Chapter 1: Preparing for the Unknown Land
After returning from the Empire, Ainz sat at his desk in E-Rantel and leaned heavily against the back of his chair.
While he had already begun recruiting for the newly-founded Adventurer’s Guild of the Sorcerous Kingdom, it would take quite some time before the results could be seen. Until then, he would have to amply prepare himself.
His top priority was setting up a school to train the adventurers, but if circumstances permitted, he could use the Adventurer’s Guild itself. It would probably be a sign of hospitality to prepare a hostel for the volunteers who had travelled a long distance to seek him out. Their instructors would be those adventurers who had chosen to remain within the Sorcerous Kingdom.
I should probably ask Albedo and the others about how to manage the territories… but before that… why did he bring up the matter of vassalage… it’ll be troublesome for Albedo and Demiurge, right?…?
Ainz had no idea what Jircniv was thinking. Neither did he know how to explain the situation to those two sagacious individuals. Why had Jircniv made a proposal like that? For all he knew, Demiurge might have been working behind the scenes here.
I should have discussed all this with Demiurge beforehand. Ah, but he went to a faraway place, and now all I can do is think of how to take care of it between Albedo and myself… as I thought, it’s impossible, huh…
Haaa, he sighed internally. His unease and confusion made his nonexistent stomach ache. And then, when he thought about what would happen when they returned, the pain intensified.
Ainz shook his head, and then considered the information he had learned in the Empire as a way to avoid thinking about what loomed ahead of him.
Bits and pieces of knowledge from YGGDRASIL were scattered throughout this mysterious new world, like stars glittering in the night. He had found traces of other players, the existence of World-Class Items, and so on.
He could now add the existence of runes — a form of writing from Suzuki Satoru’s world — to that list.
The reason why the people of the Theocracy could summon angels from the religions of Suzuki Satoru’s world was probably due to magic originating from YGGDRASIL.
Then, what about these runes? How had they come to exist in this world? Were the runes in this world the same as those in Suzuki Satoru’s world? Or were they simply a form of magical writing which happened to resemble them, and thus the term had been automatically translated as “runes”?
…The Dwarven Kingdom is located in the nearby Azellisia Mountain Range. I’ll need to investigate it thoroughly. As I thought… I can’t avoid going there, can I?
Naturally, Ainz had asked Fluder about runes before returning to E-Rantel.
However, all he knew was that the King who hailed from the Azellisian Dwarven nation had once visited the Empire, that he was a runesmith, and that the Empire purchased weapons and armor from the Dwarven Kingdom. However, about a hundred years ago, all traces of rune-carved magic items were lost.
While this was very valuable information to Ainz, it was not what he truly wanted to know.
There was no runesmith job class in YGGDRASIL. If that’s a profession which is unique to this world, then there’s a chance that the technology of both worlds might be combined into one. Therefore, I’ll need to investigate this matter in greater detail. However, who should I send there?
All he wanted was to visit the Dwarven Kingdom and ask about runes and the like. As for the profession of runesmith — well, it was a technical matter and a potential state secret. In the worst case scenario, he could make them talk by using charm spells and the like if they were very tight-lipped about it.
If it was simply a matter of using charm or domination magic, or kidnapping people with teleportation magic, then just about anyone would do. But what if there was a player behind these runes? For all he knew, the person who had brainwashed Shalltear was hiding there.
I want to learn more before going in, but it won’t be easy to find out about something that even Fluder doesn’t know.
Ainz slowly rose from his seat.
In an instant, the woman beside him sprang into action. She had an energetic look on her face that matched the boyish cut of her hair. She was Decrement, Ainz’s duty maid for the day.
Ainz reached out a hand to halt Decrement, and then began to pace slowly around in his office.
As Ainz logically considered the potential profit and loss of this endeavour, old memories sprang unbidden to mind in the gaps between numbers. He recalled the dangers he had encountered in unexplored regions, the joy of discovering new things, the sorrow of failing a quest, and the expressions and words of the comrades with whom he had shared these experiences. They were merely memories, but even his recollections of party wipes were transmuted into a brilliant radiance that lit Ainz’s empty skull.
After he slowly filed away these painful reminiscences away into his heart, Ainz’s thoughts finally took shape.
…I guess I’ll have to go in, even though I know there might be danger.
The guild called Ainz Ooal Gown was an organization which had been founded on those principles.
Naturally, some people might scoff at the idea of comparing games — which held no danger to their players — to reality. Still, hesitation could cost one the chance to gain new knowledge, and result in one losing the initiative. Who could say it was not possible?
After he decided to investigate the runes of the Dwarven Kingdom, a question appeared in Ainz’s mind.
That would be the choice of personnel.
Who would be the best candidate to send there?
Should I ask the opinion of Demiurge and Albedo? No, if I do that, I won’t be able to send out the most capable fighter of all.
That person was Ainz himself.
Ainz could say without any false pride that there was nobody in the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick who was better at him at adapting to unknown phenomena and magic. Simply put, the most efficient course of action was for Ainz to proceed by himself. However, if there really was an enemy player there, it would also be the most foolish move he could make.
…If there’s only a few of us, I can at least take them with me when I flee. That means I should pick people who can buy me time while I prepare to make our escape.
The first people to appear in his mind were the Floor Guardians.
As level 100 NPCs, they would be able to buy time for Ainz to escape, even against other players. That said, could he really use the NPCs, the beloved children of his former friends, in such a way?
What if I used high-level vassals led by an undead lieutenant? No, their flexibility is too low, compared to the NPCs who were built from scratch.
Vassals had the merit of being much more easily disposable, as opposed to the NPCs. But at the same time, their abilities lacked breadth and thus their lack of adaptability was a weakness.
When he excluded the emotional side of the issue from his considerations, the NPCs were the ideal choice. Ainz the player had not conducted experiments to that effect, and thus he could not be sure if he could be resurrected. However, there was no doubt that the NPCs could be resurrected, as he had done with Shalltear.
Ainz sat down in his chair once again.
Ainz steepled his fingers in front of his face, and mulled over the best choice to make.
But in the end, he still could not reach a conclusion.
Could it be that idiots can’t find the answer no matter how much they think?
With a self-deprecating smile, Ainz looked over to Decrement.
“Would you be willing to die for me?”
“Of course, Ainz-sama. You have but to give the order and I will throw my life away for you,” Decrement responded, without a moment’s hesitation.
“Do the others think the same way? Would they think I was a cruel master?”
“I believe everyone else would gladly accept death without a second thought. Nobody would even think of refusing. We were made by the Supreme Beings, and thus we exist only for the Supreme Beings. There is no greater joy for us than to carry out any command they give us.”
“Really now… Also, I was merely asking out of curiosity. There was no deeper meaning to my question. Put it out of mind.”
As Decrement bowed, Ainz made up his mind.
—He would use the NPCs.
Ainz pulled out a map of the surrounding area.
This map was compiled from the findings of Aura’s explorations. In particular, Ainz was sure that there was no other map which covered the interior of the Great Forest of Tob in more detail. Sadly, he could not be sure of the accuracy of the scale, and so he could not conclude that it was a perfect map. However, with this in hand, it was much less likely that he would get lost.
Ainz placed a finger on E-Rantel, and then slowly traced a line north, passing through the Great Forest. There was no problem up to this point. Most of the Forest was now under Nazarick’s control. After eliminating the monsters and beasts with low intelligence, they took control of several demihuman and heteromorph settlements and that was the end of it. There was a large cave underground, but he had no intention of messing with it for the time being. Of course, he could take control of it if doing so was profitable to him.
His finger reached the gourd-shaped lake at the northern tip of the forest.
Further north of there was the Azellisia Mountain Range. It was uncharted territory.
“An unknown region, huh…”
Hmph, Ainz smiled.
He had just impressed upon adventurers the importance of exploring the unknown. Practicing what he preached would make for good publicity.
“Come search for the Dwarven Kingdom of the Azellisian Mountain Range.”
It sounded like a slogan one would hear on television shows.
He waved away the smile that came naturally, and began his contemplation in earnest.
He considered the advantages that would come from personally going to a place where there might be other players.
Obviously, having the Sorcerer King show up in person was a clear sign of his sincerity.
It was like a company’s boss personally going to another firm to conduct negotiations. The effects of that were immediately evident, in Suzuki Satoru’s experience.
In addition, his perspective was unlike his subordinates, who tended to view those outside of Nazarick as inferior lifeforms. Ainz qualified as a moderate among the members of Nazarick. As a result, he felt that he was not a bad choice for negotiating with the Dwarven Kingdom — or a non-courageous choice, if he was being honest with himself.
In addition, he could always send Pandora’s Actor over.
He was the ideal choice, be it in terms of intelligence, adaptability or other areas.
Who will administer this country in the meantime?
Somebody else had to answer that question.
That person was naturally Ainz Ooal Gown.
I can’t do it.
Ainz screamed internally, over and over again.
If he had to pick between the two, he would rather go to the Dwarven Kingdom.
More to the point, all he needed to do was to visit once and he would be able to teleport there in the future. If any problems came up, all he had to do was to play his trump card of “I shall consider this in greater detail back home”. Even if the other party countered with “We hope you will decide on the spot”, he could just throw another excuse together on the fly.
Ainz knew many techniques to escape a situation like that.
I had Ainzach around last time, but now I’ll be playing the role of the door-to-door salesman for my wares. It’s not like I need to clinch a sale either, so it should be easy.
Ainz smiled as he took on the expression of Suzuki Satoru the salesman. Then, the context of his smile changed.
Plus… as time goes by, I might be able to hand over the vassalization of the Empire to Demiurge and Albedo, and let them draw up the plans for it. Yes! It can’t be helped. It’s not like I want to flee from my work or anything!
As he fervently made excuses for his behavior, Ainz began thinking about the next problem:
Who would he take with him?
Ainz folded his arms with a puzzled look on his face.
