As this post is getting too long, i have separated it. This page contains part 1 to 4 only. Part 5 will be on another page (you will see the arrow button at the bottom of the page)
It was a long way off until winter’s end, and so the air was very cold. Still, that was not a hardship for him thanks to the fur which coated his body. His body was swathed in a lustrous black pelt, and another layer of clothing on top of that would make for excellent insulation. HE would not shiver from the cold, even if he wore a suit of metallic full plate.
However, he was shuddering for a different reason now.
That reason was anger.
Calling that tremendous anger “wrath” would not be too far off.
A low growl escaped him, like that which a carnivorous beast would make, and then he clicked his tongue in embarrassment.
For members of his race — the Zoastia — making animal noises like that was the proof that he could not control his emotions; a shameful display for an adult.
However, that was only within the confines of his species.
Anyone else who heard that growl leak from between his sharp teeth would have either trembled in fear or froze in terror.
He turned his back on the human city that he had been staring at just now, and returned to his camp.
Even if their supreme commander was Jaldabaoth, their ruler who wielded overwhelming might, many pointless feuds still broke out every day between the many races gathered under him.
The forces of the Demihuman Alliance were divided into three main groups.
The first were the 40’000 troops ranged against the Southern Holy Kingdom’s military.
The second were the 50’000 troops responsible for managing and guarding the camps which held prisoners from the Holy Kingdom.
The third were the 10’000 troops responsible for scouting the Northern Holy Kingdom, recovering various resources, and other miscellaneous tasks.
The personnel here comprised 40’000 of the 50’000 troops allocated to managing the prison camps.
It was only natural that their campgrounds would be bustling, with such numbers in attendance. Yet, nobody dared block his path, and so he could not stop or even slow his pace.
Surely there was nobody in the world who would dare stand in the path of a massive, rolling boulder.
Nobody here had the guts or strength of spirit to offend him, given the dominating aura that surrounded him.
He walked as though he were alone in the plains, and soon an especially ornate tent came into view.
There were demihuman soldiers standing before it, but they were not guards. They were standing by to heed the orders of the tent’s occupants. In other words, they were servants.
The guards trembled as he passed between them and savagely pulled aside the cloth hanging over its entrance, whereupon the five demihumans within immediately glared sharply at him.
The demihumans within could be counted among the top ten members of the demihuman forces, demons excepted. While he could feel the physical weight of their gazes upon him, his attitude did not change in the slightest.
As a fellow member of those ten beings, he simply laughed and made a show of filling one of the empty seats. That said, his bestial lower body meant that taking a seat was more like lying down.
Although one of the five nodded lightly to him, he paid them no heed, his eyes fixed firmly on the demihuman occupying the highest seat.
Said demihuman was a being that looked like a snake that had grown arms.
The scales on its body gleamed wetly, throwing off a bizarre riot of colors that did justice to its nickname of “Rainbow Scales”. Not only were they beautiful, their hardness was said to rival those of Dragons. In addition, it possessed high-level magic resistance and was equipped with a large shield and a suit of enchanted plate armor. When one factored in its warrior prowess as well, said being might well qualify as the mightiest entity in the Abelion Hills.
This demihuman was Roxu, a Nagaraja. He was the demihuman who had been appointed to commander of this detachment by the Demon Emperor.
Resting beside him was the powerful Trident of Dehydration, which was famous as his primary weapon.
而作为他的主武器闻名的、拥有着强大特殊能力的“渴竭三叉戟[trident of dehydration]”，正横放在他的身旁。
“–Why aren’t we attacking yet?”
He directed the question to Roxu in a very subdued tone.
It had been a full three days since they had reached the city which the pitiful human resistance had taken over. But not even a skirmish had broken out since then.
“…I know the human walls are troublesome, but surely they’re nothing in the face of our numbers, aren’t they?”
This was especially true for those members of the Demihuman Alliance who could completely disregard the existence of such walls. There ought to be no difficulty if said individuals were carefully managed.
“Frightened, are we?”
A vicious expression bloomed on his — Wayja Lajandala’s — face as he was addressed with the title of “Demon Claw”. He swept his eyes over the other member of his species who was present before turning back towards the Nagaraja.
The title of “Demon Claw” was known far and wide, and had been for almost two centuries now.
This was not because Zoastias were a long-lived race but because the title was passed down through the generations.
To him, this title was something he had inherited from his father. He knew very well that it was inappropriate for him at the moment. That was why he had to build his reputation in the upcoming battles. Yet, he had not been able to prove his strength — as the inheritor of the title — to the world so far.
Everyone he had beaten so far was weak. There had not been anyone who could stop a blow from his enchanted two-handed axe, ‘Bladed Wing’.
This state of affairs could not be allowed to continue.
He could not allow this war to end while others still knew him as a mere minion of the archdevil Jaldabaoth. He had to find some way to make a name for himself as a warrior, and that time was now.
However, Roxu still did not intend to attack. Wayja’s dissatisfaction with that decision was why he spoke to the former in that way.
“They say the Grand King used to hold that city. Don’t tell me you’re scared just because the enemy has someone who could defeat him?”
The Grand King — the king who had led the Bafolk to greatness.
He had been one of the top ten demihumans, like himself.
Wayja was confident that he stood on even footing with the Grand King, despite the latter’s annoying martial arts which could break weapons. Anyone who could beat the Grand King must surely be a worthy opponent.
‘I’ll deal with her, so why aren’t we attacking yet?”
He could think of only one person who could defeat someone of the Grand King’s power.
It must be that female human paladin. If the rumors are true, she might have been able to beat the Grand King.
He sketched a hazy image of a paladin with a glowing sword in his mind.
“Wayja-kakka, the fact that you, a commander, would say such things despite coming in late without a word of apology makes me… don’t get so excited, I know, I know.”
Roxu waved him off in a relaxed fashion.
“Honestly, ignorant chicks make a lot of noise even when they know nothing.”
