Chapter 4: A Craftsman and Negotiation
The two summoned Death Knights vanished from the other side of the gates. They roared in anticipation of joyful slaughter, while the cries of the dying rang out. Once the gates slowly closed, the thickness of the double doors meant that the sounds of carnage on the other side did little more than tickle the eardrums.
“Things should be alright for now.”
There was a time limit on Death Knights that were not made with corpses. Even so, if the estimates of Quagoa combat power from their captives was accurate, they should be able to defeat a sizable portion of the attackers even without knowing their opponents’ numbers. If the enemy was not incompetent, they would surely pull back to regroup after taking sufficient losses.
I hope they don’t retreat just yet. If they build a camp, it’ll mean the danger is still clear and present. That way, the Dwarven nation will have to work with us. I should order the Death Knights to hold back for now… it’s quite troublesome when you can’t win by too large a margin.
As Ainz contemplated these details in silence, he glanced to the commander-in-chief, who was looking at him with a twitching smile on his face. Ainz had no idea why he had that smile born of terror on his face — and in that moment an imaginary light bulb shone above Ainz’ head.
He should have become used to my appearance by now, so it’s probably because of the Quagoa screaming outside. Well, it’s true that the wails of the dying can be somewhat disturbing.
That said, Ainz felt that he should not mind the screaming of the enemy so much. Still, he would not be human — or a Dwarf, rather — if he did not think that way.
But how can someone like that be a commander of warriors? This is somewhat worrying.
He knew he was thinking too much about this, but Ainz continued looking at the commander-in-chief. At this moment, Gondo approached him.
“Then, Your Majesty. I shall be returning home for a bit.”
“Ahh. Then, will you help me settle things on your end?”
“Of course. I will arrange for it and send it out. It’s alright if the time or whatever isn’t adjusted, right? I can count on your spells if something happens, right?”
Ainz extended a fist and bumped it against Gondo’s. They had talked about many things before coming here, and it would seem it had been effective.
Gondo really does talk a lot…
He tended to monopolize the conversation, and he spoke at such lengths that it seemed never ending. This must have been the result of being obsessed about the almost lost-art of runesmithing and then being ostracized. That was why he kept babbling about the topic to Ainz — who had an interest in the topic — like a burst dam.
Ainz could understand how he felt, because there were times when Ainz had also wanted to talk to people who shared his interests. However, Ainz was not going along with this long monologue out of the kindness of his heart.
Gondo lightly tapped his magic rucksack and began walking away.
The commander-in-chief seemed to have something to say to the retreating Gondo, but he did not call out to him.
“Then, what should we do now? Should we wait a while before opening the gate and inspecting the results of the battle?”
The commander-in-chief must have anticipated Ainz’s question. He replied instantly, as though he had already prepared the answer beforehand.
“It is deeply disrespectful to have the sovereign of a nation waiting here. I feel we should proceed to the Council Chamber and present your suggestion to everyone.”
“Why not take a look at the aftermath?”
“I think Your Majesty’s introduction is more important. I sent a message to the Council while the Quagoa were attacking. They are probably still fumbling for some way to deal with the situation now. I feel that we should present them with new information before they panic and give bad orders.”
“I see. In that case, I have no objections. Please, lead on.”
“Understood. However, Your Majesty’s magical beasts will surely terrify the common folk. It shames me to ask, but could you have them stand by here? We will take care of them to the best of our ability if you inform us of the key points…”
Ainz looked towards Aura, who nodded.
“I see. Then they shall wait here.”
Ainz indicated to a corner of the garrison with a bony finger, and the commander nodded in agreement.
“Also, there is no need to care for them. We will take care of that. I will have three of my followers accompany me.”
Ainz selected Shalltear, Aura and Zenberu. He ordered the others to wait here.
The commander-in-chief looked somewhat relieved. It would seem he did not want to have the undead strutting through the streets.
“Then, shall we go?”
“Ah, please do.”
Ainz and company walked proudly through the Dwarven city, led by the commander-in-chief. An almost painful amount of curious stares focused on him, while Dwarven mothers who saw Ainz hid their children indoors. That made him somewhat disappointed.
Of course, he could have been less obvious if he wished.
If he had put on a mask, much fewer people would have stared at him. That said, there was a reason why he did not choose to cover his face.
It was because he wanted to announce his arrival in the city of the Dwarves. It was not very likely that there would be a player in the Dwarven nations if it had to seek external help against an invasion like this. However, there might be low-level players here, or items they had left behind.
Like that spell-sealing crystal.
In order to avoid being attacked by such items, he would have to manufacture proof of his visit in an aboveboard manner. In this way, they would not be able to settle things clandestinely.
In addition, while he had not yet decided what sort of ambassadorial party he would send, it was quite likely that he might end up using undead beings for that purpose. Therefore, he wanted to let them get used to it.
“Still, nobody seems worried, despite the extent of the Quagoa invasion.”
Ainz asked the commander-in-chief that question after seeing two red-faced Dwarves stagger out of a tavern, arms around each other’s shoulders.
The unmistakeable scent of alcohol surrounded them.
“That is because the people do not know the Quagoa have attacked.”
“And… why is that?”
Their sense of self-preservation appeared to be terminally defective.
The commander-in-chief seemed to have read Ainz’s mind, and he replied:
“The Quagoa advanced too quickly, so the information did not spread. Depending on the Council’s decision, it ought to start spreading within an hour.”
“Hm. Well, I did order my subordinates to retake the bridge, so once they do so, the city will be safe for the time being, no? This is quite an important factor for when we begin trade with this country.”
“That is hard to say. Given the size of the enemy force, we don’t know when the opposition will begin their advance in earnest. Once we take the bridge back, we’ll need to solidify our defenses, investigate their flanking route, and plan a strategy against them.”
Ainz smiled evilly within his heart.
It looked like there would be many chances to sell this country favors in the future. That being the case, it might be best not to change his Death Knights’ orders to retake the bridge.
Ainz’s voice set the commander-in-chief’s shoulders trembling.
“Aiiiee! What, what is it, Your Majesty?!”
“No, it’s nothing. Something on my end. There’s no need to worry. There’s no need to ask further,” Ainz emphasised those words in iron tones to shut down the other man’s questions.
This reaction — which was quite unlike Ainz — was because he had lost his composure.
There was no response from the two Death Knights he had made, which should have been in the vicinity of Feoh Gēr.
There was only one conclusion he could draw from this shocking conclusion.
—The Death Knights had been defeated.
Death Knights were fairly weak to Ainz. However, by the standards of this world, they were formidable opponents even for the most powerful members of a nation. Anyone who could defeat two fearsome knights like that must be very powerful.
In addition, their responses had vanished at almost the same time.
Had they been simultaneously destroyed as part of a carefully laid plan?
Had someone finished them off with an area-effect spell?
Had a powerful individual simply obliterated them in one stroke?
Whatever the answer was, there was certainly another mighty being present, apart from the bizarre masked magic caster he had encountered in the Royal Capital.
Someone who could defeat the defense-oriented Death Knights by themselves would probably be over level 45.
“Does that mean I’ve been found out?”
The commander-in-chief looked at Ainz in response to his mumblings, but Ainz had no time to worry about him.
An unknown, powerful being was most likely to be a player. If an enemy of Ainz’s level had come to this world, a measly two Death Knights would be child’s play to deal with.
If there’s a player-related entity here who’s not connected to the Dwarves, does that mean they’re on the side of the Quagoa? Then, are they related to the people who brainwashed Shalltear?
Searing fire blazed up in his chest.
Hitherto smoldering embers flared into a raging inferno, as though someone had poured gasoline on them. However, they were swiftly suppressed.
“No, it’s not possible. If they were related, the Dwarven city would have fallen long ago. It’s more likely that it’s a mighty individual from this world. However, I can’t conclude that there’s no connection. That being the case, I will need to alter my plans.”
Ainz had originally hoped that the war between the Quagoa and the Dwarves would go on.
With the obvious enemy of the Quagoa before them, the Dwarves might well choose to flock to Ainz’s banner. However, leaving the Quagoa alone — giving them too much time — would be very dangerous.
If they were a race that habitually spawned powerful individuals, then while they might only have slain Death Knights now, who knew what else they would destroy in the future? Right now — while he could still deal with them — the best thing to would be to either enslave them or annihilate them completely.
The latter might well be the better course of action.
Ideally, I would be able to subjugate the Quagoa and have them threaten the Dwarves from the shadows, but… A single misstep might lead to a fatal error. It would be safer not to do that.
“Your Majesty, the Council Chamber is in sight.”
As he turned to look in the direction where the commander-in-chief was pointing, a large building — certainly big for a Dwarf, but sizable even by Ainz’s standards — came into view.
The commander spoke briefly with the guards at the door, and they let Ainz and the others pass without inspection.
The reason why they waived the inspection for Ainz and company while still staring unabashedly at the undead Ainz was surely because the commander had exercised his authority.