While he would like nothing more than to have Albedo or Demiurge around, they had more important things to do and they were also project leaders. If he brought either of them along, then problems would crop up in their affairs.
Aura and Mare were very good choices, especially because they were humanoids like the Dwarves. Thus, their counterparts would not be too wary of them.
Cocytus would be tricky. Granted, he was a good pick for visiting a cold and mountainous region, but he was now in charge of the Great Forest of Tob, which also made him a project leader of sorts. Ainz hoped that he could focus his energies on that task. In addition, his unusual appearance — combined with that of Ainz — would probably make the other party unnecessarily nervous.
Sebas was a good choice too.
He was currently providing administrative support in E-Rantel, with Tsuareninya as his assistant. It should be fine to bring him out with Pandora’s Actor around, but Ainz had some doubts about.his fighting ability.
Gargantua and Victim were out of the question, of course. The images of several other NPCs loomed up in Ainz’s mind, but most of them were not suitable to follow Ainz around as bodyguards.
If that’s the case, then it’ll have to be — Aura and Shalltear.
Aura — and the monsters she commanded— could be considered an ideal choice for the role of a tank. In the worst-case scenario, he could sacrifice her beasts and escape with Aura. And then there was Shalltear, the best one-on-one fighter. She could serve as a trump card against a strong foe. In addition, there was another reason why he wanted to use Shalltear.
He should have brought Mare along instead, considering that he might be facing an army. However, if they encountered a player, their priority would be to retreat and not exterminating the enemy. Thus, he would leave Mare behind this time around.
“If that’s the case…”
Just as Ainz was about to make a move, the sound of a [Message] rang within his head.
“Oh, it’s Entoma.”
『Yes. I am currently travelling with Shalltear-sama and we have reached the village of the Lizardmen. Cocytus-sama wishes to send over a Lizardman with a report concerning the village’s status and seeks your permission to open a [Gate]. What should be done, Ainz-sama?』
Cocytus would occasionally send over reports on the village which he was tasked to run.
Ainz did not really know how well Cocytus had done, so typically he would give these reports a quick once-over and reply with a “Good job.” There were times that he wanted to say, “You don’t have to do this anymore”, but reporting to one’s superiors was the proper attitude to have, and in turn, he had to fulfil his responsibilities as Cocytus’ superior.
“Then open the [Gate] at the usual place… ah, no, the defensive spell should still be active. Wait an hour before…”
Ainz took out a schedule sheet and made sure of the time.
“Cast the spell at 13:46. I will lower the defenses for about two minutes at that time.”
While this building was not Nazarick, it was still shrouded in magical fields which impeded teleportation and the like, powered by the MP of high-level vassals. These fields were strong enough to impede fairly high-tier spells, but they drained the vassals to the point where he had to rotate them out several times a day. In addition, they also impeded friendly teleportation.
This was because of the friendly fire effect, which did not exist in YGGDRASIL.
Thus, there were occasions when he needed to briefly disable the defense grid to permit direct teleportation to this place. Of course, lowering the defenses meant that enemies could teleport in as well. In order to keep them from being hit by an “explosion” — as they called it in YGGDRASIL — Ainz decided to limit these brief openings to predetermined periods.
『Understood. I shall relay your message to Shalltear-sama.』
Ainz replied, “Good” before cutting off the [Message] and rising to his feet.
“…I’ll leave the choice of my clothing to you. A Lizardman is coming as an emissary of Cocytus. Pick something which won’t embarrass me.”
A fire blazed in Decrement’s eyes.
Her too? Ainz thought, but he did not give voice to those words. A man with no confidence in his sense of style could not say such things.
With Decrement in tow, Ainz walked while giving orders to an undead being he had created on the fly. Said orders were to inform the undead guarding the great hall of this manor about the arrival of a Lizardman via [Gate].
As he watched it disappear into the distance, Ainz contemplated the effective use of the undead which he had created.
If Ainz’s undead could report to him, then he could place them all over the world and create an undead intelligence network. Unfortunately, that would be very difficult to accomplish. Even if Ainz gave a command, the undead could only give vague responses. In addition, it was very hard for Ainz to manage the massive increase in the number of undead which he had created. There was always the risk that he might slip up and give an order to a completely unrelated undead minion by accident.
In the future, he might be able to set up some sort of system to address this problem, but that was impossible given the present circumstances.
Perhaps I could let Pandora’s Actor handle that sort of thing in my place. But then I’d have to deal with the problem of all the undead he made freezing up when he’s not in my form.
He would have to consider the matter in earnest after seeking the opinions of Albedo and Demiurge. While pondering this problem, Ainz reached his changing room.
As usual, the two lines of maids greeted him with eyes aglitter. In particular, Decrement’s eyes — as Ainz’s duty maid — were practically bloodshot.
Ainz permitted the maids to help him change while asking about Aura’s location.
Today, he would wear something in pure white.
It seemed too flashy for someone like Ainz, who was used to wearing dark browns.
On top of that, the maids adorned him with a gigantic necklace made of gold and other metals. It made him worry that the magpies would try to steal it on account of its shininess.
But the part of the outfit that made the least sense was the feathers which protruded from his back.
Am I a peacock or something? Ainz wanted to say, but when he glanced around, he saw a shared look of pride and satisfaction on all the maids’ faces. None of them looked worried, or had any expressions that could be considered anywhere close to negative. All of them had the same look of nervous awe on their faces, their cheeks tinged pink.
They were like a bunch of fangirls standing before a beloved idol.
Is this really all right? Is this really so attractive to ladies? …Looks like I have no fashion sense, after all.
As Ainz waxed melancholy within his soul, the maids finished dressing him up.
From the mirror, he noticed that there were feathers sprouting from under his arm, which made Ainz think of a monster from YGGDRASIL.
Was it an Archaeopteryx or something… I think they were pet dinosaurs for druids.
They ruffled when he folded his arms in front of himself, which was quite annoying.
But what would they say if he told them, “this outfit won’t do”? They would reply with something along the lines of “How is this unsuitable? Please tell us what clothes we should pick in future.”
In the end, Ainz decided to cast these bothersome things aside.
When the appointed time came, Ainz felt a magical portal — a [Gate] — open in the great hall.
While he had already dispelled the magical field surrounding this building, the person passing through the [Gate] did not appear right away, thanks to the [Delay Teleportation] spell he had cast. This was the same spell he had used during the battle with Shalltear.
[Delay Teleportation] briefly hindered teleportation effects that had their destination near the caster, buying them several seconds of time, which the caster would typically use to flee or prepare an attack. In addition, the spell also informed the caster of how many beings would be teleporting into their vicinity.
Thus, Ainz knew that only one person had teleported here.
Entoma might not have come here with Shalltear, but she would probably be arriving soon.
[Delay Teleportation] only delayed a teleport. It could not cancel it entirely. Thus, some time later, a black half-sphere appeared within the area of the [Delay Teleportation] spell.
Shortly after that, a Lizardman fearfully poked its head out from within.
As he — it should have been a he, right? — looked around, his line of sight met that of Ainz, who was seated upon the simple throne in the middle of the great hall.
“Your, Your Majesty, Ainz Ooal Gown. Forgive your servant’s rudeness before you.”
Ainz could not fully conceal his consternation at the Lizardman’s fluent speech. While Zaryusu was a cut above the rest of his tribe, this Lizardman’s diction sounded polished and natural.
Is this the result of Cocytus’ training?
The question percolated in his mind, but there was something to do before that.
Ainz’s [Delay Teleportation] spell had already told him that only one person would be coming. Once he was sure that nobody else was coming, he ordered a Death Knight standing by on the sidelines to reactivate its magic item. The Death Knight nodded in acknowledgement and strode forth, and then Ainz turned his gaze to the kneeling Lizardman.
At the same time, Decrement — who stood at Ainz’s side — chimed in with expert timing.
“Lizardman, you are granted an audience.”
This was completely different from how she had been when picking out clothes for Ainz.
She radiated the air of an icy princess.
Under normal circumstances, most people would be upset at a maid in a palace (or a similar location) taking this tone with them. The supplicant might well smirk as he noted that the ruler doing so was accompanied by just a single maid. Alternately, he might pity the Sorcerous Kingdom for having so little manpower that a maid had to perform such duties.
However, these Lizardmen were trained by Cocytus, and they fully understood that any of the NPCs was vastly superior to them. Therefore, they did not question Decrement’s attitude.
Ah, what a pain. Why can’t you dispense with this nonsense and speak plainly? Well, that’s what I think, but as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Ainz Ooal Gown was briefly troubled by the remnants of the spirit which belonged to Suzuki Satoru the salaryman, but that could not be helped.
The Lizardman rose to his feet, unaware of Ainz’s inner turmoil. In truth, Ainz could not tell the difference between one Lizardman and another. If their scales were a different color, or if they had obvious distinguishing features — brands or an abnormally large arm, for instance — it might have been possible, but he could not tell how the Lizardman before him differed from any other.
In any case, Ainz had Decrement command the Lizardman to identify himself.
“Ainz-sama graciously permits you to state your name.”
“Understood! I thank you for your magnanimity! Your servant is Kyuku Zuzu, former chieftain of the Razor Tail tribe!”
Ainz had never heard that name before.
Should he openly display his ignorance, or pretend that he knew? Ainz chose neither of these, but picked a third option — in other words, he nodded to continue the flow of the conversation. After all, Cocytus might have mentioned this during a previous report.
Following that, Ainz ordered Decrement to have the Lizardman tell him why he had come here.
What a pain!
This was basically how things went whenever he met with a subordinate— his servants.
If I wasn’t worried about people looking down on the Sorcerous Kingdom, I would have suggested doing away with this bothersome business…
Just as Ainz sighed internally, Decrement gave the Lizardman a command.
“In his mercy, Ainz-sama permits you to state the reason for seeking an audience with him.”