The person who was snickering just now had four arms. She was the queen of the Magelos known as “Iceflame Thunder” — Nasrenia Bert Kiuru.
Wayja wrinkled his brow,
He felt that he could triumph in a melee fight, but Nasrenia was adept at magic so he was afraid she could turn the tables on him in some unexpected way if it came to a fight. Even so, he — as an inheritor of the name “Demon Claw” — would not be able to face his ancestors if he meekly let someone call him a chick.
“And old hags who like to slack off cause trouble for the rest of us too.”
The Magelos were quite long-lived, but she ought to be more than halfway through her lifespan, given that Wayja had heard of her throughout the hills while he was still a child.
He could not tell the age of her skin when inspecting her face due to all the cosmetics she wore, but the fact that she was covering it up meant that she had noticed it too. In addition, surely that floral fragrance surrounding her was a sign of using perfume to mask her old folks’ stench, was it not?
Nasrenia narrowed her eyes and an icy chill filled the air in the tent. This was a physical, not psychological phenomenon.
“–I ought to be speaking the truth, no?”
Wayja straightened himself up somewhat as he said that. A Zoastia’s lower body was not a pretty decoration, but something which possessed a beast’s dexterity and explosive power. While his usual fighting style would have involved hunkering down to make full use of his physical abilities, he did not do that now. That was because he wanted to present himself as the one with the advantage, who had simply ceded the initiative to his opposition.
“This isn’t just a matter of lying, is it? I ought to teach you how to address ladies with respect. That’s also my duty as your elder.”
Amidst all this tension, Roxu spoke up:
“Contain yourselves, you two. This is a war council. If the two of you continue making trouble here, I will be compelled to report it to Jaldabaoth-sama.”
Now that Roxu had brought up the name of their absolute superior, the two of them had no choice but to back down. Still, they continued glaring at each other, as though to say “This isn’t over yet” and “Bring it, granny.”
“Hah… I can’t help you with this even though I’m very strong, but you two ought to know what it means to work together.”
“Heeheehee, you don’t have the right to comment on others either.”
A simian demihuman covered in white fur jeered at Roxu’s grumbling with a laugh.
“Hm, that’s true. Now then, Demon Claw-kakka. About your question earlier, it is not that I am afraid. The Grand King was a valiant individual, but surely everyone present is his equal, am I wrong?”
Roxu looked to Demon Claw and Iceflame Thunder, and then to the remaining three people.
One of them was a demihuman who was covered in long white fur and looked like an ape. He wore enchanted golden armor.
He was the king of the Stone Eaters — Harisa Ankara.
As a superior specimen of his species, he and others like him could gain various special abilities from eating raw minerals. For instance, by eating diamonds, they could temporarily gain physical damage resistance which could only be bypassed by bludgeoning attacks. Usually, only three such abilities could be active at once, but he could stock far more than that number. That was also a reason why he was called a mutant.
Then, there was the Orthros general who had nodded to him in respect.
He wore a suit of intricately carved armor. His equally ornate helmet and his lance lay beside him. His name was Hectowages Ah Ragara.
His nod to Wayja was not out of respect for Wayja’s personal abilities, but towards the Zoastia species as a whole. That was the reason why it displeased him.
Still, he could not simply challenge Hectowages to a duel to prove his strength. Certainly, Wayja would be the victor in a one-on-one fight. However, Hectowages had not gained fame because of his individual might, but because he was a renowned general who could triumph despite having a tenth of his opponent’s forces. The tables would be turned if it came to mass combat, and there was nothing more shameful than crowing about one’s personal strength and saying “I’m stronger than you” while knowing this. That was why Wayja had a hard time dealing with that Orthros.
The last person was the fellow member of his species, who had remained silent all this while: Muar Praksha.
Also known as “Blacksteel”, he was known as a guerilla who flitted from shadow to shadow.
He was a rarity among the Zoastia, who often capitalized on their physical abilities and fought with brute force. Stealth and surprise were the hallmarks of the fearsome assassination techniques which he used to surreptitiously dispose of the opposition. His nickname came from his unshakable will and his determination to eliminate the quarry he had marked.
While he did not think he would lose to them, every person seated here would be a troublesome opponent for him in straight-up combat.
“Then let’s go back to the topic of why we’re not attacking them. That would be because I received orders from Jaldabaoth-sama in the city of Rimun.”
“Say what? Was that how it was?”
Wayja’s question was due to the fact that Roxu was the only person in this army of 40’000 who had had direct contact with Jaldabaoth. By the time the others had been summoned to this city of Kalinsha, his men were already in fighting order and waiting to be deployed.
Jaldabaoth teleported constantly between multiple cities, so there were few opportunities to receive directions from him in person.
“Jaldabaoth-sama said to give the humans occupying the city several days’ time.”
“Give them time? Whatever for?”
“He said it was to frighten them. There are fewer than 10’000 people in that city. There are fewer still people among them who can fight. In contrast, all of us here can fight… how afraid do you think the humans holed up in that city will be?”
“I see… so that’s it. Jaldabaoth-sama is truly fearsome.”
“Hehehe. Indeed, That said, I do understand how you feel, Wayja-kakka. The question now is how much more time we should give them?”
“No, we can decide exactly how many more days to give them. That said, we might have two months’ of rations stored up, but it would not be good to actually give them that long.”
“Is it because we still need to deal with the prisoners?”
There were only 10’000 demihumans left to manage an overwhelming number of human captives. While demihumans were stronger than humans, quantity was a quality all of its own. It was very likely that they would not be able to deal with any riots or uprisings.
“Precisely. That’s why I have gathered all of you, in order to hash out our plans for the future. Personally, I think we can move in after another couple of days and finish things. Does anyone disagree?”
None of the demihumans present — Wayja included — objected to him.
“Alright. We attack in two days. Until then, we will continue observing them.”
There was the possibility the enemy might launch a counterattack, though he did not think it very likely.
“That would mean it’s about time to deal with the humans we’ve brought along, then.”
