.
“Got him, Ainz-sama. What should I do with him?”
Ainz paid no heed to Gu and looked to Aura, who had the Naga by the neck. The way he treated Gu made one thing clear to everyone present.
─In other words: he could not be bothered to deal with the Gu fellow before him.
Gu growled from between his teeth at this utter humiliation, but Ainz did not care.
“Curse you, brat!” The Naga’s serpentine body started constricting, and it wrapped around Aura. “I’ll crush you to aiiiieeeee!”
A cold, calm voice came from the midst of the balled up Naga.
“You know, I can’t watch Ainz-sama like this. If you continue struggling, I’ll use more force and crush your throat. Don’t worry, you won’t die from it.”
Her small fists were enough to make the Naga realize the difference in their respective strengths, and the Naga slowly loosened its coils with a strangled wail.
“Aura, while time is money, wastefulness is also foolishness. Please move a little further away so he doesn’t end up getting killed by accident.”
Aura leisurely dragged away the Naga ─ who weighed several times more than herself ─ as she left. Ainz shifted his gaze back to Gu, who had barely managed to stand up again after his regeneration caused his shattered leg to bulge up mightily as it repaired his ruined flesh
Ainz might not be as tall as his opponent, yet he towered over Gu.
“Oh, so you’re healed. Then let us continue.”
Ainz rapped at his shoulders with his staff, then calmly took a fighting stance. His attitude said that he had no intention of defending himself.
“You… you, what… what did you do? What are you doing? Magic?”
Gu slowly backed away as he held his sword, while Ainz stepped forward like he was giving chase. Gu’s stride was shorter than Ainz’s. The distance between them was greater than when the battle had begun.
“─Hm? Well, isn’t this strange? I, the one with the cowardly name, am advancing, while the bravely-named Gu-sama is backing off. I wonder why that is the case?”
Someone replied from behind in a deadpan voice:
“That’s because Ainz-sama’s name is the brave one, and that weird Gu name belongs to a coward! Isn’t that right, snake?”
“Y-yehh! Ainz Ooal Gown-shama ish the greatest!”
After hearing the sweet little girl’s voice and another voice which was on the verge of tears, Ainz nodded several times.
“I see, I understand now. Short names are the mark of a coward ─ the name of Ainz Ooal Gown belongs to a brave and wonderful person, am I correct?”
“Shut up, coward.”
Gu’s anger overcame his fear, and he swung his blade at Ainz as though to hack him in two. Ainz did not parry or dodge; simply swung back with his staff. Ainz’s blow did not permit Gu to block with his sword or evade.
The staff shattered part of Gu’s body.
Gu’s piteous wailing sparked fear in the hearts of his underlings as they watched the battle.
“Well, that’s a Troll for you; with their regeneration, they can even come back to life after being reduced to mincemeat. Still, pain does seem to hurt. That was the weakest attack you made so far. All you were thinking of was protecting yourself. You feared being hit by me. It was a coward’s swordsmanship.”
Before Ainz was Gu, whose head was half its normal thickness. A normal creature would have died long ago, but his head was slowly returning to its normal shape.
Gu’s restored face was twisted into an especially disgusting shape. It was etched with terror. He was even more afraid than before; it was the reaction of one who had been broken by fear.
“You… what, what are you? Why couldn’t I do anything to you?”
Ainz tilted his head, and then slowly spread his arms.
“…I am Death. I am he who brings death to you.”
“You… you lot! Kill him!”
“Good grief… I expected nothing less of a coward, to renege on the terms of our duel… still, it does suit your name. So I will forgive you.”
Ainz seemed very happy as he said this.
Gu’s minions were scared stiff by this mysterious monster, and so they remained still. That was because despite their stupidity, they could feel the sheer power of Ainz, and they had certainly witnessed enough of it. They were probably wrestling with themselves, unable to decide who was more fearsome. Nobody dared to move; they simply looked back and forth between Ainz and Gu.