“Then, Your Majesty, I shall make a full report to the Council. May I trouble you to wait here for a while?”
There was no reason to object. More to the point, it might be troublesome if he did not explain Ainz’s contribution to this nation.
“Where shall we wait, then?”
The commander-in-chief glanced to one of the Dwarf guards, and the man stepped forward.
“The, the waiting room is that way. Permit me to escort you there.”
“Really now. I’ll leave that to you, then.”
The Dwarf — who trembled in both body and voice — brought them to a somewhat cramped room. Then again, it would probably not have been cramped for a Dwarf. It was just the right size for Aura and Shalltear. However, they had Zenberu there, who was large of stature. Just waiting in the room felt very claustrophobic for him.
Given that the soldier had taken a look at Zenberu before bringing him here, this must have been the largest and the most luxurious VIP room in this building. Sure enough, the ornaments around them were all exquisitely crafted and looked as though they might actually move.
Ainz had once made Avatara of his past companions, and he deeply appreciated the difficulty of making such intricate statuary. It was possible for something to look beautiful in profile but ugly when viewed head-on.
Ainz picked up a statuette — a Dwarf riding on the back of a lizard.
It’s plainly obvious that the Dwarves have outstanding craftsmanship. Mm, I’d like to have such skills… I wonder if I could remake the Avataras? If I could, would I be able to make something better after practicing? — alright.
Ainz decided to address Zenberu, who seemed distinctly out of place here.
“Zenberu, continue with us for a bit longer.”
“Ah, Your Majesty, I’d like to stay here instead, if it pleases you. Frankly speaking, it gives me a headache to talk with those great people.”
A strange turn of phrase. It was different from how he had been during the trip here. Perhaps he had changed the way he spoke because he had come to the Dwarven Kingdom.
“…You are the overseer of a tribe, am I correct?”
“Shalltear-sama, one can be good or bad at various things. Also, I would feel bad if I inconvenienced His Majesty.”
Ainz understood Zenberu’s meaning, but he shook his head nonetheless.
“No, I will take you along. If something happens, I won’t be able to protect you if you’re too far away. I don’t think there’ll actually be any danger, but carelessness is for fools. For all we know, we might be within the palm of the enemy. Remember that at all times.”
“Yes! I have seared it into my heart!”
Even though Ainz did not feel that the Dwarves would harm someone who had saved their country, he repeated for safety’s sake.
What’s this? Shalltear’s responding pretty well today. Did something happen?
“Ah, then, Your Majesty… What should I do?”
“Hm? Frankly speaking, just listen to us, Zenberu. No matter what happens, do not take part in any fighting.”
Ainz nodded as Zenberu indicated his understanding.
“Very good. Now then — Aura, Shalltear, can you inspect my clothes and see if they’re messed up?”
The Dwarven soldier sent to show them the way arrived just after the two of them finished inspecting their attire.
Ainz was led to a room where the Dwarves waited.
Resplendent in his full panoply, Ainz strode forth with chest upthrust. His back was ramrod straight, his head was held high, and his bearing was that of a king. The obsidian radiance from the aura behind him glowed softly, as a substitute for cologne. Surely nobody would look down on him after all these preparations.
He kept the wand — which substituted for a royal scepter — at his waist. It was infused with a 1st-tier spell, but since he had no intention of activating it, it should not pose any problems.
After looking at himself up and down, he felt that this getup was somewhat at odds with the objective of seeking friendly relations, but Aura and Shalltear strongly approved of it.
The problem was that both of them thought too highly of Ainz, so he felt uneasy about relying on their opinion.
Thus, he asked Zenberu for his view on the matter.
After some fidgeting — from being asked about something which lay outside his field of expertise — Zenberu finally said something along the lines of “Your attire would surely inspire awe in anyone who sees it”. Ainz took his word for it, and came here.
However, the Dwarves he encountered turned pale, their postures shot through with nervousness. Of course, that too was an appropriate reaction to a king.
“Announcing the arrival of His Majesty, the Sorcerer King!”
He could hear the Dwarf announcer from the other side of the door.
When the door opened, Ainz entered the chamber.
It looked like a meeting room, and there were eight Dwarves there.
Incidentally, he had learned their names, their posts, their looks and features from the commander-in-chief.
There was the High Priest of Earth, who governed everything to do with magic. He held sway over divine magic casters and even arcane magic casters.
There was the Forgemaster, who controlled all production which derived from the forges.
There was the commander-in-chief who had brought them here. He was responsible for all security and military matters. Once, he had commanded many Dwarven soldiers, but the fact that he only had less than a hundred men now made the title a joke.
There was the Director of Food Production, who managed food production and other industries which did not concern the forges.
There was the Cabinet Secretary, who was in charge of everything which fell outside the jurisdiction of the other leaders here.
There was the Brewmaster, who was on this Council because there had to be a leadership position for the Dwarven people’s favorite pastime of alcohol.
There was the Master of Caves and Mines, who had a lot of power in this city due to his influence over the sphere of mining and resource extraction.
Once, there had been an organization called the Merchant’s Guild, but due to the lack of traders and trade in general, the title of Merchant’s Guildmaster was now a hollow position in charge of foreign affairs.
Those were the eight of them.
Ainz slowly swept his gaze across everyone. Seven of them stared at him. The last one — the commander-in-chief — had a look of fatigue on his face instead, and his eyes met Ainz’s.
Ainz was pretending to be the picture of calm, but his heart was in chaos.
Oi! I can’t even tell them apart! Maybe some of them have shorter beards than the others, but aren’t they all pretty much the same length? Was he lying to me? No, that must have been how he saw it. What should I do?
Zenberu’s memories had depicted them all with identical faces, and at first Ainz thought it was simply because the Lizardman saw all Dwarves as the same. He had even felt that Zenberu’s ability to recognize faces needed improvement. However, that was not the case.
I’m sorry I doubted you, Zenberu. You were telling me the truth all along.
In this world, there was no practice of exchanging business cards upon a meeting, a fact which he had long lamented. Ainz felt the same way today, and then he gathered his strength into his belly.
Next would come a presentation which he had already made several times. Of note was the fact that he had two Guardians behind him and a subordinate of his subordinate. He could not allow them to see him make a fool of himself.
…If only I hadn’t brought the three of them…
However, his regrets were immaterial. The die had been cast, after all.
(TL Note: Alea iacta est)
Still — while he had psyched himself for it, there was not a single trace of the dialogue starting. The silence remained unbroken for a full minute after his arrival.
What’s going on? Standard practice for a company would be to start by the host introducing their staff, right? Shouldn’t the commander-in-chief introduce us? …Or should I make the first move? I’m not too well-versed in courtly etiquette and I don’t want to appear boorish.
According to courtly etiquette, inferiors could not address the king directly. Direct interaction required a permission of some sort. In other words, the king was an untouchable being. Therefore, if Ainz initiated the dialogue, would the Dwarves look down upon him?
After looking at the Dwarves, was the answer yes or no?
That said, I doubt anyone will slight me, given the country’s situation and the actions I took. If that really happens, then I might as well say that I won’t negotiate with a pack of buffoons like them.
Having made up his mind, Ainz decided to make his pitch.
“I am the ruler of the Sorcerous Kingdom, the Sorcerer King Ainz Ooal Gown.”
The Dwarves sprang into motion, as though they were reconnected to a power supply.
“We, we bid you welcome, sovereign of the Sorcerous Kingdom, Your Majesty Ainz Ooal Gown. May we offer you a seat? There are seats for your esteemed followers over there.”
Ainz nodded, and then he was ushered to what he called the birthday boy’s place. He sat down with regal aplomb, using movements he had practiced over and over. Shalltear, Aura and Zenberu sat behind Ainz.
“Then, we shall introduce ourselves. Firstly, I am this country’s—”
And so, the Dwarves gave their names.
The opening seemed to have gone without a hitch, but Ainz could not contain his worries.
Just keeping their eight names in mind was already difficult. Having to associate each of those names and titles with a face was proving to be quite the challenge.
Names were easy enough to remember, but adding a title onto that made him uneasy. Things like whether it was Master of Caves and Mines or Master of Mines and Caves only made things worse.
That said, Ainz managed to remember them. He would not have been able to do it had he not inquired about them with the commander-in-chief earlier.
“Please allow us to thank you on behalf of this country. Without Your Majesty, this country would have been destroyed.”
Those words were spoken by the Master of Caves and Mines. All the Dwarves present nodded in response.
The members of the Council apparently took turns leading it, so the leader this time around was the Master of Caves and Mines.
“Pay it no heed. Saving someone in trouble is common sense.”
“Your Majesty is a truly magnanimous person. We will surely aid you to the best of our ability if any trouble besets you. That said, I fear we cannot do much to aid your august person, who commands the troops that saved our nation from extinction with but two of their number.”
“It’s nothing like that. My country is indeed powerful in a military sense. However, there are some inadequacies when it comes to other fields. I would be very grateful if you could provide help to me in those aspects.”