“Understood! Cocytus-sama, the ruler of our villages and the master of the lake, wishes to present something to His Majesty the Sorcerer King Ainz Ooal Gown, Supreme Overlord and ruler of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, as well as the liege of Cocytus-sama.”
Ainz was surprised by how many titles the Lizardman had managed to string together, but he did not show it on his face. Instead, he inclined his head toward Decrement, who stepped forward and received a scroll from the Lizardman. Then, Ainz had to wait for Decrement to return and present it to him before he could finally read it.
It was covered in Cocytus’ script. There were so many numbers recorded within that it would take quite a while to read through it here.
Therefore, Ainz rolled the scroll back up and gave it to a Death Knight who was standing nearby. Only then could he finally address the Lizardman directly.
While that was all Ainz could say, he did not intend to end the conversation there.
Ainz rose from his throne, and spoke to the Lizardman.
“Now then, I will ask you a question, not in my capacity as the Sorcerer King, but as the master of Cocytus. After all, they say speaking to one’s vassals directly will deepen their mutual understanding.”
The Lizardman looked vaguely confused. This was because he had no idea how to handle being directly questioned. At least, that was what he thought was going on, despite the difficulty of reading a Lizardman’s face.
“Be at ease. This is not a formal interview. Once you leave this place, no trace of the events here will linger in anyone’s thoughts or memories. Neither will I censure you for any lack of respect in your behavior.”
These words were addressed to Decrement and the surrounding Death Knights, as much as they were directed to the Lizardman before him.
“Now then, how is Zaryusu? I understand he has remained within the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick as of late?”
“Indeed! By Your Majesty’s grace, he is in good condition. He is the father of a healthy child, and his relationship with his wife is similarly excellent.”
“Oh, is that so! I permitted him to return because his child was about to be born, and now it has. I see, I see. Well, it is good that the happy couple is getting along.”
There were married people within the guild Ainz Ooal Gown. Ainz could not help but remember them. “My wife’s feeling kind of grouchy” became a magic word that allowed anyone to disconnect in the middle of a game, and no one would be able to find fault with them for that.
Smiling from the memories of the past — although his expression did not change — Ainz continued asking questions.
“Was the child white as well?”
Zaryusu’s wife was the white Lizardman. Being that she was a very rare breed of Lizardman, she aroused the collector’s spirit within Ainz, and left a deep impression on him.
“Yes, Your Majesty. It is as Your Majesty has surmised. While the child will assuredly be a superior individual regardless of whose bloodline it inherits, it would seem it has tended toward its mother’s ancestry, being that its scales are snow white.”
“Oh, so there’s only—”
Ainz closed his mouth before he could blurt out “one hatchling”. Referring to them as people would probably be more prudent. While none of them would actually express displeasure at his choice of words, that did not mean Ainz could casually make mistakes. If his poorly chosen words led to problems in Cocytus’ rule, Ainz would not know where to begin apologizing.
“—Only one child, then?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. Just one.”
“Oh… I see. Only one child, then.”
It would seem they differed from reptiles, who had big clutches. Still, as long as the couple had a good relationship, they might well have more children in the future.
Ainz felt the collector’s blood stir within him. He kind of wanted to know if he could have one of them to play with, but forcefully separating a child from its parents was a poor thing to do.
However, he had heard that the Lizardmen had a tradition of branding themselves before travelling on long journeys. If Zaryusu’s child chose that path, then he might be able to train them up as an adventurer.
The Adventurer’s Guild Ainz envisioned was an organization made up of many species. If he could get a rarely-seen Lizardman in there, it might end up being good for publicity, like an idol enrolling in a school.
“How are the mother and child? Are they being fed well?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. Many thanks for your kind concern. The mother and child are in good health, and the child looks like it will grow to be exceptionally lively.”
“Really now, is that so. This is certainly cause for celebration. Then, to commemorate the birth of a child with a glorious future ahead of him, permit me to present a gift. However, I am not fully apprised of the intricacies of birth-gifts within Lizardman culture. Share your opinion with me, then; what would be a good present?”
It would be terribly boring to give fish or something in place of a birthday cake. He would rather give them something more tangible and permanent.
“I understand. While my tribe does not have the practice of giving gifts to celebrate births… I feel that Zaryusu would be delighted to receive arms and armor.”
“Wargear, then… umu.”
If possible, he would have liked to give something which would please his wife as well, but since armor would protect her husband’s life, one could say that it would indirectly make her happy.
Just then, Kyuku fearfully spoke up.
“—May your servant venture a question, Your Majesty?”
“What is it?”
“Why is Zaryusu worthy of such high praise?”
The fact was that Ainz had no intention of praising Zaryusu. He merely thought of him as the husband of a rare white Lizardman. Still, he could not actually say that, so he racked his brains for an excuse to give.
“…He is an outstanding man. In truth, I hear that his training in Nazarick has shown admirable results. As such, I shall reward loyalty and excellence with matching largesse.”
“I am eternally grateful for your kind words, Your Majesty. We shall strive to show greater loyalty and devotion in the future.”
“Mm. Hold on to that determination of yours.”
After nodding in a magnanimous manner, Ainz considered if there was anything else he wanted to ask. A truly excellent ruler would probably want to hear about the status of the Lizardmen’s villages and compare it to Cocytus’ reports, and as such he would immediately have more in-depth questions to ask. However, Ainz could not do that.
Just as Ainz was about to dismiss him, something came to mind.
“This may not concern your village, but what do you know about the Dwarves of the Azellisia Mountain Range?”
The village of the Lizardmen was located at the base of the Azellisia Mountain Range.
“Your Majesty, I have heard about them before.”
Ainz had not expected an answer to his casually-posed question. Ainz ordered the Lizardman to tell him about the Dwarves as he rejoiced within his heart.
“With the greatest respect, your servant submits that the following was merely overheard from an acquaintance. The Dwarves are a species which builds cities in productive mines, and they use the ores thus extracted to manufacture all manner of wargear. Among those are weapons and armor made of very rare metals.”
“Very rare metals, you say?”
For a moment, Ainz thought that he had gulped in surprise.
Those words were extremely tempting to a player that loved collecting rare items.
“Do you know what these metals are called?”
“Regretfully, your servant does not, Your Majesty. My understanding does not reach that far.”
Disappointment set in for Ainz, and he chided himself for his foolish expectations.
While adventuring as Momon, he had learned about metals, but there had been no news about anything harder than adamantite. In this world, even orichalcum and adamantite qualified as ultra-rare metals. It was hard to imagine the exotic metals which the Lizardman had described being anything more than that.
Even so, Ainz could not suppress the swelling anticipation within him.
If they were a race that lived within the earth, would they have access to metals which were rare even by Ainz’s standards?
If… yes, if. What if this world possesses the prismatic ores of YGGDRASIL, and the Dwarves are mining them? Granted, that assumes that there are prismatic ores in this world, but if that was really the case, could it be possible to have them produce a [Caloric Stone] — one of the hidden items of YGGDRASIL?
The [Caloric Stone] was a World-Class Item. It could only be obtained by gathering vast quantities of the prismatic ores and then expending a certain amount of them. Usually, that would entail an extremely difficult process, but Ainz Ooal Gown had accomplished it once.
They had found a hitherto undiscovered mine for Celestial Uranium, one of the seven prismatic ores, and a critical element for the [Caloric Stone].
Under normal circumstances, a guild which found a new mine would thoroughly exploit it before selling its ores on the market. That was because tapped-out mines in YGGDRASIL would slowly recover and be ready for further harvesting. Ainz Ooal Gown had planned to do just that.
That said, the reason why they had managed to attain that World-Class item was entirely due to an extraordinary stroke of luck.
At first, they had let the prismatic ores trickle into the market, hoping to drive the price up due to their rarity. And then, the large stockpiles of prismatic ore in the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick underwent a spontaneous reaction.
Ainz could still vividly recall the bizarre mood in the air, generated by everyone as they realised almost all the prismatic ores had disappeared, and in their place was an item which had rolled to the ground. Should we be happy for this, they wondered as they glanced at each other, a vague look of emptiness on their faces.
After that, they used the [Caloric Stone] when they learned that they could obtain that expendable-type World-Class Item in the same way as before. Then, they tried to produce it again, but sadly, the Celestial Uranium mine was taken from them, and that dream had gone up in smoke.
As Ainz and the others saw the Celestial Uranium being sold at a high price, they were equal parts happy and disgruntled. Given the way it was being handled, there was no way for them to produce a World-Class Item.
A wicked smile appeared on Ainz’s face as he basked in his memories, and he mocked them in his heart.
You idiots. The whole point of monopolizing it is to store up the necessary amount. There’s no way you could make it if you put the ores up for sale. Unless—
Ainz recalled Punitto Moe’s words.
“There should be other sources of Celestial Uranium besides the one which Ainz Ooal Gown (we) discovered. For all we know, they actually have other mines for it, and they took ours in order to keep it hidden from outsiders,” he had said.
However, he quickly refuted his own deduction. That was because he learned that the guild in question had used the World-Class Item [οὐροβόρος] to banish Ainz Ooal Gown from that mine. “Even if they wanted the ability to reliably produce the [Caloric Stone], was it really worth expending one of the World-Class Items known as The Twenty?” he had wondered.
(TL Note: Ouroboros)
Ainz shook his head, chasing away the memories of the past from his mind. Even so, he could not fully eliminate the idea that had come to mind.
…Even if there’s no prismatic ore there, the Dwarves might know about other metals. What if there was knowledge there which had not spread to the outside world? If I used a charm spell or the like — oh, I’m being too hasty. I shouldn’t let my imagination run wild. Still, this does involve runes as well. As I thought, this is a top priority and should be addressed immediately.
Just then, Ainz noticed the Lizardman sneaking peeks at him. Apparently he had been lost in a world of his own.
“…It seems I was lost in my contemplation.Tell me, who told you about the Dwarves?”
“Your Majesty, that would be Zenberu, a former tribe leader like myself.”