Some demihumans ate human beings. Species like those preferred fresh food. The Zoastia had no particular preference for manflesh. To them, beef and horse meat were better. However, most of them would prefer fresh human meat to beef jerky.
In contrast, Iceflame Thunder had a look of revulsion on her face. Perhaps it was because the Magelos did not eat humans, given that they were visually similar to human beings.
“Hehehe. How about killing and eating them in front of their city tomorrow. That ought to terrorize them, no?”
“An excellent idea. After that, we’ll declare that we’re attacking the next day…”
“There’s no need to press them that hard. What’ll happen if they surrender? Fighting is only fun because they have hope, and thus struggle with all their might. Nothing’s more boring than killing people who have lost the will to live.”
Ultimately, Wayja wanted to fight strong foes. There was no point in facing weaklings.
“Indeed. Also, there is another important point. It’s an order from Jaldabaoth-sama. We mustn’t kill them all, but let a few escape. Therefore, my plan is to kill everyone guarding the western gate — our side — and chase away the ones manning the eastern gate.”
“In other words,whoever’s attacking the eastern gate needs to be able to keep firm control over their men, am I right? Otherwise, it feels like it’ll end in a complete slaughter.”
After Nasrenia said that, everyone’s eyes went to a single individual.
“I see… Then you won’t mind if I bring all my kin with me, then?”
“Can you leave a few as messengers?”
“Certainly, Roxu-kakka. In that case, Hectowage Ah Ragara and myself will be responsible for the eastern gate.”
“After that, we need some people on the north and south to give them some pressure. While there’s no need to actually take those points, we ought to kill off an appropriate number of defenders there. I’d like to send some ranged fighters there…”
There were three people present who were adept at long-range combat. The person Roxu chose from among them was the silent Zoastia.
That was all “Blacksteel” said in reply.
“Everyone else will be on the western gate. While I don’t think there’ll be a chance for you to show your stuff, I’ll leave any strong opponents which show up there to you. After all, I need to command the entire army, so I won’t be able to make it to the frontline.”
The remaining three demihumans — Wayja included — all nodded their heads.
“Since we are all in agreement, we shall attack that city in two days. I hope you will all get your rest and gather your strength before the humans wail in despair.”
Neia swallowed the gastric juices rising inside her as she walked towards the Sorcerer King’s room. As she did, an intense sourness spread through her mouth.
She took up the pouch tied to her belt and drank the water within,
The water was hardly delicious, flavored as it was by leather, but it helped quell the burning sensation in her throat and the stench in her mouth. However, the anger still remained in Neia’s chest, and her face was still pale.
She recalled the stomach-churning scene that she could not forget, even if she wanted to.
The demihuman army had encircled this city for a full three days now.
The enemy had not attacked or attempted to parley, simply letting time pass. But today, the demihumans had brought out their captives from the Holy Kingdom to the outer walls of the Loys district, where Neia and the others were. If they had skilled archers or slingers present, they might have been able to attack them. Unfortunately, they had nobody like that on hand.
Neia was confident of hitting the demihumans if she used the Sorcerer King’s bow. However, launching a rash strike might have triggered an all-out attack. That would have led to a battle of 10’000 against 40’000, and they would have to open the city gates if they wanted to save those captives.
Once the gates were opened, the demihuman forces would surely pour in like an avalanche. Such a thing could not be allowed to happen, and so all they could do was stand aside and watch.
There were less than 20 captives. They were made up of males and females, adults and children, but there were no old people among them. All the prisoners were naked and covered in scars and bruises.
Just as the gathered people of the Holy Kingdom began to think they had been brought out as collateral for some kind of negotiations, a tragedy had unfolded.
The demihumans began to massacre the captives.
A demihuman who seemed to be about three meters tall had decapitated a prisoner and then held up the severed head in an inverted position. Neia had clearly seen how the earth had drunk the vast quantities of fresh red blood spilled upon it.
After that, the demihumans began to butcher the prisoners’ corpses.
Neia had seen her father process animal carcasses before. However, the sight of such a thing happening to human beings had dealt a mighty blow to Neia’s psyche.
After that, the demihumans ate the captives one after the other, while they were still fresh.
The most cruel part was watching how some people had been eaten alive.
Even now, Neia’s ears still rang with the wailing of a child and the sound of his innards being torn out as a demihuman chewed his belly open.
Fortunately, Gustavo had been wise enough to keep Remedios from showing up, under the pretext of protecting the prince. Surely they would be fighting by now if she had seen something like that.
Neia inhaled deeply, then took another mouthful of water and forced herself to swallow it.
She had heard someone say that it would feel better to throw up if one was nauseous, but given that she was heading to the Sorcerer King’s room, it would be disrespectful to arrive with the stench of vomit clinging to her.
After sniffing herself several times, Neia stood before the door to the Sorcerer King’s room.
There was nobody on either side of the door.
Now that the city had been encircled by the demihumans, there was nobody to spare on protecting — in truth, keeping an eye on — the Sorcerer King.
Neia knocked on the door to indicate her presence to the person within.
“Your Majesty, I am Squire Neia Baraja. May I enter?”
After receiving permission to do so through the room door, Neia quietly entered.
The interior was simply furnished since the demihumans had wrecked most of it. Even so, it was still more than what anyone else in the city had.
The Sorcerer King stood with his back to Neia as he looked outside the window.
“It seems quite chaotic outside, given how I’ve seen so many people running around from up here. We’ve been encircled for four days, but this is the noisiest it’s been since the first day. That would mean… is it a sign that the enemy is preparing to attack?”
The Sorcerer King had shown no intention of participating in this battle, simply staying in his room without incident. He had not even shown up for the strategic meeting when the demihuman army began fanning out around the city.
Naturally, the Liberation Army’s leadership had not been happy about this, but they found it very hard to ask anything of the Sorcerer King after he had said, “Would it not be bad in future if the king of another nation stuck his nose into your business?”
Neia had been ordered to attend various meetings in his place. This was the Liberation Army’s plan to share what they knew with the Sorcerer King, and Neia approved of it. However, that had led to Neia witnessing the tragedy which had unfolded earlier.
