Overlord Light Novel Volume 4 Chapter 5
Overlord Light Novel Volume 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 5: The Freezing God
Ainz’s headquarters was the same as the place Cocytus used yesterday — the fortress which Aura was building. If one listened closely, one could hear the faint sounds of work in progress coming from the distance.
Once they entered the room, the hitherto silent Victim suddenly spoke to Ainz:
“Emoh gniog m’I ,syug uoy wercs. (Then, I shall take my leave now, Ainz-sama.)”
“Thank you for your hard work. Please take care of Nazarick’s First Floor for me before we get back.”
“Kek esiarp. (Understood.)”
Victim passed through the door of darkness which Ainz had conjured. It led to the First Floor of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick.
After watching that Guardian — whose death would activate a powerful movement restriction skill — leave through the 「Gate」, Ainz turned back to the rest of the room. At the same time, he sensed Aura behind him, her head bowed.
It would seem she had done her best to pretty the room up to welcome Ainz. It was quite moving to see the signs of her hard work that could be seen in every corner of the room. However, this room was far plainer than Nazarick. Perhaps Aura felt ashamed of that.
It’s not like it’s that bad…
Ainz had originally been a plebeian, so he did not really mind. While his room as the master of Nazarick was not a bad thing, sometimes excessive luxury made him feel uncomfortable. He could relax a little in this place, so it was pretty good.
I want an eight tatami room. Maybe I should secretly set one up somewhere. Ah, I need to reward my subordinates. I need to tell Aura that I’m pleased with her hard work.
People had to thank and rely on others for their hard work in order to succeed.
Ainz remembered when he had been running an errand at a certain company, and had overheard something from the director’s room. He did not know who had said it, but it was a truly wonderful line. It made him think that it was how an ideal superior should be.
You need to express the gratitude in your heart. If you don’t praise your people, they won’t work… something like that?
“Forgive me for keeping you here, Aura. I am not displeased in the slightest. I am very satisfied with your hard work, and it is the equivalent of Nazarick because you decorated it for me.”
Aura’s eyes widened slightly. Ainz did not know if that counted as comforting her, but he was out of ideas. All he could do was try and bluff his way through by looking around.
The room still smelled of wood.
Under normal circumstances, it would have been better to return to Nazarick than stay in this nearly indefensible place. That was because without the application of defensive spells, this location was little more than a house of papier-mache. On the other hand, this was a very good spot to use oneself as bait to lure out a big fish.
It was quite far from the lake, so anyone who could pursue them here — if there were any — would probably be an YGGDRASIL player or people of comparable power to them.
In other words, this place had been built to take the attack of a powerful opponent.
It was dangerous, of course. But Ainz felt that one could not seize the tiger’s cubs without entering its den.
So they still haven’t come. Or is it that… this operation failed as well? Still… what is that?
“…Aura, a question for you. What is that thing over there?”
Ainz’s gaze fell on a white-colored chair within the room. It had a high back and looked very solid. Due to the exquisite craftsmanship that had gone into its construction, it easily qualified as a work of art. Well, as long as one did not dwell on its sole fault.
“It is a little plain, but it is a throne that was specially made for you.”
One of the subordinates behind him — Demiurge — confidently responded on Aura’s behalf. Having anticipated that, Ainz continued asking:
“…And whose bones went into its construction?”
“They came from all sorts of animals. I selected choice bones from Griffins and Wyverns.”
“…I see… Is that so…”
This throne of bone was not furniture from Nazarick, so it was probably something Demiurge had made outside before bringing it here. Also, the throne’s construction seemed to use a lot of human or demihuman bones. While it was not stained with blood or flesh and was completely made out of pure white bones, he still imagined that he could smell the gore.
Slightly revulsed, Ainz hesitated over whether or not to take a seat on it. However, it would be hard to simply ignore a chair which had been specially made for him. That said, if he had a good reason, it would be a different matter—
Ainz thought about the matter, and then he suddenly brought his hands together.
“…Shalltear, I believe I said I would punish you earlier? I shall now mete it out. Yes… I shall humiliate you.”
Shalltear seemed a little startled at having been mentioned.
“Kneel there and lower your head. Get on your hands and knees.”
Confused, Shalltear went to the place Ainz indicated — the center of the room — before getting into a supplicatory position.
After moving to Shalltear’s side, Ainz immediately sat upon her slender back.
Shalltear’s off-key cry of surprise come out as something like “Heinzsh-sama.” She seemed panicked, but she remained still, because Ainz was seated on her back.
“You are here to be my chair, understand?”
Ainz turned from the abnormally happy Shalltear to look at Demiurge.
“—Forgive me, Demiurge. That’s how it is.”
“I see! How remarkable! To think you would sit upon a Guardian! Indeed, that is a chair which nobody can make — in other words, a proper seat for a Supreme Being. Ainz-sama, you have surpassed my expectations once more, as is befitting of yourself!”
“Is, is that so…”
Demiurge was beaming as he radiated his loyalty to his master. Ainz had no idea why he was smiling so brightly and turned away uneasily. Then, a beautiful woman who was all smiles addressed Ainz.
“Forgive me, Ainz-sama, may I be excused for a moment? I will be back soon.”
“What’s the matter, Albedo? Never mind, it’s all right. Go, then.”
After thanking Ainz, Albedo left the room. After that, there was a feminine voice going “DORYAAAAA—!” from outside the room, followed by a tremendous impact against the wall, which made the house shake violently.
About a minute later, Albedo returned to the silent room, with her usual gentle smile on her face.
“I’m back, Ainz-sama. Oh yes, Aura, I accidentally bumped into the wall on my way out, and there seems to be some damage. Could you fix it later? Sorry about that.”
“Ah, er, all right… okay~ I’ll go fix it.”
Ainz sighed, swallowing a lot of the things he wanted to say. He recalled his gaze that had nearly drifted away and focused it on the staff which radiated an evil aura.
Obviously, he would not bring the true Staff of Ainz Ooal Gown to such a dangerous place. This was an experimental specimen that had been built in imitation of the Guild Weapon. After fitting it with magic items used for special effects testing in the Treasury, it looked almost like the real thing, and it made for a good decoy.
The guild would disband if the Guild Weapon was destroyed. Therefore, he could not casually carry it with him. It was currently in the care of the Guardian of the Sakura Sanctuary on the Eighth Floor.
I’ve considered countermeasures against the Ring being stolen as well, but I just can’t find a place where I can conduct the experiment…
As Ainz thought about this, Shalltear’s body suddenly twitched. That movement seemed like an adjustment so Ainz could sit more comfortably. A bizarre sense of unease drove Ainz to look at the back of Shalltear’s head.
