Overlord Light Novel Volume 12 Chapter 2 Part 6
Overlord Light Novel Volume 12 Chapter 2 Part 6
“Erm, may I ask a question?”
Everyone turned to look at Neia after she nervously spoke up, and the tremendous pressure made her regret doing so. Perhaps it might be better for someone other than her to bring this up. However, the die had been cast, and after firming up her resolve, she asked:
“This might be a very basic question, but where did Jaldabaoth come from? Was the name of Jaldabaoth passed down from earlier days?
“That is unclear. We’ve studied all sorts of literature, but we haven’t been able to find that name in any of them. We’ve also tried looking for clues based on his appearance, but similarly, we haven’t been able to make any headway either.”
“Could it be an alias? Maybe he caused trouble under a different name in the past?”
“I doubt that. To demons — this applies to angels as well — their names are a very important part of their very being. If a demon wants to show up, it has to engrave its name into the world. Therefore, they can’t use false names. Experiments show that using a false name might even cause them to disappear on the spot.
Neia knew next to nothing about demons and angels, but if an adamantite-ranked magic caster said so, then that ought to be the case.
“As for his origins, if he came from the other side of the continent, then it’s only natural that there’d be no information about him… but after thinking so much, every possibility seems equally likely, and so there’s no telling where to begin.”
“…Say. What if you got Jaldabaoth’s appearance wrong? Was the Jaldabaoth you looked into the Jaldabaoth in the picture? What if he disguised himself?”
“Ho,” Evileye leaned over the table towards Remedios. “Can you go into more detail?”
“We managed to press Jaldabaoth in that form quite badly, and then he revealed his true form…”
Remedios closed her eyes.
“It was an utter defeat for us.”
“Can you be more specific?”
“That should be fine, right, Gustav?”
“Yes, no objections here. If we can learn more about him from his appearance, hiding that information would be harmful instead.”
“While I feel a full disclosure would be better….”
Remedios began muttering and grumbling, and then she told Evileye about Jaldabaoth’s appearance.
Halfway through, Remedios’ face twisted in anger. She had probably recalled the battle that nobody here knew anything about.
“I see, then we’ll continue our investigations based on what we have just learned. We’ll keep you informed with our findings, so could you tell us if you wish to stay in the city?”
“We haven’t decided that yet. In any case, does that mean you do not know anything about that form of his?”
“–Lakyus, do you remember?”
Lakyus shook her head.”
“That’s how it is. Sorry.”
“I understand. Then, after we make our decision, we will contact you immediately.”
“But in that case, we’ll have to consider the worst-case scenario — the possibility that his appearance in the Kingdom was intended to create a false impression, so he deliberately refrained from showing his true power.”
“In other words, our country was Jaldabaoth’s true objective, and that he had some other plan for the Kingdom?”
“Perhaps. If the Kingdom was his main priority, he would have shown his true form like he did in the Holy Kingdom, no? Or was it because he was startled by Momon-sama’s strength, and chose to protect his true identity rather than let his plan be ruined? I really don’t want to think that’s the case.”
Evileye’s words left the room in a gloomy silence, so profound that even the faint sounds of breathing seemed very loud. Who would speak first? In this tense atmosphere, Lakyus proved her bravery.
“Now then, let me say again — we’re in the same boat as you. We want to know more about Jaldabaoth. Frankly speaking, everything we’ve learned is basically analysis from our encounter with him. We have no inkling of Jaldabaoth’s aims, true identity, or abilities.”
“Maybe we could summon demons to learn about Jaldabaoth… But that will stain the soul… And even if we summon low-ranking demons, it’s quite likely that they won’t know anything about high-ranking demons. In that case, we’ll need to contact a summoning adept…”
“Unfortunately, we don’t know anyone who’s good at summoning demons.”
Evileye had been the first one to supplement Lakyus’ words, followed by one of the twins.
Surely nobody would, at least not under usual circumstances, Neia mused.
These diabolists were typically evil beings, and fortunately very few of them were powerful in their own right. That was because most of the time, they either destroyed themselves or they were slain by death squads.
Of course, there might be some experts in the field who had slipped through the gaps, but such people typically hid in the darkness, and would not make friends.
“Still, just waiting there to die is very frustrating. The next time that monster comes to the Kingdom, I want to make him weep with my own two hands. In order to do that, I need to learn as much as I can about him.”
“Also, he was not leading any demihumans at the Kingdom. If he recruited the demihumans due to his failure in the Kingdom, then we’ll need to be even more wary of him.”
Those words were spoken by Gagaran, and then the other twin.
“Is that why you wanted to know what we knew?”
Everyone in Blue Rose nodded. Lakyus summed up for them.
“We’ll pay a sum equal to the fees we would have otherwise received.”
“Captain. May I handle the upcoming negotiations?”
Remedios immediately agreed with Gustav’s question.
“–In place of money, we would like some other form of payment.”
“What is it? While we would like to satisfy you, we can’t do everything… However, if you want to make contact with powerful nobles, that could be arranged.”
“Is that so? Thank you very much. However, we were not thinking of that — could you come to our country and fight alongside us?”
The room was silent once more. It lasted several seconds — no, perhaps it was longer. The next sound they heard was that of Lakyus leaning on her hair.
