Overlord Light Novel Volume 12 Chapter 2 Part 7
Overlord Light Novel Volume 12 Chapter 2 Part 7
“Is that so? Then it can’t be helped. Then please remain as you are and enter, everyone. The truth is, holding onto your swords was intended to ensure your safety. In that case, please promise me that you will not draw your weapons no matter what once you’re inside. If you can’t do that, I’d advise you to leave this city instead.”
“Understood. We shall return the trust you have shown in allowing us to bear our swords, we shall not draw our weapons while we are inside.”
Remedios touched her hand to her chest — to the emblem of the Holy Kingdom there — as she made that declaration. She swore to do so on her honor as a paladin and that of the Holy Kingdom.
“Then I’ll trust you to do that. First, I shall ask the guard for this area to step outside.“
WIthin the Holy Kingdom, this was an absolute oath that might even draw gasps of surprise from those who saw it, but it was much more mildly received in other countries. After that bland response, the guard knocked on the door.
After that, the door slowly opened, and what suddenly appeared before their eyes was–
Neia went “Aiiiieeee” in a tone that was somewhere between a gasp and a wail.
The being that slowly emerged was excessively large in every dimension.
Its black-colored full plate armor was covered in red tracery that resembled blood vessels, and it was covered in spikes. Demonic horns protruded from its helmet, and its open-faced helmet revealed a rotted human visage. Its empty eye-sockets contained points of red light filled with hatred and bloodlust.
The temperature in the room plunged, as though the darkness had just poured out.
“Please do not draw your weapons!”
Everyone’s shoulders shuddered from the guard’s shout.
“Nothing will happen if you do not draw your swords! But if you do, you will be slain instantly! After that, you will be bound to eternal suffering! Please don’t make me have to witness something like that again!”
His mournful cry sounded like he had experienced this sort of thing before. Had he personally witnessed such an event in the past?
The undead being slowly glared at Neia and the others. There was the feeling that it was waiting for them to draw their blades.
“…And this undead being is…?”
Remedios’ voice trembled faintly as she spoke.
“They are guards who are stationed throughout this city in large numbers.”
Remedios’ quaking voice was somewhere between surprise, fear and consternation. Neia felt the same way as her. It was unthinkable that a nation would possess so many undead of such extraordinary power.
“A-ah, excuse me. Is this undead creature under the control of His Majesty — the Sorcerer King?”
The guard nodded in response to Neia’s reflexive question.
“Indeed, that is so. Also, he rules over undead who are more powerful than this one over here.”
“Is it not dangerous?”
The soldier responded immediately to Gustav’s question. He sounded like he was dying to pour his heart out to him.
“Yes, to date, there have been no incidents in this city where people were killed without provocation.”
The undead were beings who hated the living. As someone who could utterly dominate them and keep them from harming living creatures, the Sorcerer King must be a truly incredible person. Neia was deeply impressed by the might of the Sorcerer King.
“…I see. Ah. Then, can you take us inside the room?”
“Please follow me.”
The black undead creature slowly stepped away from the door, and the soldier boldly walked past him. In contrast, Neia and the others seemed to be looking at each other to see who would make the first move.
While he said that this undead creature was ruled by the Sorcerer King, those bonds were not visible to the naked eye. This made walking in front of it several times more frightening to them than going before, say, a carnivore who was unbound, but would not attack because it was sated.
Remedios planned to go forward first, but Gustav stopped her. After that, he looked to Neia.
I’m the canary, huh.
There was nothing wrong with that logic when one considered whose life would matter least if it was lost. Even so, despite their determination to protect the weak, their own squire was a different matter.
Neia steeled herself for what lay ahead, squeezed her eyes shut, and then strode forward.
After taking several steps forward, she slowly opened her eyes. She had not been cut down. She quickened her pace, and hastily moved past the undead being.
After seeing Neia had crossed safely, the other paladins followed behind her. In the end, nobody was attacked, and they reached their destination.
The soldier opened the door, revealing several tables and many plain chairs.
“Please wait in this room for a while.”
“Understood. Thank you for leading us here.”
Remedios jerked her chin, and Gustav produced a small pouch from safekeeping and handed it to the soldier who had brought them here. It was a tip.
His rejection was so fierce that it was almost like a cry of despair.
The soldier put his hands on his head, utterly unwilling to touch that pouch.
Everyone was shocked by his reaction, as was Neia. She could not think of why the soldier would react so dramatically.
“We are all paid by His Majesty, so please allow me to refuse your show of consideration.”
“But, but since you did us a service… And it’s not a very big sum, no?”
“No, there’s no need for that. I’ll wait outside until the seminar is over.”
The soldier swiftly retreated from the room. The remaining people looked at each other, mystified by the soldier’s overwrought reaction.
“Is that really alright?”
“He said no, so there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Tipping was a natural thing. While not tipping was not a problem, most people of stature would practice tipping. Of course, some people did so to minimize the time needed for luggage inspections and ask people to take care of various small matters, they had not made any such requests. Frankly speaking, they were simply doing what would be expected of people in their station.
If that was an instruction from the Sorcerer King, then what was his aim in doing so?
“We weren’t told where to sit. So it’s free seating, then.”
After everyone sat as the Captain had directed, a short time passed before the door opened once more.
Neia turned back, and then her eyes went wide.
The entity who had entered was not human.
