The Death of Ainz
There were a total of four people within the room.
There were two paladins, who had come straight in after the fighting and were thus covered in bloodstained armor — Remedios Custodio and Gustav Montagnes. There was the person in charge of the surviving priests, a middle-aged man who could use third-tier spells — Siliaco Naranho. And then there was Prince Caspond Bessarez.
Two of them had come from the battlefield and one of them had been in charge of healing the wounded. As a result, Prince Caspond’s room was filled with the stench of blood.
Remedios had not removed her helmet even now. That was not proper etiquette for visiting a prince’s chambers at all — one could even call it disrespectful — but Caspond did not seem bothered by it and he appeared very calm.
At the same time, the air in the room was terrible, though not because of the preceding point. It was true that it reeked in here, but the reason was because the mood in the air was harsh. It was so weighty that it even seemed to dull the sunlight entering through the window..
This was not how people who had beaten overwhelmingly unfavorable odds and emerged victorious ought to be.
Caspond was the first person to speak in this weighty silence. Still, who else could speak first but him?
“Tell me about our casualty situation.”
“Of the 6’000 militiamen we brought onto the battlefield, 4’000 of them have been injured or killed.”
“…If I may add to the Vice Captain-dono’s words, there are also a thousand people among the wounded who are being healed by the priests, but half of them perished because we could not reach them in time.”
“…And then half the paladins survived, and eight priests died.”
Caspond closed his eyes and shook his head as he heard Gustav’s words.
“Against a demihuman army like that… while we can’t say losses like these are a good thing, should we be grateful that those were all we took? Or should we be sad for the sheer number of casualties–”
Remedios’ still, small voice interrupted Caspond.
“…Captain Custodio is right. We ought to be sad to have suffered such losses.”
Gustav and Siliaco looked down as they heard Caspond’s words.
They knew that against a 40’000-strong army of demihumans, it was a miracle that the woefully-outnumbered Holy Kingdom Liberation Army had so many survivors — albeit a man-made one. However, they also understood that saying something like this would be disruptive and unproductive, so they had no choice but to do this instead.
“Was it the Sorcerer King who defeated the demihuman forces in their formation?”
“Yes. There were few eyewitness reports amidst the chaos of defending the city walls, so we’re unsure of the details, but there’s talk of mysterious undead beings destroying the army.”
“I see. That matches up with what I heard from the Sorcerer KIng. So he used the undead he created to clean them up — wiped out a massive army like that, hm? In that case… we can conclude that the Sorcerer King can defeat Jaldabaoth, am I right?”
Caspond shifted his gaze to Remedios, but she simply pursed her lips and remained silent. The highly volatile air around the Holy KIngdom’s strongest paladin made her a figure of dread to the weak. Caspond turned away from her and toward Gustav, who immediately returned his gaze with a deeply apologetic look in his eyes and bowed his head.
“Hahh… is it really alright to bet the entire KIngdom on him? Or rather — should we think of what to do if the Sorcerer King loses to Jaldabaoth? Does anyone have any ideas for the next best thing we can do if that comes to pass?”
He was answered by silence. Amidst all this, Remedios spoke up.
“In that case, how about calling Momon over?”
The three people other than Remedios looked at each other with severe expressions on their faces.
Remedios — who felt it was a good idea — frowned.
“What? Do you have any better ideas? It’s more proper than that damn undead creature, no?”
“…Captain. We are now discussing what to do if the Sorcerer King dies. In such a situation, expecting to go to the Sorcerer Kingdom to get more help would be very risky.”
“Not necessarily,” Siliaco said as he stroked his white moustache.
“A moment please, Vice Captain-dono. The Captain-dono’s idea is risky, but not a bad move. How about lying about the Sorcerer King being captured by Jaldabaoth and getting Momon to come over?”
“Priest-dono, that would be too dangerous. Even if Momon defeated Jaldabaoth, discovery of the lie could trigger a war. Even if all goes well, the Sorcerous Kingdom’s impression of our country will plunge to rock bottom. And if things go badly, Momon might very well become a second Jaldabaoth and lead the Sorcerous Kingdom’s undead army into our nation.”
“Precisely, you two. And the worst thing is that the Sorcerous Kingdom will have a justified grievance against us.”
Remedios tilted her head at Caspond’s explanation.
“We’re not adjacent to the Sorcerous Kingdom, so that’s okay, right?”
“…Captain Custodio, please stop thinking of dangerous things. I don’t want to adopt any policies that will endanger us… that said, I don’t have any good ideas. How about you two?”
Siliaco and Gustav could not think of anything either.
The room was plunged into a brief silence.
Eventually, Caspond quietly spoke up.