“I am very sorry, but we cannot offer that form of payment.”
“…We’re gathering intelligence so we don’t die. Doing that would be counter to our purposes.”
Evileye shrugged, as if to say there was nothing that could be done about it.
“We won’t ask you to fight Jaldabaoth. All you need to do is wait in the rear and help with healing magic.”
“Come off it, you don’t have the luxury of doing that.”
Gagaran did not bother dressing her words up.
That was correct. The northern half of the Holy Kingdom was now subjugated by Jaldabaoth’s beastmen, and all they could do was mount a feeble resistance. Many people had been incarcerated in camps, and the remaining paladins were hidden in caves and living as resistance fighters.
“No, that’s not the case. We stopped the demihuman advance in the nick of time.”
They still held the south, where the army and Jaldabaoth’s forces were staring each other down, so calling it the tipping point might be accurate.
To Neia, who knew what was going on, Gustav’s words sounded more like lies than the truth.
“Can you come, in that case?’
Remedios delivered her question from a proper posture, and Evileye flatly rejected it. Given the way everyone in Blue Rose remained silent, she was most definitely not alone in her opinion. They must have all felt the same way.
“…Frankly speaking… we might have stopped them in the nick of time, but we’re also at the end of our rope. The Holy Kingdom is in ruins, but the southern troops are still intact. However, they alone won’t be enough to beat Jaldabaoth.”
Gustav poured a glass of water for himself, drank from it, and then continued.
“The reason why we haven’t been completely conquered yet is because the navy has been pinning down Jaldabaoth’s army on the northern coastline and holding them off. If Jaldabaoth manages to figure out some way to deal with that and advances his troops to the south, we’ll crumple immediately.”
However, that was the thinking of a man from the north, who knew Jaldabaoth’s power. The people of the south would probably have different plans. For instance, driving off Jaldabaoth with their own might.
While part of the reason for that was because they had not shared their intelligence, it was also due to the long-standing feud between the north and the south.
From the start, the nobles of the south had always protested the fact that a woman — skipping ahead of her elder brother — was to be crowned as Holy Queen for the first time in history.
For that reason, the former Holy Queen ignored even such baseless allegations as “The Holy Queen assumed her position because she had something going on with the temples, and she was secretly assisted by Kylardos Custodio” which came from the south, for the sake of avoiding a rift between the north and the south.
After that, the south did not escalate matters any further and thus a full-scale confrontation was averted, but that was only because the north and south had been in a balance of power. Now that the north was in ruins, the south no longer had any reason to hold themselves back any more. Thus, the south began snubbing the north now.
Even in the face of Jaldabaoth’s invasion, the humans still bore grudges against each other. Neia simply found that laughable. In addition, there were whispers of a power struggle for the position of the next Holy King, and it only served to make Neia, a commoner, even more unhappy.
“That’s quite bad.”
“Indeed. The navy has very few air forces, and their battles against flying demons have taken a terrible toll on them. If this keeps up, they won’t be able to hold off Jaldabaoth’s army forever. We need strength to break this deadlock! Please, I beg you, lend your strength to us! All we need is a month or two! We can pay anything you want! I beg you, please save the Holy Kingdom.
As Gustav bowed his head to them, Neia and the other paladins went “Please!” and bowed as well.
The room was silent once more, and then Lakyus’ voice spread through it.
“Please, raise your heads. And — I am very sorry, but we cannot go to the Holy Kingdom.”
Neia jerked her head up at the sudden shout from Remedios. She saw Remedios had risen from her seat and was glaring at Lakyus.
“There’s no way Jaldabaoth will stop at conquering the Holy Kingdom! He’ll gather his strength there and then invade the Kingdom, you know! If you don’t beat him now, he’ll become even stronger in future!”
“You are correct. The possibility of that is very high.”
“Since you understand, why aren’t you helping us!? And it’s not just you, it’s also the nobles of this country, of our country! None of you get it! Isn’t now the time to come together and fight as one!?”
“…The reason why this country’s nobles won’t lend you their strength is slightly different from our own. What do you know about the Sorcerous Kingdom?”
The undead had taken a city of the Kingdom and founded a nation around it. It was a very frightening place. That was all the average citizen of the Holy Kingdom knew about it. As Remedios said as much, Lakyus smiled bitterly to her.
“That’s true, and it’s largely accurate… but it’s wrong in some places… While the undead are everywhere, the humans there live safe and peaceful lives.”
“…Eh? In a country founded by the undead, who hate the living?”
“There are many kinds of undead, and the Sorcerer King is a ruler of the undead. Ordering the undead under his command not to harm human beings and enforcing that order is a simple matter for him.”
Evileye made a noise of disapproval.
“Evileye… Mm, anyway, we still have the Sorcerous Kingdom before our eyes to deal with, so it’s hard for them to aid your country. Also, a lot of people perished during the battle with the Sorcerous Kingdom, which will have grave consequences in the future. The nobles who appear so well-off are hardly as well-to-do as you might think.”
“Even so, isn’t Jaldabaoth a problem that should be taken care of as soon as possible? The fact is, countless people are suffering because of Jaldabaoth. And the Sorcerous Whatever hasn’t harmed anyone, has he?”