But they still did not move. They could not move.
The same applied to Ainz. There was a delicate balance here, one which rooted everyone in place. If Ainz made a move, this balance would collapse, and they would all flee for their lives.
It would be troublesome if they escaped ─ just the thought of hunting down and killing each and every one of them felt tiresome.
“In that case, let’s do it this way. Playtime is over.”
Ainz activated one of his abilities, which he had not had the chance to use, and was too powerful for this world.
[Despair Aura V (Instant Death).]
The surging aura billowed out from Ainz.
The Trolls, Ogres and Gu went limp and collapsed like puppets whose strings had been cut, slumping to the ground.
The fallen monsters did not move. It was clear that although their bodies were still warm, the flames of their life had been utterly extinguished.
An old man’s voice rang through the silent cave.
“What… what didst…thou do?”
The Naga was curled up into a ball, doing his best to stay away from Ainz. Ainz turned around and replied:
“I simply used a skill. Trolls can regenerate, but that does not immunize them to instant death attacks… honestly, you lot are worthless. I was simply thinking that rather than slaughtering you all outright, I should see what uses you might have, but since they refused to bend the knee, I decided to kill them all.”
“This one gladly consents to be your subordinate! It is only natural for the weak to obey the strong! From now on, this one shall commit his entire strength to thee!”
Ainz calmly looked down upon the prostrated Naga, and then shrugged weakly.
“…Eh, whatever, it’s fine. Besides, I came here to talk anyway.”
“How… how fearsome. Thou think’st nothing of this one. Thou regard’st this one, who has long ruled the western forest, as little more than an animal-shaped pebble by the roadside.”
“No, I am somewhat more interested in you than that. Didn’t you mention something about the Dark Elves. Tell me everything.”
“But of course… of course I shall. This one shall gladly tell thee everything this one knows! Although, ah…” Ainz waved to bid the Naga continued, and he said: “Wilt thou spare this one’s life after this one tells his tale?”
“That I promise you. If you are loyal to me, if you serve me sincerely, I will reward you appropriately… but first, a question. Where are your minions? Or are you like Hamsuke… the beast who ruled the southern forest by herself?”
“No, this one has underlings. However, this one came for the sake of negotiations, so this one did not bring them along. That was because this one’s minions cannot make themselves invisible, so once negotiations broke down, they would have no way to flee.”
“I see. Now, for my next question: do you have any Troll minions?”
“Excellent. In that case, can I have him take the place of the Giant of the East? No, that’s too… that might be a little troublesome. Very well. In a few days, I will bring my subordinates to ─ no, you will go to the structure that she built. Aura, release him.”
“Is that really alright?”
“It’s fine. He’s already sworn his loyalty to me. If he betrays me, I’ll simply think of some other way to use him.”
Aura’s slender hands released the Naga’s neck, leaving hand-shaped bruises on his flesh.
The Naga was still nervous, but he was much more relieved now. Ainz paid him no heed, but walked up to Gu’s corpse.
“I wonder what sort of data a Troll Zombie contains.”
Ainz could create undead beings from corpses with a skill. While they were little more than Zombies or Skeletons, he could make stronger Zombies if the corpse of the base creature was powerful enough. A more famous example of those would be Dragon Zombies.
Ainz picked up the greatsword which had fallen to the ground. It was far longer than Ainz was tall, but thanks to the basic principle of magic arms and armor, it shrank down to a size which best fit Ainz.
If Ainz tried to swing a sword which he could not equip, he would be forcibly disarmed, but just picking it up did not pose any problems to him.
“Should I strengthen that village’s fighting power? In that case, perhaps this magic weapon might be the best choice. Besides, there’s no value in bringing it back to Nazarick.”
“Ainz Ooal Gown-sama!”
Isn’t he done yet? Ainz tiredly turned to look at the Naga.
“This… this one will never betray thee. Only the fools who have never seen thy icy gaze that regards all before him as mere ants would dare betray thee.”