“…For the time being, let’s each go back and think about it on our own. There’ll be no problems if the Sorcerer King can defeat Jaldabaoth.” Caspond clapped his hands together. “Then let’s talk about something else. What about the rations that the demihumans brought? Can we eat them normally? And if we can consume them, how long can they last?”
Normally, they would belong to the Sorcerer King since he had defeated the demihuman army, but he had already said that he would hand them over free of charge.
Gustav answered. He was in charge of sundry tasks like that.
“Sire. There seems to be a lot of hardened bread-like objects and vegetables that we should be able to eat. Thanks to the attack of the Sorcerer King’s undead creatures, they were captured intact, so they are in very good condition. In addition, there are also some food items which need to be further investigated, such as sour-smelling vegetables and so on.”
Preserved food was very common in the Holy Kingdom. However, these were demihuman rations, so they might belong to a species which ate rotting food, which was why Gustav said they had to investigate further.
“There is only one problem. That would be the meat.”
Gustav’s face was dark as he looked at Caspond.
“A portion of the meat looks like it came from humans. That conclusion came from looking at their shape and we’re not certain about it. Maybe we could tell if we ate it, but I’d rather not sample it, if you don’t mind.”
“How much meat are we talking about here?”
Siliaco had a disgusted look on his face.
“Many demihumans eat meat, so there was a lot of it. At a glance, it seems like half the rations they brought were meat.”
“What!? Half of the rations for an army of 40’000 troops is meat?”
Hypothetically, if a demihuman ate a kilogram of meat a day, that would make 40 tons. If they had enough for two weeks, that would be 560 tons. In that case — the Prince grabbed his face.
“…How much of that is human meat?”
“We don’t know. Checking each and every piece would take a lot of time, and if they aren’t in their original shapes…”
“It would be a shame to toss out food when the future seems grim. I would like to separate the human meat from the other meat… Priest Naranho, can your spells do anything on that front?”
“My apologies, Prince-denka. We cannot do something like that. I feel my colleagues among the paladins should be the same way.”
Caspond saw Gustav nod and sighed deeply.
“So magic can’t do everything huh? How about having the captive demihumans eat it to find out?”
“We should let the dead rest in peace. If there’s human meat, we ought to return it to the earth.”
“Exactly, Captain Custodio… what do you think, Vice-Captain Montagnes?”
“Yes, I agree with the Captain. I feel that no amount of time will be enough to investigate each and every barrel of meat. We ought to use our time and effort on other areas.”
“I see… very well, I understand. So with regards to the demihuman meat, we’ll dispose of everything that looks questionable. In that case how about the demihumans’ arms and armor?”
The Sorcerer King had also handed them over for free, but he had also said that that he would be expecting something in gratitude, so they would have to hand over the appropriate items if the time came.
If they could defeat Jaldabaoth or take back the Royal Capital, Caspond planned to announce to the people that he would be handing the nation’s riches over to the Sorcerous Kingdom.
“Firstly, recovering the equipment from the demihumans and burying the corpses will need time, therefore we won’t even have time to check their quality… Priest-dono, if any undead spring up here, will they become the Sorcerer King’s minions?”
Undead spawned easily in places where many people died. A place where more than 10’000 demihumans had died fit perfectly.
Upon being addressed, a profoundly worried look appeared on Siliaco’s face.
“I do not know. I truly do not know. But anything could happen, so we ought to deal with the bodies and sanctify the land as soon as possible. I would like to rely on our strength alone for that, but we simply cannot manage that way, so I would like to get some help from the paladins.”
“Ahh, leave it to us. We’re used to dealing with the undead, after all.”
“I’d expect no less from Captain Remedios, it puts my heart at ease… If only the Holy Queen-sama or Kelart-sama were here…”
Everyone fell silent as Siliaco’s words tapered off.
After what seemed like a period of silent prayer, Caspond spoke.
“Ah, something on that point, Vice-Captain Montagnes. The Sorcerer King seems to want to take the magic items back to his nation, so he picked them out first. Of course, he’ll return anything that belongs to the Holy Kingdom.”
“Understood. Still, while I can tell when it comes to swords and armor, I’ll have difficulty with other items. If anyone here has knowledge of magical items, I would like them to step up and help.”
“I could help when it comes to items passed down through the royal family. As for religious items, however–” Siliaco nodded as Caspond looked to him. “–In that case, we’ll go get helpers from among the civilians. Still, this was really unexpected. No, we should say it was more than we hoped for. We ought to thank the Sorcerer King’s power for surpassing our expectations.”
Nobody present voiced any objections. Amidst the silence, Caspond spoke again, like he was their representative.
“This city was saved from conquest thanks to the Sorcerer King’s power.”
There was a very audible sound of teeth grinding, and Caspond looked worriedly at Gustav.