It was a creature whose species had a human’s upper body and a snake’s lower body, a Naga.
There were several offshoots of the Naga race — for instance, the Sea Nagas which occasionally appeared on the Holy Kingdom’s coasts — but which subspecies this one belonged to was unclear. However, all of them were demihumans who held no goodwill for humanity, yet Neia did not feel terribly afraid.
All this was thanks to that black undead. Compared to that, she could at least muster up a rational response to this.
Ah! Was that what it was all about? That frightening undead creature was not just intended to frighten people, but to numb people to the shock of seeing demihumans? They really did put a lot of thought into letting demihumans coexist with humans…
It would seem the Sorcerer King was not just a powerful undead being.
The Naga slithered through the silent room, paying no heed to the group’s response as he moved in front of them, whereupon he bowed slightly.
“Thank you for waiting, dear humans who wish to enter the city. This one is an immigration official for the Sorcerous Kingdom, Ryurarius Spenia Ai Indarun. Well, it is hardly a vocation which will bring this one into contact with you, so you may forget it if you wish. Then, without further ado, let us begin. This one will briefly explain the differences between living in this city and the surrounding cities, as well as things one should be aware of… firstly, drawing weapons within the city is strictly forbidden.”
That was a very reasonable admonition, and Neia let the tension flow out of her shoulders.
“Mm, many would think of it as an ordinary reminder,” Ryurarius pointed to his face with a slender finger. “It’s written all over your face. However, I’d like you to remember that many races walk the streets of the Sorcerous Kingdom. You have already seen the undead holding their heads up high and walking proudly. Even if they strike you as dangerous beings, drawing your weapon on them without provocation would be a serious crime, no?”
“A moment please. Does that mean we must flee if a dangerous being appears?”
“That is not the case. Even if there are dangerous entities in the city, none of them will harm you. Even so, there are cases where people feel afraid, they feel they might be attacked, and thus they draw their weapons anyway. That is what this one was talking about.”
“Can you be sure we won’t be attacked?”
“Oh yes… Of the many dangerous creatures who walk through this place, those who will most alarm you are probably His Majesty’s subordinates.”
Ryurarius smiled tiredly.
“Once you stay here for more than a day, your wariness will wane and you will no longer mind them. Well, the first day is the biggest problem. Ah, of course, drawing your weapons in self-defense is perfectly fine.”
“I see. So it’s alright as long as it’s done in self-defense.”
“Mm, yes. Also, mind control magic will be used in the course of investigating crimes in this city. Please keep that in mind.”
Neia’s eyes went wide. Nor was she the only one to do so. A commotion erupted from the paladins. As their representative, Remedios stated her opinion.
“A moment please. Is the Sorcerous Kingdom such a base nation? Are magical means permitted? Are the courts also that way?”
In general, mind control magic was not used when questioning people about crimes.
For instance, by using「Dominate」, one could make anyone a criminal for a brief period of time. By using 「Charm」, one could find a patsy for any crime. The fact that mind control magic could be used to manufacture offenders caused it to be viewed as a savage, tyrannical act.
比如说使用<支配> (Dominate)的话，不管怎么样的对象都能暂时让其成为犯罪者。用<魅惑> (Charm)的话想要找个替罪者也办得到。因为这样可以随便造出犯罪者，所以这才被视为和暴君的行为是同等的野蛮行为。
“The courts also use similar means. Oh, this one can be certain that His Majesty will not compel you to speak untruths. On that point you need not worry.”
How could anyone believe that? The use of mind control magic meant that once a nation decided that someone was a dangerous individual, they could paint them as a criminal and then deal with them. No human being would trust an undead being they had never met before.
Nobody said that, but they probably all felt the same way.
“Also, I wish to ask… if you will not enter, will you be returning right away?”
“…No, we can’t do that. Please allow us entry.”
“Oh, that is the quickest answer yet. Traders would ask for time and then discuss among themselves. Then, let us continue.”
After that, Ryurarius touched on how “undead horses drew carriages along the roads” and other weird things that seemed to mess with her mind. However, when he said, “Sometimes Dragons will fly overhead, so do not be alarmed or let your horses run amok”, her face contorted.
Having Dragons fly above a city was not just a “big incident”.
Dragons were creatures against whom even fully armed and prepared heroes might fall in combat. That was why all warriors dreamed of slaying a Dragon. Slaying an overwhelmingly superior creature with the strength they had honed, their comrades and their weapons was a glorious deed, and a deed that only the most superlative of warriors could perform.
Surely it would cause a great disturbance if such a Dragon were to appear in a dwelling place for humans.
The undead are fine, because we’ve already seen them as guards, but Dragons… no, still, having one fly overhead as a sentry ought to be fine, right? Also, they have many age categories, and their strength varies greatly depending on their age…
Freshly-hatched Dragons were still Dragons. However, such a tiny Dragon was more easily controlled than the undead creature from just now.
“Then, that is about it. Thank you for listening. Now, can you follow the soldier back to the gate after you leave this room?”
“Forgive me, but may I ask a question?”
Remedios raised a hand.
“Hm? And what might that be?”
“You don’t intend to kill or eat us, do you?”
“Perhaps this one might have thought of doing so in the past. However, that is strictly forbidden now. In addition, after seeing His Majesty, I feel that there is no point in feuding with inferior lifeforms.”
“Is His Majesty really that powerful?”
