Chapter 3: The Impending Crisis
The Great Rift.
It referred to the huge chasm that ran along the western side of the Dwarven Capital, Feoh Gēr.
It was a massive crevasse, over 60 km long and 120m across at its narrowest point. Its depth was unknown. Nobody knew what was waiting down there, and nobody had returned alive from the two expeditions that had been sent out to investigate it.
For the longest time, this natural barrier had protected Feoh Gēr from all manner of monstrous attacks. They could thwart any monsters from the west that tried to invade so long as they defended the suspension bridge which ran across the Great Rift.
Yet today, Feoh Gēr’s garrison — the military base that stood between the Great Rift and Feoh Gēr — was in a whirl of shouts and confusion.
“What’s going on? Someone tell me exactly what is going on!”
That cry came from the commander-in-chief of the Dwarven Army, a veteran of over 10 years of service.
The information coming in was garbled and contradictory, and nobody had any idea of what was happening. The only thing he could be certain about was that something had happened at the fortress which defended the Great Rift.
“The most recent information we have says that the Quagoa are attacking!” one of the platoon commanders said, repeating a report from the fortress.
News like that was hardly uncommon. The Quagoa and the Dwarves were mortal enemies, and they frequently attacked in groups of hundreds. There had been more attacks during the commander-in-chief’s ten years of service than he could remember, but until now all of them had been turned away at the fortress. None of them had managed to get close to the garrison, much less Feoh Gēr itself.
This was because the Quagoa were a race that was strong against weapon attacks, but very weak against electrical attacks. Knowing this, they had stocked the fortress with magic items that could produce [Lightning] and comparable effects.
[Lightning] was a spell that pierced the enemy in a straight line, and thus extremely effective against an enemy which lined itself up to attack a bridge. It could wipe out an entire wave of Quagoa in one shot, and on top of that, the Dwarves guarding that place were armed with crossbows enchanted with the ability to inflict additional electrical damage.
In contrast, the Dwarves in the garrison were inferior in both gear and numbers. However, it was not because they did not wish to allocate military power to an important base, but because the Dwarven Army had always lacked in manpower. Thus, the fortress had to draw its defenders from their meager pool of troops, and they had to do so in numbers which would not invite censure.
Despite all this specialization against Quagoa attacks, the fortress was now in a state where they did not even have the people left to call for aid. What did that mean?
“Don’t tell me they were attacked by too many enemies for them to fight off! Have there been any other messages from the fortress?”
“Nothing until now.”
Cold sweat poured down the commander-in-chief’s back.
The words “big invasion” appeared before his eyes. There had been rumors of such a thing several years ago, but even so, he had been trying his best to deceive himself, saying that there was no such thing. Yet, it was unfolding before his eyes.
The commander-in-chief pulled himself together. Now was not the time to contemplate such ghastly things.
What was the right thing to do now?
A gently-sloping tunnel in the shape of a spiral led from this garrison to the fortress, and ahead of them was the capital Feoh Gēr. The cavern where the garrison was located at was their final defensive line, and on top of that, they had gates of mithril which were alloyed with orichalcum. They could withstand an enemy attack from the tunnel if they closed the gates.
Should they close the gates?
If they did so, they would not be able to send out reinforcements from here. In other words, they would be abandoning their comrades, who might be fighting for their lives at the fortress.
Still, his hesitation only lasted for a moment.
There were less than 20 people in the fortress. There were over 100’000 Dwarves in Feoh Gēr. There could be only one answer when one thought of which side had priority.
“Close the gates!”
“Relay the orders! Close the gates!”
Before the echoes faded from the air, a thrumming sound came from the earth. Slowly, the gates covered the entrance. These gates, which had not been touched except during training, were now being used for their true purpose.
“Sir! It’s the Quagoa!”
After hearing the cry from the soldiers guarding the tunnel entrance, the commander-in-chief turned to look. He saw the disgusting form of a demihuman, foaming at the mouth, its eyes bloodshot.
Without lightning-enchanted weapons, even one of them was a formidable foe. And now, hordes of them, so many that they could not counted with both hands, were rushing at them.
How could this be? Had the fortress really fallen? How many men had the Quagoa brought with them? Could they hold against them even if they shut the gates?
The commander-in-chief had these and many other questions in his heart, but in the end he shook his head.
“Don’t let them in! Spearmen, forward!”
With great cries, the soldiers formed up into a spear line.
Even seeing this did not slow the speed of the Quagoa charge. This was because they trusted in their fur and hide to protect them against metal.
The commander-in-chief clicked his tongue. The Quagoa had made a wise choice. Their skin was such that crossbow bolts might bounce off when fired at them. The only thing a spear line could do was to hold them at bay. However, the people here had anticipated that the Quagoa would try something like this, and they had naturally taken steps against it.
A third-tier area-of-effect spell, [Thunderball] and two second-tier spells, [Thunderlances] came from the balcony overlooking the spearmen, at an angle which would not hit them.
The casters of these spells were the three most powerful mages in the army.
The group running at the head of the horde was instantly slain by the [Thunderball], as one would expect of the Quagoa’s bane. The Quagoa behind them stopped to avoid being hit by it as well.
It was only for a short period, but it gave them breathing room.
The gates closed with a great clang. The sounds of hammering and banging filtered through from the other side of the sturdy doors.
The tense atmosphere in the air lightened somewhat. However, the commander-in-chief, the men around him, and everyone here knew that this was not over yet.
The gates were very tough. The teeth and claws of regular Quagoa would not be able to damage them. However, some Quagoa had teeth which were said to rival the hardness of mithril. While these were leader-level beings, it would not be unusual to find such entities participating in an attack like this. There was no way to rule out any problems.
“Dammit! If only the gate was electrified!”
That was a suggestion the commander-in-chief had made when he had first taken his position. After all, the gates alone were not reliable enough as a final line of defense. Of course, there had been various reasons for why they could not enchant the gates, such as a lack of national power, but a big part of that had been because the fortress had always managed to stop any enemy invasions. Thus, the higher-ups had the attitude that “as long as the fortress holds, everything will be fine”.
Looking around, he saw grim and dark expressions on everyone’s faces.
This was bad. If they lost their hope for the future, they would end up losing when the fighting became desperate.
The commander-in-chief decided to turn the situation around, and shouted:
“Well done! We’ve ensured the city’s safety! But it’s not guaranteed by any means! Start setting up barricades in case the enemy breaks through the gates! Hurry up!”
New determination filled the faces of the Dwarven soldiers. The knowledge that there was still something they could do rekindled their motivation. Even a fragile hope was better than none at all.
The commander-in-chief’s chief of staff stood beside him and whispered into his ear.
“Sir, should we bury the gate with sand and dirt?”
The commander-in-chief pondered the other Dwarf’s words.
If they sealed it off completely, many Dwarves would express their disapproval.
“They have no idea what’s going on.”
The commander-in-chief noticed his chief of staff’s expression. He had probably assumed the commander-in-chief’s statement to be a reply to his question.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean you. I meant that lot — the Regent Council.”