“…Fighting on two fronts at once while you’re exhausted is very dangerous. I trust I don’t need to tell you that, right?”
Remedios shut up.
“Also, we’re the same way. Two of us were killed in combat with Jaldabaoth and while they were resurrected from the dead, they still have not regained their full strength yet. If we invade Jaldabaoth’s territory in this state, we might all end up being killed.”
“Didn’t Gustav say that you wouldn’t need to fight Jaldabaoth?”
“What the heck, she actually believed that…”
“Tia! Excuse me. Ahem. I’m very sorry, but I don’t think things will turn out as you imagine. So long as it involves the risk of facing Jaldabaoth, we will refuse this job. We need to become stronger than we are now in order to prepare for the future. …This is just a hypothesis, but we need to get ready in case Jaldabaoth decides to attack the Kingdom once more.”
The faces of every member of Blue Rose was unmoved. It would seem they could not be swayed.
Soon, Remedios managed to squeeze a few words out.
“Then, who else is there who can save our country?”
Blue Rose’s members looked at each other.
“There’s only one person,” Evileye replied. “Or rather, he’s the person you should have gone to in the first place, no?”
“Momon-sama, of course. The Momon-sama who beat off Jaldabaoth.”
“Ohhh! Did he?!”
“A moment, Captain Custodio… If I’m not wrong, he’s…?”
“You’ve heard of it, huh? Yes, Momon-sama is now in the Sorcerous Kingdom and is one of the Sorcerer King’s subordinates. Therefore, you will most likely have to convince the Sorcerer King to help you.”
Neia understood how she felt. Any citizen of the Holy Kingdom would have very complex feelings about asking anything of the undead.
Considering she, as a squire, felt that way, how much worse would it be for the captain of an order of paladins who bore a holy sword? However — Remedios looked forcefully at the members of Blue Rose.
“…If that is the best way to defeat Jaldabaoth, then let’s do it. No, that’s all we can do. If we can, we’ll pin our hopes to that Momon–”
“–I believe it’s Momon-sama, Captain.”
“Er, erk! Can you please write a letter introducing us to Momon-sama?”
After the talks with Blue Rose ended, the diplomatic delegation from the Holy Kingdom to which Neia belonged made an early departure from the Royal Capital. This was because they had already seen that nobody in the Kingdom was willing to aid the Holy Kingdom, researching Jaldabaoth’s true form would need several months’ time, and also because they knew that the only one capable of beating Jaldabaoth was Momon.
In addition, the thought of the Holy Kingdom’s citizens suffering made them anxious to do something for them.
They rested their horses as little as possible, sometimes even casting spells on them, and they travelled east along the roads at speeds that normal travellers could not match.
They passed the final village of the Kingdom, and now they were at the buffer zone between the Kingdom and the Sorcerous Kingdom.
The gently-swelling hills blocked the travellers’ lines of sight, and they could catch the occasional glimpse of a densely-packed primeval forest. There was no sense of human habitation within, and a feeling that a monster might jump out at any time was only to be expected. This might have originally been the Kingdom’s territory, but that was all. The chance of being attacked by monsters had only decreased. It was by no means gone.
On terrain like this, Neia’s sense of vision and smell sharpened, and she forged ahead.
There’s no sign of creatures waiting in ambush nearby. No tracks of large carnivores near the road either.
There were many patches of bare earth exposed on the road. If they continued onwards, they would be entering formerly Crown-controlled territory, whose roads seemed to have been paved. Paved roads were more convenient for travellers, but to Neia, the bare earth from just now would make it easier to spot best tracks.
Neia looked at her hands.
She did not like these hands.
It was not that she resented the hardening of her hands from her training. It was simply distaste for her lack of talent.
She might have inherited her father’s keen senses, but sadly, she had not received anything from her mother.
Neia’s mother had been a famous paladin in her time, and she had excellent sword skills. However, as her daughter, Neia had no talent for the sword, no matter how much she practiced. Strictly speaking, the bow techniques passed down from her father meant that she could use bows skilfully even without any training.
The fact was, Neia was fortunate just to inherit that half of her heritage. However, the skills used by the paladins which Neia so admired could only be used with melee weapons. For Neia, who wanted to become a paladin, being talented with ranged weapons was a waste.
Once more, she gripped the reins tightly.
She straightened her waist and adjusted her position on the saddle. She had spent a long time on horseback after leaving the Royal Capital, and her butt and thighs were quite sore now.
She could have asked the Paladins to use low-tier healing spells to get rid of the soreness. However, she was a girl, and she was a little embarrassed to ask that of them. Also, it was still not yet at a level where it would affect her ability to work the reins, so that made it even more difficult to ask.
…I’ll just apply the poultice afterwards, as usual. I need to thank Dad for that. In the past, when I said my butt hurt, he’d run over with an annoyed look on his face… Did I thank him back then? …Hah.
Neia forced herself to stop before her tears spilled out.
“–Ah, Captain, I can see paved roads. We’re about to enter the Sorcerous Kingdom’s domain.”
The dirt road suddenly turned to cobblestones halfway through its course. It felt strange.
“So, will we ride all the way to the Sorcerous Kingdom? Or will we set up camp at night?”
Neia looked to the sky.
“I think we ought to be able to make it before sunset if nothing else happens. However, we might be taken for a raiding party. What should we do?”