“Hoh! That Zenberu, hm? …Umu. Are you saying that Frost Pain was also a creation of the Dwarves? Was it a gift Zenberu gave to Zaryusu as a sign of their friendship?”
He had heard about the origins of the sword from Zaryusu. However, it would be wise to ask others about it as well.
“That was an heirloom from days past, and it did not come from Zenberu.”
“Is that so…”
It was exactly as he had heard. However, there might be something there which the Lizardmen did not know about.
There are many weapons in this world which could not be made in YGGDRASIL. For example, there’s that weapon with the passive ability to cut through defenses…
The magic weapons in this world were made by having a magic caster enchant a weapon produced by a blacksmith. In other words, a skilled magic caster was more important than a skilled blacksmith when it came to making a powerful magic weapon.
However, there were exceptions to that rule. Fluder could make the stilettos which Clementine carried through his magical knowledge, but the same could not be said for Gazef’s sword.
“Perhaps,” Fluder had begun by saying, “Gazef’s sword was spontaneously created by the natural absorption of mana, or perhaps through the magic of the Dragons.”
Still, I can’t be certain that he was correct. There’s many things Fluder himself does not understand. Could the Dwarves make a weapon like that as well? While I know I’m looking forward to this a little too much…
YGGDRASIL’s weapons — Guild Weapons and a few others aside — possessed a data capacity that was determined by the value of the materials used in their construction and the skill of their maker. This data capacity limited the number of data crystals which could be added to it. Thus, rarer metals allowed for the creation of a correspondingly more powerful weapon.
The smith was also a key part of the equation. Much like it was in this world, the humanoids called Dwarves in YGGDRASIL had bonuses to craftsman-type classes. Therefore, Dwarves were very popular among those people who wanted to play weaponsmith or armorsmith characters.
That being the case, would they possess weapon-crafting knowledge which Fluder did not?
Does that mean runes are part of it? Mm. Taking control of the Dwarves… Not bad. The Head Librarian and Demiurge are conducting experiments with scrolls. Nfirea is working on potions. Fluder is handling magic items. Then I shall let the dwarves take charge of weapons manufacture.
All sorts of experiments to strengthen Nazarick were taking place concurrently. Ainz smiled in satisfaction as he thought about them. And then, he realised that if the Six Great Gods really were players, then Ainz might well be 600 years behind them.
We may need to spend the next few years, no, the next few decades on technological development. We can’t be careless here.
For all he knew, others may have noticed those things which even he had picked up on. As a leader, he had to eliminate the baseless notion that he was special or unique.
If someone was thinking along the same lines as me, then there’d be a higher chance of discovering something useful among the Dwarves. Other players might have asked the Dwarves to help develop technologies or commissioned weapons from them, and in the process they would have learned about their application of runes. …Should I get Albedo and Demiurge’s opinion on this, and ready our forces for a full-scale operation?
An hour ago, he was still thinking about visiting the Dwarven Kingdom with just himself and Aura for company. However, given that the Dwarven Kingdom had just gone up in priority, the plan for that excursion had to be remade.
He had to learn about the Dwarven Kingdom and ensure that his spy could gather information in a clandestine manner. At the same time, avoiding magical surveillance was very important.
The problem now was how long all this would take.
If the player who brainwashed Shalltear was hiding there, it would be extremely dangerous to give the opposition too much time. If he took a passive stance, the enemy might well pick the most opportune moment to launch an attack. In order to avoid this, they had to take the initiative and make the first move.
…So this will be a gamble, after all. An ambassadorial party, hm. We will establish diplomatic relations with the Dwarven Kingdom. If a player launches an attack, it will be a casus belli for us to mount an invasion in turn. We can then dig out the necessary information from the debris.
Ainz enumerated the things he had to do after meeting the Dwarves.
One: verify the presence or absence of players.
Two: investigate the runes and their origins.
Three: Obtain information and samples of their metallurgy and ores.
Something like that.
However, they would hardly tell all of that to Ainz up front. It was only natural to conceal one’s technological prowess. Information was more valuable the more hidden it was.
If there were YGGDRASIL players who let their knowledge leak out all over the place, Punitto Moe would surely give them a vicious tongue-lashing.
…Also, what if I could get them to export weapons to the Sorcerous Kingdom so our adventurers could acquire them at a lower price? Pretty attractive, no? But in order for that to take place, I’ll have to be on good terms with the Dwarves. While I could always take them as slaves within Nazarick, that will be a last resort. I’d like to make my words to Ainzach that much more convincing.
Still, all this was ultimately nothing but a conjecture.
“…Lizardman. Does Zenberu know about the Dwarven city?”
“Yes. He told me that he had lived in the Dwarven city for some time.”
“Is that so. Do you think Zenberu would take me there?”
The Lizardman fell into thought, and then tilted his head.
“My deepest apologies, but your servant cannot answer that question. Of course, I am certain that if Your Majesty orders something, Zenberu will strive eagerly to fulfil it. However, it has been several winters since he returned from the Dwarven City, so I am not sure how much he still remembers…”
“Really now… Well, if that’s the case, I can deal with it using magic. It’ll be fine.”
[Control Amnesia] might well be able to clear things up.
After praying that Ainzach or Fluder knew something about this, Ainz permitted the Lizardman to leave.
Two hours after meeting the Lizardman, Ainz sighed quietly within his room.
That was because he had just finished communicating with Fluder and Ainzach via [Message].
Why do I have to teleport over there in person to prove my identity? Especially Fluder. I thought he’d be used to it by now, but I guess I was wrong.
When he used [Message], neither of them believed that he was Ainz, so he had no choice but to [Teleport] to where they were and speak to them in person.
The way in which they apologized for the inconvenience in the same way and asked Ainz to only use [Message] in times of emergency made him feel like they had planned it out beforehand.
Ainzach aside, you’d think Fluder wouldn’t want to waste time on other matters, considering the book which I gave him.
Of course, Ainz was wise enough to remain silent.
Speaking of which, while he had heard of the tragedies caused by the use of [Message] in the past, it was hard for him to understand why they could not put their faith in the spell until now. That said, it probably was not something they could accept so easily. In addition, it would be quite damaging if they, as his collaborators, were deceived in such a way. In that case, all he could do was suck it up and accept that the MP cost of teleportation magic as a necessary expense.
His dejection was also related to the results of his conversations with the two of them. The use of teleportation would have been worthwhile if it had yielded good information. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Ainzach knew that there was a Dwarven Kingdom in the Azellisia Mountain Range, but he was not sure of its location. The Kingdom had not attempted to forge any national-level ties with the Dwarves either. Even if they had, those would probably be limited to small deals within the mining city of Re-Brumelashul. Ties like these would be closely linked to the city’s profits, in any case, and so it would be hard to try and cut in on them.
(TL Note: リ.ブルムラシユール)
Fluder felt the same way too.
Although he had heard of Dwarven culture and their government, the fact was that he knew next to nothing about them. There was something about how a powerful Dragon had caused great damage to a Dwarven city, but he had no clue about the name of the city, or the name and abilities of the Dragon.
It would seem Fluder had not investigated the matter because it did not interest him. However, they could probably begin researching it through Imperial channels after this. At least, that was what Fluder suggested, but Ainz shot that suggestion down. It would take too much time, and having an exposed traitor like himself perform said research might lead to trouble.
In the end, the only person he could count on was Zenberu the Lizardman.
It’s about time I sent a [Message] to those two and told them about the Dwarves.
“I’ll contact Shalltear first. Hm… the right person for the job?”
That was high praise and cruel criticism at the same time.
Ainz closed his eyes — though he had no eyeballs — and thought about the matter for a few minutes. Then, he opened his eyes and cast the [Message] spell.
『Is, is that you, Ainz-sama? Where do you need a [Gate] opened at this time?』
Shalltear was the strongest of the Floor Guardians, and the only one to administer multiple floors. The fact that the first thing she asked was where to open a [Gate] was terribly sad. At the same time, Ainz felt a little guilty about assigning that task to her.
“No. This time, I shall entrust a weighty duty to you.”
『A, a weighty duty?』
“Umu. You shall accompany me on my travels, and ensure my safety.”
The silence lasted several seconds.
Don’t tell me she didn’t hear that. What’s going on? Just as Ainz began to wonder if something was wrong, Shalltear’s voice — off-key, probably from over-excitement — rang through his head.
『Your servant shall fulfil this task, even if she must grind herself to dust in the process!!!』
“U-umu. Then I shall explain in greater detail. Come to my quarters in E-Rantel.”
If he did not specify that, it was quite likely that she would teleport to Ainz’s room in Nazarick. However, that had only happened once. He had sent a [Message] to Narberal telling her to come to his room, and after waiting and waiting for ages she had not arrived. It was only after he sent another [Message] to her that he discovered she had been waiting at his room in Nazarick.
Ainz reflected on it, and realized that the fault lay with the order which he had given. Thus, he resolved never to make that mistake again.
『Understood! Your servant shall come immediately!!!』
“Also, give Mare your task of maintaining surveillance on the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. Inform him of whatever he needs to know when you hand your duties over to him. Considering the time needed for that… Come over when you’ve settled your affairs over there. I don’t have any appointments which will take me away from my chambers, so I will wait until you arrive.”
『Yes!! I, Shalltear Bloodfallen, shall carry out your orders faithfully and without delay!!』
“The handing and taking over of duties is very important. Don’t rush and make a mess of it just because I’m waiting, got that? I shall order Mare to proceed to your room, the Adipocere Chamber.”
『Understood!! Then I shall commit the tasks which I will be handing over onto paper!!』
“Also, I trust I don’t need to say this, but you are to give your ring to Mare.”
『Of course!! I understand that it will only be in his safekeeping for a while!!』
It was very dangerous to bring that ring outside of Nazarick. On the other hand, as long as it and the Staff of Ainz Ooal Gown were not taken, there would be enough time for all the Guardians to gather. Therefore, the rings were hidden within the piles of gold within the Treasury, apart from the one which Ainz wore and the ones issued to certain people within Nazarick.