“After this, I will need to thank him on behalf of the Holy Kingdom. When the time comes, I hope you will all be present… in any event, being able to draw on the Sorcerer King’s power and achieve victory is a joyous occasion.”
“Don’t forget we did our best too.”
Remedios’ words seemed to freeze the air in the room. No, it was two people who had frozen up; Gustav and Siliaco.
Gustav’s mouth opened and closed like a koi. He looked like he had no idea how to apologize for his superior’s outburst.
“…Indeed. Captain Remedios, it is a fact that we would not have won this battle without the fierce resistance that you and the people put up.”
Caspond saw Remedios nod, and then he continued speaking,
“However — it is also a fact that without the Sorcerer King’s help, we would have lost, and it is just as true that he could have won by himself. Am I wrong?”
Remedios savagely ripped off her helmet and flung it at the wall, making a loud bang.
“Your Highness! Did something happen!?”
The door to the room flew open, and the paladins on guard outside rushed in.
“Nothing happened. Continue waiting outside.”
The paladins’ eyes went back and forth between Remedios’ helmet and the look on her face, and they realized what had happened. After indicating that they understood, they quietly left the room.
“Captain Custodio, please do not get worked up. I ask you to be calm.”
“How can’t I be worked up!? All the people I’ve met on the way here have only been praising the Sorcerer King! It’s as though he won the whole thing by himself! Didn’t he only show up halfway? How many people died before he won!? That was a victory paid for by the lives of the people, the paladins, the priests, men, women, elderly and children!”
Remedios glared at Caspond.
“It’s not true that he won by himself!”
Gustav could no longer hide his fear at the way Remedios was acting in front of the prince. Remedios had never been one for thinking, but at the very least she was smart enough to know who was her superior. However, things were different now — she seemed like a pain-maddened beast.
“That boner bastard was flying around in the sky when it was all over to show himself off! Is war a game to that bastard!?”
“…Captain Custodio, it seems witnessing the deaths of so many of the smallfolk has upset you. Would you like to take a rest?”
In response to Caspond’s mature answer, Gustav shot the man a grateful look.
“Before that, there’s one thing I’ve been thinking of. I’m sure Jaldabaoth and the Sorcerer King are in league with each other.”
The three people other than Remedios looked at each other.
“Do you have a single fact to back that up, Captain-dono?”
Siliaco looked coolly at Remedios. If one looked calmly at what she had done until now, she was clearly saying that because she hated the Sorcerer King and wanted to bring him down. Now was clearly not the time to let one’s personal preferences dictate one’s decisions.
“Isn’t he the only one gaining from this? Both the demihumans and the people of the Holy Kingdom are dead. He — the Sorcerous Kingdom is wearing away at our fighting strength in order to someday take control of the nation and the hills! That’s why he came here!”
“…I see. That certainly makes sense from the perspective of profit. What do the two of you think?”
Gustav furrowed his brows as he answered Caspond’s question.
“The Sorcerer King came here because we asked him. Also, was it not the Captain’s suggestion to have the two of them fight?”
“…Indeed it was. That masked bitch in Blue Rose is also one of them. If not for what she said, we would never have gone to the Sorcerous Kingdom. If not for that suggestion, we would have gone to the Empire or the Theocracy. And who knows, he might have come anyway even if we didn’t say anything.”
Haaaaah, Caspond sighed deeply.
“Captain Custodio, your logic has been nothing but self-serving from the start. You’re simply twisting the facts to match what you’re saying. I recall the Sorcerer King saying he wanted maid demons, am I wrong?”
“…Please forgive me for saying these things which are unbecoming of a priest. I hear that those maid demons are quite powerful. In that case, I can understand why the Sorcerer King would like to obtain them. Demons do not need to eat or drink and they do not have a maximum lifespan. Being able to dominate such a powerful demon might be better than gaining an army.
“In that case, it would mean the Sorcerer King is aiding our nation because he felt there was sufficient value in it. It is only common sense for a king who rules a nation.”
“Still, nobody’s seen those maid demons before, right!?”
As Remedios screamed like a reeeeeetard, Caspond looked at her like she was a pitiful, sad child.
“Captain Custodio. I would like to speak reasonably with you, and not speak with emotion… but it seems you are tired. Go and rest. That is an order.”
The red-faced Remedios still looked like she wanted to shriek something else, but Caspond was a step ahead of her and continued speaking.
“Go comfort the wounded men. That’s part of your duties as a field commander, am I wrong?”
Remedios picked up her helmet and left the room.
There was no way to describe how the air in the room relaxed after that. It felt like the sense of fatigue one would have after a storm had passed and all the pieces had been picked up, mixed with a sense of relief at the fact that they had managed to survive.
However, one man had unfinished business.