“You’re one of them too, aren’t you, commander-in-chief? So that’s their response to a complete lockdown? Personally, I don’t think sealing it off is enough. We should abandon Feoh Gēr.”
The commander-in-chief narrowed his eyes and dragged his chief of staff by the hand to a place where the men would not hear them.
He did not want their conversation to be overheard by anyone.
“You think so too?”
They had no idea how many Quagoa were on the other side of that gate.
The enemy attack had been too swift and they had been forced onto the back foot. Thus, they had lost many chances to learn about the enemy. What they were doing now was like locking themselves up and closing their eyes.
The only solid piece of data they had was that the enemy had enough fighting power to bring down the hitherto impregnable fortress, and they had to think of a way to deal with that.
Under these circumstances, and after taking their fighting power into consideration, it would be extremely difficult for the Dwarves to open the gates and beat back the enemy. The best solution might well be to abandon their capital.
“Then, how much time will burying it in dirt and soil buy us?”
“If we collapse the cavern, we’ll be able to buy a lot of time, but if we use sand and dirt alone, we’ll only gain a few days at most.”
“What dangers will a collapse pose?”
“As you know, we aren’t far from Feoh Gēr. Although I can’t really be sure without having the Tunnel Doctors check, there’s a chance that it might affect the city as well. The worst case scenario is that a shortcut opens up from beyond the gates and the Quagoa pour through it and into Feoh Gēr…”
“In other words, we need to find out right now. Then, next question. Do you think the fortress fell under sheer weight of numbers? Why didn’t the people in the fortress inform us sooner?”
“I thought of a few possibilities. Personally, the most likely option is that the Quagoa have enlisted the help of another species.”
“Could it be the Frost Dragons?”
The Quagoa had conquered the former Dwarven capital of Feoh Berkanan, and had taken it as their home. However, the Royal Palace at the heart of the city was ruled by a Frost Dragon.
Both parties did not have a perfectly cooperative relationship, but since they lived together, they might help each other out.
The commander-in-chief’s face blanched. Frost Dragons were essentially natural disasters once they reached a certain age.
There had originally been four Dwarven cities.
Feoh Berkanan, which had been abandoned during the attack of the Demon Gods 200 years ago.
Feoh Gēr of the east, which was their current capital.
Feoh Raiđō to the south, which had been abandoned several years ago.
And finally, Feoh Tiwaz, to the west.
This western city had been destroyed during a battle between two Frost Dragons — Olasird’arc=Haylilyal and Munuinia=Ilyslym, and it was little more than tumbled ruins.
“I feel that it’s very likely. While I don’t know what they did to induce that arrogant lot to take action, the other alternative is that they did it themselves; either they invented some kind of spell, or they found a route that bypassed the Great Rift.”
“Even we Dwarves haven’t found a way around the Great Rift.”
“Still, how many years ago was that? Perhaps the Quagoa dug a tunnel or something as other monsters moved, or the earth’s crust shifted and gave them a detour. If you think about it, they might have gone above ground too.”
“The Quagoa on the surface?”
“There might be an individual with that ability.”
The Quagoa were completely blind under the sun, so it was impossible for the Quagoa to move their forces on the surface.
However, that was merely wishful thinking on his part.
No, it was too late to regret it now. He had to take that into consideration when planning future strategies.
“Chief of Staff, we need to consider that they might be able to travel aboveground and enhance our surface defenses accordingly. Send a few people over without compromising our defense here. We also need to get word to the Council and have them evacuate to the south.”
In addition to this garrison, the fortress in front of the Great Rift and the Council Chamber in the city itself, there was one more military base in the Dwarven city of Feoh Gēr.
It was a fortress erected for the benefit of those people taller than Dwarves — humans, for example — at the exit leading to the surface. The commander-in-chief gave the order to reinforce that area and stay alert for any surface attacks.
“Also, have the men prepare to bury the door. If we need the Council’s permission, I’ll find a way to convince them.”
“What if the Council takes their time deliberating?”
“Do your best. I’ll do my best too.”
That was all he could say. Of course, his plan was to push for it as hard as possible, in his position as one of the eight councillors, but if the others vetoed him, then all he could do was try as hard as he could on his own.
“Report! Report! I have a report! Where’s the commander-in-chief?!”
Looking toward the source of that voice, the commander-in-chief saw a Dwarven soldier mounted on a Riding Lizard.
Riding Lizards were a kind of Giant Lizard. They were large reptiles that measured three meters from head to tail. They were not very numerous, so the Dwarves raised them as mounts and used them as pack beasts for day to day work.
However, most runners would not use them to relay a message. They were only employed in dire circumstances — when they needed to let the garrison know about the conditions on the frontline.
Unease filled the heart of the commander-in-chief.
“Where’s that man from?”
“He should have been posted to the fortress at the surface entrance this week.”
That validated the feeling of dread in the commander-in-chief’s heart. No, given the man’s expression and his near-crazed tone, it was plainly obvious. Asking that much was simply because he did not want to acknowledge the reality before his eyes.
“I’m here! What is it?”
The messenger ran towards the commander-in-chief at full speed. It could not be delayed. This was something which had to be heard immediately so a course of action could be quickly determined.
The messenger fell off the Lizard’s back, and shouted as he desperately tried to right himself.
“Commander-in-chief! There’s an emergency! Mon-monsters! There’s monsters!”
He had expected it to be about Quagoa, but he quickly ruled that out. The man would not have used those words to describe Quagoa.
“Calm down! We can’t figure out what you’re saying! What happened? Is everyone else alright?”
“Y-yes! There’s scary monsters at the entrance! They say they want to talk about the Quagoa army headed this way!”
Their timing was too perfect. He could not imagine that the two events were unconnected. Could they be the bosses of the Quagoa, or the ones who helped them cross the Great Rift?
“Who, who are they? What do they look like! Chief of Staff! Gather every man who can move right now!”
The commander-in-chief did not even have the time to watch his panicked subordinate leave.
“How many of those monsters are there?! What are your losses?!”
“Y-yes! There’s about 30 of them. But they don’t seem to want to fight! They even said they wanted to make a deal with us, but they looked very evil, so I don’t think that was their real intention. There must be some sort of scheme at work!”
How exactly did they qualify as evil? More importantly, this man had not described them yet. After being questioned again, the soldier gulped and explained,
“They’re fearsome-looking undead surrounded by an inauspicious-looking aura!”
“What?! The undead?!”
Beings who hated the living, who sowed death in their wake, the enemies of everything that lived.
Several images appeared in the commander-in-chief’s mind as he heard the word “undead”. For instance, Freezing Zombies, Frost Bones, and the like. However, none of those undead were powerful adversaries. This man should have known that. In that case, why was he so afraid?
Besides, why had the undead come here? Were they here to delight in the mutual massacre of the Dwarves and Quagoa, both of which were living beings?
“Chief of Staff, are you ready yet?! Move out once you’re done! We don’t know what kind of undead are out there, but do not take them lightly! Don’t let them underestimate us! They may not be acting haughtily, but if they look down on us, we’ll be in danger!!”