“I see. We would be glad to be of service to Your Majesty — to the Sorcerous Kingdom. However, before that, we pray Your Majesty will tell us the reason for your visit to our country, if it is convenient. The commander-in-chief has already told us, but we would like to hear it directly from you.”
The Master of Caves and Mines narrowed his eyes slightly.
We’ll see through any lies. His unyielding determination was palpable.
I can’t expect them all to feel goodwill towards me… Well, given the difference in power between our nations, anyone would be cautious.
The same applied to Ainz. If the top-ranked guild in YGGDRASIL — Seraphim — offered a World-Class Item and asked to negotiate, Ainz would also suspect some kind of a trap.
Therefore, he was not displeased with the Dwarves’ reaction.
“Firstly, I would like to initiate friendly relations between our nations. Then, I would like to engage in trade.”
“—Is that so.”
“I have heard from one of your countrymen that your staple foods are mushrooms and meat, am I wrong? I recall something about farms at the feet of the mountain which raise fresh vegetables, but apparently they are few in number and their variety is quite poor. My nation can supply fresh vegetables and — do the alcoholic spirits of human kingdoms and the Sorcerous Kingdom hold any interest for you?”
The topic of alcohol made the Dwarves’ eyes light up. That was a very frank reaction.
“I also hear that this country trades with the human nation to the east, but not to any great degree.”
“Indeed. Our traffic is merely twenty dwarves’ worth of merchandise. Currently, we are developing magic items which can hold an unlimited supply of goods.”
The Merchant’s Guildmaster gave that reply.
“I see. Is it true that there are few Dwarven trade caravans due to the dangerous mountain roads?”
“That is indeed the case.”
Another Dwarf supplied that answer.
“We cannot carry too many goods due to the steepness and danger of the mountain paths. In addition, moving in groups draws the monsters’ attention. There are many monsters which will attack regardless of the numbers of their prey. In particular, aerial ambushes are hard to deal with.”
It was true that conventional trading methods would require great effort. The Empire only engaged in limited trade with the Dwarves due to the lack of profit in doing so. However, it was precisely that reason which made them a very lucrative trading partner for the Sorcerous Kingdom.
Unfortunately, the only notable export which the Sorcerous Kingdom could boast was their undead. However, to the Dwarven nation, even regular food would sell well.
What a marvellous trading partner.
Ainz smiled evilly in his heart as he asked his question.
“If that is the case, then I must further recommend national relations with me — with the Sorcerous Kingdom, so we can export foodstuffs.”
“…We have not yet inquired of the precise location of the Sorcerous Kingdom. Can we transport our trade goods there by ourselves?”
“Having your country’s people move cargo by themselves would still be quite dangerous. I feel that my nation should take the lead in establishing a proper trade route so your nation’s people can safely transport their wares. When that happens, wagons and carriages will be able to move smoothly. Of course, they will not be pulled by anything as fragile as horses, but by other beasts of burden.”
“Could those be… the undead?”
One of the Dwarves, his face filled with disgust, asked that question.
Ainz recalled that he was apparently the Forgemaster.
“Precisely. I propose the use of undead-pulled cargo wagons, which possess the power to defend themselves and will never tire. They will surely make for excellent transportation tools. In truth, our nation has already made use of them, and the response from the citizens is very good. In addition, there are other advantages to using the undead—”
Just as Ainz was about to launch into an enthusiastic presentation, the Forgemaster interrupted him.
“—Is it not true that the undead will attack the living?”
Ainz pouted internally, but he responded with supreme confidence.
“It is true that many people would think that way about an average undead being. And to be fair, it is true. The undead are beings which hate and attack the living. However!”
Ainz placed particular emphasis on that word.
“Under my absolute authority, the undead of the Sorcerous Kingdom will not pose any problems for you. You may rest easy knowing that.”
The Forgemaster’s mouth pursed into a へ shape. He did not seem to believe Ainz at all.
He must have had a bad experience where the undead slew his family, or something. As Ainz contemplated that possibility, he played one of his trump cards.
“In addition, my nation can supply labor.”
“During my journey, I spoke with one of your countrymen whom I saved from the Quagoa—”
Ainz had not done so on purpose, but it was not a complete accident, so he decided to phrase it as doing them a favor.
“—And I heard of the work that goes on in your country’s mines. While it is work for Dwarven miners, the undead can handle it for you.”
“What? Can they really do that?”
The eyes of the Master of Caves and Mines went wide, having taken the bait.
“Of course. I have conducted this experiment in human nations, and it was successful. In fact, the owner of the mines who rented them even requested for additional undead miners.”
He had heard about this from Albedo when he had sent her a worried [Message], so it was not a lie.
“So you’ve done that sort of thing in human nations…”
The Master of Mines and Caves muttered as though in awe.
“It would seem your country is familiar with the special characteristics of the undead…”
“Mm, well, we know about their more common traits…”
Ainz raised his voice to address the High Priest of Earth.
“Then, I trust I need not elaborate on how the undead make for excellent laborers?
The Dwarves exchanged looks, and then began speaking one after the other.
“Your Majesty’s words are understandable. If we could safely control the undead…”
“Being able to reallocate the manpower assigned to mining is a very attractive proposal.”
That “however” would probably be followed by doubts about whether they could really trust the undead. It was natural they would feel conflicted about a method that was different from how they had done things until now.
Ultimately, this was merely publicity for his firm’s products, and not a serious attempt to close a sale. Of course, if they could accept undead labor, it would certainly delight him.
“Well, I merely meant to say that I could provide such laborers. I understand your unease towards the undead—”
“—Your Majesty, I would like to ask a question about the undead before that. Could we purchase them as a defensive force?”
The commander-in-chief’s question sent ructions through the Dwarves.
“Commander-in-chief, it is too risky to rely on the military power of other nations to keep the peace!”
“I know that. However, the undead of the Sorcerous Kingdom are extremely powerful. With them, around, we have no need to fear any Quagoa attack. There are many benefits to purchasing them as a final defensive line. The most important thing, the thing we must all consider, is the safety of our nation. Now that we have lost our fortress, we need power, more than anything else.”
“Even so, don’t you think it’s more dangerous to have the hands of another nation around our throats?!”
“I told you, now isn’t the time to talk about that sort of thing!”
The Forgemaster and the commander-in-chief glared at each other.
“…We’ll leave it as that. Those words will be saved for when it’s only us. This is not something we should be saying in front of His Majesty, who came all the way here from his kingdom. Forgive this gaffe, Your Majesty. This conflict was caused by the attractive nature of Your Majesty’s proposals, and we would be very grateful if you could permit it to pass unnoticed. —Then, may I know what Your Majesty desires from this country? I feel that we have practically nothing to offer.”
“Certainly not. First, I desire ores. My country’s stockpiles are limited.”
“—I see,” the Merchant’s Guildmaster smiled. “So that’s why you suggested undead labor. If we could excavate minerals in large quantities, then there would be an ample surplus. In other words, you want to keep the price of ores low. Is that it?”
Ainz had not thought that far ahead, but Ainz nodded and pretended that it was the case.
“Indeed it is so. You have seen through me.”
No wonder, the Dwarves thought as understanding dawned on them.
“Also, I would like the weapons and armor crafted by the forges of your nation. I hear that Dwarven battle equipment is of exemplary quality.”
All the people Ainz had asked about this topic agreed that this was an unassailable fact.
However, processed weapons and armor were more expensive. If they bought from the Dwarves, then there would be fewer armorsmiths and weaponsmiths in the Sorcerous Kingdom. If there was a clear technological difference between the two countries, it would be better to improve the technology of one’s own nation rather than take the foolish action of buying large quantities of superior arms and armor.
However, if there was no competition, the smiths within the Sorcerous Kingdom would not hone their skills. The weapons and armor purchased from the Dwarves might serve as a positive stimulus for that.
Of course, there were many ways to handle this, such as by collecting tariffs and the like. One had to ensure that he could make a profit off the Dwarves and not constantly import from them, among other headaches.
The simple answer would be to hand all this to Albedo and Demiurge. However, Ainz had his own considerations as well.
His plan was to limit sales to the newly-founded Adventurer’s Guild, or rent them to adventurers.
Low prices were very attractive to adventurers, and keeping them alive would also benefit the Sorcerous Kingdom. If they could sell old goods at low prices, they might be able to increase the survival rates of adventurers at the same time.
“While we have not thanked Your Majesty for sharing all this with us, these are questions which cannot be answered immediately, in particular on the matter of wargear. Could you give us some time to discuss this?”
“Of course. Discuss until you reach a conclusion. I will not be upset even if we cannot begin trade immediately. My own subordinates are already equipped with high-end gear. I merely wish to acquire arms and armor for my people.”
All right, Ainz thought.
This was the crucial moment. It was time to complete his objective for coming to this city.
