Overlord Light Novel Volume 12 Chapter 3 Part 11
Overlord Light Novel Volume 12 Chapter 3 Part 11
Still, that raised a question. Where had the Sorcerer King learned such tactics from?
A being with a demihuman’s tough skin would not wear armor on top of it. With sharp claws, one would not need swords. Humans wore armor and carried swords because of their fragile bodies.
If there was no need to rely on one’s wits, then tactics would naturally be unnecessary too. Why did the overwhelmingly powerful Sorcerer King know of siege tactics?
“Your Majesty, where did you acquire such knowledge from?”
“Hm? By knowledge you mean– ah! My predictions just now? Umu.Those tactics came from long influence by one of the friends I mentioned before. After that, I tested them out in live combat. Well, there’s a lot of them, but I didn’t expect them to be put to practical use here.”
“…Since he was Your Majesty’s friend, surely he must have been very strong too?”
“Oh yes. Well, his strength was not in melee or magic, but in another field. In that sense, I have not yet attained his level of strength yet.”
Huhu, the Sorcerer King laughed mirthfully. It was the kind of laugh one had when reminiscing about the past.
Right now, he seemed just like a human being.
Could it be that the Sorcerer King was once human…?
Perhaps he had transformed himself into one of the undead, but that would be a perplexing matter. That should not have been possible. To Neia’s knowledge, the undead were not naturally-occurring things. However–
The world is large, after all.
Neia’s journey with the ambassadorial delegation had let her realise how tiny the world she once knew had been.
Across the ocean, beyond the mountain, and in the depths of the forests — there ought to be something out there. The sages who could scoff at Neia’s problems and tell her the answers ought to be out there too.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Ah, my, my apologies.”
“No, I am not blaming you. I was a little worried when I saw you spacing out on horseback… the battle is about to begin, and I understand if you’re uneasy.”
“Th-thank you very much, Your Majesty.”
Just then, Remedios planted her banner in the ground and drew her holy sword.
“Everyone! The first battle to save this land from Jaldabaoth is about to begin! Justice shall triumph!”
There was a heated response of “Justice shall triumph!” to Remedios’ shout. Once they gathered, they began their charge.
“So it’s begun. Baraja-san, would it not be better to move up if you wish to fight?”
“No, I have a duty to squire for Your Majesty. Abandoning Your Majesty to fight–”
Is something I cannot do, Neia shook her head.
“Hm, mm, is that so. Then, then let’s talk about something else… You haven’t lent that weapon to anyone else, have you?”
“Not even once! This is a weapon I borrowed from Your Majesty! I would not dare allow anyone other than myself to touch it!”
“Ah… really now. Umu, I suppose. I thank you.”
His voice sounded a little depressed, but there was no way to divine his intentions from it.
Have I done something to offend His Majesty? …I’m not too sure what’s going on, but perhaps I should apologize?
While Neia was waffling, the Sorcerer King changed the topic.
“Ah — this is a rare opportunity. I looked around our surroundings, but I did not discover any demihumans hiding with invisibility magic. Perhaps we should move forward a little to observe the battlefield conditions. I doubt there’ll be any problems with leaving the priests here… What do you think?”
It would be very disrespectful to tell the Sorcerer King — who possessed matchless might which far exceeded her own — that moving to the front would be dangerous.
While the sound of bells rang through the prison camp, she stayed close to the Sorcerer King as he moved up. And so, the battle began in these conditions.
The angels attacked the watchtowers on top of the gate, and the Bafolk there met them with their spears.
The archer towers launched arrows. They were not aiming at the angels, but at Remedios as she led the charge. It was only natural to aim for her, given that she was not carrying a shield and there was no chance of hitting friendlies.
However, her strength was far removed from the others.
She easily cut down all the arrows coming at her while maintaining her speed as she ran.
As if to counterattack, several angels rushed the archer tower. Shortly after that, three Bafolk corpses fell from the tower.
This was when the paladins reached the gate and began pounding on it with the battering ram.
The log doors began to shake, and there was a faint sound of cracking from inside, along with the cries of the paladins going, “One more time!”
The gate shook again, more violently than before.
And then the battering ram struck again.
One of the logs making up the gate was heavily bent, and they could hear the paladins’ cries of triumph even from here. While it was not big enough to let people in, they ought to be able to break the gate down completely after several more tries.
Several angels flew past the gate. Neia could not see what they were doing from here, but they were probably trying to hold off the Bafolk defenders.
“–Get back, all of you!”
All eyes went to the source of the great cry.
It came from a watchtower above the gate. The angels should have taken that place. Yet, a single Bafolk appeared there. However, the problem lay in what the Bafolk was carrying.
“Get back!” the Bafolk shouted again.
The Bafolk was holding a girl, aged around six or seven, and he had a sharp blade to her throat.
“If you don’t back off, I’ll kill this human!”
The girl was dressed in somewhat filthy clothing — her face looked dirty too — and her body shook from side to side. Was she still alive? They could not detect any signs of life from her. It seemed to speak of the state of everyone inside the camp.
“You’re despicable!” one of the paladins shouted.
“Hurry up and back off! Look!”
There was a commotion among the paladins. What had happened? Even Neia could not see what was happening at this range and at night. However, it was different for the Sorcerer King.
“…The child’s throat seems to be bleeding.”
“Could it be!”
“It was just a nick; she is not dead yet. Otherwise her value as a hostage would–”
“–All of you, fall back!”
The paladins obeyed Remedios’ command and moved back.
Although the priests in the rear had a hard time grasping the situation, they still understood what was going on, and they pulled the angels back. At the same time, the priests ran up to Neia and the Sorcerer King. They had probably come closer to see what was going on.
“Not good enough! Further back!”
After the Bafolk said so, the paladins began retreating slowly.
They could see the Bafolk hurriedly swapping positions atop the watchtower. They swapped the people who had been wounded in the earlier battle with the angels for fresh fighters.
“This is bad.”
“Yes, very bad.”
Neia slowly drew the bow she had been lent. The Bafolk seemed to be using the girl as a shield. Therefore she had a very small space in which to aim for. Killing it in one hit would be very difficult.
Even so, if she did not do it, who would?
I wish I’d practiced my bow skills more, Neia thought as she drew an arrow from her quiver.
Just then, the Sorcerer King swiftly held out a hand, as if to block her shot.
“I don’t mean to say this, but you’d better stop. There’s no longer any point to it.”
Just as she was about to ask what he meant, the Sorcerer King headed over to where the paladins were gathered.
There was an argument raging there about how to save the girl.
Priestly magic could freeze the enemy in their tracks. Many people approved of that, but spells had an effective range. Although many ideas were proposed and blended together, nobody had the inkling of a solution which would let them get close enough that the hostage would be killed even if there was resistance.
Just then, the Sorcerer King and Neia arrived.
“How long are you going to twiddle your thumbs about this? The situation looks bad.”
After he spoke, the others turned to look at the Sorcerer King as one.
“Of course we know that–”
“–Captain… please calm down. The enemy is over there.”
“No, Captain Remedios. You know nothing. Since the enemy knows that hostages are effective, they’ll show that this is not a threat, and they’ll use her as an ex–”
As though waiting for those words, the girl hostage’s head was hacked off. They could see her bright red blood spurting even from here. The Bafolk tossed the girl’s body aside, and the lifeless body fell to the ground like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
Everyone was silent.
Their minds refused to accept what had just happened.
Remedios’ was the first to regain her senses, and as she shouted, Neia recovered as well.
“You bastard! You actually did it! Even after we obeyed your demands!”
“Hmph!” The Bafolk dragged a boy in front of him this time. “That’s why I’ve got another one, see? Now back off!”
“You shameless scumbag!”
“Hmph. You really are a Narberal, aren’t you? Perhaps you’ll understand after I bring another over?”
Remedios’ clenched fist trembled mightily. Then, as though to vent her feelings, she ordered:
“Everyone, fall back!”
“Also, gather up the people on horses around the sides! Move it!”
She could hear the sound of grinding teeth from Remedios. It was loud enough that one might think she was crushing her teeth.
“Vice-Captain. Order them to gather here.”
“If you don’t do it, the child will die. Move!”
“Everyone fall back!”
“What a poor move to make. You’ve shown the enemy that hostages are effective and given them so much time to prepare. If the enemy demoralizes you again, won’t that cause even more damage?”
A red-faced Remedios glared at the Sorcerer King like she was looking at the enemy.
“If this goes on, your surprise attack will be pointless. Also, I can hear the sounds of something moving over there. If they set up roadblocks, breaking them down will take more time, and things will be more troublesome–”
“–Shut up!” Remedios interrupted the Sorcerer King.