“Your Highness! I sincerely apologize for Captain Custodio’s actions!”
Caspond smiled bitterly to Gustav as the latter bowed his head.
“You had a hard time too. However, could you think about the future? I honestly have no idea what’s going to become of this country after this war is over. If only we could find my sister, the Holy Queen… what happened to the Holy Queen in the battle of Kalinsha? Did you hear anything from Captain Custodio?”
Gustav was Remedios’ personal assistant. Therefore, he would have been present when Remedios told Caspond about it.
The fact that he knew but was asking again proved one thing — the prince suspected that Remedios might be lying to him.
“…My Prince, I heard the same thing from Captain Custodio that she told Your Highness when we met for the first time.”
She had been sent flying by a shockwave and when she came to, the Holy Queen and her sister — Kelart Custodio — were nowhere to be seen. Though the corpses of paladins and adventurers and priests were strewn all around, the bodies of those two were nowhere to be found.
“Is that so? Maybe I was worrying too much… Captain Custodio does not seem like one of those people who say one thing and mean another. It would be better if they were captured by him. Instead. If they were killed… the matter of the succession would become very complicated.”
Startled, Siliaco asked him a question.
“Caspond-sama, are you tired of the position of Holy King?”
“Are you flattering me? In truth that might be the case if my sister had perished of an accident under normal circumstances. However, things are different now. The north is tired and the south is ready to fight. In that case, it’s very likely that the south might support someone to be Holy King. Frankly speaking, it’s very likely that one of the great nobles from the South might end up as Holy King.”
Caspond smiled as he looked at SIliaco’s shocked face.
“I don’t think that’s something that should be so shocking… in that case, with regard to what Vice-Captain Montagnes said earlier, if things go well, the first thing the Southern nobles will do is request that Captain Custodio take responsibility for the whole affair and be placed under house arrest.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Then I’ll ask you, Vice-Captain Montagnes — why would they not do that? Is a paladin who failed to protect Her Majesty not the perfect outlet for their unhappiness? And that’s not the only reason either. She can beat an army single-handedly. In that case, surely defanging your enemy is a basic tactic in warfare, am I wrong?”
“The enemy!? Who’s the enemy!?”
“The southern nobles are the enemy. In other words, the Holy Queen’s faction. Remedios Custodio was a confidant of the Holy Queen. Surely the paladins she leads would also be seen as the enemy, am I wrong?”
“In that case, what about the priests, that Kelart Custodio-sama led?”
“While there are priests who climbed the ranks thanks to their connections with the Southern nobles… don’t you think that would be the case too? Priestly magic is indispensable in everyday life. While I feel that anyone knows how stupid it is to put someone incompetent in high office, people sometimes do things that can only be described as foolish by others.”
“My Prince… what should we do?”
“Vice-Captain Montagnes, what do you mean by that? Do you want to keep her from being placed under house arrest? Or do you want to keep the paladins from getting involved?”
“I mean, what should we do for a better future for the Holy Kingdom.”
“…We need to find my sister. Then, we need an achievement that all the people will accept as having saved the nation. For instance, by driving out the enemy without having to draw on the strength of the South.”
“That’s impossible… we can’t possibly win without the Sorcerer King’s power.”
Caspond looked at Gustav, who was confessing his hardships, and shrugged.
“Still, that has to be done. Otherwise there won’t be any way to stop the pressure from the South after we win. Hm, yes, or we could damage the South as badly as the North. All that matters is that the balance of power is preserved in the end.” Caspond looked up at the ceiling. “If only we’d made a deal with the South sooner. She was too kind for her own good. And I understand how all this might have struck a nerve with Captain Custodio. After all, the only one who looked good in this battle was the Sorcerer King. If things go badly, the Sorcerer King might end up becoming the Holy King as well, am I wrong?
The other two felt it was impossible, but neither of them could deny it.
“In that case, we need to start thinking about our plans from now on. While I would like Captain Custodio to be here, will she disobey a direct order?”
“…I feel it would be fine as long as it’s in keeping with this country’s justice.”
“I see… I’ve been thinking about how to attack the prison camps. The reason for that is–”
Caspond began to explain.
Roughly 100’000 demihumans had attacked the nation.
Since they had not heard of any movements from the demihumans squaring off against the forces of the Southern Holy Kingdom, they estimated that the 40’000 demihumans that had attacked them this time round were a large portion of the forces assigned to manage the prison camps in the North.
“I agree with your opinion. By attacking the undermanned prison camps, we can both destroy them piecemeal and increase our own forces at the same time. I feel it will kill two birds with one stone.”
“Captain Montagnes, I am glad to hear you approve. How about yourself, Priest Naranho?”
Siliaco also agreed with Caspond’s suggestion.