“I did not think my eyes were as expressive as that… or is this a skill of yours too? Even Demiurge, that master of scrutiny, could not tell what I was truly thinking.”
“It hardly qualifies as a skill, but this one can still sense whether someone is interested in this one.”
Ainz thought, perhaps that’s a Naga racial ability.
“Really now… very well, I understand. Stop wasting time and gather your minions. This is my first order.”
Nazarick Time 21:07
Demiurge’s elegant form appeared within Ainz’s office. First, he bowed deeply to the seated Ainz, and then nodded in deference to Mare and Cocytus, who were waiting within. He spared the maid assigned to this room a glance of acknowledgement.
Ainz answered with a look, and then spoke to Entoma via [Message].
“Alright, Entoma, tell Lupusregina she has permission to set off. Those three must be protected no matter the cost.”
『Understood. I will relay your orders to Lupusregina.』
Demiurge walked to the center of the room, free of worries. His stylish stride made Ainz envious.
How shall I describe it, every move he makes overflows with confidence. Is it because his back is very straight?
Demiurge halted crisply, bringing Ainz back to his senses.
“It is good that you’ve come, Demiurge.”
“Yes! I thank you for summoning me before you, Ainz-sama. Have you finished speaking with Entoma?”
“Everything is fine. She reported back to me, and discussed the matter with me. She has passed this test.”
“Wonderful. In addition, I thank you for making time for me, Ainz-sama.”
“Pay it no heed, Demiurge. It is only fitting that I should match myself to the man who has done the most for Nazarick. In addition, you are not late, so do not worry… now then, tell me what you think.”
Ainz handed the piece of paper he was holding to Demiurge. Demiurge received it, and Ainz saw him quickly scan it from top to bottom before asking:
“As you can see, this is a menu, but what do you think of it? The meal is for a human male and female, and possibly a child.”
“…I think that any human being must consume whatever you deign to provide for them without complaint, Ainz-sama. However, I feel that is not the answer you seek, therefore ─ if there is a child, they might not enjoy foie gras. In addition… hm, lighter dishes might be more ideal.”
“I see. That certainly bears consideration. I thank you.”
“You honor me with your praise… Ainz-sama, do you intend to invite people to the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick ─ into the sanctuary of the Supreme Beings ─ as your guests?”
“Indeed. I intend to be hospitable.”
Or rather, it was not so much hospitality as entertaining them. This was a form of coercion backed by wealth, intended to keep them on good terms with him.
“Is that wise?”
“Does it matter? Is there a problem?”
“No, none at all. After all, whatever you speak is correct, Ainz-sama.”
In the past, when this had all been in the game world, the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick had played host to very few people other than the guild members. At the very most, they had invited the little sister of the guild member Yamaiko ─ whose player name was Akemi-chan ─ a few times. However, the guild did not forbid inviting anyone. It was simply that nobody had thought to do so.
Which is why my friends ought to have no issue with me inviting Nfirea and the others. Invaders are different from guests.
Ainz then turned to Demiurge ─ who was pondering something ─ and the other two Guardians who had been waiting in the room before he asked:
“Guardians; are you ready to enter the baths?”
“Forgive me; Mare and I were planning to borrow bathing equipment along the way.”
“I see. Then, Cocytus ─ oh, you brought yours along. Then we shall meet in the baths. Increment, if anyone comes, have them wait for me here.”
After hearing the maid’s reply, Ainz stood up and left his room. After ordering the vassals who usually trailed him around to remain where they were, he led the way to the baths, which were also on the 9th Floor.
Ainz very much wanted to chat with Cocytus as they walked side by side, but Cocytus was a very serious person and would never do such a thing. This made Ainz feel a little lonely. Cocytus probably had not read his heart, but he approached Ainz and asked:
“Ainz-sama. There. Seemed. To. Be. Fewer. Eight. Edge. Assassins. In. The. Room. Just. Now. Did. You. Send. Them. Somewhere?”