“Shall we discuss the matter of the Quagoa?”
Tension immediately filled the air.
“The response to the Quagoa invasion was merely a personal decision. Is that correct, commander-in-chief?”
“However, what would have happened if I was not around?”
“If Your Majesty had not been around, we would have had to rely on a single gate to block the enemy advance. Once the gate was breached, we would have needed to mobilize the citizens to engage in a decisive battle within the city in order to buy time for the children to flee. I imagine that would have been the case.”
The Dwarves all had bitter expressions on their faces.
Perhaps it was due to the commander-in-chief’s earlier report, but the utter absence of objections or counter-arguments spoke of the excellence of everyone here.
There was nobody present who was driven by idealism, emotion or personal gain. If there was anyone like that here, particularly if they possessed authority or influence, they would waste time pointlessly before even the basics were completed, chattering away until the meeting was concluded. The fact that there was nobody like that here was worthy of praise.
“Then, please explain to me in more detail. What would this decisive battle entail?”
“It is difficult to answer because we do not know the enemy’s full battle strength. However — assuming there were 1,000 Quagoa — we would be in dire straits. Repelling them would be very difficult, and all we would accomplish would be to weaken our nation due to the loss of resources and manpower.”
Why did it end up this way, the commander-in-chief muttered.
It was probably because the fortress at the Great Rift was too strong. The Dwarves had grown arrogant, believing “it’ll be okay as long as we have it”.
Ainz felt this way as well.
He had tasted the bitter fruit of carelessness in the form of Shalltear.
“If we have only one ace in the hole, when it is defeated, then we are undone. Thus, I feel we need another trump card, in the form of Your Majesty’s power.”
Ainz raised his hand to silence the Dwarves, who seemed about to speak. The commander-in-chief might have seized the reins of the conversation, but Ainz was not done speaking yet.
“The Quagoa have been repulsed for the time being, but Feoh Gēr is not yet at peace. That is my opinion.”
The expressions on the Dwarves’ faces were universally sour.
After making sure that everyone was fully aware of his prior point, Ainz decided to seize the moment and speak.
“Without me, it will be very difficult to repulse the next Quagoa invasion. Even for someone like me, the destruction of a nation which I am about to begin trade with would be quite troublesome. What do you think? Will you not make use of my strength? Given the power of my nation, I can guarantee that your nation will not be attacked for a time. …Yes. For instance I could help in taking back that Quagoa nest, the former Dwarven capital, I believe.”
The air seemed to shudder.
This was an entirely new reaction.
The Master of Caves and Mines licked his lips.
“Your Majesty, do you mean that such a thing would be possible?”
“If I prepare for it, of course.”
The Forgemaster folded his arms before him and glared at Ainz.
“…That seems far too idealistic. Why are you giving us so much help? What do you want from us?”
“Oi, you’ve said too much.”
The Forgemaster snorted at his colleague’s words.
“It’s like waving a bottle of fine wine in front of a stranger. Do you really think there are no strings attached?”
“A reasonable question. Then let me be frank with you. One of the reasons is because I believe it is better to establish diplomatic relations with your country than the Quagoa. I believe that you gentlemen of this fine country understand the concepts of common sense and indebtedness, and that you owe me a certain debt of gratitude. Now — consider a side which is about to win, and a side which is about to lose. Who will be more grateful if I lend them my strength?”
“Mm. That is the case.”
“In addition, I would like this debt to be paid not in words, but in a material fashion. This leads to another reason.”
“I see, so it’s about payment. Then, do you want gold, or rare metals, or exotic ores? Or do you want mining rights as well?”
Of course. Ainz wanted to say that, but he swallowed those words and resisted the urge to speak them.
“No, I want something different. I want to recruit the runesmiths of this country to my nation.”
The Dwarves blinked as one.
“What? Is that so hard to understand?”
The Forgemaster frowned more deeply than the others.
“…It is because runic arms and armor are very rare in the nations surrounding the Sorcerous Kingdom. I find them to be very valuable articles. In other words, they are very valuable. Therefore, I thought of recruiting runesmiths and having them produce runecrafted wargear in my nation.”
“Will you take them as slaves?”
Ainz sighed with exaggerated loudness at the Forgemaster.
“I will do nothing of the sort. Did you not hear me speak? I said I wanted to open international ties and begin trade, did I not? Do you actually think I would take the people of such a partner nation as slaves? …Frankly speaking, I’m a little disappointed. All I had in mind was recruiting runesmiths and having them make runic equipment in my country.”
“In that case, what if we gave you top priority on the sales of runecrafted gear?”
“…No. It would not be worth the investment. If you wish to use my strength, then you must let the runesmiths work in the Sorcerous Kingdom and allow us to form a monopoly on the sale of their products. That is what my nation wants and it is the price of taking back your former capital. When can you give me an answer?”
The Dwarves looked at each other.
“I see. Perhaps tomorrow—”
“That might be a little troublesome,” interjected the commander-in-chief. “Don’t forget this city is still in danger of being attacked by the Quagoa. Even if His Majesty accepts the task of defeating the Quagoa, it will take time for him to gather his troops. With that point in mind, we cannot wait until tomorrow. We should give him an answer right away.”
Ainz looked over the Dwarves.
“It is not my place to speak here. However, if you are truly in such dire straits, then having me fulfil my earlier promises will also be quite troublesome. If the situation becomes very bad, then I will have to add several more conditions. After all, one must expect to pay more for last-minute work.”
“Mm. The commander-in-chief is right, and Your Majesty’s words are also very sensible. Then, Your Majesty, while we apologize for the imposition, can you wait for us in the room from just now? We would like to reach a conclusion as quickly as possible.”
“I have no objections to that. I shall wait there, then.”
With that, Ainz rose, and left the room in the company of his subordinates.
The room was still veiled in silence even after the departure of the Sorcerer King. Shortly after, somebody exhaled, and that dispersed the tension that hung in the air.
“What, what the hell was that?!”
“That was an unbelievable monster! Commander-in-chief, that monster made my hair stand on end. There’s no doubt about the fear he commands.”
“I almost thought I was going to piss myself!”
The Dwarves all began shouting. They poured out all the things their strained nerves had been holding in check.
“What should we do? He’s evil incarnate. If even a single thing of what he said is true, it would scare the hell out of me.”
“How could anyone radiating such an evil light be benevolent? Look at him, how many of the living do you think he’s murdered up till now?”
“Mmm. He must have taken so many lives he can’t even remember them all. And to think that spine-chilling face could actually utter such normal-sounding words.”
“He must be gathering equipment for some great invasion. For his army of darkness!”
“Also, I hate how he’s so easy to understand and agree with. He feels just like those devils who steal souls with contracts.”
They were unanimous in rejecting the Sorcerer King’s proposal. Many of them agreed that the words of the undead could not be trusted.
“However, His Majesty’s proposal is very attractive to our country. In the first place, our country will be destroyed if we don’t do something about the Quagoa. In addition, the Sorcerer King is the only person who can save us.”
The commander-in-chief was the sole voice of opposition.
His words made the other Dwarves look like they had chewed a bitter worm.
“Let me make sure again. Is there no way we can deal with the Quagoa with our strength alone?”
“There’s no way. With the help of the Sorcerer King we might be able to take the fortress back, but there are far too many things we need to do. Right now, all we can hope for is to take the fortress back. Had His Majesty not come here, the Quagoa might be flooding into the city by now.”
“If the Sorcerer King spoke the truth, then there were sightings of Quagoa in Feoh Raiđō as well.”
The Dwarves clutched their heads.
“…What if we just borrowed the Sorcerer King’s power and then pretended that we knew nothing about it?”
“That would only aggravate that monster. Even I would be unhappy in his position. After all, we’d be the people who only cared about borrowing military power for our own gain and whatnot.”
“Still, the timing for this is just too much of a coincidence. Could the Sorcerer King be pulling the strings behind the scenes?”
“It’s quite likely, but we have no proof. All we can do is guess.”
“The important thing here is that the Sorcerer King chose us and not the Quagoa. If we displease him, we’ll be putting a noose around our own necks. Trying to investigate him would also be very dangerous.”
“…Does the Sorcerer King drink?”
“Do you think he can? …I guess you can’t trust a guy who doesn’t drink, after all.”
Here the hitherto silent Merchant’s Guildmaster spoke up.
“I believe we can all accept what the Sorcerer King is saying. It makes perfect sense. I’d do the same in his position, picking the Dwarves over the Quagoa.”
If he commanded an army which could easily annihilate the Quagoa, then helping the Quagoa kill the Dwarves would not offer him a lot of benefits.
“He said he wanted to lend undead workers to us. Wouldn’t taking the mines for his own be more profitable?”
“Well, there would be no point in taking us as slaves. …Besides, we know the mountain, don’t we?”
“I see. That’s very likely. He feels that exploring the mines by himself would be very troublesome, so he’ll let us excavate the ores. So he’ll give us a pretty collar to please us, then?”