“Let me discuss this.”
Remedios tugged on her reins and her horse slowed down, and then she began speaking to Gustav.
However, this ought to be the Sorcerous Kingdom’s domain from here on in… but where are their troops? There aren’t any fortresses either. There were forts on the Kingdom’s side…
Usually, there would be forts at a country’s borders, but there were none here. Since the Sorcerous Kingdom was just one city, had they concentrated all their forces into the city?
Neia’s gaze travelled along the paved road.
The gentle slope ran between the hills. In the distance, she could see a patch of barren winter forest.
She recalled how she had gone camping in the winter with her father. That did not change, no matter where she went. The scenery here felt just like that of the Holy Kingdom.
…Living in the world’s a pain, huh.
The words her father had casually mumbled stuck in her heart like a thorn.
Her father had chosen to live in a city because of her mother. If her mother was not around, he would have chosen to stay in a little village near the forest, living off the bounty of nature.
When she had still been a child, she felt that living in a natural setting was a pain. However, after going on this journey, she could understand what her father had meant by his words. Was that a sign of maturity? She ought to be able to talk about different things with him now.
Pain flashed through her heart as she thought about these things. However, it was only for a moment. That was because ahead of them — due east along the road — she could see something blurry along the snaking path created by the hills.
–Could it be a fire!?
Neia squinted her eyes, and then looked carefully again.
There was a white, smoke-like object there. No, it was not smoke, but fog. And–
“Sorry to interrupt you while you’re speaking! There’s something like fog ahead!”
After Neia reported to the rear, Remedios took off her helmet. There was a puzzled look on her face.
“Neia Baraja. Is there anything about it that bothers you?”
“Yes. According to this map, there are no large lakes around, yet there’s a large bank of fog ahead. I’m sure it must be an abnormal occurrence.”
The bank of thick, milky fog seemed to be spreading wider and wider, and it looked like it would reach Neia and the others any time now.
Her father had taught her about all sorts of natural phenomena, and when she pondered the situation based on that knowledge, the appearance of this fog really was quite strange.
“Squire Baraja. Could it be some sort of special environment change?”
That question came from Gustav, who had picked up on what was going on before Remedios.
The special environmental changes in question referred to usually impossible phenomena occurring in a large area. For instance, there might be a place where a large-scale ritual spell gone wrong filled an area with toxic rot-gases, or a place where once a year, a desert might rage with sandstorms for a week, or perhaps a place where multi-colored rain fell at certain times.
In other words, he was asking if this fog was one of those mysterious occurrences. However, Neia had not gathered any information on such things. She sensed that she would probably be scolded if she answered as much, but she had no choice but to answer honestly.
“My sincerest apologies, but I have no information about the mist that has appeared before us.”
“In other words, you failed at gathering intelligence, no?”
Yet another difficult question. Who could say that they had collected enough information?
“Captain Remedios, your servant submits that deciding what to do now is more important.”
Their warhorses had come to a halt.
The fog was getting thick enough that horses could not advance through it. GIven what they had learned earlier, there were no cliffs near E-Rantel. If they advanced slowly, they ought to be able to deal with whatever came up. However, this rapidly-brewing fog made them hesitant to move through it, however slowly they travelled.
Neia sniffed the fog.
It smelled of water vapor and nothing more. There was nothing about it that would have bothered her. However, that was exactly what bothered her.
“Captain, could this fog have been generated by a monster? My father once said that some monsters had the magical ability to generate fog, and they would hide in it to stalk their prey.”
“…Everyone, draw your blades! Anyone still on the road, clear off right away!”
This quick decision-making was a sign of Remedios’ excellence in battle.
Neia and the Paladins moved their horses as directed and left the road, whereupon they circled up. By this time, the thick fog looked like it was going to swallow up the entire world.
It was thick enough that she could barely make out her companions next to her, and visibility was zero beyond fifteen meters. Her unease boiled in her chest, and she imagined she saw wraiths in the movement of the fog’s currents.
It would be good if she could detect anything approaching them by sound, but she was surrounded by fully armored knights. Every move they made caused metal to scrape against metal, and it hampered Neia’s sense of hearing. Under these conditions, it would be very difficult to detect anything that was closing in on them. By Neia’s recollections, the only one who could still discern objects by sound in these conditions was her father.
As she realized her father’s greatness once more, she desperately pricked up her ears to listen.
“This is a really weird fog; it doesn’t get this thick even on the sea.”
“Aren’t we about to reach the Sorcerous Kingdom’s city? Are there still monsters this close to the city limits? Or are these strange things par for the course because it’s the Sorcerous Kingdom?”
“I don’t know… could it be some sort of defensive spell used by the Sorcerous Kingdom?”
“Let’s leave magic out of it, just talking about it makes my head hurt. If you see anything, let me know, and make it easy to understand. If it’s a monster, we’ll kill it so we can have the Sorcerer Kign owe us a favor when asking him to send out Momon. How about that?”
“How do you think that will turn out? While they say clearing out monsters within a country’s borders is the responsibility of that country…”
Perhaps it was because she had focused all her energies on listening intently, but she could clearly make out the contents of the conversation between the Captain and Gustav. However, if she moved away, she was no longer confident that she could hear them. What would her father do at a time like this?