“Who’s got an idea? A way to solve this without anyone dying!?”
Nobody said anything.
Of course nobody had such a convenient solution. If there were someone was good at infiltration, for instance, this situation might not have arisen. However, there was nobody like that around.
Even Remedios should have understood this. If her animal-like instincts analyzed the battle situation and told her there was no way, then such a method did not exist.
Even so, why did she refuse to admit it?
Why was she hung up on not letting a single person die?
The Sorcerer King’s words flashed through her mind — was this not one of those necessary sacrifices which he mentioned? There was no way to come out of this without losing a single person without an overwhelming advantage in strength or a great deal of luck.
Neia’s voice sounded abnormally loud.
“Right now, can we not finish the fight with only a few casualties?”
Remedios’ intense gaze shifted to Neia.
The powerful emotions boiling off that mighty warrior’s body made her tremble, but Neia was sure that she was right.
“There’s no justice in that!” Remedios shouted.
Justice? That justice–
The surrounding paladins remained silent. It would seem nobody was prepared to say anything. Neia felt like she was surrounded by enemies and she unconsciously backed off, and then she felt someone’s hand supporting her from behind.
Looking back, she saw the Sorcerer King, as she had expected.
“–I support Baraja-san’s opinion.”
He had affirmed her in a quiet voice. But to Neia, it was like a hundred-million strong ovation.
Remedios barked again. However, this was not something she should be saying to a king from another country who had come all this way to save her. There were actions which were acceptable, and actions which were unacceptable.
Anger welled up in Neia’s heart.
“What you need right now is to change the situation, not sit around and butt heads in frustration… Ah, what will I do with you. I shall turn things around, then.”
After muttering to himself, the Sorcerer King turned away from them — towards the gate — and began walking. Due to his sudden movement, nobody managed to call out to him before the Bafolk shouted a warning.
“You there, in the mask! I told you to back off, didn’t I?”
“I will not back down! What do you think a single human life means to me!?”
“Our aim is to kill every single one of the Bafolk here! It doesn’t matter what happens to the humans! 「Widen Magic Fireball」!”
「我们的目的是将这里面所有的山羊人屠杀殆尽！人类什么的怎么样都好！——<魔法效果范围扩大化火球（Widen Magic·Fire Ball）>」
The Sorcerer King extended his hand with a shout, and the fireball that flew forth blew away the Bafolk and the boy he was holding.
After that, the enormous burst of flame also consumed the watchtower.
Everyone on top had been slain by that attack. The Bafolk and his hostage fell onto the Sorcerer King’s side of the wall.
“「Maximize Magic Shockwave」”
The next spell blasted away the half-ruined gates. In addition, it scattered the Bafolk who were erecting barricades behind it, blowing a huge hole into their defenses.
“Come, you paladins! Attack! Kill the Bafolk inside to the very last man!”
As though awakened by his voice, Remedios came to and replied:
“You son of a bitch–!”
The paladins moved forward in response to Remedios’ words. Or rather, it might be more accurate to say that they had abandoned all attempts at thinking and fully subordinated themselves to her orders.
“Thank you, Your Majesty!”
Gustav left those words behind and moved on. After that, there the paladins and priests — the more sensible ones, at least — directed grateful looks at him. Remedios was the only one who was staring at the Sorcerer King with open displeasure.
The Sorcerer King addressed Neia in a quiet voice.
“–Baraja-san. Did you think I would save the boy with a spell beyond your imagination?”
Indeed, the thought had crossed her mind. However, the Sorcerer King must have had some reason for his actions.
“Ah, yes, I did. It is as you say.”
“Hm, perhaps that might be so.”
The Sorcerer King nodded, and Neia listened in silence.
“Indeed, I could have done so. By using the various spells I have learned, saving a single boy would be a trivial task. However, I could not do that. That was because I could not allow the Bafolk to see me rescue a boy.”
Doubt crossed Neia’s face for the first time, and the Sorcerer King gently explained to her.
“If I allowed them to know that hostages were that effective against us, the prisoners inside would be used as meat-shields to block our attacks in battle.The paladins would be at a loss, and they might end up as casualties. Due to our dire lack of manpower, even one fewer paladin would constitute a great disadvantage… at least, according to Lanchester’s laws.
(TL Note: Lanchester’s laws are mathematical formulae designed to calculate the relative strength over time of a predator and prey pair. They’re usually used for military modelling. In this case, even one loss can lead to more losses over time.)
The Sorcerer King walked to the gate, and Neia hurried after him.
“On the other hand, once they know the hostages are useless, they will become useless to the Bafolk. Now, when they are being attacked and the enemy is about to come through the walls, do you think they have the time to leisurely kill off their prisoners? Murdering people who can’t resist ought to be a very low priority then.”
“It is as you say.”
“Indeed. Rather than waste time killing people, they would prepare to stop the enemy incursion instead. Therefore, it was necessary to use a method that would clearly illustrate the pointlessness of taking hostages.”
He was right,
If Remedios had her way, she might end up being unable to save anyone in the end.
The Sorcerer King slowly lifted up the body of the boy by his feet.
“Your Majesty, let me–”
“–This is a job for me.”
Neia accompanied the Sorcerer King as he carried the boy to the place where Remedios had planted her banner.
The Sorcerer King laid the boy on the ground. Neia wetted a cloth with water from a waterskin, and wiped away the grime on the boy’s face.
His cheeks, his wrists and his thighs were all shockingly thin.
It clearly illustrated the harsh conditions under which they lived.
“Those Bafolk bastards…”
“Perhaps this should not be said, but do allow me to say it anyway. I am the king of the Sorcerous Kingdom, and not the king of the people who reside in this country. Thus, I can calmly make this decision. I would choose to save a thousand people’s lives over a single life. But if this boy alone were a citizen of my nation, I would prioritize saving him instead. If you cannot accept that—”
“–No, thank you very much. I can understand how you feel… Your Majesty is just.”
“…Hm? What do you mean?”
“My apologies. Ah, maybe it should be, Your Majesty is performing righteous deeds?”
What on earth am I saying, she could not help but wonder.
While she felt that this left him with nothing to reply with, the merciful and compassionate Sorcerer King still answered her.
“…Eh? Ah, no, I do not feel that I am just. And frankly speaking, justice ought to be determined by others. The motives for everything I do are very simple. Well, I have thought of spreading my reputation too…”
Neia recalled the matter of the statues.
Does wanting to spread his reputation mean the Sorcerer King is an egomaniac after all?
“That said, I now feel there’s no need to try so hard with that… I ended up talking about pointless things. All I desire is to live in happiness with my children. That is all there is to it, but at the same time, it is also everything to me.”
She did not think the undead Sorcerer King could have children. Therefore, it was probably not a child in the sense of carrying on his bloodline, but in a broader sense. It felt like he regarded the citizens of his nation as his children.
He is a kind man in every sense of the word… indeed, what a wonderful world it would be if even the frailest child could live in happiness. What had he thought when he took this boy’s life…
As she looked at the profile of his face, she saw something like the grief one would feel after killing a child.
“Well, that was pointless. In that case, let’s drop the topic here. Baraja-san, while I am not qualified to speak pretty words, I hope you find the justice that belongs to you.”
“…May I ask one more question? If your own subordinates had been taken hostage like that, would you have done the same thing?”
“…Well, this might be grumbling on my part, but my subordinates are very troublesome in more ways than one.”
“What exactly do you mean?”
“In the past, I asked them out of curiosity, ‘what would you do if you were taken hostage to force me to negotiate’. At that time, every single one of them promptly said they would rather kill themselves than inconvenience me in any way. ‘No,’ I told them. ‘Can’t you say you’d wait for me to rescue you’ and things like that… While it pleases me to see their staunch devotion, this is still, how shall I put it. My subordinates are all a little too fanatical.”
As he rotated his wrist, the Sorcerer King continued in a tired voice.
Just as Neia began to think, weren’t these unnecessary worries for someone in his position, Remedios appeared at the gate, carrying a bloodstained longsword, her armor similarly splattered in blood. Though she had removed her helmet, her hair was stuck to her forehead by sweat. She looked utterly exhausted.
After saying something to Gustav, Neia sensed that for a moment, Remedios’ eyes had met hers. No, it was less that she had locked gazes with Neia, but rather, she had been looking at the Sorcerer King and Neia was in the way.
Remedios said nothing, simply went back inside with a blank look on her face.
Gustav, on the other hand, approached the two of them.
“Your Majesty, I wish to express my thanks. While there were some slight losses, we were able to minimize them thanks to Your Majesty’s power. While the Captain ought to be thanking you in person, the Captain is somewhat distraught at the moment due to the tragic condition in which we found the people, so I pray you will forgive me for taking her place.”