The group advanced, with Gondo in the lead.
Since Gondo usually travelled underground, he was not very familiar with the surface. Therefore, he had to rely on his sense of direction over the terrain when it came to moving forward. Initially, Ainz was worried about this. But after seeing Gondo advance without hesitation, he began to trust the man. Now, he had wholly entrusted the task of guidance to him.
The fact was that Gondo had no reason to deliberately lead Ainz astray now that the Quagoa were attacking the Dwarven capital. That being the case, there should be no problem having him lead the way.
Under Gondo’s leadership, Aura’s magical beasts moved across the snow like it was a grassy plain.
They boasted high dexterity and great stamina, as expected of high-level magical beasts. Even in the thin air of the snowy mountains and bearing Ainz and the others on their backs, their speed did not decrease one bit. They headed north at speeds of over 100 km per hour.
They had spotted several flying monsters during their journey, but a few threatening growls from the magical beasts scared them all away. Thanks to that, their travel time was cut to a minimum.
In less than a day, they had reached the sole remaining Dwarven city, Feoh Gēr.
Ainz guided his beast over to Gondo and asked him a question.
“…Well then, Gondo. The southern city of Feoh Raiđō was accessed through a fissure in a cave. Is Feoh Gēr like that as well?”
If that was the case, they would need to search for a way in. Gondo — who had initially been frightened by his magical beast, but was now used to riding it — replied:
“Umu. Most cities where Dwarves live are like that. However, Feoh Gēr was designed with considerations for large-scale trade with humans, so it’s slightly different from Feoh Raiđō. Firstly, it’s easy for humans to find, and in order to minimize any discomfort for visitors, they built a huge fortress on the outside. You’ll know it when you see it.”
Ainz looked around after hearing that, but he still could not find any trace of a structure.
“You won’t see it if you don’t head further northeast.”
Gondo’s words were full of confidence. It would seem he was quite certain of where their destination was. Since he was the only one who could lead them, there was nothing Ainz could do if he was wrong, so all he could do was trust him.
While saying “Is that so,” Ainz cast his [Message] spell.
The captured Quagoa had been taken to Nazarick. There, they had been questioned, and their knowledge used to supplement Gondo’s report.
The Quagoa were a race that submitted to the strong, but the Quagoa of the Azellisian Mountain Range were divided into eight clans, all of whom were united under the Clan Lord. They numbered 80’000 in total.
After analyzing this information, Ainz stamped them as a race which held no charm for him.
If he had to choose between helping the Dwarves or the Quagoa, Ainz would choose the former without hesitation.
However, he learned that the metals which the Quagoa ate when they were young determined their strength when they matured. If he let them eat the metals of Nazarick, it could give rise to a powerful individual.
Then, he thought about the prismatic ores in the Dwarven Kingdom.
Even if he had not eaten one of the prismatic ores, perhaps this Clan Lord had reached his station by eating one of the rare metals of YGGDRASIL.
If he was strong enough to capture, then it was worth investigating him.
I should consider taking them in if they can obey the Sorcerous Kingdom, even though I’m not confident about feeding 80’000 people. After all, that’s the sort of country I want.
The country Ainz wanted.
It was a nation where many races lived in harmony under his rule. It was a nation which reproduced the image one had of the guild Ainz Ooal Gown.
It was a nation where his friends, wherever they were, could live and smile.
That being the case, he ought to show these Quagoa some mercy.
Still, if they swear their loyalty to me, where should I put them? This mountain is a little sparse… what about the mountain range to the south of E-Rantel? But there might be residents there too… Umu, what a pain. The Lizardmen have the same technology level as them. Perhaps my experience in ruling them could be put to use. It might be a good idea to let Cocytus handle them.
After thinking this far, Ainz considered the opposite side of the coin.
What if they don’t bend the knee? Shall I rule them by force? Shall I exterminate them? Or should I kill all the adults and use the children for experiments? Is forcing them into one clan and then ruling over them the best way?
As he considered various matters, Gondo’s shout interrupted Ainz’s train of thought.
Ainz looked where Gondo was pointing, and sure enough, there was something which looked like a fortress built up against the side of the mountain.
The group headed straight for it. While there were many ways to conceal themselves, there was no point in doing so, and thus they proceeded directly and openly.
As they closed the distance to the fortress, the defenders at the fortress spotted them, and the sentries came to life.
Much like what he would do before a sales pitch, Ainz inspected his clothing, and made sure his robe was neat and tidy. Of course, it was a magic item and could not get torn or wrinkled, but his memories as Suzuki Satoru told him that he should check anyway.
After they approached the fortress, the Dwarves cocked their crossbows and took aim from the windows.
The only people who might be lethally wounded by the bolts were Gondo and Zenberu.
While he had thought of sending them to negotiate to prove that they had no hostile intentions, they might end up being shot by bolts if things went wrong, so he abandoned that idea. Instead, Ainz would proceed first, while Gondo and Zenberu would show up later.
He halted his beast outside the effective range of their crossbows and then dismounted. Because he was still within the maximum range of the crossbows, he ordered Shalltear and Aura to stand by and protect Gondo and Zenberu.
After that, all that remained was anti-player strategies.
If there were any players, they would immediately take a defensive stance and fall back. While he could not confirm the presence or absence of players during his talks with Gondo on the road, it was more likely that they did not exist. However, if he was careless, he might end up losing the NPCs (the children) and Ainz did not want to experience that a second time.
All the Dwarves watching him from the window had the same frozen expression on their faces. Thanks to their messy beards, he could not differentiate one individual Dwarf from another, but how should he put this — they looked comical.
Suppressing the urge to laugh, Ainz stepped forward, faking an air of calm.
His hands were raised, to show that he had no hostile intent.
As he drew closer to the fortress—
“Hold it right there!”
—A warning cry rang out. It sounded like its owner was having a seizure. Granted, he was undead, but Ainz could not help sighing internally as he mused, this is a pretty bad reception for someone who’s showing no signs of hostility.
“Why have you come here, undead!”
Ainz stroked his shiny cheekbones.
“I am the Sorcerer King Ainz Ooal Gown of the Sorcerous Kingdom, and I have come to forge a friendly relationship with the Dwarven nation. We will not attack you if you do not attack us, so please lower your weapons.”
Confusion appeared in the eyes of the Dwarves watching from the windows. Ainz took this chance to continue speaking:
“After capturing the Quagoa who invaded Feoh Raiđō, I learned of their plans to attack this place. If you have no faith in your strength of arms, then I — my Kingdom — will gladly render assistance. Yes, that’s right — it will be a good show of friendship.”
He smiled, but because he had no skin, the benevolence of his gesture did not carry over to the opposite side.
“What about that Dwarf behind you? Is he a hostage?!”
It would seem the Dwarves were still wary of him.
“How rude. I am a king, you know? Is that any way to talk to a king?”
The Dwarves looked at each other, and then one of them responded.
“No, no… hang on, show us some proof that you’re really a king!”
“—-I see. That does make sense,” Ainz agreed. “Then, allow me to introduce him. He is one of you, Gondo the smith, whom I met in Feoh Raiđō.”