I can’t keep relying on someone who isn’t here! I need to stand on my own two feet!
However the fact remained that staying here would only impede her abilities. In that case, would it be better to see if she would be allowed to move away by herself in order to verify the situation.
Neia quelled her desire to speak up.
Even if she did not do so, the Captain was hardly close to her. If she asked for that and failed, there was no telling how she would be punished. She did not want to open up that can of worms.
Also, it would be bad if the Captain stopped trusting my guidance as a result.
Neia struggled to make excuses in her heart. However, it would be very bad for her mental health if they ran into danger and she thought, I could have made a better choice back then, but I kept quiet.
Although part of her mind thought, if we all die here, the people suffering in the Holy Kingdom will have to wait even longer for salvation, but Remedios’ barbs had already punched countless holes in Neia’s heart, and she could not bring herself to care any more.
Just then, Neia saw something from the corner of her eye that she could not ignore.
Amidst the dense fog, she glimpsed the murky outline of something huge coming from the Sorcerous Kingdom.
“Say, can you take a look over there?”
Neia poked one of the mounted paladins beside her.
“…Nothing. Sorry, but the fog’s too thick and I can’t see anything. Is something there?”
She heard the paladin reaching to his waist and fluidly drawing his sword, then the sound of him tightly gripping its hilt.
“Ah, it’s nothing. I thought I saw something, but maybe I was mistaken.”
“Really? Well, if you think there’s something there, just tell us, no matter what it is.”
“Alright, I’ll be counting on you when the time comes, then.”
After thanking him with an earnest look on her face, Neia turned back to the front. If one divided the women in the world into those who were suited for smiling and those who were not meant to smile at all, Neia would fall into the latter category. Even a word of thanks from her was better delivered with a serious expression than with a smile. Neia continued studying the fog bank. Perhaps only Neia could see it because it was too far away, but she was sure she had not been mistaken.
Perhaps her interaction with the paladin had restored her spirits, but Neia decided to say something to the Captain. However, she was still talking to Gustav.
“What should we do next?”
“It’s very dangerous to move around in this fog. Let’s wait a bit more, and if there’s nothing we’ll dismount and rest. Come to think of it, are there fog-emitting monsters in the sea?”
“Sure there are. However, there aren’t any seas or lakes nearby. It’s just like Squire Baraja said.”
“Is it possible that she made a mistake or overlooked some piece of information?”
“She wouldn’t screw up like that. Frankly speaking, she’s brought us safely all the way here, hasn’t she? When we were leaving the Holy Kingdom, the demihumans patrolling near the broken wall didn’t spot us either. We couldn’t have done it by ourselves, could we?”
“We could have broken through by force.”
Once again, Neia’s heart sank.
How many frustration had she gone through to bring them all the way here?
Memories awoke in her mind, of how she had asked them to stay behind while she scouted by herself in the freezing rain, crawling around on the ground and getting all muddy in order to prevent herself from being spotted by ranger-type ambush skills.
If she were spotted, the lone Neia would most assuredly die. Even so, Neia had carried on with the determination to die, clinging to the belief that she was doing this to save her suffering countrymen.
That’s right, I’m not working hard to win praise or anything.
She tried to talk herself round. Even if the Captain refused to acknowledge her contributions, the others would surely approve of her efforts, even if they did not say so.
Wanting to be praised or rewarded for working hard is just a child’s selfishness. This is what it means to be a shield of humanity. Biting your lip, making yourself a shield, all in order to keep pain and suffering from the people is the duty of a paladin. Surely the Captain must be the same way. Still… could she lower her volume? No, maybe the two of them think they’re speaking quietly enough.
The two of them were still talking.
Having been left out, Neia thought that they should not focus on talking and instead keep an eye on their surroundings. Especially Remedios, whose beast-like danger sense and fighting ability meant that she ought to be able to respond better than anyone else.
Neia quashed the frustration in her heart, and focused on the shadow in the fog. That was also because she had not yet regained the strength needed to call out to them again, and also because she did not want to continue listening in on their conversation.
And then — perhaps the fog had been parted by the currents of the wind — for a moment, just a moment, Neia clearly glimpsed the shadow’s wheelhouse.
Eh? No way… is that… a ship?
Indeed, Neia had discerned the true nature of the shadow; a ship which floated upon the sea.
In addition, it was a large ship, similar to a galleass. It was a momentary thing, and it was promptly veiled again by the heavy fog, so even she was not sure that she had actually spotted a ship.
Of course, such a thing was not possible by common sense.
The information she possessed notwithstanding, Gustav himself had already said there were no lakes in the vicinity. No, even if there was, only a Remedios-grade intellect would float a ship the size of a galleass on an inland lake.
If this were a coastal region, it might be possible that they had used an old ship as a fortress or moved it onto dry land for some other purpose. In fact, there were several examples of that in the Holy Kingdom. However, doing so this far inland was impossible.
I was seeing things, right?
That was the best way to think of it.
Still, her eyes refused to leave that direction, scanning over and over again.
“…So you did see something after all, huh?”
In response to the question from the knight she had spoken to earlier, Neia squeaked out an “Eh!?”
“You were looking in the direction from just now, which means you did see something over there, right?”