Ryurarius smiled tiredly.
“He is ten times more powerful than you can imagine. Him aside, even his subordinates are extraordinarily potent… frankly speaking, there is no safer city than one which His Majesty defends.”
Perhaps she was thinking of something, but Remedios fell silent.
“This one does not know why you have come here. However, let me give you some sage advice, that an old friend — a certain late contemporary of mine — learned with his own body. Declaring your opposition to His Majesty would be foolish in the extreme. You would be best served by promptly genuflecting before him and begging for his mercy.”
There was a palpable sense of reality to those words. While he said he had heard it from a friend, it was more like that the Naga called Ryurarius was speaking from personal experience.
“Thank you for your advice.”
Remedios stood, followed closely by everyone else.
Neia bowed to Ryurarius from where she stood at the rear of the group before leaving the room.
They walked along the streets of E-Rantel. The group’s destination was the inn which the gate guards had told them was the highest-class establishment in this city, the Shining Gold Pavillion.
Neia looked at the assorted people along the streets.
Ryurarius’ words had given her the impression that this nation was filled with demihumans and the undead. However, the reality was different — most of the pedestrians were human.
The only undead she saw were groups of the same undead being they had seen near the city gates, as well as horse-shaped undead with bodies of bones and fog who pulled carriages. There were no other kinds besides them.
On the other hand, there were all kinds of demihumans.
A group of Goblins marched down the streets in near formation, each of them radiating the aura of a seasoned veteran. That immediately shattered the impression Neia had of Goblins. No, it was not just Neia who was that way. Gasps of surprise came from the paladin contingent.
There were also demihumans with rabbits’ faces in maid uniforms as well as bipedal, frog-like demihumans, but she had only seen one example of each in the city.
It seems more normal than I imagined… well, not that normal, but still, it’s quite similar to a human nation. You can hardly tell that it’s under the thumb of a terrifying undead king.
There were no looks of fear on the faces of the citizens walking along the streets. Neia was not sure this was because they had resigned themselves, they had grown used to it, or they had decided that there was no need to worry about living with the undead. However, there were no signs of chaos on the streets. At times, she even heard the sound of children laughing.
This is much better compared to Jaldabaoth, I guess.
Just then, Remedios suddenly halted her horse. Since their leader, who was travelling at the group’s head, had stopped, the rest of them had no choice but to follow suit.
“Excuse me, Dwarf-san. May I ask you a few questions?”
Remedios was addressing three Dwarves who were working by the side of the road. There were also three Skeletons performing earthworks under the Dwarves’ orders.
The culture shock she had received after entering the city had been so great that she now thought little of seeing Skeletons. There was even a hint of relief in her mind which came from seeing an opponent which even she could win against.
“What? Who are you guys? Which country do you hail from.”
“I apologize for speaking from horseback. However, we are from the Holy Kingdom, and we are looking for the Shining Gold Pavilion. May we ask how to get there?”
“Shining… Shining Gold Pavilion? Ahhh, that’s a classy place.”
The Dwarves gave them a rough explanation. However, it differed slightly from what the gate guards had told them, and it felt like they were being sent slightly off-course. However, the real objective was not asking directions.
“I see. Thank you very much. Gustav, give them a token of appreciation.”
Gustav dismounted from his horse and produced a small pouch of coins.
“Surely there’s no need for this just for giving directions?”
“It’s fine. After all, we’ve interrupted your work.”
“Really? Then thank you kindly.”
The Dwarves accepted Gustav’s gift, and smiled.
“Well, when we get some grub, we’ll thank the men and women of the Holy Kingdom for it.”
“No, there’s no need… speaking of which, what are you doing here?”
“Hm? You can’t tell? We’re laying roads. His Majesty himself requested it of us. While it’s mainly the residents who are doing the work, we’re here to serve as technical advisors.”
Gahahahaha, the Dwarves laughed heartily.
“I see. And the undead over there are…?”
“They’re Skeletons His Majesty lent us, no? Ahhh, honestly, you can’t beat the undead when it comes to pure manual labor. It’s certainly changed my view of them.”
“Controlling the undead, huh…”
“It’s not like there’s anything surp… Well, I guess it can’t be helped because you’re travellers. Still, it’s only to be expected in the Sorcerous Kingdom, no? I’ve heard that the undead are showing their stuff in the nearby villages. After all, they can complete tedious chores like planting and so on with just an order. Look here, the undead don’t tire, they don’t sleep, and they don’t eat. In addition, they also understand what we want to say, so they do fantastically when given a task within their means. Things being what they are, you don’t even need to work like a dog any more. Even our country’s starting to make use of them too.”
“By your country, you mean a nation of Dwarves separate from the Sorcerous Kingdom?”
“Oh yes. That’s where we come from, but now we stay in the Sorcerous Kingdom’s demihuman district.”
“Yup. It’s where all the races who aren’t human live. They say it used to be the pauper’s district of this city, but it was torn down. Then, it was rebuilt in order to let races of all kinds live comfortable lives. Well, it might be a while before it’s complete, but work on the dwellings for races smaller than you humans — like we dwarves, for instance — has already begun.”
“We’re here to take charge of that building work!”
The Dwarf’s colleague jumped into the conversation.
“I see. But if the pauper’s district was torn down, where did the original residents go?”
Remedios’ eyes went to the undead.