“…No, the demihumans haven’t made any big moves like that. But… the demihumans, ah… how shall I put this, maybe they were trying to make a show of force, so their positions have shifted a little.”
“In that case, this standoff will only continue for a while more, no? The demihumans are trying to shake our troops and weaken their morale… come to think of it, can we win this battle?”
No. Neia longed to say as much.
In the first place, there was a vast difference in the respective strength of their forces.
10’000 humans versus 40’000 demihumans.
Even that figure of 10’000 included the elderly and children, and then there were also the wounds — both physical and mental — and the fatigue they had incurred at the prison camps, which they had not yet fully recovered from.
While the defenders typically had the advantage during a siege, that only applied when both forces were evenly matched
When one compared the average demihuman to a human commoner, the latter was so weak that even comparing them seemed like a foolish act.
At the very most, the only people who could stand on equal footing with demihumans were the paladins, the priests, and professional soldiers, but they did not have many of those, and compared to the army of 40’000 strong army they were now facing, it was like trying to put out a dragon’s fiery breath with a bucket of water.
Still, one could not say this was an entirely unwinnable battle.
There was one person who could beat back the demihuman hordes by themselves, even without counting the Sorcerer King.
Assuming physical exhaustion and lucky hits from the enemy were not a factor, the strongest paladin in the Holy Kingdom — Remedios — could take on 40’000 average demihumans and kill them all.
However, one could not say there were no powerful individuals in the demihuman army who could stand toe-to-toe with Remedios. In fact, it was very likely that they were out there.
Neia recalled the demihuman king who had ruled this city previously, the Grand King Buser. While the Sorcerer King had killed him like he was nothing more than a pile of rubbish, that was simply because the Sorcerer King was incredibly powerful — Buser was overwhelmingly strong in his own right. Neia could not have beaten him, no matter how hard she tried.
Demihuman kings like that might be Remedios’ equals, or perhaps even her superiors. They were all very strong in Neia’s estimation, so she could not accurately judge the outcome of a showdown between two such powerful beings.
In addition, from a practical point of view, one had to take physical exhaustion into consideration. No matter how strong they were, nobody could escape the spectre of fatigue. Magic could briefly ease it, but fatigue would continue to accumulate.
Even after killing an army of 10’000, Remedios could still be attacked in a moment of exhaustion and weakness and be killed by an average demihuman. Quantity had a quality of its own, after all.
However, if there was some being who could overturn that logic — Neia’s eyes went to the great ruler before her, who still stood with his back to her.
That person would be an absolute force.
An entity who surpassed this world (Overlord).
He was none other than the Sorcerer King, Ainz Ooal Gown.
As Neia gazed upon his regal back, she suddenly realized that she had not yet answered the Sorcerer King’s question, and she hurriedly spoke.
“I, I’m not sure!” Panic caused her to exclaim louder than usual and she blushed before continuing in a normal tone: “–But I’ll do my best to find out.”
The Sorcerer King seemed entirely unmoved by this, and continued asking another question.
“I see. Then, have you learned anything new about the enemy? Have you verified Jaldabaoth’s presence?”
“The situation on that front has not changed in the past few days. We have not yet sighted Jaldabaoth among the demihuman forces.”
“Hm, that makes things difficult. It may be very hard for me to help you in this defense. I need to replenish the mana I’ve used up. After all, his plan might be to deprive me of mana. I must think on this point before deciding how to act.”
“But of course. Everyone is fully aware of Your Majesty’s opinion.”
During a strategy meeting, someone had once said they had spotted a demon who looked like Jaldabaoth, but when Neia said they had to make sure, that person had immediately said they had probably been mistaken. Given the mood in the air, it was clear that everyone present — with the exception of Neia — was planning to involve the Sorcerer King in the fighting by spreading false reports of Jaldabaoth’s presence.
They might despise the undead, but lying to the king of a nation means they have no integrity to to speak of. Even if forced into dire straits, wouldn’t it be right to display their resolve to someone who ought to be respected?
“In that case, what do you make of the demihumans’ movements?”
“Ah, yes, the demihumans had been previously massing at the west gate, but now they’ve split their forces and are sending some of their troops to the other — eastern — gate. We believe they’re about to make their move or preparing for a siege.”
“That is to say, enough time has passed for them to finish building siege weapons, then? Hm, that’s probably a good thing. After all, the enemy isn’t trying to starve you out.”
Neia could not tell if it was a good or a bad thing, but they would have no solution if the demihumans did try to starve them out.
If the demihumans attacked, then they would be promptly annihilated due to the opposition’s overwhelming advantage in military strength. However, if they were fighting from behind the protection of the city walls, it would not be such a lopsided battle. Of course, it was merely going from “incredibly bad odds” to “not so bad odds”.
“Of course, that might also be due to the fact that the demihumans aren’t aware of our supply situation. Then again, it’s more likely that they simply don’t care about a small city like this.”
“Well, the demihumans did conquer the fortress line we saw when we entered the Holy Kingdom, so it would be reasonable for them to hold a small city like this in low regard… if you give them a hard time during the defense and make them feel that a siege is to their disadvantage, that’ll draw the battle out. After that, you’ll have a very hard fight ahead of you.”
It would seem the Sorcerer King believed that they would have to win this unwinnable battle before the true fight began.
“Your Majesty, may I ask your opinion of how you think the situation will develop?”
“Future developments, hm. I don’t honestly know either. In truth, one could say that you’ve lost by being forced into a siege like this. Sieges are typically carried out under the pretext that reinforcements will arrive. Either that, or the enemy is operating under some disadvantageous condition, like a time limit. However, we are simply defending a city in enemy territory, so our chances of victory are despairingly small.”
“Still, we managed to send the nobles we released to the south before this, so we can’t say for certain that no help will arrive.”
Neia might have said those words, but she knew in her heart that she should not be counting on reinforcements.