Gustav sneaked a peek at the boy, and then he looked back at the ground.
“It is fine. Go tend to the Captain.”
“Thank you very much.”
“Come to think of it, what were those tragic conditions?”
“Yes. We questioned several of the people we rescued, and they said that ‘they were skinning the prisoners’. It would seem ‘they’ were not demihumans but demons sent by Jaldabaoth…”
While she felt that the Captain being distraught was an excuse for her rudeness, that did not seem to be the case.
Just as Neia was starting to feel surprised, the Sorcerer King beside her tilted his head in bafflement.
“Why the skin? Why that? Are they going to eat it? Like chicken skin?”
“No, we have no idea either… although, the demihumans did not seem to have taken part in those activities… Does Your Majesty know anything about this? Could this be for some kind of demonic ritual?”
“No, I apologize. I have no clue either. Why would Jaldabaoth do such a thing?”
The Sorcerer King’s puzzlement seemed to stem from the bottom of his heart, and after that everyone looked at each other, but they still could not unravel the mystery. Even so, since it was the work of demons, they might have done so just to make the humans suffer.
“…I’ll ask the priests later. Then, Your Majesty, we are now trying to figure out the demihumans’ hiding places in order to clear them out, so I would like to monopolize a bit of your precious time afterwards.”
After saying so, Gustav went back inside the gate.
About ten minutes after that, scattered human forms began appearing at the gate.
They were the captives.Just like the boy who had been taken hostage, they were dressed in tattered, threadbare clothing that did not look like it could resist the winter chill. The paladins who should have escorted them to the door simply went back past them and vanished behind the gate. Had they done this because they had too few people to handle the prisoners, or was it because the suppression work was still ongoing, or both of them?
The prisoners had looks of delight on their faces as they rushed toward Neia.
However, they suddenly stopped in their tracks.
That was probably because they had seen the form of the Sorcerer King. And then, some people continued to approach them. Perhaps they felt that the Sorcerer King was just wearing a mask or something.
A man ran over from amidst the walking crowds.
Panting heavily, the man knelt down beside the boy which Ainz had laid at Neia’s feet. No, it would be more accurate to say he collapsed like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
The man caressed the boy’s cheek, and after seeing for himself that the boy was dead, he burst into mournful tears.
Clearly, he was the boy’s father.
Neia bit her lip.
As the father cried his son’s name while he wept, the Sorcerer King calmly said:
“I was the one who killed that boy.”
Neia looked at the Sorcerer King in surprise. Was now the time to say this sort of thing?
However, surely the wise Sorcerer King would not have suddenly said so for no reason.
“Why, why did you kill him!?”
The fires of hatred burned in the father’s eyes. Faced with that–
The Sorcerer King replied with a mocking laugh.
“To save you, of course.”
“What, what did you say!?”
For just a moment, the father’s eyes filled with fear. That was because he realized that the Sorcerer King’s face was not artificial. Then, his eyes roved to the sides in search of help, and they settled on Neia.
However, before Neia could say something, the Sorcerer King spoke first.
“Then may I ask you something? Why did you not protect your son? Your son was brought before me as a hostage.”
“I protected him! But he was snatched away! Those bastards were stronger than me, so I couldn’t do anything!”
The Sorcerer King laughed again.
“Then let me ask you — why are you still alive?”
The father did not know how to answer, and froze in place.
“I am asking you why you did not die to protect your child. Not all lives are equally important. You should have been the one who valued that child’s life the most of all. So why did you not struggle wildly to protect him to your last breath?”
The people looked at the Sorcerer King from afar as they eavesdropped on the situation here.
They must have felt unease, fear, and anger at the Sorcerer King who had taken the boy’s life.
“What, what are you saying…”
“You are the one who failed to protect him. Do not push the blame onto others. You, who were weak, are at fault. Also, you seem to be mistaken about something… you do realize that I am much more powerful than the Bafolk you claim to be stronger than you, no? …Although I can forgive some insults because I pity you for the loss of your child, I will slay you if they get out of hand.”
The Sorcerer King reached out a bony index finger and rested it on the father’s face.
“That, that’s because you’re strong — that’s why you can say that! Not everyone can be as powerful as you!”
“Well said. I can say so precisely because I am powerful. Then, it is precisely because you are weak that being taken from is your lot in life, no? The strong preying on the weak is a very natural sequence of events.”
The Sorcerer King turned his eyes to the people around him.
“Have you not also experienced suffering because the Bafolk are strong?”
“Are you saying the strong can do what they want!?”
“Exactly. The strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must. This is the way of the world. The same rule applies to me. In the face of a more powerful opponent, I would have no recourse but to suffer. That is why I seek strength.”
Neia understood why the Sorcerer King sought Jaldabaoth’s maids.
His Majesty must be seeking strength because he wants to protect his nation, to protect the children of his country. So strength is the most important thing after all…
“Originally, the weak like yourselves should have been defended by the Holy Kingdom, those who should have been strong… I really do pity you. If you were under my protection — under the protection of my country, the Sorcerous Kingdom, something like this could not possibly happen. That is because I would have used all my strength to protect the people and strike down the Bafolk.”
Everyone around them was silent.
The Sorcerer King’s arguments were calm, cold and cruel, but at the same time they expressed the truth of the world.
If they could not oppose his words with reason, would they choose to protest with their emotions? However, their fear of the Sorcerer King stopped them from doing so.
“You, isn’t he one of the undead? What are the undead doing in a place like this?”
The father could not say anything to the Sorcerer King because he feared the latter, and so he directed his wrath at Neia instead.
However, before Neia could answer, the Sorcerer King stole a march on her, as expected.
“To help your country, of course. And the fact is, you were all rescued by the undead of which you speak. If you are unhappy with that, why not save this nation by yourselves?”
As he heard that, the father questioned Neia with his eyes. However, she could say nothing.
That was because it was the truth.
If the people of this country were enough to defeat Jaldabaoth, the Sorcerer King would not be here.
The man hugged the boy’s corpse, like he was afraid, then turned and ran. The people to which the man ran had frightened looks on their faces as well.
Neia heard the Sorcerer King say something, but she did not know if he was addressing the fleeing man or himself.
“Even I would be oppressed if I were weak. Therefore one cannot forget to seek strength. I need to engrave into my heart the fact that beings of comparable power to myself most definitely do exist.”
After attacking the first prison camp and freeing the liberation army troops imprisoned within, they wasted no time in going after the next prison camp.
This was not a sweeping advance, but rather, because of several reasons which meant they had no choice but to do so. The most pressing one was because the food stocks in the prison camps were less than they had estimated.
This, in turn, was the result of the twin policies of the demihumans had not fed their captives enough, and regularly shipping food in from a small city nearby.
In addition, the demihumans who accompanied the food shipments were also responsible for inspecting the prison camps for any abnormalities.
Even if they killed all these demihumans and took all their food, the opposition would definitely conclude that something had gone wrong at the prison camps.
Of course, Jaldabaoth would learn of that as well. That being the case, it was very likely that he would dispatch a huge force which Neia and the others would have trouble dealing with.
After standing behind the Sorcerer King and participating — but obviously not speaking — in meetings, after a long argument that made her legs hurt to stand on, Neia had finally arrived at two possible courses of action.
The first was to flee to the south with the fruits of the liberated prison camps, throwing in their lot with the armies that ought to be stationed there.
The second was to strike first and conquer that city.
While both of these completely antithetical opinions had their own merits and flaws, they eventually went with the latter, after the captain of the paladin order, Remedios Custodio, shouted for it.
Remedios had a top secret reason for choosing to assault the city.
After questioning the demihumans — and naturally, killing them afterwards — the town which was their target apparently contained a nobleman with royal blood in their veins.
If they were truly of the royal bloodline, it was very likely that the situation would improve. Even if they were not royalty, it would be a godsend if they were a great noble with a certain degree of status and connections. They could bank on the fact that they had saved his life to ask the southern armies to apply pressure, and possibly ask for reinforcements.
However, Neia had her doubts.
“Your Majesty, do you really think there will be a member of the royal family or a powerful noble there?”
Neia had been allowed to ride a horse out of deference to the Sorcerer King’s status. Otherwise, the sort of horse which a low-ranking squire like Neia would have been allowed to ride would have been taken for use as a pack animal long ago.
“It’s probably a trap. Even if it isn’t, the city will be garrisoned with many troops, and depending on the situation there might be demons present. Captain Custodio ought to be very aware of that. Even so, she has decided to fight an uphill battle like this. Sometimes, you need to wager everything on one bet.”
If they did not seek the aid of the south, people would begin to starve soon. If that happened, Neia knew that the Liberation Army would not be able to carry on.