Ainz felt a little disappointed when he discovered that it was work-related, but he also comforted himself by thinking that this was what Cocytus considered casual conversation, and so he replied to Cocytus. He very nearly let the excitement creep into his voice, but in the end he decided that it would be better to keep it a secret.
“They are at the E-Rantel inn. Narberal is waiting there in case we have an unexpected visitor. They ought to be observing the situation from afar.”
“Is. It. Not. Dangerous. To. Leave. Narberal. Alone. By. Herself?”
“Quite. If anyone plans to attack, they ought to do so now.”
“I. See. So. She. Is. Live. Bait. Then?”
“Indeed. If the person who brainwashed Shalltear is observing our every movement, this bait will surely have them drooling. After Momon defeated the mighty Vampire Shalltear ─ granted, she was known by a different name ─ nobody attempted to approach him. That being the case, if Momon is not around, leaving the magic caster all by herself…”
“They. Will. Take. The. Bait?”
“I don’t know. But if they do, I will be a master baiter.”
Ainz mimed the action of pulling up a fishing pole.
“Will. We. Mobilize. All. Our. Forces. Then?”
“As if. I won’t do that. First, we’ll feel out our opponent. If they’re as strong as us, or stronger, then we’ll have to be more humble.”
Cocytus groaned. He understood the reasoning behind that decision, so he had no choice but to bear with it.
“The. Logical. Part. Of. Me. Knows. It. Is. Only. A. Temporary. Thing. But. Emotionally. I. Find. It. Hard. To. Keep. My. Cool.”
“Bear with it until we’ve checked them out thoroughly and found our opposition’s weaknesses. Once that happens, I will have them taste the purest of pain. I will not forgive them for daring to brainwash Shalltear and forcing me to put her down.”
Even if they were players, Ainz did not feel the slightest bit of empathy for them. The only people Ainz cared for were the NPCs or his old friends. If anyone aroused his ire, he would subject them to a fate worse than death in order to show them the foolishness of their ways.
“Repay good unto good and evil unto evil. Is that not to be expected?”
Ainz smiled coldly, as a surge of excitement welled up inside him. If the opposition really were players, then he could conduct far better experiments. The first of them would probably be the one he dared not perform with himself ─ that of death.
“An. Eye. For. An. Eye. And. A. Tooth. For. A. Tooth. Then?
“Correct. However, did you know? That phrase was originally meant to warn against excessive retribution, so I did not use it. That’s because I intend to pay them back with interest.”
Punitto-san said that, Ainz added in his heart.
“Oh! I. Expected. No. Less. Of. You. Ainz-sama. Not. Only. Are. You. A. Supremely. Skilled. Warrior. But. Your. Intellect. Is. Beyond. Compare. Truly. I. Am. In. Awe.”
Ainz did not need to look back to feel the wave of respect pressing down on him from behind.
“Then. Do. You. Plan. To. Spend. The. Entire. Day. In. Nazarick. Ainz-sama?”
“No, after I bathe with everyone, I’ll take care of some work here before going over there in the middle of the night, because there’s a lot of things which need to be settled over there as well. How about yourself?”
“I. Plan. To. Temporarily. Return. To. My. Position. Guarding. Nazarick. Since. The. Matters. Which. Require. My. Personal. Presence. At. The. Lakeside. Have. All. Been. Concluded.”
“Once you return, the only ones working outside will be Demiurge, who has many tasks to complete, Sebas and Solution, who are gathering information in the Royal Capital, Aura, who is building a base in the forest, and then Narberal and myself.”
“I. Find. It. Hard. To. Accept. The. Fact. That. A. Supreme. Being. Must. Personally. Handle. Work. We. Should Have. Taken. On─”
“Haha, forgive me, Cocytus.”