The reason why Ainz wore the ring despite knowing the danger was because it would be impossible to enter Nazarick if nobody wore it and the enemy had blockaded the entrance to Nazarick.
“Very well. Begin your preparations, then.”
『Yes!! Then, is there anything I should bring to your room, Ainz-sama?』
“A reasonable question, but there is nothing you need to bring. I will explain my plan to you when the time comes, and then I will give you time to ready yourself.”
Shalltear’s passionate response vanished as the spell terminated.
Then, he sent Mare a [Message]. There was little difference in the contents of their conversation, save that he told him to take Shalltear’s place as the protector of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick.
After hearing Mare’s still, small yet clear voice, Ainz ended the [Message].
Finally, Ainz sent Aura a [Message].
“Aura, it’s me.”
『Yes, Ainz-sama! What do you need me to do?』
“Umu. I would like you to accompany me to the Dwarven Kingdom.”
“First, I hope you will meet me in my chambers at E-Rantel while we wait for Shalltear”
The ensuing cry of disbelief made Ainz grateful that he did not need eardrums to hear.
“Aura, lower your voice.”
『I, I’m very sorry, Ainz-sama!』
Like I said, lower your voice… Ainz thought that, but did not say it.
『Ah, are we going to destroy the Dwarven Kingdom?』
“No. How did you reach that dangerous misunderstanding? I just want to conduct some friendly negotiations.”
『Ah, I see! So you’ve already foreseen that peaceful negotiations will break down, then?』
『Ainz-sama, I’m here!』
“What? You mean you’ve already arrived at my room?”
A knock came from the door just as she said this.
Ainz smiled bitterly as he watched Decrement go to answer it.
“Ainz-sama, Aura-sama requests your permission to enter.”
Ainz gestured his approval, and Decrement took one step away from the door.
『”Sorry to disturb you, Ainz-sama!”』
Aura’s voice overlapped with that of the [Message] spell as the Dark Elf girl greeted him.
“All right, then. Have a seat and we’ll talk.”
Ainz indicated a pair of sofas which faced each other, and then turned to Decrement.
“Prepare refreshments for Aura.”
“Yes, Ainz-sama. We have apple juice, orange juice, lemon squash, tea and coffee on hand at the moment.”
Decrement placed the apple juice which Aura requested on the small table between the two sofas. As Aura began sipping at it, Ainz began his explanation.
“First, let me explain myself about your question concerning the destruction of the Dwarven Kingdom. Bringing Shalltear along does fulfil a requirement for combat power, but there is another reason for that.”
Aura’s eyes went wide. Given her attitude, it was clear that she considered Shalltear to have very limited uses. Still — Ainz found it hard to hold back the warmth surging within his chest.
It reminded him of Bukubukuchagama and Peroroncino’s relationship.
Every now and then, Bukubukuchagama would ask, “Has my stupid little brother given you any trouble?”
When people replied with an, “Uh, I don’t think so?” she would immediately respond like Aura had, with a “Seriously?!”
It was hard for Ainz to contain himself as he realized that Aura and Shalltear were carrying on that same relationship. The memories fell like powdery snow, filling his heart with bliss. His joy welled up, and just as he was about to laugh — the emotion was suppressed.
Ainz quietly cursed as his moment of happiness was ruined by his emotional suppression. It had helped him out many times in the past, but he found it tiresome when it got in his way. Ainz knew he was being selfish and hypocritical, but he still found it hard to accept this interruption of the memories of his former friends.
“Ah, er… Ainz-sama? What’s wrong?”
However, his displeasure vanished like smoke in the wind as he heard the girl’s tremulous voice. He could not allow himself to express these negative emotions in a way which even a child could see. Ainz took a deep breath, and smiled to Aura.
“No, my apologies. It’s nothing. As I was saying earlier, I’m bringing Shalltear along this time around to investigate her adaptability. She was created to be the strongest Guardian. At that time, if she had fought properly, even I might not have been able to beat her.”
“Well, if it’s for something like that—”
“—No, it’s not like that. If I were Shalltear, I would have summoned my Einherjar right away and then prepared for battle while it engaged my enemy, then attacked with magic as my MP permitted, followed by the use of my skills. Then, I would have triggered my Blood Frenzy in some way and then charged into melee with the Spuit Lance while my attack power was increased.”
Ainz smiled, a little uncomfortable.
“If that had happened, I would have run away without a second thought.”
His skill as a player aside, Ainz’s character could only be considered to be in the upper portion of the middle tier of all players. Shalltear’s character build and equipment placed her in the lower portion of the top tier. If she was fully equipped — with divine-class items — she would be in the middle portion of the top tier. If she could change her gear to match her opponent, she might well be able to fight on even terms with the upper echelons of the top tier.
“However, her reputation as the strongest Guardian has instead hampered Shalltear’s growth.”
“The most effective use for Shalltear is to deplete the enemy’s resources, so she has to be launched out like an arrow. Once she is deployed, she has to be left to run amok through the enemy lines. However — is that really the right thing to do? It might be the best way to fully utilize Shalltear’s strength, but can we really say that it’s the most suitable method to use?”
“I don’t quite understand… but if you feel that it’s right, then it should be correct, Ainz-sama.”
That sort of answer really makes it hard to keep the conversation going. What Ainz truly wanted to hear right now was a carefully reasoned reply about the pros and cons of Ainz’s statement, which was what a proper adult would have said. Still, children were expected to be frank, after all.
“Is, is that so. However, I don’t think that is the case. When I said that it was the best way, it was only in terms of fully utilizing her strengths. However, it might not be the best way once Shalltear starts accumulating experience.”
Ainz was making progress as a warrior. No, it would be best to say that he had learned to make full use of all his abilities. While his physical abilities might not have improved, other parts of him were still growing.
Unlike how they had been when they were merely data, the NPCs now had minds and the capacity for independent thought. The same applied to Shalltear. The Shalltear of tomorrow would be different from the Shalltear of today.
“Having her do different things instead of repeating the same old tasks might help her grow… Of course, she might fail, although I do not wish for that. Still, even if she does mess up, all we need to do is to have someone beside her to pick up the slack. That is precisely why I asked for you, Aura.”
Aura had a better relationship with Shalltear than Mare. Ainz had selected the elder sister of the twins because she could keep Shalltear in line.
Having listened attentively to all of this, Aura forcefully nodded in acknowledgement.
“…Still, while I said that I want her to accumulate various experiences, that might violate the social contract, and it would cause problems for the company — for the group.”
“Eh? What does that mean?”
“…Think of it this way. It would not be good to force Shalltear to do things she does not want to do.”
“Obeying you is what we should do, Ainz-sama!”
“…Don’t you think it would be wrong to make her do something that goes against Peroroncino-san’s wishes? If my orders conflicted with Bukubukuchagama’s desires, how would you feel about obeying them, Aura?”
“Ng! Well, I, ah, I would…”
Aura nervously lowered her head, and muttered something along the lines of, “It’s hard to say.”
“All right, don’t worry about it. It was just a comparison. My reason for picking Shalltear this time around was to challenge her and see if she has grown.”
“I see! That’s Ainz-sama for you, your complex insights run so deep!”
A superior had to let his subordinates experience challenges in order for them to grow.
This was one of the secrets he had gleaned from a book he had read not long after coming to this world.
The reason why he had not given Shalltear an opportunity like this until now was because the situation had been very dangerous, and also because there was no time for such things. Now, however… no, there would be no better chance than this..
“I’ll tell you the rest when Shalltear arrives. That way, I won’t have to explain myself twice.”
Just as Ainz said so, knocking came from the door, followed by Decrement going over to check on the visitor.
“It is Shalltear-sama.”
The person he was waiting for had arrived. Ainz indicated that Decrement should let her in.
As the door opened, he saw someone in the doorway.
“Shalltear Bloodfallen is ready to go!!”
Ainz — who was prepared to thank her for her coming all this way — froze up for a moment, and it took him a while before he could gather his wits and speak.
“Why… why are you in your full battle gear?”
Not only was she in her full plate, but she was even holding her Spuit Lance.
“Yes!!! I am fully prepared to protect you, Ainz-sama!!!! I shall exterminate anyone who dares to oppose you, Ainz-sama!!!!!”
Ainz glanced at the panting Shalltear, her eyes wide open. Then, he glanced to Aura, as if to say, what should I do about this? It was not as though he could say Shalltear had gotten the wrong idea.
“Haaa~ you’re being too hasty. How about taking action after Ainz-sama finishes speaking?”
Shalltear pouted as Aura took a jab at her. Before the two of them could start quarrelling, Ainz raised his hand to get their attention.
“Shalltear. You might have the right idea, but things are different this time. Forgive me for not explaining things to you.”
Ainz hurriedly explained the objectives of this operation to Shalltear — and his plans to forge friendly relations with the Dwarven Kingdom.
A baffled look appeared on Shalltear’s face after she took it all in.
“If, if that’s what you want, is it really alright to bring me along?”
“…I have many reasons for choosing you. Having you protect me is one of them. But the greatest reason is so that you can gain experience. It is my selfish opinion that you consider yourself unsuitable for this task due to your Blood Frenzy. Perhaps after you give it a try, you might discover that you are surprisingly suited for this sort of thing.”
Shalltear’s eyes went wide.
“I understand, Ainz-sama!! I shall make sure you do not regret your decision!!”
“…Umu. Then, Shalltear, I will be placing you under Aura’s command for this journey. Since Aura is in charge of you, I hope you will obey her.”
Shalltear bowed to him.
Ainz wondered if her response was too high-strung, but it was better than a dispirited answer. Still, it would be troublesome if it all turned out to be for nothing.
“I appreciate your eagerness, but you should calm yourself down, Shalltear. …Then, let us consider the matter of followers. Who else should we bring along?”
“Ainz-sama — may I be allowed to speak?”