Ainz showed off the kingly movements he had been taking great pains to practice.
With the air of a natural-born leader, he gestured to his subordinate to step forward.
A deep sense of satisfaction filled Ainz as he heard the stifled gasps of awe coming from the Dwarves. It would seem his long hours of practice had not gone to waste.
Now that Gondo was here, Ainz — who was in a good mood — showed off another pose of a gracious king and yielded the floor to him.
“Sorry, but can you enter the fortress and explain the situation to them in detail?”
“Umu, leave it to me.”
Gondo advanced to the fortress gates and requested permission to enter, but the gates did not open.
“I don’t know. Maybe something happened?”
“… Is, is that really him?! Is that really Gondo the Weirdo? Maybe someone used magic to take his face!”
Ainz frowned as he heard the Dwarves’ voices. Staying alert was very important, and even Ainz approved of it. Still, they would not be able to make any progress if nobody trusted them.
However, he had heard something about the possibility of meeting an acquaintance here. If that was the case, they would be very fortunate.
“I say, Gondo, can you prove yourself to them by showing your knowledge of this city? Like say, where you live, something that only a person who lived in this city would know?”
“Oh, ohhh, yes… I’ll tell that guy’s wife his secret. Ah, there’s a restaurant called the Black Gold Beard Pavilion! It’s run by a guy whose face looks like an anvil. His food tastes terrible, and the only decent thing there is the stew!”
The Dwarves fell silent. Ainz looked at Gondo, somewhat lost for words. His reply seemed like he was trying too hard.
“Idiot! That place isn’t for eating, but for drinking! Their stout tastes best!”
“Liar! It’s the red mushroom beer that’s the most delicious!”
“What are you saying, their cloudy wine is the best! Just imagine that bubbly fragrance!”
(TL Note: 濁り酒 – nigorizake)
“None of you know what real beer tastes like! Bearded Lady’s the best!”
Ainz made a mental note that the Dwarves liked their beer a lot, and then replied to them:
“How about it? Can you accept that this is the real Gondo? Speaking of which, all we wanted to do was inform you that the Quagoa are trying to circle around the Great Rift and attack this city. All you have to do is send our warning to the people at the top. This way, our country will have discharged its duty, even if the Quagoa attack is a fierce one. It would be quite upsetting if you chastised us afterwards.”
Several Dwarves pulled their heads back from the windows.
Some time passed. It would seem several people were having a discussion.
“Wait there! We’ll send a report to our commander-in-chief!”
According to Gondo, that person was the highest appointment holder in this country’s military.
It would seem they realised that this had to go to their highest authority.
Ainz did not suppress his chuckling.
There was a clattering noise, and when Ainz glanced towards its source, he saw that Dwarves had trained their crossbows on him once more. Their breathing was ragged; they seemed to be in the grip of powerful emotions.
Crap. Are they angry because I laughed?
“Forgive me. In any event, is it all right if only Gondo enters? He’s proven his origins, hasn’t he?”
“No, he can’t, no, it’s not allowed, stay there! Wait there!”
He had not been laughing at them, but it would seem he had upset them all the same.
Ainz’s strong emotions were suppressed, but small emotional ripples could sneak by.
How would a company react if a salesman whom they had never met before before smiled at them as though he had something to hide? Ainz was annoyed at himself for not thinking about that. It had resulted in a mistake.
I should be more careful, Ainz thought as he backed away together with Gondo.
And so they stood there for some time.
When Jircniv came to visit, I provided refreshments, furniture and made all sorts of preparations to welcome them. Don’t the Dwarves do things like that? …No, the circumstances now are different from back then.
In contrast to Jircniv’s prearranged visit, Ainz was essentially a cold-calling door-to-door salesman. He should be grateful that they had not chased him away on the spot.
In addition, he would not be able to enjoy any drinks they gave him, considering his body.
Still, we did give the Dwarves very valuable information. I was hoping for an appropriate response. Well, I can use that as fodder for negotiation during official diplomatic relations. I’ll bear with it for now.
Still, it would probably be better to change and avoid giving offense.
First, he took out a fake Staff of Ainz Ooal Gown. It was a perfect cosmetic copy, down to the metal used in its construction. However, that was all; it did not possess even a tenth of the power of the original, and it was merely socketed with jewels that had the same color as the original.
Ainz imbued the staff with a red glow, which quickly darkened. Why did it have such an adjustment function? His past companions’ obsession filled him with irritation.
It did not seem to be linked to his own aura.
Ainz radiated a black halo from behind him, but as expected, the staff’s aura did not change.
Is it just a visual effect?
There was a sudden clatter, which snapped Ainz out of his thoughts. When he turned to look at the source of the sound, he saw three Dwarves seated on the ground.
They looked like the Dwarves manning the fortress, but at the same time they seemed more impressive. In truth, two of them were better-dressed than the other. That one must have been a soldier in this fortress, and the other two would probably be his superiors.
…Why are the three of them sitting there? Is sitting down to talk the proper etiquette amongst Dwarves? …They’re staring at me with eyes wide open. It would be annoying if it’s a Dwarf-only expression.
Their mouths were hidden by their beards, so it was difficult to see the looks they had on their faces.
Baffled, Ainz nevertheless extended a hand to the seated Dwarfs.
One could take that as the intention to help them up, or that he wanted to shake hands. But in truth, he wanted to tell them that he would rather talk while standing.
It was hard adjusting to different cultures. If he handled this poorly, the other side might take offense.
If they attacked him with something like, “You should have done some research on our country’s customs since you wanted to form a relationship with us”, he would have nothing to say in response.
Though he was very uneasy about this, Ainz gave thanks to his unmoving face, and kept his hand extended.
The Dwarves glanced back and forth between Ainz’s face and hands, a troubled look on their faces.
Hm? Could it be that they’re afraid of me?! …Well, given that I look like this… it can’t be helped, right? Reactions like this are kind of expected from humanoid society…
Although they feared him in E-Rantel as well, they had not reacted in this way. Therefore, it might be that taking the hand of a highly-placed person was impolite in their society.
In the end, the worried Ainz decided to pull them up by the hand.
Since they have the time to waste on this pointless business, it should mean that the Quagoa haven’t attacked yet. If they did attack, we could have them owe us a big one, but just warning them about it would count as a small favor, so I should bear with it. Ahhh, what a shame. Still, which one of them is their leader?
“Well then, I am the Sorcerer-King Ainz Ooal Gown. Are you the gentlemen who are in charge of welcoming me?”
He did not know which of the higher-ups was of higher rank, so he addressed the space between them. Then one of the Dwarves nodded forcefully, like he was trying to shake something off his face.
“Ahem! I, I am the man in charge of the military—”
“The military— I see.”
So this was the commander-in-chief. Ainz was surprised. He had not expected their top man to come down in person.
Could it be that this country has heard of the Sorcerous Kingdom before? Or rather… was it because I brought them news at a very opportune time?
“—Are there any problems with the Quagoa? I do apologize for making you come down in person during a busy time, commander-in-chief.”