“There. Is. No. Need. Ainz-sama. You. Rule. This. Place. And. So. Your. Every. Word. Is Law. What. I. Just. Said. Was. Mere. Foolishness. In. Addition─”
The mood in the air seemed to have changed, and Ainz found it odd. Looking back, he saw Cocytus looking somewhat gloomy ─ although he could not tell from his face.
“If. We. Were. As. Capable. As. Demiurge. You. Would. Not. Need. To. Exert. Yourself. In. The. End. It. Boils. Down. To. Our. Lack. Of. Ability─”
“That’s not true. When everyone made you, they sought to create the right person for the job. That being the case, the most important thing for you is to finish your assigned tasks. Frankly speaking, it doesn’t matter if you can’t do anything else. Although, the fact that Demiurge is somewhat more intelligent and more knowledgeable means he can tackle a wider range of problems.”
Cocytus did not seem to be able to accept that, so Ainz continued:
“In that case, you should focus on slowly learning how to handle more things. For instance ─ you are now in charge of the Lizardman village, so you should have learned a lot from it. Ruling that village will surely aid you in the future. As long as you slowly proceed, step by step, someday you will come to be on par with Demiurge.”
“Can. I. Really. Do. That?”
“I feel that you can’t say it’s impossible,” Ainz replied in a roundabout manner.
“Nobody can surpass Demiurge’s intellect. In order to equal him, you must walk an arduous road. But I believe your efforts will not be wasted.”
The two of them continued silently along the corridor. Soon, Cocytus quietly said:
“Thank you, Ainz-sama.”
“I don’t think I’ve said anything which deserves your thanks. Alright, Cocytus, we’re almost at the bath. Cheer up before Demiurge and Mare come.”
Spa Resort Nazarick was located on the 9th Floor of Nazarick. It was a comfortable place of leisure which boasted nine separate outdoor-themed baths and 17 indoor-themed baths for both men and women. The most impressive of them was the Cherenkov Bath. Its warm water radiated an actinic blue light, allowing bathers to enjoy a decadent atmosphere.
(TL Note: Cherenkov radiation is the blue glow typically associated with underwater nuclear reactors)
Ainz, who had reached the baths in Cocytus’ company, was utterly shocked when he saw an unexpected someone.
It was Albedo, who seemed to be ending her sentences with hearts today. No, it was not just Albedo alone. Shalltear was behind her, along with a tired-looking Aura.
In contrast, Demiurge and Mare were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they were waiting for Ainz and Cocytus in the changing room.
“A-Albedo, what are you doing here?’
“Hm? I simply came to bathe with everyone… you too, Ainz-sama?”
“Ah, erm ─ yes, I did. What a coincidence, Albedo.”
“What a lovely coincidence indeed! … I hear that it’s best to engage in some light exercise before bathing in order to work up a sweat. Shall I sweat with you, Ainz-sama?”
A chill ran down Ainz’s spine.
“Well, table tennis is not a bad thing…”
“Aw, I didn’t mean that. Really, you should take a hint…”
She closed in on Ainz with the technique of a level 100 warrior ─ something which Ainz, as a magic caster, could not hope to evade ─ and reached out a finger to Ainz’s chest, which was covered only in a robe, in the hopes of tracing letters on it. However, her finger, as soft and delicate as a minnow, instead slipped into the space between Ainz’s ribs.
Both of them made the same sound in unison.
What a stupid scene. Ainz smiled bitterly, intending to address Albedo, and then his face froze up.
“I put my finger into Ainz-sama’s precious place…”
Albedo’s face was flushed red, her eyes dewy, and an overwhelming fragrance rolled out from her body. That scent was very similar to the odor he sometimes smelled on his bed.
“─Oi, I asked before, but has she always been this weird?”
Ainz tried his best to speak in a normal tone to Aura, who was trying to hold back a struggling Shalltear.
“…Forgive me, Ainz-sama, a lot of things happened. Erm, please treat this as stress that she built up after working hard for Nazarick every day. Yes, please think of it that way.”