She was panting.
He was probably too heavy for her. Shalltear’s back that he sat upon was about as slender as that of a fourteen year old girl’s and it was quite slender. To think an adult would be sitting on such a slender back. Ainz was deeply convinced that he was a shamelessly cruel pervert, and had gone too far.
Shalltear was an NPC made by one of his friends from the past, Peroroncino. In all likelihood, he had not expected Shalltear would have ended up being tormented like this. Since this was essentially an action which cast shame upon his former comrades, Ainz believed that this was a form of punishment for himself as well. However, he now realized that he was foolish for having thought so.
To think I’m actually torturing Shalltear like this… I’m beyond saving.
“Shalltear, is it uncomfortable?”
If it is, then I’ll stop it — just as Ainz was about to say that, Shalltear looked back, staring at Ainz. Her face was flushed, and her eyes burned brightly.
“Not at all! In fact, I feel this is practically a reward!”
Every word she spoke carried the heat brewing within her body, and her glazed eyes reflected Ainz’s face. Her bright red tongue licked at her lips, leaving a seductive sheen. The way her body writhed ever so slightly was reminiscent of a snake.
There was no mistaking this for anything other than carnal desire.
It made him want to run away.
Ainz almost stood up.
I can’t, how could I do that?
This was a punishment for Shalltear, and Shalltear’s mistake had been because of Ainz’s miscalculation. Therefore, resisting the urge to stand up was also a way of punishing himself.
Ainz crushed the rising tide of complex emotions within him.
He tried his best to bear with the squirming, panting chair beneath him. Even so, he could not help but wonder How perverted did Peroroncino make her, anyway?
“…Then, let’s talk business. Are the Lizardmen as frightened as expected?”
“That’s right, just look at the Lizardmen’s faces.”
Ainz laughed as he heard the Guardians’ responses. In truth, he could hardly tell how the Lizardmen’s expressions had changed. While Lizardmen looked more like humans than reptiles, their facial expressions were completely different from those of humans.
“Really now. Then, we can consider the first part of the impression which Cocytus is going to make a success.”
Ainz sighed in relief.
He had expected at least that much from super tier spells, which could only be used four times a day. Ainz had gone out of his way to use one of them — 「The Creation」 — and if that failed to impress, then all he could say was that it was sad.
“Then, Demiurge, when will you finish tallying the information on how far the lake was frozen?”
“We are still gathering the relevant data, but the radius of freezing was larger than expected, which presents some difficulties. If possible, I hope we might be given a bit more time.”
Ainz reached out to stop Demiurge from kneeling, and then cupped his jaw with a skeletal hand, before settling into contemplation. It would seem the spell’s effective radius had been larger than he imagined, but as a magical experiment, it was quite a success.
「The Creation」 was a super tier spell that could change terrain special effects. In YGGDRASIL, one would use it to ward off the heat in hot regions or to suppress the freezing chill of icy areas.
In truth, he could have awed them into submission without using a super tier spell.
However, he had used it anyway because he wanted to conduct an experiment on how large a spell’s radius could be. In YGGDRASIL, 「The Creation」 could affect quite a large area, and when they tested it in Nazarick, it managed to cover the whole of the Eighth Floor. However, they did not know how it would fare outdoors.
In YGGDRASIL, it could cover one area, but he wanted to know how large that zone was in this world. It would be too much if he cast it on a plain and it covered the entire plain.
Similarly, it would be too much if it covered the entire lake. It would seem he had to be very careful when using super tier magic.
“Then, Aura, what about our security net?”
“Yes! We’ve dispatched the undead we borrowed from you to patrol within a two kilometer radius, but we haven’t picked up any exceptional intrusions. Also, I’ve sent out some of my magical beasts who are adept at reconnaissance to patrol a four kilometer radius around us, but there haven’t been reports of anything suspicious so far.”
“Is that so… Our foe might make their approach by some perfectly undetectable means. Have you prepared against that yet?”
“It’ll be fine. Shalltear was helping me out, so we’ve also deployed undead which are good at surveillance.”
Aura was all smiles after Ainz’s praise. Her previous depression was nowhere to be seen.
“Still, has the person who used the World Class Item on Shalltear still not made a move even after we’ve exposed ourselves like this?”
All eyes were on Ainz as he asked that question again, but he was not directing it at anyone in particular.
“Why isn’t the opposition spying on this place and Nazarick?”
“Could it be that the enemy is keeping an eye on us with a World Class Item which renders him immune to regular surveillance?”
Ainz tilted his head in confusion after Demiurge answered with his question.
“…I used Momon because I thought they might use such means… if the enemy uses World Class Items to spy on us, they won’t be able to observe Momon, since he also possesses a World Class Item. Therefore, I’ve been operating on the assumption that they’ll be using physical or direct observation… well, it might be magical too, but in short, I’ve been assuming that they’ll use more conventional methods to keep an eye on us…”
Ainz sensed that the Guardians around him seemed puzzled, and he realised that his explanation was not sufficiently clear.
“Well… how shall I put this… in the past, we once owned a mine that produced a rare metal. The price went through the roof because we monopolized it, so a group of people schemed to steal it from us. Back then, our opposition used 「οὐροβόρος」. That was one of the World Class Items known as The Twenty.”
(TL Note: Ouroboros)
Ainz narrowed his eyes.
He had been furious when the mine had been stolen away, but thinking back on it now, it was a good memory. It held true even as he recalled how they had been hunted and lost quite a few rare pieces of gear.
“What!? Someone actually dared seize territory which had been claimed by the Supreme Beings? Unforgivable! Please order us to retake it at once!”
Ainz hurriedly shifted his gaze as he heard Albedo vent her anger.
He saw all the Guardians seething with hostility and murderous intent. Even the ever-serene Demiurge had a savage expression on his face. That was not all; Ainz could glimpse the determination to take it back on Mare’s shy and retiring face.
Incidentally, Ainz could not see Shalltear’s expression on account of her being a chair, but he could feel her body tense up, sending her iron will travelling up through his rump.
“Calm down! That’s in the past.”
Ainz raised a hand to order the Guardians to cool their heads. While it looked as though they had somewhat regained their composure, they still seemed unstable, as though magma were flowing beneath the surface. Ainz decided to pick up the previous topic to change the subject.