The southern armies would need to break through the demihuman army blocking their path to reach Neia’s location, and even if they did that, there was still an army of 40’000 demihumans to contend with.
Fighting repeated battles would be a huge drain on their combat strength. Abandoning the 10’000 people in this city would be a wiser decision.
“That would be good…”
It would seem the Sorcerer King did not believe it for a moment either.
But that was only to be expected. Given the circumstances, who could turn things around without sacrificing anyone–
Neia dispelled the notion rising in her head.
“His Majesty is here to fight Jaldabaoth, so depleting his mana on other matters and thus diminishing his chances for victory cannot be allowed.”
“…It will take me a while to cast the teleportation spell which I used on the Orcs again, but I can still cast the spell which I occasionally use to return to the Sorcerous Kingdom several more times. Taking a few dozen people with me would not be a problem… but I guess you can’t decide who to send, and you won’t.”
“I am grateful for your understanding, Your Majesty.”
Perhaps it would have been a better idea to ask the Sorcerer King to take Prince Caspond and flee, but that move had demerits of its own.
When a king from another nation was willing to commit himself to a fight in order to face a fearsome demon, having a member of one’s own royal family shamelessly beg someone else to take them away from the battlefield was utterly disgraceful.
Just as Neia was pondering this information, the Sorcerer King turned to face her for the first time since she had entered the room.
The red points of light in his empty eye-sockets looked straight at Neia. While they had once frightened her, Neia had grown used to them, and she had come to feel that they were quite charming.
“This is what I think, Miss Baraja. We have ended up in a confrontation with the enemy forces because of the stupidity of the Liberation Army’s leadership. Such a situation cannot be changed by the efforts of a single squire. How about focusing on your personal safety rather than the big picture? You do understand that my nation will accept your allegiance, if you are willing to give it? Given that you have been trained as a paladin, I am certain you will be able to fully exercise your talents in my country.
Neia was confused, and did not know how to answer.
While she was grateful that the Sorcerer King was worrying about her, she trembled in fear as she considered what she might lose if she accepted the Sorcerer King’s proposal.
The spirit of devotion which her parents had demonstrated.
Her love for her hometown.
She might never be able to return to the nation of her birth.
There were memories of several friends she had.
Many things circled in front of Neia’s eyes, and they disappeared one after the other with a poof, but among them was something that refused to shatter, that remained to the end — in other words, the most important thing.
She was a member of the paladin corps.
While she did not yet know what was justice, it was the only thing Neia could say with her chest puffed out and her head held high.
“I am deeply grateful for Your Majesty’s indulgence, but as a citizen of the Holy Kingdom, I feel I am bound to save as many of the people as I am able. That is because saving the helpless — saving those in suffering is common sense.”
The Sorcerer King suddenly stopped moving, as though he had been frozen in place.
The Sorcerer King murmured to himself, and then he stroked his chin.
It would seem Neia’s words had struck a chord with him, because he studied Neia once more.
It was just a throwaway remark, and Neia found herself fidgeting uncomfortably.
“Am I correct to say that when the demihumans attack, you will be posted to the walls near the western gate, on the left side of the city? It is a very dangerous place, and counting on me to save you will be a mistake, you know?”
I know that very well.”
Neia was skilled in archery, and given that she had been assigned to the thick of the action, there was no doubt that she would be killed in action. However, she had steeled herself for death, since she would be going onto the battlefield.
She drew her lips thin, and Neia looked the Sorcerer King in the eye.
“Ahh, those are his eyes. I liked the look in his eyes.”
The Sorcerer King’s self-directed mutterings made Neia blush. While the Sorcerer King did not mean anything else by his words, it made quite the impact to hear someone she respected say that he liked her.
“In that case, I’ll lend you several things, Miss Baraja. Please make good use of them.”
There was a don, and something huge suddenly appeared out of thin air. She had thought the same thing when the Sorcerer King had produced the bow in the carriage, but magic truly was a surprising thing.
Neia had seen the magic item — the suit of armor — which had sprung forth from nothing. It was a suit of armor which looked like a green shell– it was the armor which the late Grand King Buser had worn.
“This, this is–”
“This armor ought to be useful, by which I mean it will ensure your safety.”
The armor was too large for Neia — and its dimensions would be quite sizable for just about any human being. However, given what Neia knew about enchanted armor, it would not be an issue if she tried it on.
Ordinary armor would need to be altered by a blacksmith in order to suit its wearer’s frame. However, there was a limit to how far such alterations could go. Such a large suit of armor simply could not be resized enough to fit.
However, it was different for magical armor. Anyone could wear it regardless of gender or race, provided there were no special restrictions on its use. While the changes would not be too drastic, the armor would automatically adjust its shape to fit its wearer.
One could even have a giant wear a suit of armor no bigger than a thumbnail, but the durability of magic armor varied with the materials it was made with and their quality. A ring-sized suit of armor would be easily damaged if it was subjected to spells, acid or equipment-sundering attacks, and that would greatly reduce the potency of the enchantments upon it.
There was no such thing as a free lunch, and the easy road rarely was. Even so, Buser’s armor was probably quite tough, given that it was this size even without anyone wearing it.
“In addition, I will lend you three more things.” The Sorcerer King personally handed those items to Neia. “A crown, gauntlets, and a necklace. Are any of them redundant with your personal gear?”
“No, not at all. I did not have any magic items to begin with.”
“That is good to hear. Now, I will briefly explain the usage of these items.”
As the name implied, the Crown of Iron Will defended the mind against charm, fear and other such mental attacks. Still, while the crown rendered one immune to magical attacks, it could only strengthen the wearer’s resistance against attacks derived from special abilities. Another thing she had to note was that the crown would also negate positive magical effects.
The gauntlets were Gauntlets of Archery. Out of all the spells in the world, there were some which could only be used if their caster possessed shooting skills, which was why the Sorcerer King had made that item. However, the Sorcerer King had abandoned those spells after making that item, and so the gauntlets were useless to him. They had languished in storage until now.