Soon, they saw their objective, the small city, in the distance.
From her horse at the tail end of the column, Neia looked at the citizen soldiers marching ahead of herself.
They were citizens of the Holy Kingdom who had been rescued from the prison camps. The reason why they had pressed them into military service when they should have been resting was because they discovered that there were far more demihumans in the town than in the earlier prison camps.
There were many more weakened people than expected, so they were not expected to make foot soldiers. Even so, it was better than nothing, and so they were mobilized.
Neia’s level of skill would be hard-pressed to hide such a large force from the eyes of the demihuman scouts, so they needed to move as quickly as possible.
And the result of doing so was that the people only became more and more exhausted, and the number of adults sitting on cargo wagons only grew. The fact that they could actually sleep on the bumpy, uncomfortable wagon beds, only served to show how tired they were. In turn, the children were running energetically. The priests were probably not used to long journeys on foot either, given how they would look enviously at the cargo wagons from time to time.
Even in this state, they’re going to be thrown straight into a battle once they arrive. Is it really alright?
During their strategy meetings en route, they had decided to immediately attack the city upon reaching it. That was because they lacked both provisions and time.
Attacking a city with enemies lying in wait during daytime was extremely dangerous.
It would be easier to approach at night, but it would be very disadvantageous to humans, who did not have nightvision abilities. In particular, night battles were very dangerous for the citizens, who only had what combat training they had received as conscripts.
With that in mind, they had decided to attack at dawn.
The battle lines had already been formed up ahead of them. At the head were the paladins. Behind them were militiamen holding wooden walls they had made after wrecking the prison camps, and at the back were the priests.
The plan was the same as last time, using the angels to suppress the enemies on the walls while the paladins broke down the gates, a tactic which relied on brute strength for everything. The citizen-soldiers’ job was largely limited to frightening the enemy through weight of numbers. Therefore, they had ordered the civilians to avoid fighting, and if they had to fight, to gang up on their opponents, among other things.
“…Now then, show me how you will do this.”
The Sorcerer King muttered to himself.
As an observer, the Sorcerer King would not be involved with the battle.
While they wanted to draw on his strength for a siege like this, nobody opened their mouth to ask him during their meetings. The Sorcerer King paid no heed to the pleading gazes directed at him, and he was now positioned in the rear echelon.
The battle began like it had the last time.
It might be a small city, but it was very large for the region. Its wooden gates were reinforced with bands of iron, and there were murder holes above it, while the walls were not built of wood, but stone. The walls and gates were also much better made than those of the prison camps, which had largely been scavenged from materials taken from the villagers. However, because this city had less than ten thousand residents, it was still not impregnable.
The attackers found it troublesome, while it left the defenders uneasy. That was probably a more appropriate evaluation of the situation.
Remedios led the paladins in a charge, while the angels attacked the demihumans on the walls.
However — the angels occasionally winked out of existence after being hit by enemy attacks.
It would seem the demihumans were the same Bafolk they had encountered previously in the camps, but as expected, the ones defending this city were extraordinarily skilled troops.
The most obvious of them was a Bafolk on the walls — hiding behind a battlement — and holding a very long spear. He had already impaled many angels.
That Bafolk emitted a roar.
Perhaps it was some kind of skill, but it did not affect the angels or the paladins breaking down the gates beneath him. Was it because of a narrow area of effect, or was it only effective on allies? The details were unclear. However, it would be good to remember that he possessed some sort of skill.
Looking down, both sides were fighting fiercely outside the gates
The Bafolk thrust their longspears from the other side of the gate — from inside the city — at the paladins, who blocked them with spiked shields, prevented the enemy from attacking the paladins with the battering rams. Remedios, on the other hand, directly cut apart the longspears they stabbed at her.
The demihumans dumped boiling water on them through the murder holes. However, the paladins already had 「Protection Energy Fire」 cast on them in anticipation of this, and so no matter how much water got on them, the paladins were unscathed.
Of course, since this was winter, things would be troublesome if they were drenched and then the temperature fell, but it was fine for the moment.
If they had used boiling oil instead of water, their swords would have slipped easily from their hands. Perhaps oil was precious to the demihumans but they did not make such preparations.
The slowly-advancing civilians carried the wooden walls which they had brought along to use as shields. While it would have been better if they had been made out of metal, it could not be helped given their lack of proper arms. It might not have been terribly sturdy, but it was better than nothing, and the citizen-soldiers hidden behind them began winding up their slings. They were aiming at the demihumans fighting with the angels. Of course since they were not used to combat, the stones they threw struck the angels more often that not.
Even though they were taking friendly fire, the angels were resistant to unenchanted attacks, so it was not a problem for them. Of course, it was merely resistance, not immunity, but still, the citizen-soldiers did not do that much damage to the angels. They were used simply because they would hurt the demihumans more if they hit them.
Every time an angel fell, the priests would summon a new angel and throw it into the fray. While there were very few of them, this inexhaustible and untiring supply of fresh troops kept pouring on, and the demihuman resistance began to falter,
“…Mm. After considering the opposition might use defensive magic, they ought to have splashed cold water on them. Combined with the cold of winter, it would make their opponent’s body temperature plunge… after all, most people would cast spells to protect against fire.”
As the Sorcerer King looked at the battlefield, he muttered to himself like he was analyzing it.
It was hard to respond to those words. While nobody had died yet, there were those who were already wounded, so she could not bring herself to speak.
“Speaking of which, is it really alright if you don’t participate in the battle, Baraja-san? You ought to be able to make a good accounting of yourself with the bow I gave you.”
Neia was assigned to stand watch by the Sorcerer King’s side. Using her own body as a shield for him was her duty. Therefore, she had not been ordered to fight. However, just like before, the Sorcerer King seemed very eager for her to use that bow of hers.
Does he want me to use the weapon he lent me? I could try taking a shot from here, but missing the first shot with a borrowed weapon would be a little too–
Just as Neia was hesitating over how to answer, a mighty noise came from the vicinity of the city gate. Looking over, it would seem the gate had been broken down. The noise was a combination of the paladins’ rejoicings and the demihumans’ anxious cries.
Once the city gate went down, the paladins flooded into the city like an avalanche.
After seeing Remedios’ skills, the shaken beastmen grew more and more frantic.
After that — the paladins retreated amidst great clamour.
Neia’s keen vision saw within what was inside the narrow aperture of the gates before the paladins made it there.
It was the same as before.
A Bafolk was clutching a child, even younger than before, and issuing orders to the paladins on the other side of the city gate. While his voice did not carry over to them, one could imagine the orders which had been given.
The paladins began falling back and leading the retreat were Remedios and Gustav. After that, they told the priests to “have the angels fall back, otherwise they’ll kill the child.”
“Here we go again. I can’t listen in from over here, I want to go over there and take part in their conversation. How about it?”
“You have no need to seek my opinion, Your Majesty.”
Neia and the Sorcerer King walked towards Remedios, who was stationed some distance — between the Sorcerer King and the city gates — and discussing something under the eyes of the uneasy citizen-soldiers.
“We should negotiate with them, after all,” Remedios said, but the one who was frowning after taking off their helmet was someone else. Perhaps it was because they knew what had happened at the first prison camp, but all of them had “How can we approve of this” written on their faces.
Even after the Sorcerer King came, they still had not found an answer.
No, everyone was trying to think of how to talk Remedios down from her position of “in any case, we need to save that child”, but that seemed unlikely.
After proposing a few vague compromise plans that were ultimately a waste of time, several people exchanged looks, and soon Gustav raised his voice to shout, “Captain!” as he poured strength into his eyes.
“We’ve gone over this countless times already! Even back then, no matter how we discussed things, it didn’t work out! We can’t save that child!”
After hearing Gustav’s lines, Neia knew that the Captain had continued the strategy meeting even after the Sorcerer King had left the command tent. At the same time, she knew that the paladins would not be able to solve this problem without spilling blood.
Remedios bit her lip and remained silent. However —
“Captain! We can’t win this battle without sacrifice! Right now, we ought to sacrifice the few to save the many!”
Neia saw Remedios’ eyes flare with crimson flame at those words.
“–That is not the kind of war Her Majesty would wage! We are Her Majesty’s swords! We serve the Holy Queen, she who wants the people of this nation to live and work in peace!”
“But the Holy Queen-sama is…”
Is dead, but before Gustav could say that, Remedios shouted to interrupt him.
“The next Holy King hasn’t been appointed yet! Shouldn’t we protect the ideals of the Holy Queen-sama to whom we pledged our swords until then? What does a vow of loyalty we made mean when we break it ourselves!?”
Ah, I see. Neia understood.