“Our enemy used 「οὐροβόρος」 and made it impossible for us to enter the world where the mine was. They probably used that time to search for and find the mine. Once the seal was broken and we could enter the world, we found that the mine had already been taken.”
They had fought recklessly to retake the mine and a great deal of the guild members had died at least once, but Ainz resisted the urge to speak of that.
“Then, this is the point I wanted to make. While I said the world was sealed, people with World Class items could still enter that world during that time. Therefore, it should be impossible for them to spot us even if they use World Class Items for surveillance.
As Ainz listened to the gasps of enlightenment from his subordinates, he wondered if that was really the case.
It was very likely, but there was no proof that they could not be found.
When 「Five Element Progression」 — one of the Twenty, just like 「οὐροβόρος」 — had been used, the game company sent a message to all World Class Item holders. In addition to an apology, they also included an item as compensation. The apology went: “Dear holders of World Class Items, you should not have been affected by changes in the world, but we have learned that keeping your data unaffected will be a very difficult task for the system. Therefore, we are making a special exception and changing your data as well.”
Therefore, he could not conclude that it was a perfect defense. Still, that incident had been a special case.
In particular, one of the World Class Items defending Nazarick had the effect of protecting against divination spells. If it could not block surveillance from World Class Items, then it would be meaningless.
“Therefore, I feel the enemy will try to approach Momon… but the ones who have come to him are all mothers clutching their newborn children or adventurers.”
The ones who came forward begged him to touch their children’s heads in the hope that they would grow up strong, or they asked to shake hands with him in the hopes of becoming stronger themselves. None of them had asked to speak with him in private.
Therefore, Ainz had created many openings like this on purpose, waiting for the enemy to make a move.
Not giving Cocytus a World Class Item was part of that plan. Ainz intended to use him as bait to draw out the opposition. Their foe was fearsome precisely because he did not know their identity. That being the case, learning about their opponent would probably help them find a way to deal with them.
“May I share my humble opinion on this matter?”
“What is it, Albedo?”
“Ainz-sama, as you have said just now, your aim is to divine the enemy’s identity and learn more about them. In that case, is it not possible that the enemy is unwilling to get close because they have not been exposed yet?”
“It… it’s fine, Albedo. I have considered that point as well.”
As if. Ainz had already assumed that his enemy was like himself, and would want to learn about their opposition.
…What a gaffe. What if I’ve been going about it all wrong from the start?
“Forgive me. Also…”
Albedo, could you please stop — Ainz could not bring himself to beg that of her. He felt like he had finished a multiple choice exam, and then, when he went through his work one more time, he found that all his answers were incorrectly shifted one space down.
“There’s the matter of announcing that Shalltear was defeated by a magic item…”
“Yes. I reported as much to the Guild. That was in order to avoid people fearing Momon’s strength. Spell-sealing crystals are extremely rare items, so breaking one for an experiment should be difficult. Therefore, saying that the spell-sealing crystal went out of control — that the monster was defeated through the use of a magic item — is more convincing and it means fewer people will be on guard against Momon.”
“Indeed, it is as you say. It would work well against people who think spell-sealing crystals are rare items.”
Albedo’s subtle qualification of her statement made Ainz feel very uneasy.
“…However, what if our enemy had multiple such crystals like yourself, Ainz-sama?”
“…Hm? Ah, so that’s what you mean.”
Ainz put on a show of sudden realization, but he had no idea what she meant.
So what if the opposition had many spell-sealing crystals? The fact was that they were very valuable items in this world. Was Albedo worried that someone would break a crystal as an experiment?
Still, it did not feel like that.
A sense of foreboding filled Ainz’s heart. He wanted Albedo to explain herself, but he resented having the pretense of knowledge he had put on just now.
Come to think of it, is it really all right if I act as a ruler and decide the direction of Nazarick? What if I end up steering us into an iceberg?
He wanted to run away from all of this and be done with it.
Unable to bear the strain of leadership — which was only amplified when he messed up — he wept within his soul.
However, he could not just run off. Since he had called himself Ainz Ooal Gown, he could not abandon the things — the NPCs and the treasures of Nazarick — that his friends had made. The most important thing was that he did not want to become a deadbeat father.
I sometimes worry if you’ll betray, abandon, or give up on me. However, that just means I have to be the Ainz Ooal Gown you expect and believe in.
Therefore, Ainz put on a confident front, the pose of a ruler with utmost confidence in himself, which he had practiced in the mirror.
“It’s fine. However, I understand your unease.”
Then, Ainz looked around.
“Albedo… share your worries with the other Guardians.”
“Ah, yes! If the opposition possesses multiple crystals like you do, Ainz-sama… anyone who knows their abilities will probably see through that news immediately. In other words, they will believe that Shalltear was not defeated by the crystal. Although the enemy might not know if Shalltear fought with all her strength, anyone with a World Class Item would probably think that Shalltear and Momon were of equivalent strength. Therefore, they would probably consider Momon — a mysterious warrior who suddenly appeared in E-Rantel — a threat, no? In addition, the opposition might also suspect something about the link between Shalltear and Momon…”
“…Albedo, and the Guardians. What do you think the enemy will do next?”
“Permit me to answer, then. I feel that if our enemy intends to oppose you, Ainz-sama, they will respond by spreading rumors of Momon and the Vampire being in league with each other — even if there is no basis to them — and lash out at him. Our opposition will surely not want Momon to become more and more famous.”
Uwah, Ainz groaned internally.
His original aim of going to E-Rantel was to gather information, but his main objective was to make the character Momon famous — that, and he also wanted to get away from all this. The original plan was to turn Momon into a great hero and then reveal his true identity, whereupon the fame and glory he had accumulated would be transferred to Ainz Ooal Gown, and resound throughout the world.
In addition, it would also serve to show that a former PK guild had changed its image, fighting injustice through the name of Momon. But now, those plans were little more than soap bubbles vanishing in the wind.
“Oh? Demiurge, I’ve got a question. Wouldn’t it be more damaging to spread the rumors of working with that Vampire after he became famous?”
“Aura, doing so at that time would be a poor move. Once Ainz-sama is sufficiently famous, people would discount those rumors as malicious gossip. That reputation must be eliminated before it grows and becomes widespread.”
“A very astute observation, Demiurge.”
Ainz nodded magnanimously in response to Demiurge’s bow, as though he had been thinking the same thing as well.
“Then, I have another question. If that is the case, why has the enemy not spread these rumors yet?”
Demiurge raised a finger after hearing Ainz’s question.