“The Sorcerer King is in this city. Since he can keep us safe, I would like the paladins to attack the prison camps… can you do that? Also, one more thing. I would like Captain Remedios to stay here while you are launching the attack. Make her think that she’s in charge of bodyguarding me.”
“Thank you very much, My Prince!”
“…I don’t think I’ve said anything you need to thank me for, Vice-Captain Montagnes,” Caspond said as the smile faded from his face. “…The absence of the country’s strongest paladin means that if there’s someone like the Grand King at the prison camp you’re attacking, you might all be wiped out, am I wrong?”
“Can we decide which camp to attack?”
“But of course. I’ll leave it to you. There’s no need to force yourself to attack a large camp that’s more dangerous.”
“Understood. In that case, I feel only we should go.”
“Captain Montagnes, may several of our battle-capable priests go with you?”
“Certainly. Then we’ll set out in a couple of days’ time.”
Ainz used [Greater Teleportation] to reach his destination, which was the log cabin on the surface of Nazarick. While he did not know how long they had been waiting for him, Albedo, Demiurge and Lupusregina were all standing there already.
Albedo and Demiurge had been summoned by Ainz, while Lupusregina ought to have been on duty in the cabin.
Since Lupusregina was in charge of all matters concerning Carne Village, she should have been excused from the log cabin’s duty roster, but that was not set in stone.
Perhaps someone else might have been on duty, but they had not been able to make it, so Lupusregina had rushed over instead. If that were the case, it would be great. After all, that would imply that even if there was a lack of manpower after completing a mission, there was a system to immediately swap someone else in to make up the shortfall.
While the Pleiades each had completely different job abilities, their maid skills were all equal. It only made sense that they could substitute for each other in a professional capacity.
However, in contrast to that, there were also personnel who were hard to use. Starting with the Floor Guardians and the Guardian Overseer, there were some NPCs with highly specialized abilities who might need someone to take over them for one reason or another. In addition, Ainz had also been working hard towards establishing a vacation system.
After all, letting Pandora’s Actor substitute for all of them is also dangerous.
To take an extreme case, what if Ainz himself was not around? For instance, if he were imprisoned, or if he were charmed, or something else. While he did not think that everything would break down without him to make decisions, he had the feeling that Albedo and Demiurge would say, “Ainz-sama would never let that happen to himself” in the same voice and thus not think about such possibilities.
I need to seriously assess the need for this, and quickly.
In a grave tone, Ainz bade the three people bowing to him to raise their heads.
“It has been a while, Demiurge.”
In truth, Ainz had headaches about the Holy Kingdom’s affairs every day, and he also thought about Demiurge every day, so he did not actually feel that way. However, it had been quite a while since the last time they had met in person.
“Now then, you probably have questions about why I did that. While I would like to answer you, doing so in this place is not quite appropriate. Let us move somewhere else.”
Ainz went into the log cabin first.
He could have taken a shortcut here because there was a Gate Mirror set up, but he did not use it today.
There was a table in the center of the room, and there were two chairs facing each other on either side of it. Ainz took the seat of honor without hesitation, as if he were used to it. He had already experienced his share of troublesome things that had happened because he had not taken that place. While he had once had to ponder which seat it was before sitting down on it, he had now reached the point where he would unconsciously take his place.
As he approached the chair, Lupusregina immediately pulled it out for him.
In truth, he was of the opinion that he ought to pull his chair out himself. However, his observations of Jircniv had made him understand that it was very important for a ruler to let his subordinates work. Still, letting them handle even trivial tasks like this gave Ainz the commoner a bit of difficulty.
After settling down into his chair Albedo and Demiurge did not sit down, but instead knelt on the floor. Behind them, Lupusregina went to her knees as well.
“–I permit the two of you to take a seat.”
The two Guardians politely refused in unison. Ainz once again granted his permission to the two Guardians, whereupon they finally sat opposite Ainz after gushing their superlative gratitude to him. Lupusregina, on the other hand, stood stock still behind the two of them.
This takes so long and it’s a waste of time. Couldn’t it be simpler like back then… ugh.
“Then let us continue our previous topic. While I said there was nobody who needed to be saved, I rescued the people of the Holy Kingdom nonetheless. I am sure you have your questions about that, do you not?”
“No, not at all.”
Demiurge shook his head gently, as though he could not resist the urge to sigh in admiration.
“Everything you do is correct, Ainz-sama. I feel that the reason why you acted was because you saw a value in it that I could not imagine.”
“That is correct. If you feel it needs to be done, then it must be correct, Ainz-sama.”
Albedo’s words froze Ainz’s expression on his face. But of course, Ainz had no expression to speak of.