“We’re not too sure, but I think they were sent to villages or something. There’s a lot of ruined, abandoned villages around here, and I heard they were sent there to rebuild and work the fields there. That’s where being able to command the undead comes in handy. If I’m not wrong, they’ve begun large-scale farming with the undead, or something. That’s why food prices in this country are pretty cheap.”
“It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap! The important thing is that it’s good! And the wine! Ohhh, I fattened right up after moving to this city!”
“If I go back all plump like this, my wife’s going to yell “Where’s my share” at me. I’d better slim down before returning home!”
“Ahhhh, we really lucked out when we drew lots.”
Guhahahaha, the dwarves laughed again.
“Finally, there’s those horse-shaped undead. Do you know their names?”
“Beats me. Still, doesn’t matter if we don’t know, right? They’re not harming anyone. They’re a bag of bones, yet they’re so damn strong, makes them perfect for moving goods, right?”
“Same here. Best of luck to all of you!”
After bidding the Dwarves farewell, the group continued toward the inn once more.
“Captain, why did you ask the name of that horse-shaped undead creature?”
Neia was mystified. She had thought that was what displeased the Captain most.
“…Gustav. That was because you were acting strangely when you saw that thing.”
“Say, do you know the name of that undead being?”
“…Well, a name does come to mind… but I think I must have made a mistake. It can’t be, I was probably mistaken. I can’t imagine an undead creature like that could ever be controlled.”
“H–mm~ Well, if you say so, then so be it.”
And that was the end of that.
Before long, the instructions they had followed brought them before a luxurious inn, probably the Shining Gold Pavilion which the gate guards had recommended to them. While its name was written on the signboard, the Kingdom’s script was different from that of the Holy Kingdom, so they could only make a rough guess. The Kingdom and the Empire had once been the same country, so there were many similarities between them, but the Holy Kingdom had never been tied to either of those countries, so there was a great difference between them.
“Gustav, go book our rooms.”
“Understood. Oi, two of you, with me.”
Gustav brought two paladins with him to the inn. Several minutes later, one of them returned.
“Captain, we’ve successfully booked the rooms. The stables are behind the inn, so they’d like us to bring the horses there.”
“Alright, I understand. Squire Baraja, bring the horses over.”
She tied the horses to a tree in front of the inn, and then she led them to the stables one at a time. Taking care of horses was a squire’s job, but the inn was also obliged to help out as well, and so Neia accepted their goodwill and entered the inn.
Perhaps it was to ward off the odor of the stables from entering the inn, but there was a fragrance in the air which made her think just that.
Was it from some kind of fragrant wood or perfume?
From the outside, it seemed to be of the same grade as the inn from the Kingdom, but after seeing the interior, it might have well been a cut above the latter. She even felt a little uneasy walking around inside it with her body that was dirty — bathing for them was essentially just rinsing with water until they thought they did not stink — from long travel.
Neia stepped forward to the room which the inn staff had told her about, and knocked on the door.
“Who is it?”
“Squire Neia Baraja.”
In front of the door stood a paladin in armor. Due to the great discrepancy between the E-Rantel in her imagination and reality, she felt that even the time needed to relieve the fatigue of travel was a shame, and she wanted to make a move as soon as possible.
“You’ve come just in time. We’re about to start the meeting.”
While she wondered if she needed to take part, it did no good to ask too much. The people on top had spoken, and obeying them was the proper course of action.
“Then let’s go seek an audience with the Sorcerer King as we planned. Gustav, I’m counting on you.”
“Of course, Captain. But what else should we do apart from that? The original plan was to meet people in power and ask for their aid…”
Since Momon was an adventurer, they had originally planned to head to the Adventurer’s Guild. However, according to Ryurarius, the Adventurer’s Guild now was essentially closed down, and requests were handled by the Sorcerer King.”
“Let’s drop by the Guild anyway. Let’s see if we can’t entice some idle adventurers and notable individuals to come to the Holy Kingdom.”
“I understand, then–”
Gustav gave orders to two paladins, and they immediately sprang into motion.
Neia wondered what kind of tasks she would be given.
Usually, it was a squire’s job to polish the paladins’ armor and swords, do their laundry, among other sundry tasks. Ironing and arranging their rumpled clothes was also part of that. Most paladins now had gone through such experiences.
Of course, our incredibly talented captain, who became a paladin in one go, might not have encountered such things…
“Then how about the others? Will they wait within the inn?”
“Ahh, when I was gathering rumors in the Kingdom, I was led to believe that this would be a grim and dark city. However, it’s far more ordinary than I expected… I trust letting a few people outside would not pose a problem?”
“While it’s hard to tell at this stage, I believe there should be no sudden danger in that.”
“Is that so? Then have several people go to the temples and see if they can help introduce us to Momon.”
“The ruler of this city is the Sorcerer King, an undead being. It won’t be too good to have ties to the temples, no?”
“Still, we’re paladins. Where should we go if not to the temples?”
Gustav had a complex look on his face. Remedios had a point.
“That’s… also true.”
“And in addition to the scenery the Sorcerer King has allowed us to see, it would also be good to see and hear about life in the city from its people. right?”
“You have a point there…”
But what should they do if they saw something which they, as paladins, could not tolerate?
Gustav was having trouble responding because he was thinking about that question.
Neia answered her own question.