The commander-in-chief’s eyes went wide.
“I see… so you already know why I came, then?”
What the hell is he talking about, Ainz thought. Naturally, he did not actually say it.
“—Of course. That is correct.”
He nodded magnanimously, in the regal manner he had practiced many times before.
“…I see. …Well, as you know, we’ve somehow halted the Quagoa advance for now — no, we’re trying to hold them back.”
“Ho. Hoho. …And?”
Ainz wanted to ask the Dwarf what he thought Ainz knew, but since Ainz had already pretended that he was well-informed, that line of questioning was ruled out.
But has anything leaked out about me?
All he could do was hang on to that thought as he looked forward to their response.
“Before that, I heard from my men that you obtained your information after questioning some Quagoa captured in Feoh Raiđō. Do you have any evidence to support it?”
“There is Gondo, a citizen of this country—”
“Hm, so, you want to see the captured Quagoa, then? I can bring forth several of them and you can ask them yourselves.”
“An immediate answer… It seems I will have to be frank with you, then. …At this rate, an evacuation to Feoh Raiđō will be very difficult.”
Judging by the reproachful tone taken by the man beside the commander-in-chief, Ainz guessed that the man was harping on the fact that the commander-in-chief was talking about military secrets in front of Ainz. However the commander-in-chief calmly continued:
“His Majesty already knows everything. It is as he said — the fact that someone who should be commanding at the frontlines is here is a clear sign of a stalemate. Since he already knows that, it should also be easy to imagine what our troops — who cannot look forward to any reinforcements — intend to do.”
No, I was just asking to be polite. However, Ainz could not speak the truth, and instead he nodded, in the practiced manner of a true ruler.
The commander-in-chief described the terrible state they were in.
The fortress defending the Great Rift had fallen, and they had been pushed back to their final defensive line. Only one gate stood between them and the enemy, and if it fell, the foe would pour into the city and many Dwarves would die. While they had originally planned to buy some time for people to flee to Feoh Raiđō, it was clear that the survival of the entire species would be in doubt if the plan was not radically altered.
After Ainz learned of the Dwarves’ dire straits, he smiled in his heart. Everything was developing in a favorable direction for him.
“How about this? I will lend you the use of my forces to beat back the Quagoa for the time being. What do you think?”
The commander narrowed his eyes, as though to hide the emotion within them.
“Can you do that? But…”
Traditionally speaking, one would need to put down the terms of a deal in writing before a contract could be signed. There were many advantages in handling matters in that way. However, if he freely lent them his strength, he would earn the gratitude of everyone present. One could make gains with a loan that one could not with a written agreement, and Ainz was gunning for that.
Between the fixed and the formless, the formless was generally more troublesome. It was like paying for a meal at a restaurant based on one’s mood. There was the chance that one would be overcharged compared to paying a fixed price.
Generosity is often similar to greed, hm? Did Punitto Moe-san say that?
“After coming all this way and taking so much effort to find you, it would be quite troublesome for me if the country I wished to befriend was destroyed. Won’t you accept my help?”
“…But if we don’t have the approval of the Council…”
“Well, as long as there’s enough time, it should be alright. This is simply an offer of assistance from me. The final decision is yours. Of course, the Council should settle important things in session… but you should know how this sort of thing usually ends up. Meetings go on from dawn to dusk and in the end nobody can come to a conclusion. While it would be a shame to let my journey up to now go to waste, it can’t be helped.”
“…Your Majesty, are you confident in your ability to repulse the Quagoa?”
“If they are only of the calibre that we saw in Feoh Raiđō, then it should be child’s play.”
Mm, Gondo nodded from the side.
“Of course, that is before the Quagoa break into the city. It is very difficult to eliminate only the enemy during a chaotic melee. I trust you wouldn’t want to stand by and let the fighting spill over into the Dwarven city? So I think that right now, your one little door is your last chance, right?”
A bitter expression came over the commander-in-chief’s face—
“—How much longer do you have? How many more days can the gate hold out?”
Ainz’s repeated hammering on the point seemed to have made up the commander-in-chief’s mind for him.
“…I understand. Your Majesty, I pray you will lend us your nation’s strength.”
Another soldier called out in a panicked voice, and the commander-in-chief glared sharply at him.
Then, the commander-in-chief apologized briefly to Ainz before taking the other man some distance away, so he could not hear.
Then, they talked.
He could hear fragments of conversation, like “this is bad”, “un—”, “Quagoa”, “we still”, “danger before us”, “in any case” and so on.
The general idea seemed to be that it would be hard for them to deal with the Quagoa on their own, so they should take advantage of this opportunity and gamble on it.
It would seem the time had come for one last push.
Infusing strength into his voice, Ainz called out:
“Don’t you think it’s about time to decide your future plans now?”
There were eight clans of Quagoa living in the Azellisia Mountain Range.
They were the Pu Rimidol clan, the Pu Randel clan, the Pu Surix clan, the Po Ram clan, the Po Shyunem clan, the Po Gusua clan, the Zu Aygen clan and the Zu Riyushuk clan.
The children of Pu — the hero of old — formed three clans that took his name, and they feuded with the clans which named themselves Po and Zu. There were slight differences between each individual clan, but on the whole each was composed of 10’000 Quagoa, for a total of 80’000 Quagoa distributed throughout the Azellisia Mountain Range.
Now, if someone wanted to know if the Quagoa people were strong, the answer was that they were not.
Even if one clan had 10’000 members, the Quagoa had little in the way of technology or civilization, and ranked among the lesser races of the mountains. They were little more than prey for the strong.
Now, if one asked who the greatest enemy of the Quagoa race was, the answer would be the fellow clans of their race. No, sometimes even the people of their own clans could become their enemies. Other monsters viewed the Quagoa as little more than food. They did not hate the Quagoa, nor did they compete with them. However, their fellow Quagoa thought differently.
That was due to the way in which the Quagoa grew.
The ores and rocks which the Quagoa ate at a young age determined their abilities later in life. In other words, they had to compete with their own people for rare ores and metals to strengthen their bloodline. Thus, their fellow clans were their enemies, but it was only natural that the nearby foe was more troublesome than a distant one.
Similarly, the Dwarves who contended with them for ores were also their enemies, but it was more likely that the dwarves would chase them away with their lightning-enchanted weapons.
However, at some point, a hero of legends — one who surpassed Pu, the hero of old — was born.
He was the Lord of the Clans, Pe Riyuro.
His might far surpassed that of the Blue and Red Quagoa. His overwhelming power allowed him to unite the clans.
Riyuro’s revolution did not stop there.
After discovering an abandoned dwarven city, he gathered the clans there and formed monster-fighting units, using Dwarven prisoners to develop agriculture and animal husbandry.
That was not all. Usually, when a new clan leader was born, he would exterminate the bloodline of the previous clan leader. This was the commonly-accepted means by which power was exchanged within the Quagoa people. However, Riyuro did not do that. Instead, he chose to let the leaders of the various clans rule themselves. However, Riyuro ordered all the ores to be brought to him. Those who obeyed Riyuro and performed well would be given rare ores, regardless of their status.