“…Still, after talking to the Sorcerer King, I get the feeling that everything will be alright as long as we trade with him. In other words, he doesn’t intend to exploit us with uneven trade deals?”
“In that case, I can understand why he’s offering such generous terms. Still, wouldn’t it be alright to agree to his proposal?”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because we can help each other. As long as the Sorcerer King wants ores, he will protect us. We can think of the Sorcerer King as a mercenary with a huge appetite for wine, in that sense.”
The general opinion had shifted from “dealing with him is dangerous” to “we’ll be safe as long as we have value”. However, during the course of this change, one Dwarf spoke coldly.
“…Do you all intend to be the minions of that undead creature?”
All eyes turned to the man who had been staunchly opposed to Ainz since the beginning — the Forgemaster.
“It’s not a question of good or evil. Right now, our country is in a crisis of survival. If we don’t do something about the Quagoa, we’ll be destroyed for sure.”
“…And our strength alone cannot defeat the Quagoa.”
“Then, how about asking the Empire for help? We’ve had dealings with them for many years. Wouldn’t that be safer? We don’t know anything about the Sorcerous Kingdom, you know.”
“Even if we ask the Empire for help, they’d have no chance against the Quagoa. They’re very tough foes for anyone who uses a weapon. The most important thing is that humans can’t see in the dark and they’re not suitable for underground combat. While they might have a chance if we could lure them to the surface, we have no way of doing so.”
“Then it seems dealing with the Sorcerous Kingdom is our only option. In any case, we’ll start by asking for help, and leave the trade deals for after we’ve seen the Sorcerous Kingdom. What do you think?”
“That might be the safest way of doing it. Still, we’re doing business with them to defeat the Quagoa, right? Then, if we don’t make a deal with them, we’ll need to pay for services rendered, won’t we? …I don’t even want to think about what kind of price one can put on saving a country.”
The Dwarves were all sour-faced.
“I guess the only way to save the country is to accept his proposal. That means we’ll have to rely on the Sorcerer King’s strength for the next few decades.”
Amidst the murmurs of agreement, the Master of Caves and Mines muttered something along the lines of, “Using undead labor means that they can keep going for all those decades,” but nobody paid too much attention to him. That was because there was another pronouncement which seized their ears.
“You seem to have forgotten something important. I oppose this. I will never let our people go and be his slaves!”
“The Sorcerer King already said they would not be slaves, no?”
“Really?! Do you really believe what he says?!”
Thus rebuked, the Dwarf who asked lowered his head.
“Oi, look. We can’t rule that out.”
Even if everything the Sorcerer King stated was fact, anyone who knew the undead hated the living would not be able to believe it.
“No. There’d be no need for him to specify runesmiths, in that case. He could just as easily have stated demands for our family members instead.”
“Then, can we refuse the matter of the runesmiths but ask if anything else would serve as payment?”
“…Are there any treasures which might change his mind?”
“No. Although, if we take back the capital and if the treasury is intact, we might be able to pay him with its contents.”
“No, he won’t accept that. We’ll need his strength to take back the Royal Capital, right? If we give it to him under that, what will we say when he asks us, ‘Did you take these treasures from the vaults of the city I took back for you?’ Do you think it would be a good deal if you were in his shoes?’”
“…Frankly speaking, I think it would be fine if we just accepted all his terms.”
The Forgemaster glared at the Merchant’s Guildmaster.
“That’s just your opinion! The Sorcerer King has already said he won’t take them as slaves! All we need to do is send people over to make sure of that, right? And most importantly… While this might seem a bit much… Runecraft is an outdated technology. Considering it might vanish at any moment, I don’t think it’ll be a problem to hand it over. Pretty cheap for what we’re getting, right?”
“But we’ll lose that entire branch of our craft, don’t you think?”
“Still, now’s the best time to sell it, right?”
“I oppose it!!”
Bubbles formed at the edge of the Forgemaster’s mouth as he shouted.
“Is that the result of logic, and not emotions? Doesn’t look that way to me.”
“I have no idea why you all have so much trust in the Sorcerer King!!”
At this point, the commander-in-chief spoke in cold tones. Having faced the Quagoa in battle, he knew the situation of this city better than anyone else. Therefore, he did not wish to waste words in useless conversation and had stood aside as an observer, but he had finally reached his limit.
“Trust aside, this city will assuredly be destroyed if we do not borrow the strength of the Sorcerer King. What you’re doing is casting aside the single lifeline that we have.”
“What did you say, you whippersnapper?!”
“I’m in charge of this city’s military. And I say that the only way we can protect the city is with His Majesty’s power! Do you want to destroy this city? Otherwise, give me a way to beat the Quagoa without using his strength! You old relic!”
“You! You’ve been calling that monster His Majesty ever since you stepped into this room! Have you betrayed this country?!”
The Forgemaster grabbed the commander-in-chief by the lapels.
“What bullshit is that, you addled old fool? You want a fight?! It’s only natural to refer to someone with such power with terms of respect! You’re the ones who can’t be trusted! He could easily annihilate this country, you know! If you say I betrayed this nation, then you lot are jeopardizing the safety of the people!”
The commander-in-chief seized the Forgemaster by the collar as well, and their foreheads collided.
“Oi! It’s one thing to disagree, but don’t fight!”
The other Dwarves hurriedly rose to separate the pair.
However, the two of them still glared at each other, as though they were getting ready for round two.
“In any case, let’s take a vote. If anyone disagrees, we’ll discuss it later. It’ll be more constructive than a fistfight.”
“What’s the vote about?”
“First, whether we will let the runesmiths go to the Sorcerous Kingdom in order to make use of the Sorcerer King’s power. All in favor, raise your hand.”
Everyone except the Forgemaster raised their hands.
“Mm. Then, the next item. Do we want to forge relations with the Sorcerous Kingdom and begin trade? All in favor, raise your hand.”
The outcome was the same as before.
“I see. Then, the vote concerning the Sorcerer King — His Majesty is decided. Sorry, commander-in-chief, but you can call His Majesty back now.”
Ainz and company were once more invited to the Council Chamber. After entering, they saw a single disgruntled Dwarf while the others were brimming with positivity. The commander-in-chief also seemed quite at ease.
In other words, everything had developed as he had hoped for. Ainz smiled inside.
“Please accept our sincere apologies for making you come and go constantly. After our discussions, we have decided to proceed as Your Majesty wishes. To begin with, we will throw ourselves upon Your Majesty’s compassion with regards to the matter of stationing of the forces. After that, we shall open diplomatic relations and begin trade with Your Majesty’s nation. That said, the nature of the trade goods and the methods of the transaction will require further negotiation to work out the minute details.”
“Naturally. In any event, I shall promptly furnish you with the fighting strength needed to retake the fortress and hinder any further Quagoa invasion. I shall send a representative over to handle the finer points of international relationships in a few days, whereupon you may discuss the matter at length.”
Ainz breathed a sigh of relief.
He had to hand tasks like this — which required relevant knowledge — to Albedo. Fortunately, they had not insisted on hashing things out here.
“Then, there is the matter of Your Majesty’s price for the recovery of the Royal Capital; the dispatch of our runesmiths to the Sorcerous Kingdom. We shall pledge that to you. However, we would like to send a group of inspectors to the Sorcerous Kingdom to see how our brethren are being treated, and to ensure their welfare. May we have your permission to do so?”
“Of course. The Sorcerous Kingdom will accept interviews from these inspectors.”
The Dwarves looked much more relieved now.
Did they intend to conduct a workplace inspection? Rather, it seemed more likely that they wanted to see if the Sorcerous Kingdom was adhering to its side of the labor agreement between the two nations.
Typically, labor contracts are never honored. However, I swear I won’t let anyone end up like Herohero-san. I’ll need to draw up a contract with terms which the Dwarves will respect, let the runesmiths focus on development and the like, among other things.
Ainz nodded to the Dwarves and their concern for their colleagues.
No, all this is thanks to the Quagoa. This situation came about because they conquered the fortress. If they had not picked this time to attack the Dwarven nation, events would not have unfolded so smoothly. Putting on recruitment shows for the runesmith would have taken a lot of time and resources. I almost feel sorry about exterminating the Quagoa now…
One good turn deserved another, after all.
“Then, when does Your Majesty intend to begin the recapture of the Dwarven Kingdom?”
“Umu… As soon as possible.”
While it was not likely that the Quagoa who had defeated the Death Knights was a player, he could not rule out a connection entirely. He had to verify this as soon as possible.
“Then, we will place ourselves in your capable hands. To us Dwarves, being able to take back Feoh Berkanan is like a dream come true. I am certain the people will rejoice at Your Majesty’s matchless might. It might sound forced, but they do come from the heart.”
In other words, if I don’t take back the capital, international relations will be very tricky. It’s not like they’re trying to impose on me, but it does sound very selfish.
“I see. Then, I shall hasten to prepare,” Ainz nodded. Then, he thought of something.