Paladins were beings who embodied justice, so perhaps the right thing for a paladin to do would be to censure the Sorcerer King. However, if the result of doing so meant that the Sorcerer King would not help the Holy Kingdom, meaning that they could not save the masses from their suffering, would that still be the right thing to do?
She remembered that her father had once said he did not understand the justice of a paladin. She had not given much thought to it during her days of training with the goal of becoming a paladin in mind. But now that the Holy Kingdom was in this state, perhaps her heart had become soft and weak, but she had been thinking about this all this time.
Perhaps her doubts might be cleared up if she could ask her mother, but her mother was no longer among the living.
In the end, she could only rely on herself to find the answer.
As Neia continued pondering these things, the dialogue continued. A pair of paladins would go to the temples of the Four Gods, while two more groups of two would collect information in town. Remedios and the others would stay behind to take care of anything that might happen.
As expected, Neia was ordered to polish their armor.
After the meeting ended, Neia cared for everyone’s armor.
She wiped them clean of grime with a damp cloth.
As one might expect of magic armor, it was undamaged and undented. If there were any dents, one would have to hammer them out from the inside, but if one’s fingers were clumsy, that would make the surface uneven and ugly. Since Neia was not confident of her skills in that respect, the magic armor which paladins wore was the best of all.
She was very happy to bury her heart and mind in work, so she did not need to think of unnecessary things.
And so, her forehead beaded with sweat, Neia cleaned everyone’s armor.
♦ ♦ ♦
Their audience with the Sorcerer King came earlier than expected. Neia could not help but be surprised. That was because it was set to take place the day after Gustav had gone to plead his case.
The paladins of the Holy Kingdom — trailed by Neia — found that the residence of the Sorcerer King which they arrived at was quite austere. Perhaps it might have been quite ostentatious for someone ruling a city of this grade, but it was entirely unfitting of someone who called himself a king. There was no silent, reverent sense of history, no aura of stateliness, and it did not show the whims of one who held power. It seemed like a building constructed for practical purposes.
It was far too sad compared to the royal palaces of the Kingdom or the Holy Kingdom. Yet, this was the domicile of the Sorcerer King. Since this had once been a regional city of the Kingdom, he had probably decided to make use of its facilities after taking control of it.
As the paladins removed their helmets and surveyed this, there were faint traces of disdain which only Neia could pick up. Perhaps they were comparing their surroundings with the royal palace of their homes.
Who could blame them for that?
And then, Neia saw the Ghost Ship that they had previously encountered. As well as the undead walking along the streets.
Why would a king who held dominion over undead of that level choose to stay in such a shabby old palace?
I have the feeling that there’s some reason for it… if he wanted a luxurious palace, all he’d have to do is order the Dwarves to direct the untiring undead to build one…
As they passed through the gates of the palace, there were two facing rows of undead creatures, similar to the one they had first encountered upon coming to the city. Unlike the undead they had seen at the gate, they were slimmer and crossed their lances high in the air between them.
Flags hung from the tips of the crossed lances. On the right were the flags of the Sorcerous Kingdom, and on the left were the flags of the Holy Kingdom.
Below the flags was a passage that they could move through.
After that, music played. While it was a tune she had not heard before, it was probably best to accept this as part of the ceremony of the whole thing.
Neia recalled a lecture she had received once.
The most important factor of resisting spells is to have a clear mind.
No, there was no way this could be a magical attack. If this was a trap, there would be no need to raise the Holy Kingdom’s flag.
Neia walked in what seemed like a striking way, while simultaneously scanning her surroundings.
There was an honor guard and the flags of the Holy Kingdom. This was a clear sign that the Sorcerer King was treating their delegation as honored guests; in other words, he acknowledged Neia and the others as official ambassadors of the Sorcerous Kingdom, which meant Neia also had to uphold the reputation of the Holy Kingdom.
It delighted her, but at the same time it filled her with gut-cramping stress.
She walked along the path below the hanging flags, and at the end of the passage was — Neia sucked in a surprised breath.
She was a world-class beauty.
She’s beautiful… she’s incredibly beautiful…
She had an immaculate beauty to her. Her incalculably expensive white dress lacked so much as a blemish or a stain.
Her compassionate smile was enough to make her, a woman who might have been mistaken for an angel. However, the reality was not so, given the pair of raven-black wings sprouting from her waist.
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen of the Sorcerous Kingdom. Please permit me to introduce myself; I am the Guardian Overseer of the various Floor Guardians and Area Guardians throughout the Sorcerous Kingdom of Ainz Ooal Gown. To use a term that is more familiar to you, I hold the position of Prime Minister.”
“I, I am grateful for your warm welcome. I am the leader of the Holy Kingdom’s diplomatic party, Remedios Custodio, and I am very grateful that you have arranged to make arrangements to meet with us.”
“There is no need for thanks. His Majesty the Sorcerer King is deeply concerned over the developments within the Holy Kingdom, and His Majesty has said that making time for you was only to be expected.”
“We, we are very thankful for that.”
Albedo was all smiles, and her presence crushed Remedios’ words underfoot. Her preternatural beauty was such that even a member of the same sex — no, it was precisely because they were of the same sex — would be devoured by it. Albedo’s line of sight swiftly flickered over everyone, Neia included.
“Now then, His Majesty is waiting for you, so I shall guide you to the audience hall. Can I trouble you to follow behind me?”