For instance, those clans that defeated monster invasions would be known as brave, while those clans that found more gold or precious stones would gain favor and more members. He would reward them for their work with the appropriate ores.
Their competition against their lord turned into competition with each other, and the Lord’s seat was secure.
He had done all these things which no Quagoa had even dreamed of to expand his influence and to set into motion a certain plan.
That plan was to attack the Dwarven city.
The clans gathered their best warriors in response to their Lord’s summons. They sent 2’000 people per clan, for a total fighting strength of 16’000.
This was an army never before seen in history. However, even with that much manpower, a direct attack across the suspension bridge would lead to horrendous casualties. Not only would that defeat the purpose of gathering such numbers, but it ran the risk of being defeated without being able to bring down the fortress.
Thus, Riyuro ordered them to find a way around the fortress.
Although several of the scouting teams did not come back, they managed to find a route to bypass the Great Rift in the end. After that, his troops divided themselves up into three to carry out their tasks.
One group was assigned to find and capture fleeing Dwarves. This task was divided among many smaller squads.
One group was designated as the main force. They were to conquer and loot the Dwarven city. If the elite group took too long in bringing down the fortress, they would step in to help.
The last group was filled with elite Quagoa, who would bring down the Dwarven fortress. This group would move ahead of the main force, bring down the fortress and they might be used to conquer the city as well.
The third group, the vanguard, was led by a Quagoa called Yozu.
He was one of Riyuro’s top men, an exceptional Red Quagoa. His mind was sharp, he was a capable fighter, and he was one of the top candidates for the spot of leader within his own clan.
Even so, it was not easy for someone like him to command his mixed battle group.
After all, the elites from the various clans held deep-seated grudges against each other. However, Yozu could even managed to make use of that.
By fanning the flames of competition between the clans, he brought down the fortress.
Their victory was assured by taking the flanking route and then the fortress, but even then, nobody could doubt his extraordinary command ability.
In truth, nobody else among the Quagoa could match his skill as a commander.
And now, the Quagoa were preparing to checkmate the Dwarves.
The first Quagoa among the vanguard who attacked the fortress were assault troops composed of the best of the best. These Quagoa clawed savagely at the hateful gate, but they could not break through.
One more step. Just one step closer, and they could break through that door and trample their hated enemies, the Dwarves. One more step, and they could take this entire domain for their own. They would be ranked first for their achievements, and as their reward, they would receive enough ore to make their heads spin.
However, that chance was denied and sealed away by the cold gate before them.
The Quagoa had a saying; the worm that hides deeper grows bigger.
One of the Quagoa was so angry at being so close but so far that he tried biting the gate. Naturally, he did nothing more than scratch the surface.
Seeing him, several others tried the same thing.
However, regular Quagoa could not harm it at all. They could try for a hundred years and still get nowhere.
Even when they thought to burrow through the rock and bypass the gate, they found that the walls were reinforced by lattices of the same metal which made up the gate.
Regular Quagoa could not breach that gate. Their rare elites like the Blue or Red Quagoa were held in reserve as a secret weapon and not assigned to those assault teams. In other words, their advance was briefly halted here.
Anyone would be frustrated by being denied their glory at their very last moment. However, they were not anxious. This was because they had already reported this to the vanguard commander. If the great Yozu was here, he would surely think of a way that they could not.
Even so, they formed up in clans to rest, because they did not know how much time it would take.
If they were regular troops, they might fidget and wander from stress, or start fighting with other clans. However, everyone here was the best of the best. They rested when it was time to rest, saving their rage and strength for the next battle.
And then, after resting for some time, the Quagoa suddenly looked up, as though their heads were mounted on springs.
There was a low bass creaking that sounded like it came from deep beneath the earth, and the gates began to slowly open.
The assault Quagoa looked at each other.
The Dwarves had sealed the gates in a panic. Why had they opened them again? Did they want to surrender? There were many Quagoa who thought that way, and they laughed mockingly as they bared their teeth.
As if they would accept a surrender.
Their plan was to exterminate the Dwarves. They would not give the Dwarves the time to spout useless words.
They would flood in like an avalanche through the opened gates and brutally slaughter all the Dwarves in their way. After that, they would trample the city underfoot and massacre with all their strength.
A gap slowly opened before the bloodthirsty Quagoa. It was still too small to fit through. One of the murderous Quagoa worked his arm into that gap.
He ventured his sharp claws forth, trying to murder any Dwarves in front of the Gate.
The Quagoa who wanted to be number one screamed and rolled back. The arm he thrust in was gone, replaced by a fountain of fresh blood.
Their shock at this development was like dumping cold water on the fires of their bloodlust.
It was easy to imagine what had happened.
In all likelihood, someone had cut his arm off with some kind of weapon, but was that even possible?
The Quagoa special ability was that they were extremely resistant to the weapons which the Dwarves typically used. During their surprise attack on the fortress, some of them had been hurt but none of them had died. That should have held true as long as they were not hit by electrical attacks.
But then, why had their comrade’s arm been chopped off?
There was only one reason for that.
That would be the existence of an extraordinary swordsman, who could easily cut through the arm of a Quagoa, a member of a race whose skin and hide repelled all blades.
In other words, there was an unimaginably powerful warrior behind the slowly-opening door.
The Quagoa stepped back, gripped by an emotion they had not yet felt in this battle — fear. During this time, the gap in the door continued to widen.
“Why are you backing down?” called a powerful voice from the rear of the assault team.
“There are no cowards among Clan Pu Rimidol!”
That cry of agreement must have come from the members of Clan Pu Rimidol who had been chosen for this assault team. Panicked, those from the other clans shouted as well, proclaiming their strength.
“Clan Po Gusua knows no cowards either!”
“Nobody from the Zu Aygen Clan will lose to the Pu or the Po! How can we let our ancestors laugh at us from the Land of Derey?!”
To the Quagoa, the valorous dead would watch their children prosper from the Land of Derey. It was said that the ancestors would mock those who shamed themselves.
Those words were the trigger that reignited the fighting spirit of the Quagoa.
They dragged the disarmed Quagoa aside, to the wall. The assault teams kept their distance and took a close formation, ready to slaughter this mighty swordsman.
“Charge! No matter how strong he is, the enemy only has one sword! We’ll hit him with more people than he can handle,” someone said.
“No, we just need to rush straight ahead once the door opens. Once we knock him down, we’ll trample him. Then we’ll sack the city.”
“Then, let me take the lead!”
There was a mineral called Nuran which was crushed into powder and mixed into paint. The courageous would take this paint and draw two stripes through their fur as proof of their bravery.
The Quagoa gathered behind one such brave soul. If he was struck down by that sword, they could still shove him in.
The gap in the door was now big enough for a single Quagoa to pass through. While it was too cramped to burst through, they would be losing men for nothing if they hit the entrance with the lightning magic from just now and then closed the doors again.
With a valorous cry, over 10 Quagoa made their move.