Remedios had been bound, bound by the wishes of the person to whom she had pledged her loyalty.
A knight of the Holy Queen who loved the people could not do anything which could harm the people. That was what bound her.
The only one who could break her bonds was the next person to whom she offered her loyalty.
“What’s wrong with that? Who did you pledge your swords to? You all went through the ceremony to be ordained as paladins! Who do you think the paladin order serves!?”
When a squire became a paladin, they would meet with the Holy King and ritually offer the sword they held to him. Similarly, when there was a change of Holy King, the paladins would meet with him and offer their swords to the reigning Holy King while swearing their loyalty. Therefore, everyone in this band of paladins had pledged their swords to the Holy Queen.
“Or did you not?” Her tone changed in an instant. After heating up, she cooled down right away, and her voice was filled with freezing chill. “Was the Holy Queen-sama wrong to want to give the smallfolk happiness and build a nation where nobody would need to cry?”
“She wasn’t wrong! But.. depending on the situation… things might need to change.”
“Who? Who needs to change? Tell me, then. Is there a higher form of justice than ‘not having to sacrifice anyone’!?”
Gustav shut his mouth.
Neia realised that she had made a mistake just now.
She was not ruled by her obedience to her loyalty to the Holy Queen, to whom she had pledged her loyalty.
Remedios said that one ought to carry out justice. However thorny the path, however difficult it was to walk, one ought to trudge through all the difficulties in one’s way and continue forward without heed for what was around oneself.
Sacrificing the few to save the many, and saving everyone no matter how great or small; which of these was truly just?
That much was obvious.
Clearly, it was the latter. However, it was far too idealistic, and a normal person would immediately give up on it. However, even after knowing this, Remedios still insisted on saving everyone.
She held firmly to an ideal that a normal person would abandon immediately.
That was why she was the captain of the paladins, the highest-ranked paladin of them all.
Remedios was the only one seeking her lofty definition of justice; those who could not understand this were the pitiful ones.
Perhaps they understood her, but several paladins lowered their heads in shame.
If one considered the Sorcerer King’s justice of “killing one to save a thousand” to be a king’s justice, then Remedios justice of “one or a thousand, they are all the same” was an ideal — a shining form of justice.
Both sides were just. Neither was wrong. Even so–
Is there no justice without strength?
For instance, if Remedios were stronger — if she possessed godlike power which Neia could not imagine, she could save the child, and save the inhabitants of the city. In that case, there would not have been any problems.
However, that was not the case.
She was stalled here because there was no way to carry on without sacrifice.
Carrying out justice requires strength. Ahhh, I want to become strong… that way, I can wipe away Jaldabaoth’s taint from this country…
“…Forgive me for interjecting while you are at a deadlock, but you will not reach a conclusion this way.”
That exceptionally cold voice blew away the building heat in the air.”
“Captain Custodio. If this goes on, you will only serve to make the enemies know about the effectiveness of hostages. In my view, you will not be able to conquer this city without sacrificing anyone.”
“Certainly not. There ought to be a better way to do this. A way where nobody needs to be sacrificed and where nobody needs to be hurt!”
In response to that voice, which sounded like it was being bled out of her, the Sorcerer King gave a flat reply.
“I doubt it… we’ve wasted too much time. If this goes on, we will only make the same mistakes again.
Remedios bit her lip tightly. A tiny rill of blood flowed down it.
“…Then… Captain. Just sacrifice that child.”
“Mm. Leave the rest to me. Since so much time has passed, I doubt you will be able to resolve this with a tiny sacrifice.”
“Is that really alright!?” It was Neia who could not help crying out. “Your Majesty has been conserving his mana to fight Jaldabaoth; won’t using that mana make the fight against Jaldabaoth unfavorable?”
“It is as you say, Baraja-san. However, there is no other way in order to save more people… while I cannot possibly guarantee that there will be no losses, at the very least, there will be far fewer than if you try. How about it? Will you leave it to me?”
“So there will still… be sacrifices…”
“Unfortunately so, Captain Custodio.”
Remedios bowed her head and left without a word. She walked toward the city — where the citizen-soldiers were looking with uneasy eyes.
“My apologies, Your Majesty. In the Captain’s place, please allow me, Gustav, to beseech you to aid us.”
“Mm… Well, it’s a pointless question, but you will thank me for it, right?”
Everyone present was puzzled by the Sorcerer King’s question, but they immediately responded in agreement. Neia did not miss the uneasiness in their hearts over why he had asked such a reasonable question.
“Really now. Then I will pacify the city by myself. You gentlemen should keep an eye out for any fish that slip the net and kill the or take them prisoner. Personally, I would rather take them captive in order to question them for information. Also, I will be using the undead, so don’t get too excited.”
Saying so, the Sorcerer King set out for the city gates without waiting for an answer.
“「Greater Magic Seal」, 「Mass Hold Species」.”
The Sorcerer King did not stop walking as he cast his spells.
After incanting those two spells, he waced a hand and conjured several flickering shadows.
There were ten of them in total.
They radiated an aura unique to the undead, one which the living could not abide. Their translucent forms displayed expressions of misery.
They were Wraiths. Neia had once heard that they would take the shape of the species who saw them from her monster lore lectures. However, their bizarre appearances looked like three people’s shadows stuck together.
“You High Wraiths,”
The monstrous-looking shadows followed the Sorcerer King as he walked. The grass by their feet wilted rapidly. Already brown from winter, they shrivelled up rapidly as they lost their water content.
“Go over there and wait for my instructions.”
The undead moved in perfect unison, unconstrained by gravity, and they floated swiftly into the air. In seconds, the undead melted into the azure sky overhead, and the fact that she could not see them with her eyes of which she was so proud of only intensified her shock.
While she wondered if it was really alright not to explain in detail to those summoned undead, the Sorcerer King who could make such perfect battle plans would surely not have overlooked that point.
“Those, those were…”
“High Wraiths. Since they are incorporeal beings, they can pass through walls and other obstacles… of course, they can’t pass through things without limit… you probably don’t want to know the specifics, do you? Well, they’re part of my preparations for taking the city. Now then, please wait here, Baraja-san…”
“—Please allow me to accompany you.”
“Mm… in that case, please wear this item around your neck.”
“This, this is?”
The Sorcerer King produced a necklace with a five-pointed star pendant, set with a large ruby in the center.
“This item grants immunity to fear. High Wraiths have the ability to spread terror… let me get this out of the way first. Afterwards, you will be walking into complete chaos. People driven by fear can sometimes show terrifying strength. Even I might not be able to protect you, so if you still wish to follow…”
“—Please allow me to accompany you.”
“Mm, mm. Is, is that so. I understand.”
Neia fastened the necklace around her neck.
“Even so… good grief, they are at war, you know. How could there be a war without casualties?”
Neia smiled bitterly in response to the Sorcerer King’s slightly jovial tones.
Of course, Remedios was not talking about that. The Sorcerer King could not possibly have understood the meaning of her words. This was probably the Sorcerer King’s way of cracking a joke, but even so…
His Majesty does not seem particularly talented at cracking jokes.
Perhaps this might be the Sorcerer King’s sole weakness. Just as that thought came to Neia’s mind, they had reached the vicinity of the gate.
“Fall back, paladins. I am going to conquer this city now. Move to the rear… I believe you ought to get at least that far back, no”
The Sorcerer King indicated the rearmost paladins and then, he walked into the city gates, like he was strolling into no man’s land.
“Get back! If you don’t move quickly, this brat will–”
Soon, the Sorcerer King ran into the Bafolk who was holding the child hostage.
It was hard to tell what kind of expression the demihuman was making. It was probably shock. The other demihumans around the Bafolk probably had the same looks on their faces. Well, even Neia would be shocked if she suddenly saw the Sorcerer King.
“…The, the undead!?”
With that, the word “undead” rippled through the demihumans.
“Indeed. Ah, I believe they are called ‘The Living?’ I heard that once, but I do not quite trust my recollection.”
“Wha-what? Why are you? What on earth… wait, a human?” The Bafolk’s eyes turned to Neia. “You! You control that undead creature, right? What a creepy guy he is!”
Thoughts like, “I’m not a necromancer” or “You’re being rude to the Sorcerer King’ ran through Neia’s mind, but she remained silent.
“Sorry to intrude while you’re in chaos, but–”
“–Get back, undead! Or else this kid gets it!”
The Bafolk gripped the boy’s throat.
The boy’s face lost all signs of life. His cloudy eyes reflected the Sorcerer King’s visage, but he did not react. Even so, he still gasped after his captor grabbed his throat.
“Fuhaha! You’re actually trying to use the living as a hostage against the undead? Honestly, honestly.”