“Firstly, the enemy has not completed their investigation into Momon-sama. If it turned out that Momon-sama defeated Shalltear in open combat, they would wish to avoid incurring his ire, or perhaps they would like to recruit him to their side. Secondly—”
He raised another finger.
“What if the opposition only ran into Shalltear by chance? Or what if they encountered her on the way to another objective, and they were a completely unrelated third party?”
“That’s not possible now, is it, Demiurge. How unlikely would that be…”
Ainz said that, but in his heart, he realized that it was not impossible.
He was dead set on the idea that this was an attack targeted at Shalltear — or the personnel of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. However, Shalltear had been attacked shortly after they had all been brought to this new world. Under those circumstances, it would require preternatural precision to target and attack Shalltear.
Was he being overly paranoid of some hidden mastermind?
Ainz narrowed his eyes — the points of red light in his eye sockets.
Ultimately, the lack of information remained a problem. He did not have enough manpower and he needed more strength.
In any case, the biggest problem right now is our lack of an intelligence-gathering network.
Currently, he had ordered Sebas to handle this sort of work. However, there was a limit to how much intelligence that limited numbers of intelligence personnel could gather. At first, he had only wanted to learn the basic facts of this world, but they were now at a stage where such information was no longer sufficient.
They could not learn what they wanted to know by going through adventurers and traders alone. It was similar to how an average citizen and a high ranking government official had access to information of differing importance.
In addition, he had no idea what sort of person could analyze the data they had gathered and determine whether or not any particular piece of information was important.
“Good grief. In any case, our main challenge now is a lack of information. Our hands are tied because we have to be wary of an unseen foe…”
Demiurge flashed Ainz a conspiratorial smile as he heard Ainz mumble.
“In that case, why not seek a nation to support you?”
After a brief silence, Albedo went “Oh” to indicate that she understood. Soon, Ainz made the same noise.
“I see, Demiurge. So that was what you meant.”
However, the other three Guardians still looked quite confused. After that, Aura came out and asked:
“Ainz-sama, what’s this all about?”
As Aura asked that question, Ainz gave thanks that he did not have any facial expressions.
“Honestly… Mare, Shalltear, do you not understand what Demiurge was trying to say?”
The two of them shook their heads in unison.
“I see. Then it can’t be helped. Tell them, Demiurge.”
“Yes, I understand. Now then, everyone. Ainz-sama is worried about the existence of a hidden, powerful enemy. I feel that if we encounter said enemy and they are hostile to us, we need to have some kind of leverage that we can use during negotiations.”
Sensei, I don’t get it — that look appeared on the faces of three students and one adult. Demiurge-sensei seemed to realise that his explanation was too complicated and decided to continue explaining after dumbing himself down to match the students.
“What would you do if Ainz-sama was dominated by some World Class Item?”
“I’d kill the bastard who did it.”
“…No, that’s not what I mean, Aura. What I’m trying to say is, don’t you think the very fact that being mind controlled would count as an alibi? The fact is that there are people out there who really can dominate their opposition with World Class Items, so we can convincingly say that Ainz-sama was controlled by a World Class Item.”
Assistant Teacher Albedo supplemented Head Teacher Demiurge’s lecture:
“In other words, by pretending to support another country, we have an excuse for any action which Nazarick takes. By saying that we were ordered to do so by that country and we had no choice but to obey, we could use that to deflect blame from ourselves, assuming there was an enemy on our level. Also, if the other party does not want an open conflict, they will have no choice but to bear with it.”
“I see… so even if someone wasn’t happy with what we did, as long as we had a good reason, we could drag a third party into becoming an ally… so that’s what it is, as expected of Ainz-sama…”
Ainz reached out and stroked the head of Shalltear the chair. It was like a mob boss stroking a Siamese cat
“Demiurge came up with that scheme, not me, so your thanks should go to him.”
“No, it’s not true. It would seem you already came to the same answer, Ainz-sama.”
“Ah, er… um. It feels like I’m taking credit for your hard work. Sorry about that. Also… I believe it will be easier to obtain information if we support another country.”
A country would probably have the intelligence-gathering network that they were struggling to build. That being the case, infiltrating them with Nazarick’s people ought to be much better for gathering usable information.
Demiurge smiled at the thought that his suggestion had been useful on something which had bothered Ainz, and at Ainz’s words, which seemed to validate his and Albedo’s opinions.
Ainz was aware of the subtext: “You picked up on it as well, Ainz-sama.”
“Ah, indeed. As expected of Ainz-sama — to think you had such clear insights… in that case, even inferior lifeforms like human beings could prove surprisingly useful.”
After Albedo spoke up, the other Guardians — including Shalltear the chair — looked at Ainz with sparkly eyes filled with pure loyalty.
Ainz felt very uncomfortable, but he consoled himself with the fact that the two of them had given him their approval.
“Then… let’s find a country to infiltrate. Which country will it be?”
“If we pick from the neighboring countries, we would have the Kingdom, the Empire, and the Theocracy.”
“How, how about a country that was further away? Like say, the Council Alliance or the Holy Kingdom…”
“I would rather not select a distant country, and I would prefer not to make contact with the Theocracy before we learn enough about them. That leaves the Kingdom and the Empire… judging by Sebas’s report, the Kingdom is not particularly interesting. However… this matter requires further study. Anyway—”
Ainz interrupted the conversation by extending his hand to the mirror.
“We’ve given the Lizardmen some time. Let’s see if they’ve done anything unexpected.”
A bird’s eye view of the Lizardmen’s village appeared on the Mirror of Remote Viewing.
Ainz reached out to the mirror and with a subtle shift of his hand, he changed the scenery it showed.
Naturally, he began by zooming in the image.
In this way, they could see every detail of the Lizardmen’s preparations for battle.
“Such futile effort,” Demiurge muttered gently to the Lizardmen.
Let’s see, where are they? It’s hard to tell one Lizardman from another.
Ainz frowned as he searched for the six Lizardmen he had seen earlier.
“Oh — there’s the armor. Is this the rock-throwing fellow? And then, the one with the greatsword is here. The differences are really fine. Maybe color, gear, or obvious physical variations would be good ways to tell them apart… ah, there’s a distinctive one.”
After that, Ainz moved the mirror’s image around in confusion.
“…I don’t see that white Lizardman and the one with a magic weapon.”
“Hm… is his name Zaryusu?”
“Ah, that’s right, that’s his name.”
After Aura reminded him, Ainz remembered the name of the Lizardman who had stepped forward to negotiate with him.
“Could he be in his house?”
The Mirror of Remote Viewing could not peer into structures. However, that was only under normal circumstances.