The way the two Guardians — who were also the most knowledgeable Guardians in Nazarick — nodded in unison before him filled him with various flavors of terror and anxiety.
“Wait, wait. Indeed… yes, it is true.” Ainz began to panic. The conversation had travelled a path that was slightly different from what he had foreseen, and so he had become confused and could not clearly think of what he wanted to say. However– “–Indeed, under normal circumstances I would have acted as you had imagined.”
Huh? Ainz was slightly baffled by how the topic was beginning to stray. Off course. He had been struggling to piece some words together and throw them out offhandedly, but even so, the two of them were nodding vigorously, and Ainz found that a little odd. However, he continued praying for a last minute miracle as he carried on.
“But, er, but. This time was slightly different. I did not do this because I was planning something.” Having found a way to amend his words, Ainz delightedly continued, “This time round, I was deliberately introducing a flaw into the plan.”
“What would be the reason for that, Ainz-sama?”
Ainz slowly leaned on the back of the chair with a “Hm”. Then he adopted a long-drilled posture that was befitting of a ruler, which a master ought to have, and then spoke.
“Demiurge. Albedo. The two of you have always been more intelligent than me.”
Ainz held up his hand to stop the two of them from speaking.
“I am just saying that I have always felt this way. In that case, what would happen if something unexpected occurred during parts of the event described in your plan? If everything proceeded as you outlined, then everything would have been perfect and ended in excellent form.”
That said, your plan was really over the top, Ainz grumbled in his heart. You threw all the details at me in your playbook and I had the feeling I would mess up somewhere.
“Therefore, a question suddenly came to mind, Demiurge. A perfect tactical mind cannot only function when everything is going on course; it must also be usable when the situation changes dramatically or when it diverges from your expectations. That is to say, I wanted to know if your adaptability was also as laudable.”
“I see, so that’s it!”
Eh–!? He already got it!? And he sounds like he understands it all too!
Ainz resisted the urge to make a jab about Demiurge’s preternatural processing speed, something along the lines of “You’re already so smart, why do you think I’m smarter? Is this some new way of bullying me!?”
“As expected of, ah… you’re as impressive as I expected, Demiurge.”
“Thank you very much, Ainz-sama.”
“Still, I, ah, apologize, though it feels like I was testing you…”
“Certainly not, Ainz-sama. To me, the fact that you would wish to assess my abilities is an honor that knows no equal. I will assuredly return results that match your expectations, Ainz-sama!”
“Umu. I’ll leave that to you, Demiurge. In that case, during the course of our activities in the Holy Kingdom, I will cause problems as needed and you will amend the plan in response. Will that be alright?”
“Yes! I understand!”
All right–! Ainz rejoiced within his heart. He was so happy that the emotion was suppressed.
Even so, excitement still remained inside him.
Very good, very good. This way, even if I screw up, I can say that I was doing it on purpose! No, of course, I need to be careful not to screw up under normal circumstances. If I’d known, I should have said this from the start.
While he did not have the bad habit of gloating when a subordinate’s plan went awry, it was possible that he might accidentally do something to make them worry. In this way, they would not have to guess if he had some intention in mind, but instead move on to revising the plan as needed. Ainz felt the sense of bliss which came with taking a heavy weight off his shoulders.
“…Your servant understands your concerns, Ainz-sama. So does that mean that you will be simultaneously assessing the abilities of each Floor and Area Guardian as well?”
As he heard Albedo’s question, Ainz was briefly puzzled for a moment and thought, what’s she saying? However–
“There’s no need to be so hasty. I am doing so for Demiurge because he must work outside Nazarick for extended periods. As for the others, I will test them when it becomes necessary.”
“Umu. Now, for the next topic… the initial plan was to take those people of the Holy King who were enthralled with me and proceed to the eastern part of the Holy Kingdom, to the Abelion Hills where the demihumans lived. However, I am going to amend this part of the plan. I will go there first. From there, spread the news of my death.”
It felt like time had stopped for a moment. And then–
“–Eh? What are you saying, Ainz-sama!? How could we announce the death of the Supreme One, Ainz-sama!?”
That protest came from Albedo. This might have been the first time he had seen Albedo’s expression crumble down like this. At least, the look on her face made him feel that way. But before Ainz could explain his true intentions to Albedo, it was Demiurge’s turn to speak up.
“Albedo. Since Ainz-sama has stated this, he must have some aim in mind that we cannot hope to imagine. Do you not think rejecting it on an emotional basis is inappropriate?”
“Demiurge. I question where your calm comes from. Would you react in this way if Ulbert Alain Odle …-sama were to say the same thing? Or…?”
“Fufu… Albedo. Could you tell me what you mean by that? Or do you mean that you have something to say to me afterwards?”