“If… if that’s how it is, then it can’t be helped. Er… umu. Albedo, thank you for your hard work every day.”
Ainz planned to swiftly retreat, but someone grabbed his robe. No, there was no need to look; he already knew who it was.
“Albedo, what are you doing? Has something driven you to abandon all restraint?”
“What you said to me just now… it lit a fire in my heart, and it made my belly twitch. So, Ainz-sama…”
“Er, no, hang on, wait a minute, calm down, Albedo! Co-Cocytus!”
A gust of chilling air filled the passage. The sudden temperature change seemed to have brought Albedo to her senses, and the light of reason returned to her eyes.
“I. Cannot. Sit. Idly. By. As. Someone. Disrespects. Ainz-sama. Even. If. It. Is. The. Guardian. Overseer. Herself.”
Cocytus cut between Ainz and Albedo. He had his platinum halberd in hand, a wordless threat that he would gladly use if if Albedo tried anything funny.
“─I apologize, Ainz-sama. I seem to have forgotten myself.”
“I accept your apology, Albedo.”
After hearing his master’s judgement, Cocytus stepped aside. However, he did not put away his halberd.
“I understand your duties are weighty, and that there are times where you wish to cast everything aside and relieve your frustrations. In any case, go take a bath and let go of your stress. Thank you, Cocytus.”
Saying so, Ainz sought to scurry into the male bath, but the footsteps from behind him made him halt.
“…Albedo, why are you following me? Perhaps you do not know, so I will tell you, but this is the men’s bath. You should be going to the ladies’ bath.”
“I was hoping to wash your back, Ainz-sama?”
“…Denied. Besides, I’m not bathing alone. The male Guardians will be with me. Do you wish to appear naked before them?”
Just as Ainz thought, she might actually say it’s okay because she’s a Succubus, Albedo promptly replied;
“In that case, there are family baths elsewhere─”
“Family baths are not meant to be used that way!”
“But Ainz-sama, I feel it’s unfair how you’re only spoiling the men.”
“That’s right, that’s right,” Shalltear whined as she covered Aura’s mouth. However, Aura ─ who had been forcibly dragged along ─ had dull, blank eyes that simply hung open. Behind them was Cocytus, who seemed quite unhappy.
We’re just bathing together, what does she mean by spoiling them… the same thing happened last time; is something wrong with Albedo? Could it be she’s gone a little mad ever since then?
“Albedo, permit me to say something. I prefer women to men. I am purely heterosexual.”
Albedo seemed to want to say something, but Ainz raised his hand to interrupt her.
“It is certainly possible that such a relationship might take place someday. However, I have not even figured out our place in this world, and so, as the leader of this organization, it is inappropriate for me to pursue such a relationship with you all.”
“Uuuu…” Albedo knit her brows.
“Besides… you are all like the daughters of my friends ─ I am conflicted about that.”
“I was wondering what was happening at the entrance. It would seem you are all inconveniencing Ainz-sama.”
“O…onee-chan… she… she’s dead.”
“I’m not dead,” a weak girl’s voice replied.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for you two.”
“Forgive our tardiness. However… the Guardian Overseer should probably learn how to rein her emotions in.”
Demiurge’s typically narrowed eyes were cracked open just a little, allowing the hostility within to seep through. The air around him turned dangerous, highlighting how scary a typically gentle man could be. Seemingly affected by this, Cocytus appeared ready to do battle with Albedo.
The smile remained on Albedo’s face. No, it had grown wider.
Ainz could not hold back his anger and shouted at them.
“I forbid you Guardians to quarrel in front of me! You idiots!”
All the Guardians trembled, and fell to their knees in unison.
“Please forgive us, Ainz-sama!”
“…Alright. Get up, all of you.”
After seeing that everyone had risen, Ainz used a gentle tone, like he was chiding children, to admonish them.