“Demiurge, fetch me the Infinite Haversack.”
With a bow, Demiurge picked up the Infinite Backpack which lay on the table which had been shifted to the corner of the room before courteously presenting it to Ainz. Ainz took a scroll out of it.
After that, he cast the spell inscribed within it.
The spell produced an invisible and incorporeal sensor. It could not penetrate magical barriers, but it could pass through conventional walls regardless of their thickness. If it could not pass through said walls, that would imply there was a powerful foe present, and they had to be wary.
He linked the sensor to the Mirror of Remote Viewing, so the Guardians could see what Ainz could see. Then he moved the eye-like, floating sensor.
“Let’s see what’s inside this house.”
Ainz selected one of the nearest houses — a pretty run-down affair — and sent the sensor inside. Despite the darkness of the interior, it appeared as bright as day through the eyes of the sensor.
The white Lizardman was pressed against the floor of the house. Her tail was tucked up and there was a black Lizardman mounted on her.
Ainz was utterly confused.
For a moment, he had no idea what was going on. In the next moment, he had no idea why they would be doing something like that at a time like this.
After that, Ainz silently steered the sensor outside.
Ainz grabbed his head in a moment of infinite weakness. The Guardians around him had no idea what to say, and looked at the ground with puzzled expressions on their faces.
“—What a displeasing lot. Cocytus will be attacking any moment now and they’re still indulging themselves!”
“Er, ah, a-about that…”
“Demiurge’s right! We need to make those two suffer!”
“I’m so jealous…”
Ainz waved his hand to silence the Guardians.
“…Forget it, they’ll all be dead soon. I once saw a movie which said that situations like these stimulate the desire to propagate the species.”
Ainz nodded, certain of his opinion.
“Indeed, it is so!”
“Well, if that’s all, we should probably let them off the hook.”
“Er, ah, a-about that…”
“I agree with Demiurge-sama…”
“…Quiet, all of you.”
After the Guardians had fallen silent, Ainz sighed.
“…Well, there goes my motivation. Never mind, there’s probably nobody to worry about in the Lizardman village. Still, we can’t be careless, because someone might be heading for us right now. Aura…”
Ainz froze, and looked at the twins.
Crap! What should I do now!? Those two haven’t been given sex education yet… no, it’s too early for that!
Ainz suddenly understood what it was like for a father to see a lewd scene on the television during a family gathering.
Dammit, how would a father or mother answer if they were asked where babies came from!? This is bad! I can’t believe I let Bukubukuchagama’s children see that — though, it shouldn’t be too bad. Let’s not consider Albedo, and Demiurge… he’d probably teach them from a clinical perspective. Shalltear… not too bad either. Let’s handle this another day.
After pushing the question to the back of his mind, Ainz coughed and asked:
“If the security net picks up anything, all the Guardians — myself included — will move out together.”
If there were any other players around, he would not adhere to his agreement of sparing the Lizardmen. If they would not become allies, then they would have to be terminated with extreme prejudice to avoid any information leaks. When they happened, they would destroy the village, even if they had to draw on all the forces of the Eighth Floor to do so.
Ainz thrust aside the guilt he felt at violating his promise to Cocytus. A little white lie would be preferable if it was for a good reason.
“…Now then, the show’s about to begin… let’s enjoy watching Cocytus in action.”
The four hours passed in a flash.
The frozen marsh had long since melted, and the warriors were gathered there — at the main gate of the village. After the intense battle several days ago, there were precious few of them who had survived to fight in this battle.
There were three hundred and sixteen of them in total.
Nobody but the warriors would participate in this battle, because Shasuryu had said, “The enemy is few in number, so too many people on our part will just get in the way.”
That seemed like a logical enough explanation, but that was not all.
Zaryusu stood some distance ahead of the Lizardmen and looked on the warriors.
Everyone was painted with markings which showed that the ancestors had descended upon them. Their iron will was readily apparent on their faces, and they looked confident of victory.
The Lizardmen around them were cheering their warriors on. Still, he could see quite a few worried-looking people in the crowd.
Zaryusu strove to keep a nonchalant expression in order to keep his uneasiness from showing on his face. He did not want the other Lizardmen to know that this battle was essentially a live sacrifice to the king of death.
Indeed, this was a battle that was intended to demonstrate the undead king’s power to the Lizardmen. Its purpose was to thoroughly eradicate the very possibility of rebellion among the Lizardmen. They had no chance of surviving, which meant that the subtext behind Shasuryu’s words was “so that we can reduce casualties to the minimum.”
Zaryusu looked away from the Lizardmen, and he turned his keen gaze on the enemy formation.
The skeletal army remained where it was. There was no sign of the monster called Cocytus among them. Zaryusu doubted that it was a skeleton. As a trusted subordinate of that king of death, how could he be a mook like that? He must be some being whose strength was apparent at a glance.
A loud splashing came from behind the worried Zaryusu—
—And Zenberu greeted him as casually as always. He was the same person even when he was headed for certain death.
“Morale’s at its peak.”
“Well, it would be nice if it could stay that way when we faced that Cocytus fellow…”
“Yup. Oh, is it time?”
Shasuryu was at the main gate, and all the Lizardmen’s eyes were on the two Swamp Elementals by his side.
Crusch was not here because she had spent all her mana on summoning the elementals. The drain of that, on top of casting a plethora of long-duration defensive spells on Zaryusu, had left her almost immobile. In fact, when they had left their house, Crusch had already told him that she would be passing out from using too much mana, and they would never see each other again.
Alone now, Zaryusu looked towards the place where Crusch was. The way she had looked when they had parted made Zaryusu feel like he had been stabbed in the heart.
“Warriors, let’s go!”
With a rousing cry, Shasuryu stoked the flames of the Lizardmen’s fighting spirit, and the air was filled with eager tension.
He had to think like a warrior again. Zaryusu reined in his rampaging thoughts.
The Lizardmen advanced slowly, led by Shasuryu and the two Swamp Elementals.
They were leaving the village so it would not be caught up in the fighting.
Zaryusu and Zenberu followed behind them.
Just then, Zaryusu suddenly looked back to the village. There were the broken-down dirt walls, the worried Lizardmen watching them go, and—
Zaryusu sighed quietly, and cast all his worries away as he strode forward. He did not speak the name of the female which was on his lips.
♦ ♦ ♦
The Lizardmen marched into the marsh, and formed up at the region between the skeletal army and the village.