“Y-yes, of course. T-then, how about our swords?”
“Ah, yes, there is the matter of those.”
Albedo smiled in amusement.
Why would she smile like that, Neia wondered. They could not possibly carry weapons into the presence of a king, so normally they would be asked to surrender their weapons. This was also a show of trust in the other party.
“Normally, we would hold onto them for safekeeping, but there is no need for that. You may bear your arms.”
Albedo said something which Neia could not comprehend.
Remedios was also going “why?” Surely someone who had spent all her time by the Holy Queen’s side would have even more reason to question this.
Faced with their justified doubts, Albedo smiled once more.
“Naturally, this is because we trust our honored guests from the Holy Kingdom, and also because we, as a nation that contains many undead, must seem like quite a bizarre country to you. Therefore, I feel that permitting you to keep your blades will place you at ease. Of course, we have no intention of harming you all. But if you wish to leave them with us, we can certainly accommodate that request.”
“Then, our country shall graciously accept His Majesty’s goodwill… may I ask you to hold onto the swords of everyone apart from myself. I apologize, but I carry a national treasure of my country, so I hope you understand when I say I cannot leave it in your hands.”
Albedo glanced to the side, and the undead creature that appeared took their swords for safekeeping.
Perhaps there were paladins who were unhappy about giving their swords to the undead, but since their Captain had ordered it, there was no way they could refuse.
Neia looked at Albedo as she handed over her weapon.
There was no telling what she was thinking as she continued smiling that beautiful smile of hers. Rather, one could say that she had looked upon them with pure goodwill, as though she were lavishing heartfelt kindness on Neia and the others. However, was Neia’s assessment correct? For instance, if there was a deeper wrinkle to it–
–She permitted armed people to stand before her master. Was it due to the Sorcerer King’s order? Or… was it because she knew there was no way we could harm him?
The Sorcerer King was an incredibly powerful magic caster. Was this due to his arrogance that no amount of paladins from the Holy Kingdom could defeat him?
Or perhaps he has battle-ready undead guards nearby. Albedo-sama doesn’t look like she has any fighting ability…
The Prime Minister whose beauty was as far removed from violence as possible smiled gently.
“Now then, everyone. The Sorcerer King awaits. Please go forth and meet him.”
♦ ♦ ♦
The throne room was also not as lavish as she had imagined. It would seem it had been pressed into service directly after being taken, without any renovation.
However, the throne itself glittered brightly; one could say it shone with a golden radiance. Surely it was not forged of solid gold; it must have been gilded with gold foil. But even so, one could see how much effort and expense it must have taken to do so, given the size of the throne.
Then, the flag behind the throne was just as impressive. It was made of some kind of fabric and jet-black in color, with an immeasurable depth to it. A slight alteration to the light levels might make one think that it was a deep purple.
“Please enter, Your Majesty.”
“Everyone, bow,” Remedios commanded.
Paladins are bowing to the undead; even if Neia was surprised by how Remedios could make a decision like that, she offered no resistance as she fell to one knee and lowered her head. It was because she was a squire that she had learned this ceremonial practice. That said, her experience with meeting kings was limited to when she had glimpsed the Holy King once, as a squire. She lowered her head as she moved her eyes, frantically stealing glances at the paladins around her.
It seems… everything’s fine.
Of course, that was a decision made based on looking at their backs. Perhaps if she looked at them head-on, they might differ slightly from herself.
It’ll be fine! I wasn’t scolded by anyone even in front of the Holy King-sama. Dad said I did well too, and he even praised me.
“Announcing the arrival of His Majesty, Ainz Ooal Gown.”
As Albedo spoke from where she stood ahead of and to the side of their group, Neia heard a very faint sound that only she could pick up, like that of tearing paper, followed by the sound of footsteps and a pon, pon sound of something hard striking the ground. Soon, she sensed someone sitting upon the throne.
“Permission has been granted, do raise your heads.”
It was very difficult to breathe during this time. Looking up too early or too late would be a breach of etiquette. After a delay of a few seconds, she silently raised her head.
And then, the being in front of Neia captured her attention.
He, he’s the Sorcerer King, Ainz Ooal Gown…
Points of red light blazed within the eye-sockets of his bare skull, a fittingly undead appearance. However, Neia knew he was something else entirely.
The first thing which surprised her were his clothes.
He was dressed more richly than a noble would be at the feast to celebrate the inheritance of his title.
The length and spreading of his robes seemed very comfortable, and the sleeves were surprisingly loose. The hem and sleeves were decorated faintly with gold and purple. It was bound up at the waist with a sash, but it was both strange and not strange at the same time. Bizarre as it might be, it exuded an exotic flavor, and “beautiful” was the only word she could use to describe it.
After that, he wore a glove colored the same as his garments, fitted with metal plates that sparkled in all the colors of the rainbow, and that hand held a mystic staff which looked like seven serpents coiling around each other. That must have been the source of the hard sound from earlier.
However, it was the halo of obsidian radiance from behind him that was truly surprising.
…Is he really one of the undead? No way…
In Neia’s mind, the undead were creatures like Zombies, Skeletons, Ghasts, and other such creatures.
In that case, the Sorcerer King could not possibly be described as one of the undead in Neia’s eyes. Mysteriously enough his skeletal face did not frighten her. In fact, one could even say he had an air of purity and sacredness about him.