“Ah? No, that…”
I saw the shadow that looked like a nice boat. If she actually said that, they would probably think she was insane. Certainly Neia would. In that case, what should she say?
“Doesn’t matter if you were mistaken, but could you tell me if you saw something? It’ll help if something’s happening over there.”
It was a perfect argument.
She peeked around from side to side. Everyone was listening in to Neia’s exchange with the paladin, and all eyes were on Neia.
Things being what they were, she could not simply bluff her way through this by saying “Oh, I was just seeing things”.
“..Ah, I just felt that there was a big black shadow out there.”
“Is that big shadow a monster?”
The person Neia least wanted to hear fired a question her way. Dammit, don’t ask me, she thought, but obviously she could not actually say that.
Neia sighed several dozen times in her heart before answering:
“No, it’s not like that. I had the feeling I saw a building or something similar.”
“…Did you really see it?”
“I’m not too sure, it just felt like that. It’s more likely that I was mistaken.”
“A building? A fort of the Sorcerous Kingdom or something like that?”
“I don’t know. However, the fact is that we haven’t seen anything that looks like a fort of the Sorcerous Kingdom near the roads, or near the villages. Those would not be out of place on the borderlands.
While she had felt that it was a ship, it would be more convincing to say it was a building which looked like a ship rather than say she had seen a ship.
“I see… what do you think, Gustav?”
“I believe her. Although — you didn’t verify that it was a building, did you?”
“Yes, it was just for a moment. It might have been something else entirely.”
“Captain Custodio, in any event, I think waiting in the fog is the best option. I don’t think the Sorcerous Kingdom’s forts will permit foreigners to enter.”
“Makes sense. Let’s do it, then. Everyone, stay alert.”
She was answered by a chorus of voices, as well as Neia.
While they were ostensibly keeping watch, everyone’s attention was focused on a single point. That was because everybody wanted to verify what Neia had seen.
The thick fog continued to obscure all vision, and just as everyone was starting to lose interest in the building, something happened.
Neia and the knight to her right both gasped in surprise.
A shadow was moving in the thick fog.
“W-what? What was that?”
Neia could not answer the paladin’s question. Saying it was a ship was crazy talk.
“Is that shadow… moving? Isn’t that a building?”
The Captain’s question was very reasonable. However, since Neia had not told her what it actually was, all she could say until the end was that it looked like a building.
“When I saw it, it looked like one…”
“But it’s moving now, isn’t it? Also… the shadow looks like it’s getting darker; is it headed our way?”
Indeed, if that was really a ship, then it could move towards them. In other words — that ship was one which could sail on land.
How could that… no way…
In the end, the shadow approached close enough through the fog until even the people apart from Neia could see what it really was.
It was indisputably a ship, and it was moving as though it were sailing upon the waves. Rows of long, thick oars protruded from its sides, rowing like they were actually pushing through the water.
“Are you kidding me?”
The shocked words which escaped Remedios’ mouth spoke for everyone in the group.
“Do the ships of the Sorcerous Kingdom travel on land? The inland countries have all sorts of surprising toys…”
No, no, not like this, Neia said in her heart. She was probably not the only one to think that way.
“A ship that travels through fog… I seem to recall hearing about something like that before…”
“I expected nothing less of you, Gustav! Come, try and recall it, I’m sure you can do it. You taught me all kinds of things in the past, I’m sure you can do it. Right, want me to rub your head for you?”
“Please don’t do that. Besides, I’m not a sage or anything. It’s just because our Captain has no head for such facts which required me to remember them on her behalf.”
“…That’s because all I needed to do was ask you or Kylardos.”
“It seems we’ve been spoiling you too much. Once we send Jaldabaoth back to hell, I’m going to make sure you make up for all your years of lost learning. Ah, thanks to that, I remember now. It’s a Ghost Ship. I heard some sailors talk about it, a ship that appears out of the fog. It’s a ship that should have sunk, but which sails once more, and it is helmed by the undead.”
“Oh! Yes, I’ve heard that Ghost Ships are preceded by thick fog. …Everyone, form up! If it’s a Ghost Ship, then we’ll be facing the undead! It’s the enemy!”
Even the paladins could not help but be shaken by their Captain’s order.”
“Wait! Please wait, Captain Custodio! The Sorcerous Kingdom which is our destination is ruled by an undead king, so what if this is one of the Sorcerous Kingdom’s ships?”
“What!? He brought a Ghost Ship onto dry land and then used it? …What the hell is this?”
It was only natural that Remedios would be dumbfounded.
The undead could control other undead. However, what kind of undead being could put a Ghost Ship, that would originally have sailed the seas, under one’s command?
Soon, the ship revealed itself in its entirety.
As the name indicated, it was a ghost of a ship.
It was broken down all over. There was a huge hole in the side of the hull, and the deck planks were curled upwards in many places.
It was gigantic, even bigger than the Holy Kingdom Navy’s flagship “Hammer of the Holy King”. If it were not so dilapidated, it would give off an impression of tremendous power.
The last of its three masts flew aftsails, while the others had regular square sails. However, they were all torn and tattered, and they did not look like they could accomplish their mission of propelling a vessel.