That said, they had no formation to speak of. They simply sprawled themselves out to wait for the fight. At their head were the various tribal chiefs and the two Swamp Elementals.
The skeletal army had probably been waiting for their arrival. They banged on their shields and stomped.
The many small delays between footfalls would normally make an army’s march sound like a shower of bird droppings. However, the undead army marched with perfect coordination, producing a harmonious sound. If the circumstances were any different, it would be worthy of applause.
Just as the Lizardmen were drawn in by the sound of their movements, several trees fell — behind the skeletal army.
There was only one reason why those gigantic trees would fall — because someone had cut them down.
This sparked a commotion among the Lizardmen.
Since nobody was visible yet, it was reasonable to assume that several people had worked together to fell those trees. However, if that were the case, then the trees were falling with far too much uniformity. Granted, after seeing the unity of the skeletal army, an observer might think that they could chop down trees with such precision, but none of the Lizardmen felt that way.
A bizarre thought ran through their minds — that all this had been done by one person.
That was because there was no sound of blades striking wood before the trees fell. In other words, it might be possible (however surprising it was) that some incredibly strong person had chopped the trees down with one swing.
How strong an arm and how mighty a weapon would be needed to cut a massive tree in half with a single stroke?
The earthshaking tremors of the falling trees blended with the sound of the skeletons pounding on their shields, and both crept closer to the Lizardmen.
Anxiety began to brew. That was only to be expected — who could remain calm under such circumstances? Even Zenberu — who was prepared to die — was shaken, though he tried to hide it.
Soon, the creature which had cleaved a path through the forest finally appeared. At the same time, the pounding on the shields suddenly stopped.
In the preternatural silence, the first thing they saw was a mass of glossy blue light. How much more brightly would it have shone had the sky not been overcast?
It looked like a two-legged insect, its massive body standing around two hundred fifty centimeters high. It resembled an ant or a mantis, and it looked like some hybrid made by an utterly depraved fiend.
Its hard exoskeleton was wreathed in freezing cold, and it glittered like diamond dust.
It had a savage tail that was as long as its body and studded with countless spikes. Its mighty jaws looked like they could easily bite a man’s hands clean off.
It had four arms tipped in razor-sharp claws, each of which was sheathed in a shiny gauntlet. It wore a disc-like amulet on a golden necklace and platinum rings around its ankles.
This was how the being of matchless might, follower of the king of death, made its entrance.
♦ ♦ ♦
Was he Cocytus?
Zaryusu’s heart pounded. Unconsciously, his breathing had grown faster.
None of the Lizardmen spoke. Everyone’s attention was drawn to the monster that had shown itself, and they were so frightened that they could not tear their eyes away.
They had begun backing away slowly without realizing it. Be they Lizardman warriors who had come in high spirits, or Zaryusu and the others who had come here prepared to die, all of them were shocked to the core by the appearance of this unimaginably powerful entity.
I know the king of death didn’t use his full strength on us, but even so, I didn’t expect the warrior he sent to fight in earnest to be so frightening.
Even with a spell that removed his fear, the impulse to run away still surged within Zaryusu’s heart. It was a miracle that the warriors, who were not protected by such magic, were not already trampling each other as they fled.
Cocytus slowly drew closer.
He strode proudly into the marsh, past the skeletal army—
—And then Cocytus stopped, roughly thirty meters away from the Lizardmen. After that, his insectoid face swivelled atop his slender neck, as though looking for someone.
Zaryusu had the feeling that Cocytus’s eyes were on him.
“—All right. Since. Ainz-sama. Is. Watching. I Shall. Ensure. You. Get. A. Chance. To. Shine. However. Before. That. 「Ice Pillar」.”
As the spell activated, two pillars of ice erupted from the water between the Lizardmen and Cocytus, about twenty meters apart.
“This. Might. Be. Rude. To. Warriors. Who. Are. Ready. To. Give. Their. Lives. But. I. Must. Inform. You. That. My. Side. Of. These. Pillars. Will. Be. Your. Grave. Any. Who. Cross. It. Shall. Die.”
Cocytus folded his arms, as though to say, The choice is yours.
“Oi oi oi, he doesn’t look like it but he’s a pretty decent chap, isn’t he?”
Zaryusu nodded deeply at Zenberu’s words.
Then, he stepped forward. Zenberu and the other two chiefs followed him.
Shasuryu looked back, at the warriors who were about to follow him.
“You should stay here… no, return to the village. Otherwise… you’ll die with us.”
“What!? We want to fight too! It’s scary, but… even if it’s scary, we still want to fight!”
“Retreat is not cowardice. Living is true courage.”
“There’s some of us who can’t fall back either. Besides, as chiefs, we can’t accept other people ruling us without a fight, no?”
“We still want to fight, Chief.”
“Hold on a second! Get out of here, young ones! This is a job for us old folks!”
The Lizardmen who shoved their way forward were all advanced in years, but none of them was old enough to be considered elderly. There were fifty seven of them, and none of the others could say anything after seeing their faces.
Perhaps if they looked like they were resolved to die or had given up on themselves, they would have asked to come along. However, their expressions were a plea for the younger Lizardmen to live on and celebrate the miracle of life.
With nothing left to say, the rest of the warriors turned back.
Shasuryu turned to face Cocytus once more.
“…Sorry for the wait, Cocytus.”
Cocytus extended a hand to the Lizardmen and curled it towards him. “Bring it,” the gesture seemed to say. In response to this taunt, Shasuryu shouted:
Fully resolved to die, the Lizardmen gave voice to a cry from the depths of their souls, a roar which seemed to split the very sky, and rushed at Cocytus.
Cocytus calmly regarded the warriors charging him.
“…This. Might. Be. A. Bit. Disrespectful. To. Warriors. Like. You. But. I. Shall. Cull. Your. Numbers.”
Cocytus was sure that he would not be defeated even if all of the warriors reached him, but still, he had to weed his opponents out.
Personally speaking, Cocytus would have liked to allow his foes to reach a range where they could fight. However, he had received far more largesse than he deserved, and allowing this ragtag band of misfits to do battle with a Guardian of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick would be disrespectful to Ainz-sama.
Thus, he unleashed his aura.
It was a skill derived from the Knight of Niflheim class — 「Frost Aura」. This special ability damaged and slowed the foe through the use of extreme cold temperatures. At full power, it could even engulf the Lizardmen spectating from the sides.
So he had to suppress its power.
He had to narrow its radius and reduce its damage.
“This ought to do it…”
A wave of freezing cold expanded from Cocytus, instantly filling a radius of twenty five meters across.