The Bafolk’s eyes went wide. His expression’s kind of disgusting, and Neia mused that the reason she had the room to calmly think like this because she was backed by the mountain that was the Sorcerer King.
“Human! Call this undead off!”
It’s not like I’m controlling him…
“Umu. Now then, shall we begin?”
“What? Stay back! Get back right now!”
Perhaps it had sensed something, but the Bafolk took a step to the rear while still holding its hostage.
When she looked around closely, she could see the forms of other children; had they been brought here as hostages as well? Even so, they did not seem to want to kill their hostages to teach them a lesson. They probably thought, would living hostages really work on the undead, who were the enemy of the living?
Neia sensed something like a black wind curling past her. In that moment, all the Bafolk froze in place. Ever since the Sorcerer King had shown up, everyone present had remained still, studying him so as not to miss a single move he made, but this change was far too extreme. Their eyes and mouths gaped open, their faces twisted in an ugly manner. Also — it was not just the Bafolk. Even the near-lifeless children showed a dramatic response to this. While she could not read the demihumans’ faces, Neia understood human expressions. Fear was written on the children’s faces. And it was an unimaginable, fragile, crumbling fear.
The Bafolk screamed in a strange way–
“–Hmph. Release, 「Mass Hold Species」.”
A magic circle appeared, and some kind of spell flew forth from the Sorcerer King. In the next moment, the numerous demihumans and their child hostages froze in place like hideous statues, their faces still twisted. However, they did not look like they were dead. She could hear the faint sounds of breathing — quite ragged, it would seem.
And then, above them — countless cries rang out from near the wall. After that, the thump, thump sounds of meat being bludgeoned rained down on Neia.
“Alright, let’s go.”
She was briefly distracted by that sound, so when she looked forward again, at the gate–
“「Greater Break Item」.”
–A shrill noise rang out. It was the sound of the pieces of pulverized gate falling like rain.
“As I thought, destroying buildings with this drains a lot of mana… although I didn’t use it like that over there… I guess all I can do is accept the fact that I need to pick my targets for best effect. You can’t look down on small things, after all.”
The Sorcerer King muttered to himself as he walked over the hill of the gate’s debris and passed through the city gate, with nobody to block his path.
The rapidly changing situation left Neia confused and unable to move. Once she regain her calm, she smiled to herself.
The Sorcerer King had destroyed in seconds the gate which had given the paladins so much trouble.
The strong really are unfair…
Neia jogged after the Sorcerer King, and he turned around in front of the immobile Bafolk and went, “So, how about them?” while indicating the motionless demihumans and the children they were holding.
“It’s only temporary, you know. Go tie up everyone here.”
“Then I’ll call the paladins over.”
“An excellent idea. Unfortunately, I am still radiating a fear aura. Everyone who steps into it will be filled with fear. Therefore, please ask them to take the appropriate measures. I believe priests ought to have 「Lion’s Heart 」 while paladins have… hm, ask them to use 「Under Divine Flag」, how about that?”
“You actually knew about that…”
The Sorcerer King chuckled, and then walked through the Bafolk, as if to fill the gaps between them.
A strong-looking Bafolk fell from above with a growl, holding a spear. He had probably jumped down from the castle wall.
His eyes were red and he was foaming at the mouth. He was clearly not in a normal state of mind. He looked like he had fallen into madness.
“I see. Savagery… no, berserking? Certainly, that would negate fear and other mental effects — oho.”
The Sorcerer King dodged the stabbing spear with practiced movements. It was a crisp, efficient movement, one unique to trained individuals. However, the Sorcerer King’s evasion meant that a Bafolk who had become a statue ended up being stabbed by his compatriot’s spear instead, It pierced straight through him, and he collapsed to the ground, spraying blood everywhere.
The berserk Bafolk no longer seemed to hold the concept of allies in his head.
“Give me a break.”
The Bafolk raised his spear. Was it a sweep? However, Neia could not launch an arrow.
The Sorcerer King approached the Bafolk, like he wanted to block her shot.
Certainly, it was wise to close the distance given the spear’s length. However, the Sorcerer King’s next move deviated from common sense.
With a swift motion, he pressed down on the Bafolk’s head from left and right.
Perhaps it was because the Sorcerer King was surprisingly strong, but the Bafolk could not escape the Sorcerer King’s grasp no matter how it thrashed. Having given up on that, the Bafolk thought of something else; it gripped the front portion of the spear and drove it through the Sorcerer King. No, to be precise, it looked to Neia like he had driven it through him.
However, the Sorcerer King remained unmoved. Perhaps a defensive spell had stopped it.
“You’re not like that Troll, after all.”
With a sickening crunch, the Bafolk’s eyes flew out of its skull; a clearly lethal injury. No, one could say that this was even worse than a fatal wound.
The Sorcerer King let go, and the Bafolk collapsed on the ground. Its limbs twitched around on the ground, but it was hard to say that those movements were consciously driven.
“May, may I know what you did?”
Neia nervously asked from behind, and the Sorcerer King waggled his hand as he nonchalantly replied:
“I crushed its skull, of course. Sometimes, berserk individuals don’t die when they are killed. Still, if you destroy the brain, it should be fine… Still, it really was weak. Barely harder than an eggshell… are you kidding me?”
Neia’s face twitched.
His Majesty really doesn’t have any gift for making jokes…
“Alright, Baraja-san, call the paladins. Tell them to secure this area so I — we can continue forward together.
Neia ran back outside at top speed, to where the paladins were. When she looked there she saw several Bafolk fallen at their feet.
Since they could not have run out from the gate, they had probably been Bafolk who, in their attempt to flee the font of fear that was the Sorcerer King, had chosen to jump off the walls, and this was the result.
After reaching the paladins, Neia hurriedly relayed the Sorcerer King’s instructions. After that, she rushed back at top speed to the Sorcerer King’s side . After Neia returned, the Sorcerer King said, “Then let’s go,” and entered the city streets.
The question of why no new Bafolk had come after the city gates had been breached immediately faded away.
Neia heard groan after groan. It made her think that this unliving city was moaning.
“This, this is…”
“I ordered the undead I released to spread fear. This is the result. Some hostages might have been trampled in the confusion… well, all you can do is treat it as a sad story. Give up on them.”
She cast her eyes outward, and a Bafolk was running towards them with all its might (probably). It looked just like a harried prey animal, and Neia even found it a little pitiful.
It must have been exposed to extraordinary fear. Otherwise, why would it run towards a being who was even more powerful than the undead creature it was fleeing from?
“Hm… no signs of humans,then? In that case — 「Maximize Widen Magic Fireball」”
「嗯……没有人类的身影、吧？这样的话——<魔法最强效果范围扩大化火球（Maximize Widen Magic·Fire Ball）>」
The Sorcerer King discharged a fireball into the Bafolk’s midsection, and it erupted into a massive blaze. After that vanished, demihuman body parts rained down everywhere.
“While waiting here might be the best thing to do… the enemy seems to have a leader. He’s waiting in a plaza near the center of the city, and he’s resisted the fear of the High Wraiths, so let’s move on… what do you think?”
“I believe all will go well if we do as Your Majesty wishes.”
“Really now. Then let’s go.”
Every time they took a step forward, soul-chilling cries seemed to echo from everywhere, as though a great slaughter was taking place. Also, due to the demihumans’ lack of hygiene, their rubbish and wastes were everywhere, which made Neia wrinkle her nose.
“…Speaking of which, Baraja-san, what should be done about those?”
She looked in the direction where the Sorcerer King was pointing at. There were a group of stark naked people there.
Regardless of gender, their hands had been nailed to wooden stakes that had been driven into the ground. In their efforts to flee their fear, they had struggled violently, and their arms were coated with fresh blood.
In all likelihood, those were probably fences made out of human beings
They were exhausted, bone thin, but their lives did not seem to be in danger.
She had attacked this city in order to free the people. Even if she continued following the Sorcerer King, Neia would not be of any use. In that case, helping them now and taking them to a safe place was the right thing to do. However, there was one thing which made her uneasy.
What should she do if the people were attacked by demihumans while they were evacuating?
What a joke. What am I hesitating for? The Captain would have chosen to help them without any hesitation. And the reason why I can’t is… is it because of strength… after all?
“You’re hesitating, hm. Then, just leave them here for now. There shouldn’t be any demihumans nearby. Leaving them here should be safer. Let’s go.”
While she still had her doubts, Neia continued following the Sorcerer King to the city’s plaza. Why was it that the Sorcerer King could advance without the slightest delay? Though she had her doubts, she convinced herself by saying, “he must have cast a spell.”
Soon, the two of them came to a plaza which looked like a market with streets everywhere.