“Do not squabble over such petty matters. That will only disappoint me. Do you understand?”
As he heard them simultaneously reply that they understood, Ainz let his anger vanish.
“Alright, let’s go bathe and clear the air. The men will come with me. Also, Aura, I order you to keep an eye on the ladies. Keep an eye on the two behind you and do not let them mess around.”
Aura’s eyes blazed furiously. She probably felt that this was a chance for a counterattack. Such was the scorching heat rolling out from her that Albedo and Shalltear were visibly shaken.
Ainz entered the door hung with the “Men” curtain, and deliberately ignored the racket coming from behind him.
He shed his clothes in the locker room. If he were normally equipped, he would have to remove many items and it would be very troublesome, but he had prepared before coming here, and so he shed his clothes swiftly.
After quickly disrobing, he went on into the baths.
Every time I strip off, I always wonder how exactly I can move…
He was a fleshless skeleton, and the fact that he could actually move was a mystery to Suzuki Satoru. That said, moving skeletons were a common sight in this world, so all he could do was take it for granted. Even so, he had his doubts from time to time.
“I’ll be heading in first.”
“Please… please wait for me!”
A naked Mare scampered up behind him.
He might have been a trap, but looking at him like this, he was most certainly a boy.
His body was that of a child’s, with virtually no muscle mass. The fact that his body, which felt so soft, could exert so much force was probably due to some unknown natural law of this world, much like Ainz’s own.
As he gazed upon Mare’s nude body and pondered that question, Ainz chided him:
“Don’t run around in here. The floor is wet, and it’s dangerous.”
It was impossible for a Guardian to die from falling and hitting their head. However, after seeing Mare’s child-like body, he could not help but worry for him.
“Er, yes. I’m very sorry.”
Do you have to apologize for that, Ainz thought.
“Forgive the delay, Ainz-sama.”
After that, Cocytus and Demiurge showed up.
Demiurge’s body was sheathed in firm, wiry muscle, and he gave off the impression of being toned. One could not design the body under one’s clothes when making a character, so perhaps Ulbert had written his physique into his backstory..
“Cocytus, you look the same as always.”
“Well, he’s typically naked.”
“Could. You. Please. Not. Phrase. It. In. Such. A. Perverted. Way?”
“Forgive me. Cocytus uses an exoskeleton, so his usual appearance can’t be helped.”
Exoskeletons were a kind of natural weaponry, much like Shalltear’s nails and teeth. Such equipment gained in hardness and durability as their users levelled up, as well as increased data crystal capacity.
Their merits were that they did not need to be changed often, and could be used for long periods. Even if they were destroyed by weapon-sundering attacks or skills, they could be restored along with their users’ HP through the use of curative magic. In addition, they would not be dropped upon death, among many other advantages.
Conversely, they were inferior to the primary gear most players of an equivalent level used, be it in terms of hardness, durability and data crystal capacity. Even at level 100, almost no natural weapons and armor could match up to a divine-class item. Perhaps one might be able to do so if one possessed job classes which strengthened such bodily armaments, but even Ainz did not know if it was possible.
Natural weapons and armor were not very advantageous for players, but they were quite useful for NPCs. This was because one did not need to gather up a big stack of armor and weapons for them ─ in other words, the player making the NPC could save himself the trouble of equipping them.
“Thank you, Ainz-sama.”
Cocytus bowed in thanks, but Ainz had not spoken in his defense. Still─
Could it be that everyone uses that to tease him ─ to make fun of him ─ to the point where he has to thank me for stepping in? Should I try to subtly tell the others to lay off?
Was it like this for teachers with bullies in their classes? He did not know how Yamaiko-san had handled this sort of thing in the past. As he pondered the topic, he spoke to the male bathers:
“Alright let’s go in.”
The group entered the baths, led by Ainz.
There were 12 areas in this large bathing facility.