The temperature plummeted upon exposure to the intense cold, and the very air seemed to groan.
“…Hm. That. Ought. To. Do.”
He drew back his aura.
The momentary exposure meant that the savage, blizzard like snap-frost had vanished like it had never been. However, it was no illusion or trick of the senses. The best proof of that was the fifty seven Lizardman corpses that covered the marsh.
Only five more still remained. However, they were the five strongest Lizardmen. Unfazed by Cocytus’s might or the deaths of their comrades, they moved out as one.
A stone flew through the air. The armored Lizardman led the charge, followed by two more behind it. In addition, the two Swamp Elementals had cracks all over them after the cold attack, and lagged behind the Lizardmen because they were slower. The one at the rear incanted spell after spell.
♦ ♦ ♦
The first strike was a stone, which was aimed at Cocytus’s throat. However, it was completely meaningless, because—
“—We. Guardians. Are. Equipped. With. Items. That. Resist. Ranged. Attacks.”
—An invisible barrier which appeared to cover his body deflected the stone.
It was followed by a charging Lizardman. The armor he wore was an ancestral heirloom, one of the Four Treasures — the White Dragon Bone. It was strong enough to deflect Frost Pain, itself one of the Four Treasures, and it was hailed as the hardest armor among the Lizardmen.
Facing it was a sword which Cocytus drew out of nothing, as though it had been sheathed in the air.
The sword Cocytus unsheathed was an odachi — its blade over one hundred eighty centimeters long, named God-Slaying Slash Emperor. It was the sharpest of the twenty one weapons which Cocytus possessed.
Then, he swung it at the incoming Lizardman.
The fluid cut whooshed quietly through the air. If not for the present situation, it would have been a sound which people would want to listen for.
After that sound, the chief’s body and his armor split into two halves from head to tail, which fell to the left and right, into the marsh.
God-Slaying Slash Emperor was unscathed despite cleaving through the strongest armor of the Lizardmen.
The other two Lizardmen did not seem affected by the death of their comrade. They raised their weapons and executed a pincer attack.
On the right, Zenberu sent a karate chop at Cocytus’s face, having enhanced it with 「Iron Natural Weapon」 and 「Iron Skin」.
On the left was Frost Pain, stabbing at the belly.
This attack was calculated to exploit the fact that long weapons were unwieldy in melee combat.
Of course, that only applied to regular people.
Cocytus shifted slightly and intercepted Zenberu’s arm with the blade of God-Slaying Slash Emperor. His preternatural movements made it seem as though the weapon in his hand was an extension of his limbs.
Zenberu’s skin could rival the hardness of steel under the effects of Iron Skin, but the armor from just now had already proven the sharpness of God-Slaying Slash Emperor.
The blade which entered Zenberu’s arm carved it off like it was going through water.
As Zenberu’s severed right arm sprayed fresh arterial blood, Cocytus’s other hand casually gripped Frost Pain, which was headed at his belly.
“—Oh. I. See. This. Is. A. Pretty. Good. Sword.”
Zaryusu gave up on pulling back the immovable Frost Pain, and immediately lashed out at Cocytus’s knee with a kick. Cocytus did not dodge it; he simply took the blow. In the end, when Zaryusu’s foot connected with Cocytus’s knee, it was Zaryusu who felt the pain.
It felt just like kicking an iron wall with all his might.
“「Over Magic – Mass Light Cure Wounds」.”
Through the use of prodigious amounts of mana, one could forcibly cast a spell that should not have been normally usable. Aided by this metamagic enhancement, Shasuryu cast a spell that healed everyone’s wounds.
Cocytus looked at Shasuryu with interest as the latter used a metamagic technique he had never heard of before. However, the two Swamp Elementals blocked his line of sight. While Zenberu’s arm gradually resumed its original form, the two Swamp Elementals attacked Cocytus with their tentacles. However, Cocytus had already slashed at the Swamp Elementals’ bodies.
Just as the the Swamp Elementals dissolved into clumps of mud, Zaryusu punched at Cocytus’s compound eyes, his belly, and his chest. Naturally, it was Zaryusu who was hurt instead. The skin on his knuckles split and wept tears of fresh blood.
Cocytus swatted at Zaryusu’s chest with his spiked tail.
♦ ♦ ♦
Zaryusu flew into the distance like he had been hit by a baseball bat, accompanied by the sound of cracking. In the end, he hit the marsh, rolling several times before coming to a halt. However, the agony in his chest and the bright red blood he was coughing up made it hard for Zaryusu to breathe.
The broken ribs had probably pierced his lungs, because he could not take air in no matter how hard he tried to breathe. It felt as though he were in water. The hot fluid pouring into his throat made him want to vomit. He looked down at his chest, and the wound — which looked like someone had stabbed him with a sharp blade — was gushing with blood.
—-Just one hit had reduced Zaryusu to this pitiful state.
Zaryusu glared at Cocytus, the fighting spirit still burning in his eyes even as he struggled to keep breathing.
“So. You. Still. Wish. To. Fight. Then. I. Shall. Return. This. To. You.”
After casually tossing Frost Pain back to the fallen Zaryusu, Cocytus ignored him and turned to the remaining Lizardmen.
Shasuryu cast a healing spell on Zenberu, who had regrown his arm, but whose health had been greatly depleted.
Just as Cocytus was about to reach them, another stone flew at him, attempting to divert his attention — however, the attack was useless, and was easily deflected.
“—How. Annoying,” Cocytus grumbled, and then extended his hand at the Small Fang’s chief.
Several dozen razor-sharp icicles, each the size of an arm, showered down on a large area.
One of the Lizardmen was within the attack radius and the icicles pierced him instantly.
He took one in the chest, two in the belly, and one in the right thigh — each of them easily penetrated his body
The Small Fang chief — the best ranger among the Lizardmen, crumpled to the swamp like a puppet whose strings had been cut, where he expired.
“「Over Magic – Mass Light Cure Wounds」!”
Zenberu charged ahead while Shasuryu cast a healing spell again. Zenberu was trying to buy time for Zaryusu’s wounds to mend.
He knew this was a reckless course of action, and that he was nothing before the might of Cocytus. Even so, Zenberu sprinted ahead without a moment’s hesitation.
Cocytus swung lightly at Zenberu, who had entered his attack range.
The swing was faster than Zenberu could see—
Its speed was beyond Zenberu’s dexterity—
The blade sheared easily through Zenberu’s flesh—
The decapitated corpse of Zenberu spurted blood like a geyser as it collapsed gently to the marshlands. Shortly after that, his head joined it on the sod.