There was an abnormal sharpness to the way its prow protruded forth. It looked very impressive, like it had been polished. In addition, it glowed with a dim, mystical light, and it gave the feeling that the ship was proud of itself.
After that, the most eye-catching feature was the ensign it flew on top of the mainmast. It bore the symbol of the Sorcerous Kingdom.
The ship floated a meter off the ground as it moved forward.
Soon, the ship passed by the group — who were frozen in place by the bizarre sight — from the side.
Nobody was able to move, and then the fog began to thin. DId that ship spew fog as it sailed? No, if that were the case, then the fog would have been thickest when one was near the ship, so they should not have been able to even see the hull itself. It was probably like some sort of concealing layer that shrouded the area around the ship with fog.
Or perhaps it was a cage to keep its prey from escaping. Neia was scared stiff by that thought of hers.
The Sorcerer King… an undead king. He might be a fearsome foe for all we know.
When she heard he had summoned gigantic goats of uncertain origin, she had imagined them as adorable sheep, so perhaps Neia might have underestimated the Sorcerer King in some small way.
It made her uneasy.
Just like how paladins viewed the undead as enemies, the undead might consider paladins to be their enemies too. If that were the case, the fate of their group would be–
Even so, they had no choice but to beg him for aid, in order to meet Momon, the man who had once fought on par with Jaldabaoth. Neia wiped her sweat away with her palm.
“…The fog’s cleared. Everyone, let’s go.”
The undead king who ruled these bizarre beings.
Neia gathered up her resolve.
The Sorcerer King is undead, yet he permits humans to live… What sort of person is he, really? Well, I won’t be able to see that side of him, being a squire and all.
She could see the outermost of E-Rantel’s — the capital of the Sorcerous Kingdom — three walls, and the imposing gate set into it.
However, neither of them could draw Neia’s attention away from the two gigantic statues which flanked the gate.
They depicted a bizarre undead creature who held a staff that resembled snakes coiling around each other. Those statues were probably made in the image of the Sorcerer King, Ainz Ooal Gown.
Despite being a good distance away from them, Neia could make out the intricate detailing of the statues. In all likelihood, she would not be able to find a flaw in them even at the statues’ feet.
Then, she saw several human-shaped creatures working near the statues.
Eh? Ah… aren’t they too big? How high are those walls? While I know the statues are large… who are those people working down there, anyway?
The others seemed to have the same questions as Neia, and the paladins began discussing the identities of those human-like creatures.
“…Those aren’t humans, are they?”
“Yeah. Are they giants? Although, they don’t seem to be the same as Hill Giants…”
Neia, a mere squire, had never seen a Giant in the flesh before, but she had heard about these beings during a monster knowledge class.
Giants were essentially enlarged humans, but in addition to their powerful bodies, they also possessed racial abilities. Thanks to these abilities, they could endure environments which humans would be hard-pressed to survive, so they typically made their homes in such places. They were a demihuman species which had little to do with humans, who could only live on the plains.
Some races which were skilled in magic were more advanced than humanity.
Race alone did not determine the goodness or wickedness of a being. One of the Thirteen Heroes was a giant. In the Holy Kingdom, the giants known as Sea Giants sometimes showed up to trade.
That said, giants were generally a violent and dangerous race.
On the subject of dangerous giants in the human world, one would have to mention Hill Giants, who lived in the hills. Giant-kin such as trolls and the like were also quite (in)famous.
In that case, what were these Giants doing in a city of the undead?
“…Were there always been giants in this area? Did he conquer them?”
“Does that Sorcerer King command giants? I’ve never heard of something like that before.”
That surprised exclamation from one of the paladins was only to be expected.
They had gathered a great deal of intelligence in preparation for their journey to the Sorcerous Kingdom. Of course, a lot of that information was incomprehensible, so they could not be said to have succeeded in their objective, but that still counted as doing their due diligence. Both the Ghost Ship and giants were matters of mystery.
Was the Sorcerer King an undead giant, Neia thought. But such a distinguishing characteristic ought to have showed up in their intelligence reports.
Just then, Gustav addressed her from behind.
“Squire Baraja, it’s about time we changed formation. Move to the rear.”
During their journey, Neia had been at the head of the formation, but now that they were near the city, Neia would occupy the rearmost position. In turn, Remedios and Gustav would take Neia’s place at the front.
“Captain Custodio, shall we send an envoy out to announce us?”
Surely anyone would be wary of a group of people in full plate armor and bearing arms showing up near a city. Therefore, when they entered a city or village of the Kingdom, they would typically send out a paladin to inform them that they were coming, and then the group would approach, bearing the flag of the Holy Kingdom. This was etiquette.
After receiving Remedios’ permission, they sent a paladin out before them.
After reaching the gates to the Sorcerous Kingdom, he turned and came back.
“Captain, I’ve informed the watchmen of the Sorcerous Kingdom. They extend a welcome to us.”
“Is that so, got it. Then let’s go! Raise the flags! Hold your chests high! Do not disgrace the name of paladins of the Holy Kingdom!”
With that, the group slowly guided their horses towards the Sorcerous Kingdom.
Finally, they reached the stately-looking gates, as well as the giants working there.
The giants seemed to be cleaning the statues, as though to make the beautiful statues even more beautiful.