The two Guardians directed freezing-cold glares and blazing-hot stares by turn, and a strange atmosphere began to brew between the two of them. This choking sensation was just like what he had felt when he was fighting Shalltear. Perhaps it was fear or tension, but even Lupusregina was starting to pant heavily.
The dangerous mood in the air instantly vanished as Ainz shouted. The sudden change made Ainz wonder if everything just now had been a delusion. However, Lupusregina’s labored breathing proved that it had not been a vision.
“Calm down, both of you. This is the reason why I must fake my death. There is an activity called a disaster drill. We must mentally prepare ourselves and plan ahead of time in case of an emergency. In that case, what would you do if I died? I’ll start with you, Albedo. Tell me what you have in mind.”
“Yes! I would immediately subject the person who dared disrespect you to all the suffering in this world, and then prepare to resurrect you, Ainz-sama!”
“I see. Your turn, Demiurge.”
“Yes! While preparing for your resurrection, I would strengthen Nazarick’s defenses and then obtain information on the person who offended you.”
Albedo glared at Demiurge out of the corner of her eye.
“Merely gathering information is too lax. Regardless of who dares offend the Supreme One, they must be captured with all the strength Nazarick can bring to bear and then tormented to the point where their ego breaks down.”
“Albedo, I feel what you say is very sensible. However, the enemy is someone who can kill Ainz-sama. Thus, we cannot be careless. Learning the enemy’s movements and strengths is vital. If the enemy is stronger than we can imagine, then the place in which we resurrect Ainz-sama will become very important.”
Before Albedo’s expression could turn even more grim, Ainz rapped his staff on the floorboards. The hard impact was like splashing a bucket of ice water on the two of them, and their faces immediately regained their calm.
“I did not say I was killed by someone. If things go badly… it is not impossible that I might end up dying naturally from some unforeseen circumstances.”
In truth, he could not think of any natural cause from which he could die, which was why he was using such vague terms.
“However, it would seem that even the two people that I consider the most intelligent of all have differing opinions. That distresses me. That is why we must undertake this training, so that there will be no problems if this imagined scenario comes to pass.”
The two of them bowed their heads.
“Of course, I am not the only one that this could happen to. Demiurge, as Nazarick’s defensive commander during a time of attack, if an unexpected situation occurs and you are struck down, could Nazarick continue functioning normally?”
“Yes! I have made thorough preparations in that respect. I recall submitting a report on that to you in the past, Ainz-sama.”
Eh, did I receive something like that? Ainz decided that it would be better to trust Demiurge’s memory than his own.
“Umu. Still, that is only in documentation, is it not? The reason I am asking is because I would like to know if you have checked to see if normal operations can be continued.”
“I sincerely apologize! I have not carried it out!”
Demiurge bowed his head, his face a mask of deepest regret and his voice trembling.
“My, my deepest apologies, Ainz-sama! I was utterly foolish for signing off on the document but not making that suggestion!”
Albedo had the same look on her face as Demiurge as she bowed her head.
Ainz was filled with a tremendous sense of guilt. Whose fault was it? The answer was that it was his own. If he had been more reliable, the two of them would not need to apologize like this. Was he not a scummy boss?
“–There is no need for you two to apologize. It was my fault for not properly explaining matters to you. I was the one who should not have noticed that no test had occurred. The mistake is mine.” Ainz bowed his head until his forehead touched the desk. “All this was due to my unworthiness, and I seek everyone’s forgiveness.”
“Please, please do not do that!”
The two of them hurriedly tried to stop Ainz. However, Ainz did not raise his head. He was too ashamed to show them his face, because he knew that he was so shallow that he could not even come clean when apologizing.
“Lu-Lupusregina! Hurry and raise Ainz’s head!”
“Eh! Me? Please, please forgive me, I can’t possibly raise Ainz-sama’s head by force!”
“Please, please raise your head!”
It was only after the three of them — Demiurge in particular — started looking especially flustered that Ainz hurriedly looked up. After that, he heard sighs of relief from the three of them.
“…I am grateful that you have accepted my apology. Now then, when I reach the Abelion Hills, we will use my death as the basis for an exercise. Yes. Since this is a rare opportunity, why don’t we conduct other exercises as well? For instance, if Demiurge and I were killed off by someone, that sort of thing…”
At this point, Ainz began to feel uneasy about his own suggestions.
“That said, even I have not fully planned out the details when it comes to this training. Therefore, if you have come up with an even better plan, then go ahead and carry it out. Ahh, no need to ask my permission. After all, this is an exercise founded on the premise that I am dead.
The two of them smiled bitterly.
“Ainz-sama, having to consider you dead from the start of the exercise’s planning phase is a little…”
“It is as Demiurge says, Ainz-sama.”