The brave Quagoa at their head stiffened. The people pushing him from behind felt him being killed by the swordsman. However, they could not stop. If they stopped now, they would be insulting his courage.
Because of that, the Quagoa from behind pushed forward with single-minded intensity, intent on letting their momentum carry them into the Dwarven city to loot and pillage it…
—And then they stopped.
No matter how hard they pushed, they could not carry on. It was as though a thick, massive wall was blocking them.
One of the Quagoa raised his head and looked forward.
It was only natural to wonder if the Dwarves had made a wall.
Because indeed, there was a jet-black wall there.
All their eyes could see was the wall. And then it started moving.
It was a mighty cry that made the air quiver.
What they had thought was a wall was in actual fact a gigantic shield.
The Quagoa had no history of weapon or armor use, but they had seen the Dwarves use them before. However, they had never seen anything this big. Before them was a shield that could have been mistaken for a wall.
As the Quagoa were baffled by this development, the loathsome creature behind the shield revealed itself.
It was a creature sheathed in black full plate armor, its crimson eyes glowing with hatred.
Even the ignorant Quagoa could understand that it was evil, it was violence — it was Death itself.
A pyun! rang out.
In that instant, the heads of three Quagoa took flight as one.
The roar battered at the bodies of the Quagoa.
The hair-raising impact made the Quagoa want to run away with all their heart.
Within their tribes, they considered themselves courageous warriors who did not fear death. However, they had never imagined a being like this in their wildest dreams. The monster before them obliterated their courage.
That being the case, why did they not flee right away?
That was because they lacked the strength to do so. Their instincts told them that if they ran, they would be slain in a single blow from behind. Even so, the eyes of that black being reminded the Quagoa of their desire to live.
That roar seemed to come from deep beneath the earth. The Quagoa whimpered in response, and took several steps back.
And then, as though to seize the opportunity which had presented itself, another being identical to it appeared. And then—
One of the Quagoa screamed.
As they looked toward the owner of that voice, they saw their comrade who had lost his head.
He was dead. There was no doubt about that. However, his arms started moving, as though grasping for something. It was clearly not a spasm or anything like that.
The only conclusion they could draw was that the corpse was moving.
As though trapped into a nightmare, the still-living Quagoa found themselves imprisoned in a cage of fear.
Clang, clang, went the two massive suits of armor, and then they raised identical, bizarre swords: flamberges.
“So, according to the assault team’s report, they haven’t found a way to bring down the door yet, am I right?”
The Quagoa whose pelt was streaked with red frowned as he listened to his underling’s report.
He was Yozu, commander of the Quagoa vanguard. He possessed a hide that was as tough as orichalcum and his resistance to metal weaponry was even greater than that of regular Quagoa. He was a superior member of his species, a Red Quagoa.
Yozu turned his eyes from his bowing subordinate to the fortress on the other side of the suspension bridge. Beyond the fortress was a tunnel, and after the tunnel was the Dwarven city.
After conquering it, they would have a good location for a base and all their competition for ores would also be eliminated at the same time.
The combination of expanded territory and an unprecedented haul of ores and minerals would make the Quagoa great.
Once that happened, the Quagoa would someday come to rule the entire mountain range.
“If only we could defeat those Dragons…”
Yozu looked around worriedly after accidentally blurting out his true thoughts.
If anyone reacted, they gave absolutely no sign.
That put Yozu somewhat at ease.
The Quagoa had taken the former Dwarven capital as their home base.
The Royal Palace still stood proud within the city, but it was now the domain of the White Dragon. He was a Frost Dragon, who could exhale freezing breath.
The Quagoa had forged an alliance with the Frost Dragons. However, anyone who knew even a little bit about the truth would know that this was nothing like a relationship of equals. The Clan Lord might have prettied it up by saying that it was for mutual co-prosperity and whatnot, but not even the Lord himself believed what he was saying.
The truth was that the Dragons were strong, and their servants, the Quagoa were weak.
To the Dragons, the Quagoa were little more than emergency rations or convenient pawns.
Yozu had once met the Dragons in the presence of the Lord of the Clans, and that was the impression he got after hearing the mighty voice which emanated from its massive jaw. He was also shocked at the sight of the Lord grovelling before the Dragons.
He did not want to see a great hero reduced to that state, but Yozu was not stupid. He keenly understood the insurmountable difference between the might of the Dragons and the Quagoa.
Even so, he could not permit the Dragons to treat them like idiots.
…We can’t do anything about it now. If we fight that Dragon Lord, the Quagoa race (we) will suffer irrecoverable damage even if we win. But… someday.
He was not the only one holding that wish in his heart. All the Quagoa who had met the Dragons — in other words, all the upper-class Quagoa — had the same desire.
To begin with, they needed to find a way to become immune to freezing breath. If Quagoa like that were not born, they would take terrible losses.
The search for that way would take a lot of time.
Yozu swept away his dark emotions. Right now, he had to destroy the Dwarves. That had not been done yet. It would be foolish to let worrying about the future affect what he could do in the present.
Yozu summoned his subordinates.
“Oi, destroy the fortress and then see if we can widen the tunnel walls to let more people in. We need to prepare as much as possible before the main force—”
Suddenly, Yozu’s ears stood up. He thought he had heard a scream from somewhere.
No, it might not have been a scream. It might have been a threatening noise made by a monster. The problem with being underground was that it was very difficult to tell where sounds came from.
This time, however, he knew instantly.
That was because he saw the Quagoa from the assault team fleeing from the fortress while screaming at the top of their lungs.
A hubbub came from the Quagoa around Yozu.
Given the state of the Quagoa who had come back, it was very clear that they were terrified and confused. Several Quagoa even shoved their buddies from behind, and the latter tumbled into the Great Rift.
“What’s wrong? Is there an emergency?”
One of Yozu’s subordinates answered: “We’re not sure. Could it be a Dwarven counterattack?”
That was not possible. A Dwarven counterattack was well within the expected range of responses. It would not cause the assault teams to flee in panic.
It must have been some sort of special attack. Yozu had once heard that boiling oil was very painful.
“Gather the men and find out what’s going on. If it’s a Dwarven counterattack, continue the advance. We must not let them take the fortress back.”
Yozu’s men formed up into a company per his instructions, and they began crossing the bridge.
The screams continued during this time, and the assault team continued fleeing.
What were they running from? Was it the result of the mysterious power called magic?
As Yozu thought about the matter, a pair of silhouettes appeared at the door of the fortress.
They were big, black… somethings.
“—What, what are those? Giant Dwarves? Dwarf Lords?”
Yozu had never seen such beings before. Although he knew that the Dwarves used armor as part of their equipment, and that some sets of armor covered the entire body, what he saw now was completely different from what he had seen then.
In their right hands they carried wavy-bladed greatswords, while in their left they had massive shields.
Given that the Lord of the Clans was slightly different from regular Quagoa in appearance, the Dwarven Lords probably looked different from regular Dwarves.
Yozu did not know the true identity of the beings which stood at the entrance of the fortress like Nio statues. However, his animal instincts told him that they were dangerous entities.