Ainz was somewhat startled because the response had come from an unexpected quarter, but he coolly turned to face Decrement.
“What is it? Is something the matter?”
“Ah, I was wondering how you would feel about bringing some of us maids along to serve as your attendants during your trip to the Dwarven Kingdom. Traditionally speaking, those in power have always brought followers with them to handle miscellaneous tasks. I feel that the Dwarven Kingdom will think poorly of you if you do not bring handmaidens with you, Ainz-sama.”
“I see. …You do have a point there.”
While spying on Jircniv, he noticed that the man went out escorted by several carriages, and some of them contained well-dressed ladies. They must be the people who waited on him. If he had stayed in Nazarick back then, Ainz would have observed him more carefully, but regrettably he had not, which was a bit of a shame.
No, the fact was that Jircniv had come a long way to visit Ainz, and Ainz had been terribly rude to Jircniv by not insisting that he stay the night. Granted, the man had firmly refused every offer of lodging Ainz had made, but perhaps the right thing to do was to make him change his mind.
Perhaps if they had established good relations back then, the matter of vassalage might not have come up at the arena.
Oops, I’m getting off-track… Decrement has a point, but—
Ainz considered her data. The 41 regular maids might look different, but their equipment and statistics were identical.
The heteromorphic species known as Homunculi were not particularly outstanding, and they were very weak, being only level 1. While they were still superior to level 1 human beings in terms of stats, if it came down to a fight, a Homunculus would only have a 60% chance of victory.
The maid uniforms they wore did provide them with a measure of defensive strength, but that was only on the level of a high-class item. Those might seem incredibly resilient to the inhabitants of these world, but they were nothing more than scraps of paper to a YGGDRASIL player.
Frankly speaking, there was no way he could bring them to the Dwarven Kingdom, given that he knew next to nothing about it. There was a chance that a player might be waiting with his forces deployed and ready for battle.
“Still… Unfortunately, I cannot do that. If we must have followers — Shalltear, can I bring your Vampire Brides with us?”
“There is no need to ask. Everyone in Nazarick serves you. You have but to order us.”
“Is that so. —Decrement, your proposal is very reasonable. However, it contains a problem, in that you are weak and I am uneasy about your safety when travelling into unknown lands.”
“We are all prepared to face any form of danger!”
Ainz raised a hand to calm Decrement down.
“I am pleased by the loyalty which you — which you all show. Therefore, once I ensure that the Dwarven Kingdom is safe, I shall send for you via teleportation. Until then, what do you think about handing the matter to the Vampire Brides?”
Decrement’s mouth moved several times, but no words came out. Eventually, she bowed her head. Ainz hoped that she was not agreeing because he had ordered her to, but that was most likely not the case.
Since he had nothing else to persuade her with, and he would not change his mind no matter what she said, Ainz turned his eyes from Decrement.
Resurrecting level 1 NPCs was cheap, but that was not the problem here.
Nobody would bring their friends’ children into a dangerous place.
“Then, Shalltear, bring — let me see — six Vampire Brides along. Then add 30 more riders on top of that. Five of them will be the recently summoned Hanzos.”
There was no particular significance behind the number 30. It was simply that he felt that number would be sufficient. Perhaps it was because this was the amount of players allowed in a raid group?
“I’ll contact Cocytus while waiting for everyone to gather. Right, I should finish up first. Once everyone is assembled, the two of you will travel to the Lizardman village through Shalltear’s [Gate]. After that, we’ll head north to find the Dwarven Kingdom. What do you think?”
“Yes, let’s do that.”
The two Guardians replied in the affirmative. They did not suggest a better idea, which Ainz had hoped for. While the two of them were hardly yes-women, the fact that they had said exactly that in response to his suggestion made Ainz feel a little uneasy. This was because Ainz did not have much confidence in his own idea.
“Then, do you have any suggestions on who the other followers should be?”
“My magical beasts—”
The two of them spoke up at the same time, and then glared at each other. Just as he thought they would start arguing, Shalltear looked away first.
“…What? Did you eat something weird?”
“It’s just that I was ordered to listen to you.”
“…It just feels gross.”
Shalltear’s eyebrow twitched, but she said nothing.
“In that case, how about having 25 of your undead ride my magical beasts?”
“I don’t mind —” Shalltear looked to Ainz “—But that would be more than the number you mentioned, Ainz-sama. Would that be all right?”
“We’ll do that, then.”
Since the two of them seemed to have reached a consensus, Ainz continued speaking.
“Then, let’s get to work on our own accounts. I’ll give you two hours to select your personnel. Keep in mind that you may not be able to return for a while after leaving, and do not think that you can teleport back to Nazarick with teleportation magic. Aura, you need to be particularly careful about this as one of the living. If that’s all, let’s split up. I have a lot of things to discuss with Pandora’s Actor.”
At the same time, he made a mental note to contact Albedo about this with a [Message].
“At last, the time has come!”
After she was sufficiently far away from the supreme being’s room that her voice would not reach it, Shalltear clenched her fists and shouted in joy.
“It’s been so long… but at last, I can make up for my past failure and let everyone know that Shalltear Bloodfallen can be of use to everyone!”
Shalltear gazed off into the distance.
Aura was quite aware of the feelings contained within Shalltear’s voice, which was unusual for her. Although Shalltear had already been punished for her mistakes and Ainz-sama had personally told her that it was not her fault, Shalltear still wanted to erase the mistakes she had made. As a fellow Floor Guardian, Aura could understand her feelings very well. Still — she was a little uneasy.
“It’s been a long time coming… All the work I’ve been given until now had been so easy that anyone could do it. However… However…”
“Ah~ I feel that the work Ainz-sama gave you was very important, Shalltear.”
“Well, it is as you say, to some extent. Still, was that work really important?”
“Protecting Nazarick is pretty important, no? After all, being the first line of defense against any invader is a task you’d give to reliable Guardians, right?”
Shalltear could not deny that.
Then, she nervously pressed her fingertips together and pulled them apart again.
“Does Ainz-sama really think that way?”
“Mm~ probably. Ainz-sama said that you were very strong, Shalltear.”
Shalltear smiled broadly. That response let Aura sigh in relief. If she had let her go on like that, Shalltear would surely have gone to a lot of trouble for nothing and that would only inconvenience Ainz-sama. If that happened, she had no idea how she would apologize to him for it. In addition, she felt pity for Shalltear.
“But when I was in the human city, Demiurge singled me out. He must have felt I was useless. If that was what Demiurge — the greatest mind of Nazarick — thought about me, then wouldn’t the others, especially Ainz-sama — whose wisdom surpasses that of Demiurge — feel the same way?”
“Hm, you can’t really say that. Perhaps it’s because Ainz-sama is smarter than Demiurge that he felt that way about you.”
In that moment, Shalltear moaned wetly with a “Ho…”
“As expected of Ainz-sama…”
Aura was starting to feel a little tired. However, she had the feeling that being direct with Shalltear would not work, so perhaps an indirect method would be effective.
“Still, that means that the others feel the same way as Demiurge.”
“…I can’t deny that.”
Or rather, that was definitely the case. Aura spoke up before the wide-eyed Shalltear could continue.
“Ainz-sama wanted to test your flexibility by exposing you to various situations, so I think encountering difficulty isn’t a bad thing. Until then, if you take notes and learn from around you, you’ll be able to impress Ainz-sama and the others.”
“So I should study up before that?”
“That’s right. Think about it, you’re travelling with the greatest person in all of Nazarick, right? Doesn’t that mean you can learn something from Ainz-sama?”
“I see! …But, what should I do?”
“Shalltear, that’s where the learning starts.”
“That – that’s right!”
At a loss for words, Aura had simply thrown that question back to her.
That ought to be okay… right?
A flicker of unease passed through Aura’s heart. Still, the ball was in Shalltear’s court now, and there was nothing else she could do.
Will she behave herself…
Aura offered up a prayer to Bukubukuchagama, the Supreme Being who was also her god:
Bukubukuchagama-sama, please watch over Shalltear, who was made by your little brother Peroroncino-sama!
Ainz travelled to the Lizardman village through a [Gate].
He was escorted by Hanzos for his protection. Of the five Hanzos, one had a red cloth tied to his right arm.
It was not enchanted in any way; it merely indicated that he was their leader.
At first, he had simply thought that doing so would make it easier to manage them. However, the newly appointed leader was delighted at being chosen, and Ainz could tell that he was smiling under his mask.
Frankly speaking, Ainz felt somewhat guilty. After all, he had merely given him a piece of cloth.
Defended by his vassals, Ainz could now see the statue of himself.
Ainz had already been here several times before, since it was a pre-arranged teleport destination. Still, it deeply embarrassed him.
There were statues of historical figures and so on in Suzuki Satoru’s world, but surely anyone would be ashamed to witness a monument to themselves while they were still alive.
What truly disturbed him was the fact that the facial bones were slightly different from his own. It would seem they were trying to beautify him
Do the cheekbones look more handsome when they’re like that? I don’t get it at all. What kind of aesthetic sense could have produced this?
As Ainz contemplated the matter, he turned and noticed Cocytus and his Lizardmen kneeling before him.
He was used to such genuflection now that he was more experienced in playing the role of a superior being. Still, it did not please Suzuki Satoru the salaryman. That said, he understood that it was a sign of their loyalty, so he did not ask them to stop.
“—Raise your heads.”
After that permission — given with mixed feelings — was granted, the Lizardmen looked back up, as though they had come back to life.
“Thank. You. For. Coming. All. This. Way. Ainz-sama.”
Ainz indicated to the still-kneeling Cocytus that he should rise.
“Umu. Thank you for your hard work. I have received your report on the village. Though I only glanced through it, I did not see any problems, which is good. Your accomplishments here are worthy of praise.”
“Many. Thanks! All. This. Was. Accomplished. By. Your. Glory. Ainz-sama.”