He was a powerful being, an awesome being, a being whose power exceeded the capacity of her mind to grasp — in other words, he was a Supreme Being.
Neia forgot Albedo, who stood beside the throne, and tenderly gazed upon the Sorcerer King.
What brought her back to her senses was the “Well then,” which the Sorcerer King said.
“You have come a long way from the Holy Kingdom, Remedios-dono, and you ladies and gentlemen of the paladin order.”
“Thank you very much, Your Majesty.”
“While we could have organized a banquet of welcome for you, I trust none of you are in the mood for such a thing. Therefore, I have taken the time out of my busy schedule to arrange an audience with you. That being the case, rather than wasting time on useless word games — beating around the bush and insincere flattery — let us get right to the heart of the matter. I trust there are no objections to a full disclosure?
“Not at all, Your Majesty.”
“Very well. Then, tell me the present state of the Holy Kingdom. Speaking without deception or omission will allow we in the Sorcerous Kingdom to better aid you.”
After Remedios indicated her understanding, she poured her heart out regarding the state of the Holy Kingdom.
Neia did not understand what was the reasoning which had led her to be so forthcoming with her information. Although, it was very likely that Remedios felt thinking itself was troublesome.
The contents of her spiel were just like what Gustav had told Blue Rose, and she ended by saying that the situation on the frontlines was in a tense state. She probably did not want to say something like the Holy Kingdom was on the eve of destruction to another country, much less to an undead king.
“I see, I see. Therefore, what is your aim in coming to my country?”
“We wish to submit a request to Your Majesty; they say the adventurer called Momon has sworn himself to you, and if we could borrow that warrior who could fight on par with Jaldabaoth, there would be nothing for our country to fear. I beg you to send the warrior Momon to our country.”
The crimson glow in the Sorcerer King’s eyes suddenly vanished, and then it reignited a moment later.
“As I thought. I have also prepared an answer for this eventuality — which would be no.”
“May I ask for the reasons which led to that answer?”
“Well, this is something of a black mark on my nation. However, Momon is, for the time being, an irreplaceable part of my country. It is precisely because he is around that the people can live with their hearts at ease.”
“But do you not command legions of the undead, Your Majesty?”
“Huhuhu,” the Sorcerer King laughed quietly. “It would seem you ladies and gentlemen of the Holy Kingdom have seen my undead forces and deemed them quite satisfactory. Then, will you not accept a loan of these undead troops in place of Momon, I trust you have all seen that all the undead I command are quite potent. They ought to be able to eliminate a mere demihuman uprising.”
Remedios was left speechless.
She was probably imagining the sight of herself leading an undead army back to the Holy Kingdom. No, it was unimaginable. Commanding the undead was utterly antithetical to being a paladin.
It was true that the undead boasted many advantages as troops. They did not need to eat, they could lie in wait in the middle of primeval forest, and one could call them an ideal army.
However, enlisting the undead — called the enemies of all living creatures due to their hatred of life — into their forces was more frightening than anything else. For starters, bringing another nation’s troops into one’s own country was a source of unease. After solving their problems, they might then proceed to conquer the Holy Kingdom.
“In, in that case…”
The Sorcerer King chuckled at Remedios’ perturbation.
“Indeed, Remedios-dono. There are those in my country who think the same way as you. Using the undead for agriculture, tilling fields and security are all applications which the people are growing to accept. But unfortunately, those among my citizens who have little contact with these activities have not come to fully accept them yet. Of course, the situation is much better than when I was just establishing my rule, but more time will be needed for that. Momon can listen to their concerns and allay them in many ways. If I send him out now, there is no telling how the discontent of the people might erupt.”
“In that case, surely we paladins can stay behind and complete the work of building trust in the undead, could we not? Many people know that paladins are the foes of the undead. Therefore, would it not be very effective to have us stay behind and declare that Your Majesty’s undead are trustworthy?”
“Umu… that is a proposal which is worthy of consideration.”
After a brief period of cogitation, the Sorcerer King turned his face to the hand which did not carry his staff.
“…Hm. It would seem having foreigners handle that is not quite suitable, no. One can trust someone who has gone through the same hardship as they have; surely there is no way for them to believe someone who appeared out of nowhere and said the undead were their friends, is there? As I thought, you will not be able to take the place of an adamantite-ranked adventurer, who is already renowned throughout this city.”
His logic was faultless.
Therefore, she could not refute him with logic. In addition, Remedios felt that using any form of emotional appeal would be even less effective.
The Sorcerer King then asked the speechless Remedios:
“–Very well. Then let us shift the topic. I wish to ask about some people you did not mention, Remedios-dono. In the past, Momon told me that Jaldabaoth commanded maids of considerable power. May I ask if you ladies and gentlemen have encountered people dressed like that in the Holy Kingdom?”
“We have not found anyone so dressed in the Holy Kingdom. In fact, we only learned about them for the first time when we engaged Blue Rose of the Kingdom in conversation.”
“I see… which would mean the maids might be Jaldabaoth’s trump card, then? Or does that mean they are active in other locations?”
“We cannot be sure.”
“…I believe you mentioned that the Southern Holy Kingdom was still holding out. Are you maintaining secret communications with them?”
“To a certain extent, yes.”
“…So they have not yet infiltrated the south, then? Perhaps I was overthinking things. Umu…”
The Sorcerer King suddenly looked up to the ceiling.