Finally, the necklace was an item consumed mana to cast the 3rd tier spell 「Heavy Recover」. While one could use it indefinitely as long as one possessed sufficient mana, it consumed more magical power than casting it directly. Given Neia’s meager reserves of mana, it was best for her to consider it a one-use item. Therefore, she would have to think carefully about when to best use it. This item had not been made by the Sorcerer King or his peers; he had simply been taken with its appearance and had purchased it from somewhere.
Indeed, a closer look revealed that the necklace was of very fine workmanship. It looked like a goddess holding up an emerald. Indeed, it was a very attractive work of art.
Neia looked at these valuable items, and then shook her head in refusal.
“I, I’m very sorry, Your Majesty, but I cannot accept these.”
The magic items that the Sorcerer King offered were most definitely top-notch gear. However, what would happen if Neia died while wearing them? These items would fall into the hands of the demihumans, and they would end up strengthening the demihumans instead. Even if they did not fall into the hands of the demihumans, what would happen if her corpse went missing during the chaos of battle and her equipment vanished with her? More to the point, Neia already had the bow which the Sorcerer King had bestowed upon her, so how could she be discontent with that and borrow more things from him?
Speaking of which, she ought to return that bow to the Sorcerer King before going to battle.
“Why is that? These items will be useful to you in the fighting to come, will it not? After all, you are a warrior-type, and you lack mana, so you might not even be able to use that necklace’s ability. Why don’t you take it and give it a try?”
Neia confessed her uneasiness in response to the Sorcerer King’s question. The Sorcerer King heard her words and simply smiled.
“How about this. Go onto the battlefield with the determination to bring these items back to me, no matter the cost.”
Neia had been resolved to do just that all along, but resolve alone could not break through her uneasiness. After hearing her answer, the Sorcerer King waved his hand in a grand fashion.
“Oh, just take it. I have spells that can locate magic items, and I’ve already marked those items. I can find them even if they’re lost.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, it is… alright, no need to stand on ceremony. Take them, use them.”
If the Sorcerer King could make facial expressions, he would probably be smiling — those thoughts ran through Neia’s mind as she heard his words.
Now that he had offered them with such sincerity, rejecting them would be an act of rudeness. The notion of accepting his goodwill warred with the desire to apologize for incurring a loss to the Sorcerous Kingdom. Those thoughts swirled in Neia’s mind–
“Well? Can you not make me a promise? A promise to return them all to me afterwards?”
Come back alive. That was the meaning behind those words, and they moistened the corners of her eyes with tears. Only her parents had ever treated her with such kindness before.
The Sorcerous Kingdom is blessed to have such a merciful sovereign. As Neia thought that, she bit her lip and lowered her head.
“Thank you very much! I swear I will return them!”
She lifted her head, and wiped away the tears
She could not wear her armor here after all. However, putting on the gauntlets, necklace and crown should not be an issue. She began by fastening the necklace around her neck.
In the moment that she put it on, she immediately understood the abilities of the magic item and how to use them. It was as though the item was a part of her, and making use of it was as natural and effortless as using her own limbs
Next was the crown. However, she did not feel anything special when she put it on. Still, according to the previous explanation, she would probably understand when the time came.
The last item was the gauntlets.
They were a different matter. She could clearly and vividly feel the change.
Power coursed into her.
It felt very much like the time she had strengthening magic cast upon her. Her muscles felt like they had suddenly multiplied and her movements were both swifter and more precise. In addition, she could make out tiny details, and even her cardiovascular fitness had improved. She felt full of energy.
It felt like every aspect of her physical abilities had improved.
“This is amazing…”
Strength gained through training accumulated slowly, so it was hard to perceive. However, she could clearly feel the intense augmentation of her physical capabilities. More surprising was the fact that she did not feel any awkwardness in controlling her body given the differences between her previous and present self.
“Magic really is amazing…”
The Sorcerer King shrugged as he heard Neia react in awe.
“That’s true. In fact, I’ve been quite surprised by utility spells myself.”
“By that, do you mean those?”
“Spells which can create sugar and pepper and ice. Then there are spells which can even create ores, though they’re not very mana-efficient. Some cities also depend on utility spells to supplement their water supply… It would seem utility spells are closely linked to the development of this world’s culture.
“Is… that so?”
Why would a great magic caster like the Sorcerer King be surprised by such trivial spells? Still, it must make sense, given that the Sorcerer King had said it. And indeed, utility spells had come to be of great use in many places; daily life might not be possible without such magic.
“Also, there are those drains which use slimes… or rather, coexist with them… ah, I’m straying from the point. Miss Baraja, pay me no heed and return to your work.”
In truth, there was no task more important than keeping the Sorcerer King company. However, it was true that they lacked manpower, and Neia had a surprising number of things to do, While said tasks were largely related to standing guard, which anyone could do, they were still very important.
“Thank you very much, Your Majesty. I will most certainly return alive.”
“Ah, if things get really bad, then flee to the east. In all likelihood, that’s the only place where you might have a chance to survive.”
Neia put away Buser’s armor and bowed before leaving the room.
Inside the operations room, Remedios Custodio and three paladins studied a force distribution chart.
Remedios’ thought process was nimble and clear when it came to battle, in contrast to how she would make people sigh in exasperation most of the time. While her younger sister would say, “You’ve got a great body there, all you need now is to study a little more”, she could not have gained her present fighting skill if she had heeded that advice.
That was because she was different from her sister, who had been blessed with three gifts — wisdom, talent and looks.
Our fighting strength is 10’000. Theirs is estimated at 40’000. Our win conditions are to hold on until reinforcements from the south arrive, or the enemy retreats… we might actually be able to do it if there were ten of me around…
If the members of the Nine Colors who had been chosen for their fighting strength were present, they might be able to put up a good fight, but the fact remained that the present situation was a tremendous challenge.
If we want to buy time, we need to counterattack the enemy hard during their first offensive. That’ll put them on the back foot and give us the time we need. After all, the enemy doesn’t fully know what forces we possess, right?