“Oh yes, I have a request. I don’t know if you’ll mind.”
“What, what sort of request is that, Your Majesty?”
The Dwarves asked that question nervously. Ainz was confused by their fearful attitude. He had not said anything which should have frightened them. Still worried about whether he had done something strange, he asked:
“I intend to present a gift to a certain Lizardman, and I wish to draw upon the exceptional workmanship of the Dwarves to present him with a suitable set of armor.”
There was a sharp intake of breath from behind him.
“That’s right, Zenberu,” Ainz turned to look behind him, to the Lizardman who was holding his breath. “It is for Zaryusu. Call it a present to celebrate the birth of his child.”
Ainz had spoken of this because he intended to preserve Zaryusu’s life. He would surely father many rare Lizardmen in the future. Thus, presenting him with such excellent armor only made sense.
The Dwarves’ attention turned to the Forgemaster.
He folded his arms in front of him, still frowning at Ainz. He did not seem to approve at all.
“How about it? Can you do it?”
After being questioned again and prodded by the people beside him, the Forgemaster finally nodded, unwillingness written all over his face.
“What are the measurements? We can pay for it.”
“Magical armor ought to resize itself to fit its wearer. Can you enchant it here?”
“I have no confidence in magical matters. You’ll have to ask the High Priest about that.”
“If you’re alright with a low-levelled enchantment, there shouldn’t be any problem. Do you not mind, Your Majesty? I believe you should have better enchanters within your domain…”
In truth, there were few skilled enchanters within the Sorcerous Kingdom. Enchanters were essentially specialized magic casters, and they were originally affiliated with the Magician’s Guild. However, the Sorcerous Kingdom’s Magician’s Guild was essentially disbanded.
In addition, Nazarick used a different enchantment process, that of data crystals. He wanted to preserve them as much as possible, given that he could not obtain data crystals in this world. Naturally, nobody in Nazarick could perform the enchantments of this world.
In other words, the Sorcerous Kingdom had no ability to enchant magic items. That said, there was no need to let them know about it.
“If the need arises, all I have to do is reinforce the existing enchantment. In any event, I would like a suit of armor from this city. It will also serve as publicity for Dwarven armorsmithing.”
“Ho,” The Forgemaster’s eyes narrowed. “It should be ready within a week.”
“Really now. That would be wonderful. Until then, I shall be engaged in taking back the capital. Well, if the battle ends before it’s complete, I might end up waiting around for it in this city.”
“Hmph. Then I’ll work on it faster.”
It was quite clear that he did not mean “it would be a shame to keep you waiting”. It was more like “I’ll finish it up quick so you don’t take too long hanging around in this city.”
Why does he hate me so much? I should be a hero to this country, right? Or the liberator who reclaimed their Royal Capital, right? I don’t recall doing anything to deserve such resentment… is that it? Is he really just a stubborn old fool?
“Regarding the payment—”
“Like I said just now, there’s no charge.”
“That settles the price of that particular article. When I talk about payment, I’m referring to the fact that it is both a finished product and a sample. I need you to tell me how much it costs so I can estimate how much it takes to produce this sort of thing.”
“…I don’t decide the prices. Oi, Merchant’s Guildmaster, you’re in charge of that.”
“…To begin with, we’d have to consider the material of which the armor is made. That would certainly affect the price range…”
“Ah, so it’s like that,” Ainz replied, trying not to let it show in his attitude. “…So tell me, what’s the highest-grade metal in this city?”
If the names of one of the prismatic ores came up, Ainz might well abandon his present negotiations and subjugate the Dwarves by force.
However, his worries were ill-founded.
The metal of which they spoke was adamantite.
“Adamantite, hm? Is there nothing harder than that here? No, even a slightly softer metal would do if it was a rarity in this mountain range.”
They could not answer that question either.
There was a possibility that this was classified information and they could not speak openly of it to Ainz. However, direct questioning would not help. Using charm magic to make them talk would leave the memories of being controlled, so if he could not eliminate them afterwards, it was not an option. Sadly, he had no other way to inquire further.
Since Gondo did not know either, he could only pin his hopes on the more senior runemiths.
As Ainz concealed his disappointment, he produced an ingot from beneath his robes.
“Then, we shall supply the metal. Just tell me the processing fee.”
This was a level 45 metal. It was not particularly strong, but it was much stronger than adamantite.
Zaryusu’s defensive abilities would soar if he wore a suit of armor made from this material. It would be enough to protect him from the vast majority of foes in this world.
“And this is…”
Judging by the expression on the Forgemaster’s face as he examined the ingot, Ainz was sure that this ore could not be excavated anywhere near here.
Ainz shut his mouth just before he could say “worthless”. After all, this was the raw material for a suit of armor he was giving to Zaryusu. He could not say this sort of thing in front of the armorsmith who would be taking on the task.
“It’s a serviceable metal. I have some weapons made of the same material. One moment, please.”
Ainz rose and left the room before looking through his inventory.
After some searching, he withdrew a strange — one of the weapons in YGGDRASIL which had been designed for form over function — shortsword. Then he returned to the room. Frightened by the fact that Ainz was holding a shortsword, the Dwarves shifted uneasily in their seats. Ainz placed the shortsword on the table and slid it over.
Fortunately, it stopped in front of the Forgemaster.
He did not pick up the short sword that slid before him, but instead studied it with a scary look on his face. It must have bothered him in some way.
“This one. Since it’s a short sword, I don’t know if you can use it as a reference for armor… How about it? Can you make it?”
For some reason, those words caused the Forgemaster to flush red.
“I’ll do it and show you!”
Sensing the powerful determination in the Forgemaster’s voice, Ainz nodded.
“Umu. Then, please take care of that. I’d like a suit of chainmail armor, if possible. I’ll lend you the shortsword too; if you need anything else, feel free to let me know. Zenberu, you should be more familiar with Zaryusu. Answer him about his body size, shape and whatnot.”
“I understand, Your Majesty.”
“Then… that’s all for my request. If it’s fine with you, I will excuse myself.”
“Your Majesty, may I ask where you are going?”
“Ahh, commander-in-chief. There was a Dwarf from the southern city whom I rescued, no? I was invited to his home, and I will be a guest there today. …Let’s leave the welcome reception for later.”
Or rather, Ainz did not want to embarrass himself, so he wanted to avoid such a ceremony. Of course, he did not actually say that.
The commander-in-chief looked a little uneasy.
“I understand Your Majesty’s wishes. However, it would be somewhat distressing if word got out that the savior of our nation had to personally procure accommodations. We have already prepared a high-end room for yourself; would you consider resting there for the day?”
Ainz considered the proposal. The commander-in-chief’s words were acceptable, and there was no reason to refuse.
“Then let us do that. I shall go visit Gondo — the Dwarf who brought me here — and apologize for standing him up.”
I trust you won’t try to hinder me any further. It would seem the commander-in-chief and the others had no objections either.
Another Dwarf came in. He was a runesmith. There were very few people in this city who called themselves runesmiths now, and he was one of them.
The Sorcerer King had given something to Gondo, which he had in turn passed on to all the runesmiths he knew. The results were excellent. Even before the appointed time, nine-tenths of the runesmiths he had approached were already at his atelier cum research lab. There was no doubt that the rest would also arrive early.
“Oh! Gondo! I’m coming!”
Anticipation was written all over the face of the Dwarf who walked over.
“All right, now give it to me as agreed!”
How many times had those words been repeated up till now? While Gondo found it irritating, he rationalized it away as a form of work, and he gave that Dwarf the same answer he had given all the others:
“The Sorcerer King has something to tell everyone. You’ll get it after that.”
“I told you, didn’t I? Before I gave you that small bottle. His Majesty has something to say, and after you listen to the end, you’ll get the large bottle.”
“Hm, well, that does sound kind of familiar…”
“Alright, if you understand, then sit down over there.”
“Umu… Also, ah, Gondo. About that…”
Gondo knew what was coming even without hearing it. Every single smith who had come had said the same thing.
“Nobody else but His Majesty has such wine. Do you understand? Do you understand that such a wine can only be found in his country?”
“Mm, mhm. That’s true. That taste, like joy spreading through your mouth… It glides down the throat, but burns in the gut…”
“Mhm. Alright, if you get it, then sit down over there.”
Gondo pushed the smith — who was imagining delights unseen — in the appropriate direction.
“Come on, don’t be like that. You’ve tasted it before, haven’t you? You understand how I feel, right?”
“I’ve never touched it. I’m not a fan of drinking.”
“Oh, what a waste! Gondo, you’ve missed out on four-fifths of life!”
“Yes, yes, yes, hurry up and sit down. Look, those guys have all drunk it, you should go discuss it with them.”
The excited smith began running and then suddenly stopped. Then, he turned to look at Gondo. Many of the smiths here had done that too.
“I say, Gondo.”