“Mm… as I thought, there was no way this could have been resolved without loss of life.”
She followed the Sorcerer King’s eyes, and there were human corpses mixed with demihuman corpses. They were probably people who had been trampled to death in the fear-induced chaos.
“…It can’t be helped.”
While the Sorcerer King was joking, attacking this city by brute force would probably have caused a matching number of casualties. Going by that, letting the Sorcerer King use his overwhelming might to conquer the city minimized the number of lives that were lost.
The Sorcerer King shrugged silently, and then he indicated the center of the plaza with his chin.
There was a demihuman there who was larger than all his peers.
His curled horns resembled those of a mountain goat, and he was covered in silver fur. His excellent physique clearly showed that he was not an average demihuman.
The tips of his horns were encased in a shell of gold which was socketed with jewels, and he wore a breastplate that had turtle-shell patterns on it. He wore a reddish-brown cape made from worked animal hide. His left hand held a large shield with a topaz socketed into it, while his right hand held a heavy sword whose blade was light yellow. His panoply vividly illustrated the courage and ferocity of a striking warrior.
He was the most fearsome and well-trained of the demihumans. He was probably a Lord or some kind of similarly-ranked special being.
If Neia were alone, she would have fled this opponent with all her might.
“Wonderful. I wonder which of your items stopped the fear.”
The Sorcerer King’s words referred to the magic items adorning the demihuman. He had rings on both hands and jewelry hanging from his neck that covered his entire chest. There were things dangling from both sides of its waist, things which might have been a set of three baby skulls strung together.
The green-eyed demihuman studied the Sorcerer King as he approached, and then his gaze shifted to Neia.
“Newly-appeared undead… and is that a necromancer in the back?”
The demihuman obscured itself behind its large shield, as though wary of a gaze attack like the kind a Medusa would launch.
“Not bad. You managed to push this city, my tribe to this point… You, who controls the enemy of all life, the user of fearsome magic. State your name.”
The Bafolk pointed his sword at Neia.
“–No, wait, hang on. You’ve gotten it wrong. It’s not me!”
She looked to the Sorcerer King for help, and he folded his arms and looked to Neia.
“You do get it. That’s right, it’s her. She’s my master.”
“No, no! Wait, wait!! Your Majesty!!!”
What on earth was he saying? Truly, he had no talent for making jokes at all.
As he saw how Neia flapped her hands around in panic, the Sorcerer King chuckled.
“Mm. Feeling relaxed now?”
“Ah — it was a dumb joke.”
Flaring his cape with the regal motions of a king, the Sorcerer King turned to regard the demihuman before him.
“I am the entity who sent the undead to your side. I am the the undying king who rules a country to the northeast, the Sorcerer King Ainz Ooal Gown of the Sorcerous Kingdom. And what is your name?”
“My name is Buser — the Grand King Buser… O Sorcerer King, how about the woman by your side?”
“She is my follower. Well then, what do you want to do? Would you rather be killed by me? Or kneel in servitude? Choose as you wish.”
“With my name as Lord at stake, kneeling once in subservience will be enough!”
Buser raised his shield and advanced, raising his sword into a horizontal position. He looked like a goat about to charge.
“Mm… Then I shall play with you for a while. –Baraja-san, you just sit back and watch. Speaking of which, goat. You’re equipped with all kinds of magic items, but I detect no magic from the item at your waist. Is that some kind of special item?”
“Fuhahaha. They call it fashion. They’re bones.”
“Mm… that does remind me of my subordinates.”
Neia shuddered from behind as she heard that. So he had such subordinates…
“They’re well-shaped, no? I carefully selected them from this city, you know.”
“…I see. I understand. I sympathize with your feelings. It seems this fashion thing is quite important. The maids have taught me that very well… alright, let’s begin. 「Create Greater Item」.”
After casting his spell, a jet-black sword appeared in the Sorcerer King’s hand.
Why is His Majesty using a weapon?
The Sorcerer King should have been an arcane magic caster. And a top-rate one to boot.
In that case, weapons were to be used only after he ran out of mana and options. Arcane magic casters knew that well, which was why they did not touch any weapons.
The Sorcerer King must have chosen to fight with a sword for some reason.
–Could it be that he’s expended a great deal of mana? That would be bad… His Majesty came here to do battle with Jaldabaoth…
After the repeated casts of 「Fireball」, the spell which had immobilized a large group of the enemy, and then — his mass summonings of the undead — she could understand if his mana had been heavily depleted.
The spell to summon those undead must have been of quite a high tier…
While she did not know how powerful High Wraiths were, they were most definitely stronger than Wraiths. Therefore, summoning so many High Wraiths would have required a great deal of power.
Under normal circumstances, every time a priest cast a spell to summon angels, he would only be able to summon one at once. If they were willing to summon weaker angels, they could call forth multiple entities. By that logic, he must have used a very high-tier spell — possibly a unimaginably potent spell of the sixth tier.
…The sixth tier…
The sixth tier was a realm where none had explored before. According to legend, the Holy Queen could use spells of the fourth tier. This was two tiers above her.
It might have been a realm beyond common knowledge, but the Sorcerer King might have been able to make it a reality.
Maybe, if he used a sixth-tier spell for his summons, that huge expenditure of mana would be understandable. But in that case, wouldn’t it be better for me to help the Sorcerer King?
Neia looked at the Sorcerer King’s back as he squared off against the demihuman. The demihuman she could see over the Sorcerer King’s shoulder was very strong, and even several Neias would not be useful. However, the Sorcerer King carried himself with a forthright and open attitude, with no sign that he was picking a fight he could not win.
Could it be that His Majesty is a mystic knight of some sort?
There were benefits and drawbacks to improving one’s swordsmanship and spellcasting. The benefits included being able to use many fighting methods, but the drawbacks were that it was hard to achieve true excellence in both.
Then what was the Sorcerer King like?
The two of them studied each other, and then they slowly began.
They closed the gap between them, until they were in sword range. Buser was the first to make a move.
A sudden charge, made with a shield held in front of himself. And the Sorcerer King took it head on with his sword.
As expected, there was no way to take the force of that massive body suddenly charging forward. The Sorcerer King sent flying. No, his feet were still firmly planted on the ground when he landed, so that did not quite fit. Rather, he had been knocked back.
While the fact that the Sorcerer King — who could crush a Bafolk’s skull with his bare hands — had been knocked back was quite surprising, surely a body of bones would not be able to completely defend against that attack. From what Neia knew, there was an advanced martial art called 「Fortress」 that could completely nullify the force of an impact, but that was a technique only a veteran warrior could use.
The two of them stepped forward, and both swords collided.
Their back and forth was too fast for Neia’s eyes to follow. The only thing she could see was the brief moment when their blades hit each other and froze in place.
If Neia joined this battle, she would surely be hacked to death.
Steel clashed with steel at high speeds, and the ear-piercing sound of metal echoed all around.
Both of them had equivalent arm-strength, so when they crossed blades, their attacks and defenses took place simultaneously.
Should she be impressed by how Buser could swing such a heavy blade with one hand, or show respect to the Sorcerer King for wielding a two-handed sword while being a magic caster?
This was a high-level battle of the sort she had never seen before, and Neia was certain that she could not possibly interfere.
In order not to get in the way of their fight, Neia slowly shifted behind a piece of cover and hid herself.
They’re swinging at each other like that, but neither of them is hurt… speaking of which, the Sorcerer King seems a little too strong…
Neia’s brain could no longer react to a magic caster who could fight with a sword to this extent.
Did he use some kind of amazing spell?
All Neia could do was attribute it to some super-powered spell she had never heard of before.
If this keeps up, there’s no doubt that the Sorcerer King will win. No, was he planning to draw out the battle for that aim?
The undead did not feel fatigue and they would not be shaken in combat. All of these were unfavorable to Buser. Buser seemed to realise this, because his face started to contort.
If he had some sort of trump card–
Neia was shocked. The Sorcerer King had suddenly thrown his huge sword at Buser.
After that, a hemisphere of light appeared around Buser and blocked the thrown sword.
The bubble of light vanished, and the thrown sword had only slightly scratched Buser.
This is bad!
Neia prepared herself to rush out from behind her cover. The Sorcerer King was empty-handed now–
At some point, a jet-black halberd had ended up in the Sorcerer King’s hands.
Buser must have felt the same way as Neia. His eyes were as wide as saucers.
“You didn’t incant a spell, how did you do it… And where did that sword you threw go to…”
“I simply cast a silent spell. Don’t worry about it… Alright, my subordinate taught me this, but I’m not very confident in my skills. I apologize in advance if I end up fumbling around.
The Sorcerer King readied his halberd. He radiated a strange sense of oppression.