Hahahaha, the laughter of three people rang through the cabin.
Two of them were laughing from the heart, but one was merely pretending.
“Still, you don’t need to take it too seriously, you know? After all, the objective of this exercise is not to spread ill-will throughout Nazarick, like what happened with the two of you just now. However, I would like to conduct various kinds of training and storing up knowledge in that field, so that every Guardian can become interchangeable — well, I know what I’ve said is pointless given your respective intellects. Do what you feel needs to be done, to whatever extent you deem fit. Can I leave that to you?”
Now that he thought about it, Suzuki Satoru had never been the type of person who had seriously carried out disaster drills, so was it really convincing when someone like that told others to do their best? That was why he could not forget to tell them to take it easy.
After seeing the two of them had deeply bowed their heads, Ainz said, “Now then, while this is a different matter–”
Let’s go, me!
The reason why he had drawn up all these flowcharts and simulated ways of talking down the two Guardians was for this aim.
“–You are to freeze all progress on the planned giant statue of me.”
“I understand. We will do as you direct.”
Albedo’s single sentence seemed to put an end to the entire topic.
Huh? Ainz’s attitude turned from baffled to fearful as he nervously asked what he had in mind.
“…Is that alright? It was your idea, was it not, Albedo?”
“How could anyone contradict a decision that the Supreme Being has made, Ainz-sama? If you say it is white, then it will be white even though it is black. That is all, Ainz-sama.”
Ainz gulped. That line of thinking frightened him, and he trembled.
“…I do not like that way of thinking, Albedo. That is just like abandoning all thought, and even I will most certainly make mistakes at some point.”
He was just saying “most certainly”, but it felt like it had been happening all the time.
“And in that case, won’t everything be over if I’m captured? The person who brainwashed Shalltear is still out there, you know? While there is no need to question each and every one of my aims, if I suggest something and you think of something, you ought to bring it up.”
Albedo and Demiurge glanced briefly at each other through narrowed eyes.
“Then, may I ask why you wish to cease construction? Is the aim of that statue not to let the world better understand your glory, Ainz-sama?”
“Umu,” Ainz laughed in his heart. “My greatness is not something that can only be expressed through material objects.
He recalled that this line had received approval from Neia.
“Would it not be better to teach them with material objects? Fools, as they say, are those who can only understand what they see before their eyes.”
Albedo’s words froze Ainz in place. It was just like a pitcher throwing a ball at a batter, but instead of having it being hit back at him the batter caught it and threw it back at full force.
“…I see. You have a point, Albedo, but–”
As Ainz thanked his voice for not trembling, he struggled to work his brain, and then gave up when nothing came to mind. While he nearly rounded his shoulders, he could not allow his image as a ruler to crumble before his subordinates.
“–No, forget it. I’m sure that Albedo can pick out at least five of the flaws I’ve spotted, and the merits outweigh them. In that case, there is nothing else for me to say.”
“Five, five flaws? …Demiurge, I need to discuss something with you later. May I borrow your intellect for a while?”
“But, but of course. I, I expected nothing less of you, Ainz-sama, to think you would say our minds were superior… truly, you are too humble.”
The two of them began to get flustered, and Albedo bowed her head deeply.
“I, I am truly sorry, Ainz-sama. While my plan to build your statue has already received your approval, please allow me to temporarily suspend construction. I sincerely apologize.”
“Hm, mm. Well, it can’t be helped then. Proceed, Albedo.”
Ainz had merely tossed out an offhand remark, but Albedo and Demiurge seemed abnormally shaken by it. He could even hear Lupusregina whisper “amazing” from the rear.
Ainz averted his eyes, feeling guilty because he had confused the two of them by talking nonsense. However, he was glad that the plan to build the giant statue would be briefly halted.
Next, I need to do something about the four festivals with my name on it, like the Sorcerer King Grand Thanksgiving, the Sorcerer King’s Birthday and so on! If the Sorcerer King Grand Thanksgiving is cancelled because the statue’s been cancelled as well, that just leaves three of them! Besides, if these were normal festivals, I wouldn’t want to stop them either!
In truth, Ainz had once pretended innocence and suggested a plan for organizing festivals. However, that had led to the formation of a strange and embarrassing festival committee. Ainz sighed long and loud in his heart, and then looked at Demiurge.
“Alright, that leaves the details which I need to discuss with Demiurge. After this, you’ll have the demon you summoned, that is to say, Jaldabaoth, attack that city, right?”
“Yes. Indeed, that is so.”
“Therefore… I have a couple of requests. The first concerns a personal project I am carrying out which is not going too well, for which I will need your help. Ah, don’t worry, there’s no need to get too flashy with it. And the second thing is, can you command that summoned demon to fight a serious battle with me?”