The first was the standard bath area, then the jungle bath (which was the largest), the ancient Roman thermae (which were very atmospheric), the pomelo baths (where pomelos floated in the water), the sulphur baths, the jet baths, the electric baths (which had a mild electric current to numb the skin), the cold baths (with charcoal floating in them), the Cherenkov baths which glowed with a mysterious blue light, as well as the open-air (granted, the outside scenery was all fake) mixed baths.
There were also the sauna and rock bath areas, and finally the rest room.
“So, which would you like to try? Share your views with me.”
“I. Feel. The. Cold. Baths. Are. The. Best. I. Would. Like. Ainz-sama. To. Experience. The Virtues. Of. The. Cold. Baths.”
Ainz was resistant to cold damage, and even entering the chilly cold baths was not a hardship for him. However, something felt wrong about suggesting someone take a cold bath right after entering the bathing area.
“Cocytus-san… we came to bathe, so…”
After hearing Mare speak, Cocytus seemed to have realized that he had made a mistake somewhere. Just then, someone proceeded to mount a follow-up attack.
“We came here to bathe, so perhaps you should have recommended a hot bath to promote circulation… oh, that’s right, I should ask you a question. Can you bathe in hot water? You won’t look like a cooked lobster, I trust?”
“It’s. Fine. This. Exoskeleton. Of. Mine. Is. Fire. Resistant. Even. If. You. Consider. It. A. Naked. Body.” Cocytus said proudly.
“Ah… ah, then I think perhaps we should go for a normal bath…”
“Cold. Baths. Are. The. Best. Taking. A. Cold. Bath. While. Clinging. To. A. Chunk. Of. Ice. Is. Very. Comfortable.”
“I won’t say only you would like that sort of thing, but I doubt many people would share your tastes…”
“All… alright, it would be quite boring if we went and bathed on our own, so let’s take turns using them all. We’ll start with the jungle bath ─ my friends put a lot of effort into making it.”
After his subordinates replied, “we’re all looking forward to it” ─ including a somewhat dejected Cocytus ─ Ainz led them to the jungle bath.
There were fake trees and fake grass here, and it was made up to look like a forest. Even though they knew it was fake, it was realistic enough that everyone half-expected monsters to emerge from the woods.
“This bath was modelled after the Amazon River of the past. Its creator was Bellriver-san, with the assistance of Blue Planet-san.”
Ainz turned his back on the impressed Guardians, then he took his basin and bath stool to the washing area.
Why are all the basins in this spa yellow? When I asked about it in the past, he said it was tradition… are the water basins in all spas supposed to be yellow?
“Needless to say, you need to clean yourself before getting into the bath. However, the way in which I bathe is quite messy, so you should probably stay away from me.”
With that terse message, Ainz dumped the basin full of hot water on himself. The water went straight through him and splashed onto the ground. Due to the many gaps in his body, it was very hard for him to rinse his entire body in just one round of pouring. After repeating this several times, and making sure that he was wet, he took out a brush.
Ainz loaded the brush with liquid soap and began to scrub himself. Just like before, the many gaps in his body meant that scrubbing himself was like scrubbing a colander, and so foam and bubbles sprayed everywhere.
Umu… maybe I should have brought my cute little bathing assistant, Miyoshi-kun with me.
Ainz felt that it would be unsightly to let his subordinate see him all covered in slime, so he had not brought it out. However, he had not bathed himself in a while, and it was quite troublesome
As Ainz frantically scrubbed himself, Mare approached him with a yellow stool in hand. He was clearly nervous, but he smiled to Ainz, his face flushed from the heat of the baths.
“A-Ainz-sama! Please… please let me help you wash your back!”
“Hm? Oh, I see. So you want to help me bathe? Although, I have to say that my body is quite tedious to wash, so you should use this brush. Cleaning it with a towel is very tiring.”
Ainz turned his back to Mare, and Mare began slowly scrubbing his back with the brush he had received.
“You’re doing a good job.”
“Thank you very much!”