“It’s fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“It’s fine. That’s why…”
“…I understand. However, there’s one thing you must remember. You can come to me for help at any time.”
After saying that, the smith moved to sit with the others. Then, he joined their enthusiastic discussion on the joys of alcohol.
Gondo sighed, his heart aching faintly.
The Sorcerer King Ainz Ooal Gown had given Gondo a certain item in order to gather the runesmiths.
That item was wine.
Gondo did not drink, but no Dwarf could resist the taste of delicious wine. Thus, by whetting their appetites with a small sample of exotic alcohol and promising them a large bottle of it later, they should be able to gather about half the smiths. That was what the Sorcerer King had said. However—
Every seat here looked to be filled up.
Gondo sighed again. Personally speaking, he did not want to gather them with such cheap tricks. Instead, he wanted to inflame their pride as craftsmen and have them rally round.
Or rather — that was just Gondo’s selfish wish.
The Sorcerer King had used the quickest and most effective method to gather the smiths. Relying on their pride to bring them together would have wasted a lot of valuable time.
The runesmiths were in dire straits. They had lost the proof that they and their ancestors had existed, while all that lay ahead was darkness. Mired in negativity, it was no wonder that many of them had given up on themselves. Very few Dwarves still called themselves runesmiths and practiced their craft. Most of them had taken down the shingles on their workshops and merely lived day by day of a hopeless, dreamless existence.
Could he have relit the fire in hearts like theirs?
Gondo eagerly looked forward to Ainz and what would happen next.
At the appointed time, Gondo checked the number of Dwarves which had shown up. Every single one was present.
“Well? Ainz-sama asked if he could begin.”
The girl who ran up to Gondo was one of the Sorcerer King’s trusted aides, Aura.
“Oh, can you tell His Majesty that everyone has gathered?”
The girl ran off. As he watched her leave, Gondo tilted his head.
He was not quite sure what exactly that girl was. Why did that nigh-omnipotent undead lord place so much trust in her? Was she the proof of his friendship with the Dark Elves?
As Gondo pondered this, Ainz Ooal Gown stepped forward on a raised platform. Beside him was the other female who served as his aide.
“It’s the undead!”
The Dwarves were thrown into chaos. That was only to be expected. The undead were the enemies of all that lived.
The female — Shalltear Bloodfallen — raised the bottle in her hand.
Everyone’s eyes could pick out the amber radiance within. They were an intensely practical lot, so their attention went to the bottle instead of Ainz’s undead face, and they fell silent.
“Ainz-sama, what is your will?”
“No, there’s nothing. Thank you for your hard work, Shalltear. …Alright, thank you for coming, everyone. There’s enough wine for everyone, so after this, just take one bottle as you go. Until then, I hope you will keep quiet and listen to me. Of course, if you feel that the words of the undead are not worth listening to, you are free to leave on the spot. Of course, you will not get a bottle of this wine.”
The Sorcerer King swept his gaze across the Dwarves.
Every fiber of his being — from his attitude to his diction and many other things — was certain proof of his overwhelming power. Then there was his haughty, regal bearing which made them instinctively cower before him. It was as though every single joint of his fingers was infused with power.
“Then… I trust there are no objections if I begin speaking?”
The Dwarves nodded in silence.
“Firstly, I am the Sorcerer King Ainz Ooal Gown. The domain to the south of this mountain range, beyond the Great Forest of Tob, belongs to me. Being able to meet you esteemed runesmiths delights me from the bottom of my heart. Alright: my words are a very simple proposal, as well as a request. Come to my country. I want to use your runecraft to begin a revolution in magic item enchantment.”
As he heard the Sorcerer King’s words, a spike of pain — born of disappointment and despair — pierced Gondo’s heart.
Gondo shook his head.
He cast away the matter of his father and his grandfather, and looked at the faces of the smiths from the side. They all had bitter expressions on their faces. Their response did not look like it would be positive.
“Forgive me, but I have a question I wish to ask.”
The Dwarf who raised his hand glanced at Gondo.
“Why do you want our craft? Frankly speaking, it’s practically a dying art in this country too.”
The Dwarf who spoke was one of the older smiths present.
“…Simple. I want you to rediscover the lost secrets of your art.”
Under the runesmiths’ eyes, the Sorcerer King produced a sword from his pocket dimension.
The Dwarves gasped in unison.
It was shock, born of seeing a sword being pulled out of thin air. There was also terror at the sight of the skeletal king, wreathed in unholy light, holding up a blade.
But the reason why Gondo exclaimed despite himself was the same awe which filled every other person here.
It was a black-bladed sword of extraordinary quality. The unbelievably fine edge practically shone with magical radiance.
“Such an… An amazing sword…”
“Incredible… I’ve never seen anything like it in my life…”
“Is this the sword from Dwarven mythology?”
“Ohhh! What, what a beautiful sight this is…”
The Sorcerer King raised the sword, as though to show it to the Dwarves. Gondo’s eyes instinctively followed its glow as well.
“Alright, gentlemen, please pay attention to the body of the sword.”
Gondo followed where the Sorcerer King was pointing, and cried out. So did the other smiths.
There were 20 purple runes carved upon it.
However, only Gondo noticed that one of the runes on the sword was the same as the one which the Sorcerer King had described during their encounter in the tunnel.
I see. So that’s why he knew so much about runes.
He must have gained that knowledge from careful study of that sword.
“Then, I wish to ask you gentlemen. There are 20 runes on this sword; is such a thing possible?”
The answer went without saying — it was impossible. Nobody here could do it, no matter how hard they tried. And then, there was this sword, which seemed to exist only to mock their inability to do so.
The smiths rose from their seats, each with a raging inferno in their eyes. There was a passion in them which had not been there when they were talking about drinks. Then, the crowd surged forward like a horde of zombies pouncing on the living, to the feet of the Sorcerer King.
“Let me see!”
“Please! Let me touch it!”
“I might learn something! I beg you!”
The silver-haired girl glared at the encroaching dwarves with a frightening look in her eyes. The Dwarves froze for an instant, as though impaled by a fear which cut like icy blades. And then —
“—You’re being too noisy. Quiet down.”
There was no doubt that they stood in the presence of a true ruler.
His aura was one of a leader that was utterly confident of his position. Then again, it might have been because he was a peerless master of death.
Gondo had known this ever since he had met Ainz in that tunnel, but Ainz had not revealed that side of himself back then. It must have been an act to keep Gondo from shrinking away in fear. This must be the true nature of the Sorcerer King.
I can’t tell his expression, but he seems pleased. It must be because everyone’s moving as he planned.
“A moment, good smiths. Please hear me out to the end. After that, you may touch it directly. I will not continue until you are seated, and neither will you be able to obtain this sword.”
Dejected — cowed by his air of sovereign power — the smiths returned to their places.
“Thank you. Then, I shall pick up from where I left off. My question still stands — is a sword with 20 runes carved upon it within your abilities?”
Everyone looked to the oldest and most experienced of the smiths. He shook his head powerlessly and replied:
“It is not. To the best of my knowledge, I have only ever heard of six.”
A torrent of questions erupted.
“What? Six? I’ve only ever heard of five!”
“…Is that so. It seems few know of this, but 200 years ago, the hammer which the king bore had six runes carved upon it. That was the secret treasure of the runesmith’s art.”
Gondo recalled his grandfather.
He thought of the face of a runesmith from 200 years ago, a man who was a veteran of weapon-forging.
“Ohhhh! Is that the warhammer which could shake the earth? I think I heard of it in a song once…”
“Correct. Even the runesmiths — hailed as geniuses and prodigies — of that time could not produce a weapon with 20 runes on it…”
“I see. So this must be a weapon made with lost techniques, then.”
“Hm? Do you not know either, Your Majesty?”
“I am not sure how this sword was made. In all honesty, it is merely my possession. And… its creators are no longer in this world.”
“By that you mean… More valuable techniques were lost, then?”
Pain filled the faces of the smiths. Gondo felt the same way as well.
“Because of that—”
Everyone looked up at the Sorcerer King’s words.
“Because of that, I want to revive those techniques. Thus, I need your strength. I want you to make something like this sword, no matter the cost.”
Needless to say, it was because they were all aware of how close to impossible this task was.
Even the most skilled of the runesmiths present had strained themselves to carve four runes at once. The Sorcerer King was asking for five times that amount. However, none of them said “it’s impossible”. They had their pride as craftsmen, and after seeing the masterpieces of a prior artisan, they could not bring themselves to deny it.
That sword is like a challenge from the smiths of old to the smiths of today, Gondo thought.
“I want to make it.”
Someone whispered those words.
Soon, that voice was not alone.
“I want to try it.”
“Mm, I want to show the world what a real legend looks like.”
“No, I’ll be the one who’ll be hailed as a legend.”
“What nonsense is that. I’m the one who will bear that heavy burden.”
The sound of a applause rang through the air. Its source was the Sorcerer King upon his stage. Although they did not know how he had done it with his bony hands, it was said that all things were possible for a magic caster.