She had also seriously considered the proposal of launching a first strike.
They could gather their forces at the east gate and crush the enemy there in one mighty blow before wheeling around to head for the west gate.
However, she had quickly reached a conclusion — all would be lost if they failed. It was very likely that the west gate would be lost to the enemy’s main force before they defeated the small detachment positioned at the east gate, and thus the city would fall.
And of course, there was the disparity between their forces. They had to compensate for that gap if they wanted to win.
But that’s impossible.
Remedios wrinkled her brow and looked at the tokens placed on the map.
She hoped for a flash of inspiration to descend from on high. However, no such thing happened.
“Do you lot have any ideas?”
“Yes. Personally speaking–”
She listened to the paladin’s proposal, struck it down, then asked for more ideas, and the process repeated until none of them could come up with anything. Just then, a knocking rang through the weighty silence of the room.
“Captain, you’re here.”
The person who entered was the deputy commander — Gustav Montagnes. It felt like she had been saved by the bell. It would seem the other paladins in the room also felt that way, as one could see a faint glimmer of hope on their crestfallen faces.
“Ahh, you came just in time. I wanted to ask if you had any ideas.”
Remedios gestured to the map sprawled across the table with her chin. It would seem Gustav had gotten her meaning, because he nodded.
“I can supply a suggestion or two, but can I discuss a few things with you beforehand?”
“Hm? What is it? Go ahead and tell me.”
“Ah…” Gustav continued in a more subdued tone. “Actually, things have gotten quite bad. Some of the people want to know if the Sorcerer King will be taking part in the fighting.”
The Sorcerer King would not be fighting in this battle. This was both to recover the mana he had expended until now, and in case Jaldabaoth’s plan was to make him expend mana here.
Remedios had difficulty accepting the first reason, since her little sister Kelart could restore her mana within a day. However, everybody else felt that the Sorcerer King could not be held to the same standards as human beings, given that he had taken back the city single-handedly, and so Remedios said nothing more. Come to think of it, there had been priests present as well, and so the others had accepted it as the way things were.
However, even Remedios could accept the second reason.
Who could tell if Jaldabaoth was hiding within the enemy ranks?
They had brought the Sorcerer King here to fight Jaldabaoth. While it would be best if both of them ended up bloodying the other, she had no wish to see the Sorcerer King defeated. Therefore, it was only natural for her to back the Sorcerer King up so he could fight to the fullest of his ability, even if she intensely despised the undead.
Even so, there had still been some who wanted the Sorcerer King to take the field. Some of the nobles who had remained in the city had offered huge sums of money — which had made even Remedios’ eyes go so wide that they looked like they might fall out of her empty head — to induce him to fight, but the Sorcerer King had not accepted their offers.
“What’s wrong with that? The Sorcerer King won’t be fighting in this battle. You should know that too, right? Just tell them and be done with it.”
“Captain. We can’t tell them about this. If things go badly — no, even if all goes well, it’ll cause a huge uproar.”
“Why is that?”
She could not understand it. What was wrong with the Sorcerer King not fighting?
After seeing the questions written all over Remedios’ face, Gustav frowned and replied:
“That’s because the people who watched us take back the city know that there are things which we paladins can’t do, but which the Sorcerer King can accomplish with only two people.”
She still could not understand what Gustav was trying to say.
“That may upset some people, but that’s how things are. What’s wrong with that?”
“No, what I’m trying to say is, they think of the Sorcerer King as being more trustworthy than we paladins. If the people of this city learn that the Sorcerer King — the most reliable and powerful asset we have — is not fighting, morale will plunge to rock bottom.”
“Trustworthy? …You do realize the Sorcerer King is undead, don’t you?”
“It doesn’t matter if he’s undead. The Sorcerer King freed the city and rescued the people in bondage. So to them, the Sorcerer King is a hero.
Remedios repeated Gustav’s words back to him, unable to comprehend their meaning.
“The people think he’s a hero? But he’s undead, no? They hate the living and love death. He abandoned the hostages — no, he killed them off without so much as blinking, didn’t he?”
“It’s all the same to them. Also… it would be one thing if they simply regarded him as a hero. If this goes on, people will start thinking of the Sorcerer King as their savior. If things go wrong, it might affect the Holy King’s–”
“The Holy Queen’s, you mean,” Remedios’ face twisted into a frown. “I’ve said this many times already, but Calca-sama must be locked up somewhere for breeding. There were paladins and priests collapsed everywhere after that battle with Jaldabaoth, but we couldn’t find Calca-sama and Kelart anywhere. He wouldn’t need to move her if she was dead. I’m sure she must have been taken hostage. “
“I misspoke, Captain. I feel that it might be a problem that could cause problems for Her Majesty’s reign.”
“Problems for her rule?”
“Yes. … Our fortress line has been smashed and nobody can stop the demihumans from invading. There will start to be people who want to flock to the side of a supreme being who can protect them.”
“But he’s undead… you know?”
“I say again, it doesn’t matter if he’s undead. He did save them in their hour of need, didn’t he?”
Remedios still could not understand that point.
“But the Sorcerer King wasn’t the only one fighting, was he? We fought too, under the Holy Queen’s flag.”
“Yes. You’re right. We all fought, even the common folk. But even with all that taken into consideration, if the Sorcerer King does more than us, then there might be people who would value him over the Holy Queen and seek to make him their new ruler.”
“Hah!?” Remedios unconsciously raised her voice. “How did that happen? Not only is he a hero, how is that undead creature being placed above the Holy Queen? Do you even know what you’re saying?”
“No, that’s from the people’s point of view–”
“–Good or not, he’s still undead! How much suffering and effort do you think Her Majesty had to go through for the sake of the people? How could the people–”
“–Please wait, Captain!”
“What do you mean, please wait!? What the hell are you talking about, Gustav? No, is that what you truly believe?”