I didn’t do anything, Ainz wanted to say. Instead, he accepted Cocytus’ loyal praise with dignified grace. After all, if he had said anything else, it would have devolved into an infinite loop of “Nono,” “Nonono”, “Nononono” and so on. Ainz was quite certain of that.
“…That said, the excellent results you have shown deserve to be rewarded.”
Thinking back, Albedo and Mare had already received a Ring of Ainz Ooal Gown each, Aura had received a watch with Bukubukuchagama’s voice recorded into it, Shalltear had been given Peroroncino’s bestiary, and Demiurge — he had given Demiurge that demonic statue made by Urbelt.
His gift to Cocytus was the lives of these Lizardmen, but it was probably time for some other reward.
“Perhaps you might say it is not needed, but it is only natural that rewards and punishment must be handed out as they are deemed necessary. …Tell me, Cocytus, what do you want?”
“No. Ainz-sama. I. Desire. No. Reward. Other. Than. To. Serve. You. Loyally.”
While Solution’s request for “innocent humans” was quite disturbing, a request like Cocytus’ was also quite hard to grant.
One of his guild members had complained about a certain type of annoying woman, the kind who said, “Anywhere is fine” when you asked “Where do you want to go for lunch”, and then went on to say, “We should have gone to an Italian place after all”. Ainz felt the same way. It was a hundred times easier to get along with someone who plainly stated what they wanted.
“…Cocytus. A lack of desire can sometimes be more troubling than greed. I now command you — tell me what you want within a week’s time, limited to material objects. Do you understand?”
A distressed look appeared on Cocytus’ face. Ainz paid it no heed.
“Do you understand?” he repeated.
“If. That. Is. Your. Will. Ainz-sama.”
“Umu. That is my will. Alright, then. Cocytus, it is time to move onto my reason for coming to this village. I wish to speak to Zenberu.”
“Understood! I. Have. Already. Brought. Him. Here. Please. Come. This. Way. Ainz-sama.”
Cocytus moved behind and to the side of Ainz, and then addressed the kneeling Lizardmen.
“Zenberu. Answer. Ainz-sama’s. Questions. You. Are. Permitted. To. Directly. Address. Him.”
Zenberu raised his head with a “Yes”, but there was confusion in his voice.
“Then, I shall get to the point. I wish to visit the Dwarven Kingdom. Thus, I wish to employ you as a guide. Can you take me there?”
The Lizardman looked like he had narrowed his eyes.
He did not understand the expressions of Lizardmen, and he could not tell what kind of look he had on his face, but it did not seem like a good one.
“My sincerest apologies, Your Majesty, but may I ask your intentions for heading to the Dwarven Kingdom?”
As he finished speaking those words, a clacking of mandibles issued from behind Ainz.
“…Zenberu. Seeking. To. Know. The. Intention. Behind. Ainz-sama’s. Decisions. Is. The. Height. Of. Disrespect.. All. You. Need. To. Do. Is. Answer. The. Question. Truthfully.”
Cocytus was using the same tone he always did, but there was distinct displeasure in his words.
Ainz wanted to shrink away from the clearly unhappy voice coming from behind him.
Still, while Ainz was already like this despite not being the target of Cocytus’ aggression, Zenberu remained silent. He watched Ainz’s reaction, his gaze unwavering.
Tension filled the air amidst the fearsome silence, which was broken only by the threatening sounds from Cocytus. Not much time should have passed, Ainz thought. when he suddenly realised that Cocytus was about to make a move and stepped in to block him. Not doing so would be dangerous.
“It’s fine, Cocytus. Zenberu did not show me any disrespect.”
“It is fine. Then, I shall take a small measure of pity on you, Zenberu. What gave rise to the misconception you now hold?”
Zenberu’s reaction was only natural considering what he had done to this village. Still, Ainz did not let those thoughts show on his face. If Ainz willed it, then no blame could be attached to the servants of Nazarick for their actions. Acting otherwise in front of his subordinates might make them doubt themselves and affect their future activities.
“Zenberu. I have no intention of harming the Dwarves. I have come in person because I wish to form a friendly relationship with the Dwarves.”
“Is that really true?”
Ainz turned to Cocytus.
“Cocytus. Your loyalty pleases me. But I have already said that it is fine. Pay no heed to what Zenberu says here and forget it.”
Was this what they meant by “speaking your mind frankly”? If the boss asked you to “speak your mind frankly”, it was clearly a trap.
Ainz turned back to Zenberu.
“Indeed, that is so, Zenberu. I will swear it on my name if need be. I wish to forge a friendly relationship with the Dwarves. However, it is also possible that the use of force may be required if it is warranted by their response. Can you understand that such a course of action might be unavoidable?”
“Naturally. It makes perfect sense. In this world, might makes right. Even so, how shall I say this… I do not wish to repay kindness with malice.”
Zenberu paused to take a quiet breath. Ainz was reminded of how warriors breathed when they were about to launch an attack.
“In addition, if you launch a surprise attack and begin their extermination after I lead you there, I pray you will forgive me for taking up arms against you.”
A quiet grinding came from behind him, and Ainz said, “It’s fine” to Cocytus.
Even without checking, he already knew it was the sound of Cocytus tightening his grip on his weapons.
What shall I do with you, Ainz thought as he looked haughtily upon Zenberu. It would seem his repeated practice had paid off, because Zenberu’s body froze in terror.
“Well, if that happens, I shall simply have to destroy you as well. Not that I mind… But that is quite a brave thing to say. Have you considered the fact that your betrayal might end up destroying all the Lizardmen in the village as well?”
“…I trust you would not really do that, Your Majesty?”
As Zenberu stared hard at him, Ainz cupped his chin with his thumb and forefinger. Then, he made an announcement.
“It seems you are mistaken. I consider matters in terms of benefits and liabilities. While I will probably not destroy the entire group for the treachery of one man, if it turns out that similar betrayals might occur in the future, and that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits of leaving them alive, do you not think I will exterminate them all without delay? Or do you think I am a brainless, all-loving being?”
Zenberu’s expression changed.
However, Ainz did not know what kind of expression it had changed to.
It seemed odd to be saying this as an undead being himself, but he felt that the Lizardmen were sly.
There was no need to understand the expressions of other races. After all, he was merely an undead being with the memories and experiences of the human being called Suzuki Satoru.
Since Zenberu did not look like he was going to continue speaking, Ainz carried on:
“Ah, don’t worry. I will not destroy this village even if you do betray me. After all, it would not be an organized uprising, and your reaction is quite understandable given your personality and history. They are your old friends — your benefactors? I understand why you would side with them. However, allow me to repeat myself: I will not destroy the Dwarven Kingdom for no reason.”
Whether players were present or not, Ainz did not want to launch straight into hostilities without a dialogue.
After all, things were not progressing very well with the neighboring countries.
Now that they had to vassalize the country which they appeared to have had the best relations with, their name would live in infamy if they ended up waging war on the Dwarves as well.
Therefore, they had to do their best to sign a treaty of friendship with the Dwarves. This way, they could show the nearby countries that the Sorcerous Kingdom was an entity which could abide by pacts and agreements. This would also give them the moral high ground and allow them to limit the actions which could be taken by any players hiding out there.
What would players do if they were wary of the Sorcerous Kingdom?
The most likely outcome was that they would deem the Sorcerous Kingdom an evil empire, and use that as a rallying cry to make war on them.
On the flip side, what would they do if they heard that the Sorcerous Kingdom had signed a treaty of friendship with the Dwarven Kingdom, like a proper, decent nation?
Some people might think that it was signed under duress or that it was gunboat diplomacy. However, on the surface it would appear to be a fair and normal treaty.
Hypothetically speaking, if a player decided to wage war on the Sorcerous Kingdom, that player would certainly invite entities on his level — most likely other players — to join him in his crusade. However, some of these people might think of the Sorcerous Kingdom as a decent nation. These war-averse people might cite the Dwarven treaty as a reason to stay out of the conflict.
Granted, this was a presumptuous conjecture, but he might even be able to strike while the foe was in disunity and defeat them, whereupon the bombshell of “That’s why I didn’t want to fight” would go off and tear the enemy apart.
This was the reason why he wanted to place himself on the moral high ground.
After all, the only thing Ainz feared was a group of players, not just one or two other players.
It was true that players with World-Class Items were fearsome, and so were players with very powerful classes, like World Champion. That said, if they were alone, they would not be able to defeat Nazarick without using one of the Twenty.
“So you can be at ease.”
“—I understand that now.”
“Umu. That is for the best. Can I entrust that task to you then, Zenberu?”
“I understand, Your Majesty. I will take you to that cave city of the Dwarves where I once briefly resided.”
Ainz nodded in satisfaction, and then turned to Zaryusu.
“Good, I will address Zaryusu now. Please accept my felicitations on the birth in the family. Are both mother and child well?”
Zaryusu nervously(?) answered:
“Yes, Your Majesty. They are doing fine. It seems my child is about ready to start walking.”
That said, his investigations revealed that the human children in this world developed faster than those in Suzuki Satoru’s world in all aspects, be it in terms of teething, speaking or walking on their own. Of course, that was merely something he had come up with after comparing his observations to his recollections of what Touch Me had said in the past.
“Is that so? I feel it is quite normal…”
“Ah, I see. I seem to have considered that from a human’s point of view. Children… hm. Currently, I am in the process of building a nation composed of beings from various species working together. If I asked you to live in a nation of humans under my rule for the purpose of advancing that agenda, would you accept?”
“I cannot refuse Your Majesty’s orders.”
“Oh, don’t be like that.”
While Zaryusu might not have intended it to come out that way, it sounded like mockery.
The same thing happened with Ainzach earlier, Ainz mused as he continued speaking.
“I wish to hear your opinion on the matter. Having left the Lizardmen as a Traveler, you should have experience with this sort of thing, am I wrong? In other words, you should be able to think in ways that differ from regular Lizardmen. Because of that, I would like to hear what you think and feel about the ever-changing world that lies ahead of you.”