“Marvellous. However, can you do so by yourselves? Can you raise your voices and speak your challenge to a legend? It might be possible. It might not. Thus, I hope you will come to my country and devote your lives to creating new techniques.”
Silence descended once more.
Gondo was very aware of their feelings.
The Sorcerer King was offering these people — who were keenly aware that their art was practically extinct in the Dwarven nation — a shining opportunity within the palm of his outstretched hand.
Should they not bet their lives on this challenge?
“All right then, I will entrust this sword to you.”
The Sorcerer King stepped off the stage, presenting its hilt to one of the aged smiths. Perhaps it was coincidence, or perhaps he had researched it beforehand, but the man to whom he presented it was considered a genius second only to Gondo’s own late father, and his voice carried much weight among the runesmiths.
He did not reach out for it.
It was only natural to be confused when presented with such a mighty blade.
“Is, is it alright? Is it alright to hand such a powerful — a weapon which I may never see again in all my life to someone like me?”
“Right now, you are not Dwarves tempted by wine, but runesmiths who wish to take up a challenge. I can place my trust in that. In addition, I will be leaving this city for a while. Thus, I am simply lending it to you.”
The Dwarf straightened himself up.
“…I see. Then, please permit me to borrow it, Your Majesty.”
He bowed deeply, and received the sword with the utmost respect.
“Still, I have to say that I do not quite understand the techniques of runecraft. Is it possible to carve runes upon a blade and then further enchant it with magic?”
“It doesn’t work that way, Your Majesty. Runes are characters imbued with mana. Thus, carved runes and enchantments are mutually repulsive. If a powerful magic caster tries an enchantment, the runes will distort.”
“Is that so…”
“Incidentally, when you say you will be leaving Feoh Gēr, where will you be heading?”
“Ah, I will be going to your former Royal Capital.”
The Dwarves groaned all at once.
He could hear them say things like “That ruined—” “To such a dangerous place—” “Where the Quagoa still rule”
Gondo knew that much, but there was a message within them which he could not overlook.
“They say there are three trials awaiting those who wish to go there from this place. Will it be alright?”
“The three hazards, said to be impassable. Even if you make it past the first of them… the Maze of Death is impenetrable.”
All the speakers were elder Dwarves. As expected of those who were old and full of years, it would seem they knew things even Gondo did not. It might be best to ask them about it and inform the Sorcerer King.
The runesmith who had straightened himself up gave his counsel to the Sorcerer King.
“Your Majesty, that place should be the lair of a gigantic Dragon. That lord of the Frost Dragons, the White Dragon Lord, might be in residence. He was the reason for the destruction of Feoh Tiwaz. I know Your Majesty is possessed of great power, but in my humble opinion, that Dragon Lord is equally powerful. I pray you will take care of yourself.”
“…A Dragon, then. Indeed, it would make for a very interesting opponent. Then I shall proceed with the greatest of caution and deal with it carefully.”
After that, there were several more simple questions, and the meeting was dissolved. This was because everyone realized that the sooner it ended, the more time the Sorcerer King would have to take back their capital. They couldn’t bear to get in the way of that, Gondo thought.
Or perhaps, they wanted to inspect the sword they had received.
Gondo did not know which answer was correct, but given the inferno in the eyes of the Dwarven artisans, it was probably the latter.
The desire to shout “Yahoo!” filled Ainz.
He had felt that way ever since he had finished his presentation. It was no different from when he had been Suzuki Satoru. Whether he had succeeded or failed, he wanted to cry out as he basked in the feeling of liberation and relief.
“That was amazing, Ainz-sama! You really got that lot all fired up!”
“That was truly incredible. The only person in Nazarick who could do that is you, Ainz-sama!”
Ainz resisted the urge to go, “Ah, no~” in embarrassment as Aura and Shalltear praised him. Perhaps if they were Demiurge or Albedo, he might peek at them while wondering if they were mocking him. But since it was Aura and Shalltear, he could take their words at face value. Perhaps if he was Suzuki Satoru, he might even say, “I’m beat, want to grab a drink?” and head toward a vending machine, but the man who ruled Nazarick and the Sorcerous Kingdom could not say such things.
“—Hm, well, it was nothing much. I’m sure Demiurge or Albedo could do a better job.”
“Yup yup! Even those two couldn’t play those Dwarves that well!”
Ainz did not feel that way, but he had not expected the situation to develop this well. And then, the creeping feeling of guilt over whether this success was a good thing began creeping up on him.
Naturally, the sword he had shown the Dwarves was an item from YGGDRASIL.
YGGDRASIL did not have a rune system. Then again, it might have existed within the game’s data, but it had not been discovered by anyone until the very end. Therefore, the runes carved on that sword were merely cosmetic — for decoration.
At first, he had thought, maybe they might get interested if they saw this sword. But he had been caught completely off guard by the intensity of their reaction, to the point where he kind of regretted saying that he wanted them to make a sword like that.
However, Ainz tamped down that feeling.
He had to strengthen the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. Since a foe with a World-Class Item might appear in the future, and there might be hidden players out there fighting him, he had to increase their combat strength.
Ainz looked at Shalltear.
She was a Vampire girl who seemed to be blushing in embarrassment — which was actually quite surprising when he thought about it. She was a seed Peroroncino had left behind. And she was the first NPC he had no choice but to kill with his own two hands.
His emotion suppression cancelled out the surge of hatred that followed, but even so, he could not forget it. He could not forget the shadow of the holder of the World-Class Item that had made him do such a thing.
In order to reach his goal, even making people miserable with lies was hardly worthy of consideration. The most important thing in this world was the residents of Nazarick. All other lives were two or three rungs below them.
Equality of lives was nothing more than a madman’s ravings.
If all life was equal, then he would like to put a man who tortured people to death in one electric chair and a champion of said equality in another, and then make the latter decide which of them should die. Anyone who could actually say that they could entrust their fate to a roll of the dice was a true believer.
However, Ainz would kill the former without hesitation. This was because Ainz knew that lives were not equal. There was no comparing the lives of the NPCs within Nazarick to the lives of the people outside it.
“That’s Ainz-sama for you!”
Before he could finish his train of thoughts, the praise of Aura and Shalltear stabbed at his heart. In any case—
“Don’t say they were ‘played’. I merely told them the truth.”
He had said that to them for the sake of Gondo, who should have been behind him.
However, when there was no response from behind, a somewhat puzzled Ainz turned around.
Gondo padded closer, prepared to send Ainz off.
“…What is it, Gondo?”
Upon being addressed, Gondo raised his head.
“…Your Majesty. Since you said all that to them, am I to take it that the Council approved of sending over the runesmiths?”
“Indeed. They did say they would also send an inspection team in the future to see if they were being treated as slaves, but fundamentally, they agreed to do so.”
“Is that so… So did those great people really feel that runecraft was no longer necessary?”
Gondo’s tears flowed down his cheeks
Ainz was shocked, Outside of childhood, a man’s tears were a rare thing.
Those tears must have been shed because he had learned that the art which he admired and which he took such pride in had been judged worthless and abandoned by his country.
But was that really the case, Ainz thought. Given the Dwarven nation’s circumstances, it would be very hard for them to refuse the request of a nation who had pledged to send them reinforcements.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. That was a truth among nations.
Even Ainz would kill hundreds of millions of people for Nazarick.
Still, there was no need to tell Gondo any of this.
“Indeed, Gondo. This country seems to view its runesmiths as disposable. They handed them over with hardly any resistance when I asked for them.”
Gondo, as well as the runesmiths who might hear of this from him, had to abandon their country to some extent. While it was very difficult to completely forsake the land of one’s birth, it was still a necessary step to have them devote their utmost loyalty to the Sorcerous Kingdom.
Ainz gently patted Gondo’s shoulder.
“However, the same is not true of me. I sense potential from the runesmiths.”
Even if Gondo’s dreams could not be realized, monopolizing these skilled people and using their research might allow him to develop a countermeasure against enemies with runic weapons.
Knowledge was power.
“…Even if you’re discarded by one country, it’s not over as long as another one needs you, don’t you think?”
Ainz patted Gondo’s shoulder several times. Gondo wiped his face clumsily.
“…Thank you very much, Your Majesty. Please allow me to meet your expectations with all my strength.”
“Umu, umu. I shall look forward to it.”
Ainz smiled — although his face did not move — as though to say, “I trust you.”
Then again, Ainz had been thinking.
It would be good if he could learn about the Dwarven Capital. He would probably need to have Gondo do some legwork to obtain more information. And then, he had to speak to the commander-in-chief.
Dragons in YGGDRASIL could live forever. It would not be strange for them to be individuals of unimaginable power. So in all likelihood there’ll be a Frost Dragon waiting for me…
Suddenly, the face of a young man — no, a young woman appeared from within his memories.
“Come to think of it, she did say she wanted to help me learn more about them… What a shame.”