(TL Note: Nio statues = temple guardian statues modelled after the Bright Kings of Buddhism)
He also understood why the assault teams had fled from those monsters with all their might.
His subordinates around him were frozen in shock, the same way he was. The only beings that still moved were the Quagoa running from the fortress. They did not look back; their energies were fully focused on getting across the suspension bridge.
The black suits of armor roared.
Even at such a great distance, the cry ripped through the air and made his fur stand on end. Yozu’s guts clenched and turned cold. It was like feeling a Dragon’s roar through his entire body.
As though on cue, he saw Quagoa slowly emerge from beside the black suits of armor.
Did they escape? Or did they betray us? No, that’s not—
Yozu’s eyes went wide.
One of the Quagoa he saw was missing its head.
He squinted, and saw that several Quagoa were trailing their innards behind them, while others seemed to be shambling in an uncoordinated manner, the left and right halves of their bodies moving out of sync, as though they had been cut in half.
Beings that moved even when they could not be alive were —
Magic! Magic that controls the dead!
“Is that the Dwarves’ secret weapon?”
Yozu agreed with what his subordinate had said.
Did they have an ace in the hole besides lightning-enchanted weaponry?
“…Are they Golems?”
It was said that when the Dragon took possession of the Royal Palace, it had fought monsters with those names. Apparently, they looked like armored statues.
“Are those the Dwarves called Golems?”
Yozu shook his head at his subordinate’s question.
“No, Golems are monsters. The Dwarves probably raised those.”
“Like the Nuks we tamed, then?”
(TL Note: ヌーク)
These Nuks were magical beasts.
Their males were 3.5 meters long and weighed 1200 kg. They were shaggy four-legged herbivores who could survive on even a little bit of algae. They were tough enough to survive in heavy snowfalls, so many monsters in the Azellisia Mountain Range fed on them.
In any event, there was no telling how well those black Golems could fight, but given the fleeing Quagoa and the assault teams’ diminished numbers… no, more than that, Yozu’s goosebumps and his cold sweat told him everything.
Beating them would not be easy, but fortunately, they only seemed to be watching them from afar and not trying to cross the bridge.
“It, it seems they came to take back the fortress.”
“Y-yes, that’s right. Alright, form up again while they’re still stopped. At the same time, we’ll prepare to — they’re moving!”
The black suits of armor broke into a run, charging at the suspension bridge.
“Who was that! Who said that they were there to take back the fortress?!”
“Commander! Now’s not the time for that! What should we do!?”
The Quagoa which Yozu had sent out bared their claws, ready for battle.
The black suits of armor braced their shields and blew through the Quagoa where they made contact.
Sent flying by overwhelming power, many Quagoa fell from the suspension bridge. The black suits of armor did not stop. Though they slowed down a little, they continued their charge forward with shields raised, like rampaging walls.
If this kept up, they would soon cross the bridge completely and reach this place.
And then, when that happened… what would happen? Realizing the mortal danger which awaited him, Yozu shouted.
“Cut, cut the bridge!”
If they destroyed the bridge, the main force would only be able to use the flanking route, and that would waste a lot of time. The Dwarves would probably strengthen their defense in the interim. Thus, one could consider their first objective of taking the fortress to be a failure.
After the loss of manpower and resources during this operation, failure would not be a matter that could be simply excused by a rebuke. However, all that paled in comparison to the danger of letting those black suits of armor cross the bridge.
If they reached this place, everybody here would die. The black suits of armor were such beings.
“Didn’t I tell you to cut the bridge?!”
The Quagoa could not help but watch the black suits of armor smash their men away with their unimaginable might. At the second cry, they finally managed to move. However, almost all the Quagoa who had been sent out from the rear were had been sent flying into the abyss, and there were only a few Quagoa left on the bridge to face the black suits of armor.
All of those Quagoa desperately bit and clawed at the steel suspension cables of the bridge.
“Have one of the assault teams stall their advance!”
Being told to stop the Golems right after hearing the command to destroy the bridge was no different from a suicide mission. Even so, a suicide squad immediately assembled and bravely went forth.
As expected, the suicide squad bounced off the shields, but some of them managed to get past and hurled themselves upon the black suits of armor. However, the black suits of armor paid them no heed. Being bitten did not seem to hurt them, and they continued their advance.
The bridge had not yet fallen.
If this kept up, the black suits of armor would make it all the way across.
As Yozu realized this, his body began moving on its own. He leapt down from his command post high above, and used the force of his landing and the sharpness of his claws to deliver a hit to the steel cables of the bridge.
A great ping tore through the air.
The suspension bridge rose and fell like a gigantic wave, and broke.
Yozu could not withstand the serpentine thrashing of the suspension bridge and was thrown into the air. However, he managed to grab a dancing cable before he was swallowed up by the yawning darkness beneath him. Since Yozu could not control his movements in mid-air, it was an unimaginable stroke of luck for him. He pulled himself along the cable as his body swayed in mid-air, and managed to make contact with the edge of the cliff.
However, he did not even have the time to catch his breath. A malevolent cold filled his body. Yozu listened to his instincts and threw himself prone.
In that instant, a screaming object swept past the fur on Yozu’s back. Unbelievably enough, that object was a flying Quagoa. Under these dire circumstances, the black suit of armor had managed to throw one of the suicide squad members at Yozu with its ridiculous arm strength.
The thrown Quagoa hit one of Yozu’s men, who was still frozen in shock. The two of them disintegrated into chunks of gory meat with a brief, agonized cry of “Pigya!”
However, that was all, because the suicide squad and the black suits of armor vanished into the Great Rift.
Silence filled the air.
Yozu slowly peered into the darkness of the Great Rift. He was not the only one to do so; all the survivors looked into the darkness that had swallowed everything. All of them knew that there was no surviving that drop; even so, they could not erase their fear that the black suits of armor would come clambering up the sides of the chasm.
After what seemed like forever, Yozu finally sighed in relief.
They did not look like they would be coming back.
Looking around, he saw that there were precious few of his men who had survived.
Even so, the fact that they had survived against those black suits of armor was worthy of praise.
“We’re pulling back!”
If they did not report those Golems to the people on top, things would be very bad for them.
If those were being mass-produced, it was the Quagoa who would be annihilated instead. Yozu did not feel that there were only two of them.
“…How fearsome those Dwarves are.”
Yozu deeply regretted underestimating the Dwarves. To think they knew how to produce such monsters—
“In any case, we need to inform the main body about this. Messengers!”
The people who ran over in response to Yozu’s call were the Quagoa Riders, who far exceeded the average Quagoa in mobility. They possessed a special ability which made them immune to the fatigue caused by extended sprinting.
The reason why he had called this many of them over was because moving in small numbers ran the risk of the entire group being wiped out by a monster ambush. That was not to say that moving in force guaranteed safety, but that it did not matter how many died as long as one of them survived to pass their message on to headquarters.
“Alright! Go! Don’t forget, your mission is very important!”
Yozu gave another order as he watched them leave.
Needless to say, it was to fall back immediately to meet with the Lord of the Clans.