In the grip of her powerful emotions, Remedios slammed her fist down on the table. The furious blow — delivered by a heroic individual — crushed the area of the table beneath it and gouged a chunk out, which fell to the ground. The bizarre damage pattern looked like some giant had pressed out the edge of the table, and it indicated how angry she truly was.
“Please calm down, Captain. We all know the greatness and kindness of Her Majesty as a matter of course. There’s no way the Sorcerer King or any other undead creature could compare to the great Holy Queen. But we only know that because we stood by the Holy Queen’s side.”
“Are you retarded? Even if they’ve never had an audience with her before, there’s no way anyone would respect the undead of another country more than the ruler of their own nation! You’re delusional!”
“Captain!” Gustav exclaimed in a tone that was close to a wail. “Even if the Sorcerer King is undead and the king of another nation, he was still the one who freed them from torment! And that is something… something that Her Majesty, that we could not do!”
Gustav spewed those words out in one big burst, and the room echoed with the sound of him trying to calm his flustered breathing
“…What do you all think?”
The paladins who had previously been in the room all looked at each other as they heard Remedios’ quiet voice. After that, one of them spoke up, a look of mortal determination on his face.
“Naturally, we paladins do not consider the Sorcerer King a hero. However, we also know that the common folk might feel that way.”
After that, another person spoke.
“Most of the people know that the Sorcerer King conquered this city with the strength of just two — no, one person. Those who have not seen the Sorcerer King’s power in turn exaggerate these rumors, further deifying him.”
The last one added:
“It is a fact that the Sorcerer King stepped forward by himself to offer aid to a country which was neither an ally nor one that was friendly to him. If we disregard the fact that he is undead… those actions would qualify as heroic.”
It would seem Remedios was the only one who could not accept this state of affairs. In that case, how could she respond to Gustav’s question after all this had sunk in?
It was true that not having their hero take part in the fighting would cause morale to drop, and thinking about the reasons for that would lead to a commotion. The enemy was an army which outnumbered them four to one. It was only natural that they would be in that frame of mind when they thought about having to fight something like that.
“…Then why don’t we paint the Sorcerer King as a villain and kill two birds with one stone? How about telling the masses that the Sorcerer King won’t help us any more?”
“Lying would be a very bad idea,” Gustav said. “The mood of the people is like a dam just before it bursts. If they learn the truth through one channel or another and discover that we were trying to hide the truth, the matter would spiral out of our control.”
“Well, we don’t have to tell a flat-out lie. We can do it in a roundabout way.”
“If the people think it’s a lie, then it’ll become a lie.”
“Then all we need to do is keep them from seeing the Sorcerer King, no?”
“…So if a riot breaks out or if someone wants to plead with him in person, we’ll kill them off?”
“…I don’t want to do that.”
Gustav sighed heavily.
“This is frustrating. The Sorcerer King showed too much of his strength. I feel we wouldn’t be like this if we had taken this city back under our own power… If the worst comes to worst, the country itself might be torn apart. Who’s going to stop the Sorcerer King if he declares this land an enclave of the Sorcerous Kingdom?”
“This nation belongs to Her Majesty and the people who live upon it! Not to the undead! And besides, do you think the surrounding nations will accept that!?”
Remedios pounded on the table again. However, Gustav’s face did not change, and he interjected:
“They probably will. Captain, you saw them too, right… the monsters in his city. No other nation would want to become the enemy of the Sorcerous Kingdom, which possesses such frightening military power. It would be wiser to simply turn a blind eye to the Holy Kingdom, which is now impotent… and if this place becomes an enclave, the Sorcerous Kingdom’s defensive strength will be halved, and many of the nearby countries will agree that it is a good thing. And if the people wish for this to happen as well, the Sorcerer King will have just cause for his actions.”
“…So being a country of the undead is better than being a nation whose people can’t even defend themselves… is that how it is, vice-captain?”
Gustav nodded at the paladin’s question. “Just so.”
“Gustav. Did I make a mistake in bringing the Sorcerer King back here?”
“Of course not, Captain. It was the best choice at the time. However… it is true that we’ve relied too much on the Sorcerer King’s power. Like I said just now, if we had taken back those prison camps with our own strength, we would not be in this situation now. For all we know, the people might still fear and hate the Sorcerer King, being that he’s one of the undead.”
“…What should we do?”
“We need to deal with the people, buy time, and defeat the enemy army by ourselves. If we can’t even do that, then even if we defeat Jaldabaoth… the war might still continue.”
Remedios looked up to the ceiling.
“…Then that’s what we have to do. Damn that Sorcerer King… did he plan all this out beforehand?”
“I don’t know… I really don’t know. But he might have.”
“Maybe he desires to expand his domain. Is the Sorcerous Kingdom very small?”
“I wouldn’t say it’s very small, but it’s true that the Sorcerous Kingdom is only his city and the land around it, as well as that plain which is rumored to spawn large quantities of the undead.”
So that was why he had his eyes on the Holy Kingdom’s land. There was certainly more than enough evidence to lead to that conclusion.
“That damn undead creature! We should have asked for Momon’s strength after all!”
“Perhaps things might have ended the same if Momon had come. The shock would simply not have been as great as the impact which the Sorcerer King had. A king conquering a city by himself is an incredibly striking image. The fact that said king is one of the undead who are our nation’s sworn enemies is also very influential.”
Now that silence had returned to the room, Remedios — who finally realised that Gustav was asking for her opinion — gave her orders.
“We’ll discuss this with Caspond-sama. If, perhaps, though I feel it’s not too likely, just in case, Her Majesty has passed away, then he is the most eligible person to be the next Holy King.”
“Since we have not yet found any other members of the royal family, that will certainly be the case. We’ll go ask his opinion of all this, then.”
Remedios left the paladins in the room and led Gustav to Caspond’s room.
In the end, things turned out just like Gustav’s predictions. The conclusion was that they would delay answering the people and if the enemy should attack during this time, they would face them without the assumption of the Sorcerer King’s assistance and beat them back, thus showing the world that the strength of the Holy Kingdom was still undiminished.