They glanced at the giants’ appearance, and their skin was bluish white, while their hair and moustaches were white. They seemed to be dressed in primitive clothing made from the hide of some kind of beast, as well as exquisitely made chain mail armor.
“What kind of giants are those?”
Neia’s keen senses picked up the conversation from the front row.
“This is just a guess, but I think they should be Frost Giants, right?”
“H-mm~” Remedios replied vaguely. “Are they strong? What can they do?”
“…God, spare me… Frost Giants are giants who live in cold climates, and they are immune to cold. In contrast, they are weak to fire.”
“I see. So if we have to fight one, we should use fire, is that right?”
“Well, pretty much. Mithril-ranked adventurers should be able to beat them with ease. However, they can train and learn like us, and sometimes you might encounter a giant with warrior skills. Therefore, you must be careful.”
Those were giants.
One could train to be a warrior, a magic caster or a thief. It was not just humans who could train themselves in such techniques. While creatures with racial advantages generally were not inclined towards such training, some of them would put in the effort to pick up such skills, and that made them very difficult opponents.
Neia’s father had repeatedly told her, “Beasts intimidate you with their appearance. But a powerful foe who does not appear to be one is very frightening.”
“H-mm~ Well, I’ve never fought a giant before. Still, Ogres are a different matter.”
“Take care you don’t upset them by mentioning Ogres in the same breath as them. To the Sea Giants, at least, it would be like comparing a monkey to a human. Of course, that’s a rumor from a bard, so there’s no telling how much of that is true.”
“H-mm~ The Holy Kingdom can’t hire Sea Giants, but the Sorcerous Kingdom can employ Frost Giants. Which of them is stronger?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that…”
While the Captain obviously wanted Sea Giants to be stronger, the important thing now was the sort of treatment these Frost Giants faced in the Sorcerous Kingdom.
Were they treated as friends, enslaved with force, or was it an exchange of currency for service in a mutually beneficial relationship?
There was no way to tell from the forms of the silently-laboring giants.
Still, it would seem these giants are excellent laborers. The Holy Kingdom has worked with demihumans in the past, but if they expanded the scope of that, it could do many more different things. Of course, the Holy Kingdom would never do that.
Of course, there were races such as the Mermen, with whom the Holy Kingdom had a long history of mutual cooperation. However, the memories of war with demihumans still remained, so it would never be accepted.
Had the Sorcerous Kingdom only accepted Giants? Or did it also take in other strange races. If she encountered demihumans here similar to the ones who had attacked the Holy Kingdom, could she rein in the anger within her heart?
No, if I don’t control myself…
For instance, what would happen if she met a Snakeman here? It would be a Snakeman who came from a land far removed from the Holy Kingdom, living in peace with humans in this nation. Perhaps it might not be possible to use an emotional appeal to dissuade the others from showing hostility, but given the present circumstances, they would have to do just that.
Neia looked uneasily at Remedios’ back.
Could she do it?
She mentally shook her head. Worrying about Remedios like that was very rude. She was the leader of this diplomatic party, and she was working to save the country. She could certainly do that much. Worrying about her like that was just too disrespectful to her.
“Can we just enter like that? How about going in through another gate?”
The gates might be open, but the giants were working. She was worried about whether they would mind the passing of the humans at their feet.
“We’ll go in like this. If word gets out that the Hoy Kingdom’s emissaries went in through another door because they were afraid of giants, we’ll become laughingstocks.”
“…Understood. Then we shall obey your instructions, Captain.”
And so, the group advanced toward the gates.
Fortunately, the giants took a look at them and then stopped their work for a while, allowing them to pass without incident. Neia felt that this was less goodwill towards humans than a mysterious sentiment towards visitors to the Sorcerous Kingdom.
Normally, they would have been stopped outside the gates, but since they had sent someone to announce them, they were ushered in by human soldiers who looked like street guards, and the group passed through the gates, under the light of magical lanterns. Their illumination was distinctly different from that of the sun, and the trained warhorse harrumphed uneasily under their radiance.
“Welcome to E-Rantel, city of the Sorcerous Kingdom. Is this your first time visiting here, honored paladins?”
“I see. Then, I beg your pardon, but can you please dismount?”
This was probably a luggage check, Neia thought. While it was somewhat inconsiderate to do so with people calling themselves emissaries from another nation, they were right to do so.
There was no protest as the group got off their horses and obeyed the instructions to “walk this way please”, which brought them to a huge door beside the gates.
Going by common sense, this ought to be a side tower, a combination of troop barracks and a defense base.
“Please enter here. This city is different from the cities of the Kingdom and the Empire in that it possesses all manner of different locations within, so first-time visitors will have to attend a workshop in the room ahead.
“Yes. This is to minimize unnecessary disturbances. Only people who have attended this workshop may enter the city. What say you?”
They had come all this way, so obviously they could not refuse the request to attend. While it was to be expected, Remedios’ answer was a definite “yes”.
“Then, may I request that you give your weapons into our safekeeping?”
Naturally, they could not refuse that, but just as naturally, Remedios had a put-upon look on her face.
Remedios’ sword was a divine treasure of the Holy Kingdom. Just by bearing it, she would not even need to kneel before the Holy King. She could not surrender such a treasure before even meeting the king of the realm, and after hearing that much, the soldier nodded in understanding.