“I became a Traveler because I felt that things could not go on as they had. I was forced to do so by my circumstances.”
“Even if that was the case, your perspective should have been broadened by seeing the world. If possible, why not substitute yourself with a regular Lizardman and thus evaluate the merits of Lizardmen travelling to a human nation?”
After thinking briefly, Zaryusu spoke once more.
“Personally speaking, I would not want to travel to a human city. I would feel uneasy about doing so with a wife and child in tow. Even if it was a country ruled by Your Majesty… it would be quite difficult.”
Having to abandon familiar surroundings and travel to a completely different environment was deeply distressing. It was only natural that one would want to preserve the surroundings which they were used to. This was especially true for Zaryusu, who was a man that had to shoulder the burden of a family.
There might be some people who did not want to be protected for their entire lives. But Ainz felt that people who could not accept protection when the circumstances called for it were weak, be they PKs or PKKs.
“I see. Then… Is it possible for the children to become accustomed to that sort of thing?”
“Does that mean you only intend to take the children, Your Majesty?”
Ainz sensed faint criticism within those words.
Zaryusu must have thought that Ainz would forcibly separate the children from their parents.
“Don’t let your imagination run wild. I intend to build a nation where different races can coexist in harmony. The first step of that is to create a place where the children of Lizardmen, humans, Goblins and so on can come together and play happily. That is all. …Still, I trust that all of you do not intend to live and die in this tiny little world of a lake, but that you plan to step into the world at large?”
The faces of the Lizardmen filled with complicated expressions.
“Do you mean… You want more people to become Travellers?”
“I take it the job of Traveller is not very glamorous among the Lizardmen, am I wrong? I am simply saying that you should broaden your minds. …I am not quite clear on this, but could it be that you and your wife do not intend to grant your child a wider view of the world?”
A strange look crossed Zaryusu’s face.
“That… is hard to say. I would like to have our children live in a village that is safe and does not lack food, but times are different now.”
He must have been speaking in his capacity as a parent. This was little different from how Ainz wanted the NPCs to live in happiness. As he mused on that, Ainz began feeling a certain kinship with Zaryusu.
“I understand how you feel. One cannot expect change from those who are set in their ways. The quicker the change, the more the older generation will whine and reject it.”
Ainz shrugged while Zaryusu and Zenberu smiled.
“It is as Your Majesty says,” Zaryusu replied. “The elders still complain every now and then.”
“Doesn’t that mean you’re one of those old folks then, Zaryusu?”
Zaryusu looked at Zenberu in bafflement, but even Ainz had picked up on it.
“Parents with children, then? —Yes. Exactly.”
Ainz looked fondly upon Cocytus, who stood by his side.
“Well, it seems I will have to make this point clear. Cocytus, I shall now give you an order.”
“Even if Zenberu chooses to oppose me, you are forbidden to harm his friends within this village.”
“I. Hear. And. Obey. Oh. Supreme. One!”
Ainz nodded in satisfaction to the deeply bowing Cocytus, and then looked back at Zenberu.
“Then, Zenberu. I would like to know everything you know. Tell me where you met the Dwarves, what sort of life you had with them, what sort of gifts please them, and so on. Tell me everything.”
“No problem, Your Majesty.”
“It’s fine, Cocytus. He would lose his head for something like that under official circumstances—”
Ainz looked around.
“However, this is hardly a formal setting. I shall allow this to go unpunished. I believe I am capable of that much.”
Ainz chuckled, and Cocytus spoke again, confused.
Ainz reached out to interrupt Cocytus, and then glared coldly at Zenberu. Then, he used a move he had practiced countless times before the mirror.
“However, Zenberu, there is one thing you should not forget. Cocytus will feel guilty because of the shameful tone you take with me.”
Zenberu’s body shuddered, possibly out of fear.
Are these pre-battle tremors?
“…My sincerest apologies, Your Majesty. Your servant has overstepped himself.”
“—It is fine, You should be grateful to Cocytus, the administrator of this village. Because of him, I will not harm it directly… hm, it seems I have said something pointless. Shall we begin discussing the Dwarven Kingdom?”
“Before. That. Will. You. Not. Take. A. Seat. Ainz-sama?”
Ainz was mildly discomforted by Cocytus’ suggestion.
Ainz did not feel fatigue, so he did not need to sit down. However, he could not simply ignore a valuable suggestion like that.
“Indeed. Let us do so. Cocytus, don’t use something too decadent. Anything I can sit on will be fine.”
“Understood! Then. Please. Excuse. Me.”
Cocytus went to his hands and knees, prostrating himself on the ground.
The image of Shalltear overlaid itself on Cocytus from Ainz’s memory.
“…I think I know what is going on, but it might be best to ask, just in case. What are you doing?”
“I. Heard. That. Shalltear. Once. Did. This. As. Well. Therefore. I. Sought. To. Imitate. Her.”
“That was a punishment for her. There is no need for you to do this.”
“But. The. Lizardmen. Under. Me. Have. Spoken. Disrespectfully. To. You. Ainz-sama—”
“There is no need to bring up the past. I already said I did not mind. Did you not hear me?”
“That. Is. True. But—”
Ainz had tried to talk him around, but Cocytus was proving unexpectedly stubborn. Despite the fact that the undead did not get tired, fatigue filled Ainz’s soul. Sensing difficulty all around him, Ainz decided to abandon his resistance and made a pronouncement.
“—Ah, that’s enough. Then, I shall be taking a seat, Cocytus.”
His reply was quite forceful.
Sitting down like this in front of others was very — well, to some extent, it was embarrassing.
Still, the others would find it strange if he hesitated here. What he should have done was to adopt the air of an absolute ruler and matter-of-factly sit upon the body of his vassal.
Ainz bent at the waist. In truth, it was very uncomfortable. In truth, it was very uneven. And in truth, it was very cold.
On top of that, Cocytus seemed to be huffing and puffing in excitement, leaking an ever-thickening white mist, so it looked as though someone had sprinkled water on dry ice and the vapors were billowing out from between Ainz’s legs. It looked like some cut-rate special effect used to make someone look more impressive, and it made him feel like he was sitting on a bed of nails.
“Does. It. Please. You. Ainz-sama?”
Crap. He could not be honest here.
A bizarrely curious part of him wanted to know what would happen if he did speak his mind, but the thought of Cocytus’ reaction was too frightening.
“Mm, it’s not bad…”
Will I sound like a pervert if I say that, Ainz frantically thought. However, he could not think of anything else to say.
“Then. May. I. Know. Whether. You. Prefer. Shalltear. Or. Myself?”
Ainz was struck dumb. How should he answer?
“Eh… Why, why do you want to know?”
“Yes! I. Feel. That. I. Must. Practice. For. When. I. Must. Someday. Bear. My. Master. Upon. My. Back.”
What the hell was he talking about?
Was Cocytus of a species which allowed the female to mount them during reproduction? Or was he just a sexual masochist?
No, he should have been more decent than that. He might have loved fighting, but he should have been a good man who rarely gave people trouble.
But why did Cocytus turn out this way? Ainz was shaken to the core, as though he had discovered someone else’s secret fetish.
“Is, is that so. That’s good.”
Although, Ainz did not know whether it was good at all.
“Yes! Then. Dare. I. Ask. What. Your. Answer. Is. Ainz-sama?”
“It’s slightly uneven, but not to the extent that I can’t sit down. In that sense, Shalltear is slightly better.”
“Is. That. So…”
“No! No, I mean, you have your advantages as well. Ah, how shall I put this, cold… yes, this cool sensation would be best on summer days.”
Ainz could not help but wonder why he was so desperate to comfort Cocytus.
“I. See! However… Mm.”
While silently rejoicing that Cocytus had fallen silent to think, Ainz addressed the Lizardman.
“Th-then! Pay no attention to what is happening over here. Come, Zenberu, tell me.”
According to Zenberu, he had climbed up and down slopes and peaks to find the Dwarves, spending a month in a fruitless search. It was only when he was about to give up that he encountered a Dwarf who came out to explore the surface. After that, various things happened, and he earned the Dwarves’ trust and was brought to their city.
His appearance had not done him any favors at first, but he had apparently gained their trust after baring his heart to them.
After that, he had learned martial arts in the Dwarven city. He left once he gained enough confidence in himself and returned to the Lizardman village.
The most important thing among all this was whether or not Zenberu could lead Ainz and his party to the Dwarven city.
Zenberu looked a little uncomfortable, but in the end he replied that he could probably do it.
The Dwarven city was underground, in the depths of a cavern, so he should be able to lead him there as long as the mountain’s terrain did not change. When he heard this, Ainz was reminded of the underground cities in YGGDRASIL, and he could not help but get excited.
The last thing he asked about was the distance to the Dwarven city.
Zenberu replied that the journey back from the Dwarven Kingdom had taken about a week along the mountain trails. That had brought him to the northernmost tip of the lake.
Given the Lizardmen were not used to walking on land, a week’s journey on foot roughly translated to about 100 kilometers.
Unfortunately, they had to rely on Zenberu’s memories, so they could not plot the shortest course on a map.
I should be prepared to stray off course repeatedly.
It made him think of his adventures in YGGDRASIL, and Ainz smiled broadly.
“…Is this information useful to you, Your Majesty?”
“Of course. I welcome expeditions in the dark with only a feeble lantern to light the way. That is what they call excitement, no?”
Perhaps they thought Ainz was making a joke, but quiet laughter came from the ranks of the Lizardmen.
Ainz did not intend to correct their mistake. People who did not know YGGDRASIL would find it hard to understand.
“Then, I shall appoint Zenberu as my guide, and we shall prepare to set out according to what he has told me. Aura and Shalltear will arrive soon with their followers in tow, so you should get yourself ready too.”
“I hear and obey, Your Majesty.”
Ainz nodded graciously to him, and then rose from Cocytus’ body.
He paid no heed to the quiet, mournful sound from below him.