“Does Your Majesty feel that Jaldabaoth’s henchmen have infiltrated the south?”
“I did not say that. But I was thinking that if he possessed such powerful pawns, why has he not used them yet… and I believe I asked for full disclosure at the beginning, did I not? Therefore, let me get right to the point — what kind of remuneration can the Holy Kingdom offer me in exchange for the provision of my nation’s aid?”
This was a perfectly normal question and entirely to be expected. However, answering it was very difficult.
“We can offer my country’s friendship, trust and respect.”
The Sorcerer King snorted at Remedios’ answer.
However, one could not conclude that Remedios’ answer had been wrong. There were times when that was all a paladin would need to rush into a life or death battle. One who championed a poor village that could not afford to pay proper recompense and challenged a demihuman horde would be held up as an exemplar of paladinhood.
“That is very much what a paladin would say. Perhaps one of my past friends might well have been willing to take action based on that alone. But unfortunately, such words cannot move me. I have said before to dispense with meaningless flattery. Can you offer me any tangible benefits?”
Is he saying that Momon-dono is a friend of the Sorcerer King? Is he addressing him so familiarly because he is not just a subordinate?
As Neia pondered that question, Remedios remained silent.
The truth which could not be spoken was that Remedios Custodio was in no position to make any promises of that sort.
What would happen after they beat off Jaldabaoth?
Of course, they would need to name the next Holy King. However, the likelihood of such a person heeding the words of a paladin would be very low. If he was chosen from the southern nobles, who had never gotten along with her, Remedios and the others would probably be placed under house arrest for their inability to protect the Holy Queen.
In that case, even if they forged a pact with the Sorcerer King, there was no guarantee that said pact would actually be honored. No, before that, it was very dubious that this group even had the right to represent their nation. Ultimately, the true purpose of this ambassadorial delegation had been to build sympathy among the commoners who did not understand the situation.
For that reason, they had no ability to make any promises. No one person could represent an entire country by themselves; the only one who could do that was its king.
“Forgive me, Your Majesty. I am Vice-Captain Gustav Montanis, serving under Captain Custodio. Please permit me to speak on her behalf.”
The Sorcerer King lightly raised his chin, to indicate that the man should continue.
“Thank you very much. What Your Majesty asks for is something that we cannot guarantee. Even if we reclaim the Holy Kingdom’s territory, restoring the land that has been ravaged by Jaldabaoth will take a very long time. I do not believe we can offer you anything we promise here with any degree of haste. However, there is one thing I wish to tell Your Majesty, which is the danger of Jaldabaoth.”
“Umu… do go on.”
“Yes. The disorganized demihumans who threatened the Kingdom in the past are now under the thumb of Jaldabaoth. If Jaldabaoth is not stopped now, and he is allowed to hide himself, there is no telling what sorts of preparations he can make and where he will show himself again.”
“In other words, you are saying that now is the best time to kill him, given that he has shown his face. Therefore, one should eradicate the seeds of any potential discord as soon as possible. Is that what you are saying?”
“It is as you say. I expected nothing less of Your Majesty. Therefore, may we plead with you to dispatch Momon-dono?”
“I see. It is a perfectly understandable reason. Indeed, it is high time this Jaldabaoth was exterminated.”
“In that case–”
Just as Gustav’s face was lighting up with joy, the Sorcerer King extended a hand to stop him before rapping his staff on the ground.
“However, dispatching Momon is still very difficult. Even if he dispatches Jaldabaoth, Momon’s absence will lead to uneasiness in our political situation and alarm the people. In that case, what should be done? If I had more time to stabilize my nation’s internal politics, I would then send out Momon — with his approval, of course. Given what you have just said, you ought to be able to hold on for a little longer, no?”
“But, but of course… how long will that take?”
“Umu… Albedo, what do you think?”
The Prime Minister who had been standing aside all this while reported to her master for the first time.
“After considering the gradual induction of demihumans into our nation, it will delay the process more than anticipated. It might take a period of several years. Yes… if we had five years, it would not be a problem.”
“Just so. I trust you have no questions?”
Five years. Gustav tasted the words in his mouth before gently shaking his head.
“In that case, time…”
“I see… indeed. I ought to have considered your country’s situation. After all, it is a request from a friendly nation.”
The Sorcerer King placed particular emphasis on the words “friendly nation”
“Our country will do our best to shorten this time. Albedo, what is the minimum time needed to carry this out?”
“In that case, how about three years? However, that might lead to unrest in our country.”
“That can’t be helped. We’re saving a friendly country, after all. I suppose there will be some loss of life on our part… well, metaphorically speaking.”
The Sorcerer King seemed to be making a joke, but nobody was laughing.
“..Hm. Now then, how about that? We’ve sped it up by two years.”
He had already made a concession of two years, but even three years was too long. How much damage could occur during that time? And then, there was the question of whether the Holy Kingdom could even survive as a nation during that time — no, there was no way they could. However, if they came out and said that, perhaps even the promise of sending out Momon after three years might be rendered moot as well.
However, the possibility of the Holy Kingdom’s salvation lay before their eyes.
Perhaps she had come here for this moment. She ought to bet her life on it.
After preparing herself for death, Neia took a deep breath, and spoke.
“My sincerest apologies, Your Majesty the Sorcerer King.”
“…Who are you?”