Warriors often favored weapons within the same broad classes. Swords, axes, maces, that sort of thing.
The Sorcerer King used momentum to swing his halberd. He attacked Buser’s feet — which were hard to defend — with a sweeping motion. This was a technique one could only perform with a hafted weapon.
Just as Buser brought his sword low to try and block the attack, the halberd suddenly jumped up.
It was a feint.
This was a move that would require considerable arm-strength to perform, but Buser raised his sword to block it in an instant.
As expected, the Sorcerer King favored the sword, and he did not seem very skilled with the halberd. While he elegantly replicated textbook attacks, there seemed to be something strangely off about his attacks, and even Neia could spot it with her eyes.
After blocking the halberd’s momentum, Buser leapt back.
The sand particles from within the sword spread out like a wall, rushing towards the Sorcerer King. it had probably obscured the Sorcerer King’s vision completely.
While she doubted if the Sorcerer King had eyeballs, having one’s vision blocked was a tremendous disadvantage.
“「Brief Seal」!「Grand Power Strike」!”
One was a martial art Neia did not understand, while the other was an advanced technique, a power strike that would inflict additional damage. After using both of them, Buser charged out, faster than before.
Buser’s horn decorations glowed with a bizarre light, and he looked like a shooting star.
The Sorcerer King caught the blow on his halberd–
–And Buser laughed.
The sound of metal being shredded rang forth.
Neia’s eyes went wide.
“Could it be! A sunder attack!”
Sunder attacks directly damaged a foe’s weapons, but the amount of damage done was greatly affected by the composition of both weapon and its damage potential. Buser’s martial arts were probably intended to strengthen these two attributes.
Neia began to feel anxious, but in the next moment, she froze as she saw Buser staring with wide eyes.
Buser cried out in shock.
“What the hell is that weapon!?”
As Buser scrambled back, his expression completely changed and with no intention of pressing the attack, the Sorcerer King spun his halberd, tracing a beautiful arc in the air.
“… You do know I made this weapon with my magic, no? How could it be so easily broken?”
“But weapons made by magic are fragile, right?”
“Oh, it seems you’ve had experience fighting opponents with summoned weapons, but it’s dangerous to be bound by such a fixed worldview, no? In other words, there might be opponents who can make weapons which you can’t break.”
The Sorcerer King let go of his halberd. The halberd then vanished, like it was melting into the air. The same thing must have happened with the sword from just now. After that, the Sorcerer King made to grab something from the air, and this time he had a black sword in each of his hands.
“…Now then, what will you do? Don’t tell me that attack was your ace in the hole? Can you help me gain more experience?”
The Sorcerer King took a step forward, shortening the distance between them,
“…If you’ve got any more trump cards, it’d be better if you hurried up and used them, no? I’m not kind enough to let a useless enemy live.”
“Ku, kuku! What are you saying, undead one! Indeed, I’m very impressed by how you managed to fully defend against my attack. Very well done. However, that wasn’t because you were focused on defense. I know you won’t get tired, so you feel that you can beat me if you grind me down!”
He saw through it!
Neia felt nervous again. Even she had noticed it. Buser, a better warrior than herself, could not have failed to noticed that.
“I see. So that was what you thought. Indeed, you would be correct to think so. But unfortunately, that’s not all.”
The Sorcerer King spread his arms and approached. The swords in his hands vanished like smoke.
Buser had already stabbed that unprotected body faster than Neia could shout.
Buser frantically, repeatedly swung his sword.
“Why! Why!! What is this!?”
He shouted with every swing he took. That was because the Sorcerer King was unharmed despite taking every blow.
“In that case–”
Buser braced his shield and used a martial art. Yet, the Sorcerer King remained unmoved despite taking a shield bash.
Instead, it was Buser who stumbled back.
Humans had a hard time reading demihuman expressions, but right now it was very easy.
On his face were the emotions of terror and despair.
“…Martial arts are an unknown technique to me. Did martial arts derive from skills, or are they a warrior’s magic? Even until now, I still don’t know. Still, don’t you feel that when fighting an opponent of equal ability, victory might be decided by experience and knowledge of martial arts? That’s why I will take your attacks head-on. However… You’ve shown them all to me, haven’t you?”
The Sorcerer King shrugged in an exaggerated fashion, and at the same time he plucked one of the nine rings he wore from its finger.
Nothing else happened. That was the only move the Sorcerer King had made. However — an abnormally frightening and cold air filled the entire area.
Neia hurriedly looked to the sky. She had almost thought that the sun in the sky had frozen and shattered. However, the sun was still there, shedding its radiance.
–Then could this frigid and jet-black emanation be something released by the Sorcerer King? Could a single individual produce a presence like this?
This, this is the Sorcerer King. This is the true form of the magic caster who slew an army of tens of thousands…
“And now it seems — there is no longer any need to fight you.”
He took a light step towards Buser.
Buser, on the other hand, took a trembling step back. It was like he was being pushed back by an invisible pressure radiating from the Sorcerer King.
Buser could feel that abnormal presence more keenly than Neia. He was very clear on the fact that the Sorcerer King was not an opponent he could fight. The way his fur stood on end proved that.
“Wait, hang on. No, wait a second. I’m begging you, just wait a bit!”
Buser raised his right hand and let the sword he was holding fall to the ground.
“Sur-surrender. I surrender.”
“I have news about Jaldabaoth. How about it? That should be very useful, right? It’ll definitely be useful.”
“…Also, there’s more. You want to fight Jaldabaoth, right? I’m much stronger than human beings. I can arrange to bring my tribe along to help you fight Jaldabaoth — that piece of shit Jaldabaoth. How about that?”
“…Wait, please wait! That’s not all! If you want, I can give you part — all of my collected treasure! That ought to be enough for my life, right?”
“Is that all? Is the sale over?”
“Oh, uwah, eh,” Buser frantically looked around, and then looked at the Sorcerer King once more. “Yes, yes. No, that’s not it. I, I have more, much more besides that. I can help you get whatever you want — no. I’ll definitely get it for you! Really! Please believe me!”
“Mm. What I really want is something you will never be able to obtain.”
Neia sensed the unhappiness in the Sorcerer King’s tone. Naturally, Buser, as the one staring him down, must have felt it even more strongly.
“Wait, wait-wait, wait a minute. Seriously, wait a bit. Aw, heh, heheheh.”
He was laughing like a minion. The kingly attitude he had shown off when he had faced them at the plaza was nowhere to be seen.
“I’m sorry if I said the wrong thing. No, I apologize. Really. It was my fault. Really.”
“Then, then, how, about it? I. I, this one feels, this one can be useful to you. Hehe. Ah, how stupid I was to make an enemy of the great undead king. Therefore, if you would give me a chance to make up for that mistake, I would.. hehe, you won’t regret it!”
Buser got on both knees and clasped his hands while praying for mercy.
What a pathetic pose that was. Yet Neia did not think that way at all. No, she had already accepted that this was the proper action an enemy ought to be taking when faced with the true form of the Sorcerer King. At the same time, she vividly recalled the words of that Naga they had met in the Sorcerous Kingdom: “A wise man would immediately throw himself at his feet and beg for mercy.”
In that case, the fate of those who did not kneel right away was–
“I see… well, I like those who understand they were wrong and work hard to correct their mistakes.”
“That, that means!”
Buser’s face lit up with joy. However, that joy was snatched away in an instant.
“–However, if I let you become one of my subordinates — Pestonya and Nigredo would not be happy. Also, I will not do anything wasteful like only using the skull. I’ll make full use of every part of you.
Now die, the Sorcerer King said as he erected a slender fingerbone.
“Aiiiieee! No, no, nooooo! I don’t want to die!! Wait!! I’m begging you!!! Please, I’m begging you!!! I, I still, I still have some value!!!! — I’m useful enough to make you happy!!!! Really!!!!! Believe me!!!!!”
“All things which live must die. The difference is in how early or late they meet their fate.”
“No!!!!! Don’t look at me that way!!!!! Don’t, don’t kill me!!!!!”
Buser rose to his feet, then turned around and ran off.
Neia stared dumbfounded at how fast the living could run when one’s demise was at hand.
However, the Sorcerer King’s spell was faster still.
“Worthless — 「Death」.”
Nothing happened. There was no big explosion, no cataract of roaring lightning.
Buser simply fell to his knees and keeled over.
That was all.
“Well, it’s a shame about the information… well, that’s how it is. Do you object, Baraja-san?”
“Eh, no, not at all, Your Majesty’s decisions are flawless.”
“Really? Well then… go find the paladins. Tell them I’ve taken care of the demihumans’ leader. Although… this is kind of bad…”