“…Now. Only. The. Two. Of. You. Are. Left… I. Had. Heard. Of. Your. Strength. From. Ainz-sama. But. In. The. End. Only. The. Two. Of. You. Remained.”
Cocytus — who had not moved so much as an inch since the battle had started — studied the two of them, and flicked his sword. There was no trace of blood or fat on the gleaming white blade. That beautiful movement looked like it could sweep everything away in a single stroke.
Facing it was Zaryusu, who had recovered to the point where he could barely stand, and Shasuryu, who had drawn his greatsword. The two of them flanked Cocytus front and rear. Zaryusu dabbed his fingers in the blood flowing from his chest and smeared it on his face.
The way he applied the blood to himself made it seem as though he was summoning the ancestral spirits down upon himself.
“—Zaryusu, how are your wounds?”
“Not good. It’s still aching. Still, I can take a few more swings.”
“Really now… that should be enough, right? Frankly speaking, I’m almost out of mana. If I’m not careful, I might keel over.”
Shasuryu’s teeth ground against each other. Perhaps he was laughing. As Zaryusu heard this, his expression changed as well.
“…Oh, really? Ani-ja, you’re pushing yourself pretty hard too.”
Zaryusu smiled, and then he sighed, relaxing his shoulders. His sword arm sagged.
A torrent of pain erupted from near his chest, but Zaryusu fought to ignore it.
He would not give up until the last moment — Zaryusu intended to fight until the end.
From the beginning, he had known full well that victory was impossible.
Defeat was unavoidable, yet they could not accept it.
That was because it would be like lying to countless people, telling them that they could win. Since others had actually believed them, they could not accept the fact that they would be defeated.
They had to give everything they had until the final moment—
“Then swing that sword you’re wielding!!”
Zaryusu’s cry echoed throughout the surrounding area.
The sound of clacking came from Cocytus’s mandibles.
“A. Fine. Cry.”
Cocytus was probably laughing. But this was not the laughter of the strong mocking the weak, but a warrior laughing with a fellow fighter.
“Very well, Zaryusu. That’s it, then. I’ll fight with you to the bitter end as well.”
Shasuryu smiled as well.
“Then… Sorry to keep you waiting, Cocytus-dono.”
Cocytus shrugged as Shasuryu said this.
“It. Is. Fine. I. Am. Not. So. Thoughtless. As. To. Interrupt. A. Farewell. Between. Brothers. Now. Prepare. To Meet. Your. Fate… No. Pardon. Me. You. Were. Ready. For. It. From. The. Start.”
As Zaryusu and Shasuryu began moving, Cocytus flourished God-Slaying Slash Emperor and asked:
“State. Your. Names.”
“…I. Will. Remember. You. Warriors. Also. I. Apologise. Ahead. Of. Time. For. Not. Using. The. Weapons. In. All. My. Hands. It. Is. Not. That. I. Wish. To. Scorn. You. But. You. Are. Simply. Not. Strong. Enough. To. Warrant. Their. Use.”
“What a shame.”
“Indeed — here I come!”
♦ ♦ ♦
The two of them lunged at Cocytus, splashing across the marsh.
The uncoordinated timing of their attacks baffled Cocytus.
The two of them did not enter his range at the same time. Shasuryu was the first to do so. Sensing a scheme, Cocytus awaited their next move.
Since Shasuryu was the first to enter his strike zone, Cocytus carefully studied Shasuryu’s next move.
Shasuryu stopped just before Cocytus could reach him, and—
—And cast a spell.
Countless chains formed of mud leapt at Cocytus, and Zaryusu broke into a wild sprint. He had even hidden Frost Pain behind his back so his opponent would not be able to gauge his attack range.
Shasuryu’s declaration that “I’m almost out of mana,” was merely a ruse to deceive Cocytus. If he had taken the bait, perhaps he might have been bound by the mystic chains and been hit by Zaryusu’s charge from behind.
However tough their opponent’s exoskeleton was, he should still be able to break through if he poured all his strength into the edge. With that in mind, Zaryusu had abandoned defense to focus on the attack, and the resulting strike should have been quite strong.
He seems quite confident in his sword.
Cocytus could understand how he felt, because much like him, Cocytus felt strongly about the weapons he owned. In particular, the sword he now wielded — which had once been used by his creator — was especially significant to him. Therefore, despite how lopsided it would make the battle, Cocytus insisted on doing battle with God-Slaying Slash Emperor in hand, as a sign of his supreme respect.
However, they had made a miscalculation; which was that their opponent was Cocytus, Guardian of the Fifth Floor of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick.
“…My. Defenses. Cannot. Be. Breached. By. Someone. Whose. Level. Is. Below. Mine.”
The chains of mud rebounded off Cocytus an instant before they reached him, reverting to regular dirt and sinking back into the mire. Low tier spells could not pierce Cocytus’s magical defenses.
As the shout rang out, a vortex of ivory fog swirled out and surrounded Cocytus.
A futile effort.
Cocytus was immune to cold damage, so as the gentle breeze of the supercooled mist blew around him, he patiently waited for Zaryusu and Shasuryu to enter his attack range.
Soon enough, the moment he had been waiting for arrived. However, Cocytus hesitated briefly; he thought, Can my foe be stopped just by cutting off his head?
In the face of Zaryusu’s full attack, Cocytus did not think that mere decapitation would stop his advance. The mental image of a headless body rushing him appeared in his mind.
In that case, he ought to chop his hands off first, and then his head.
No, that wouldn’t be clean enough. Best to finish him off in one stroke.
Zaryusu charged with all his strength, devoting every fiber of his being to the attack, but he was still too slow for Cocytus.
A black shadow appeared amidst the white mist — Zaryusu thrust his sword, and Cocytus caught it lightly between his fingers, like before.
Cocytus did not feel any cold from his fingertips. Perhaps Zaryusu knew that Cocytus was immune to the cold and did not use the ability.
The charge was fast, but he had blocked it so easily. That puzzled Cocytus. However, those doubts faded in an instant. His foe’s life would end with a swing of God-Slaying Slash Emperor, so there was nothing more to think about.
And then there would only be one of them left.
So it was just an unplanned charge, then…
Just as a somewhat disappointed Cocytus was about to strike, he changed his mind.
With a mighty roar, the greatsword hacked down through the freezing mist which hung in the air. Shasuryu’s swing carried a gale in its wake, which dispersed the frozen fog.
The 「Earth Bind」, Zaryusu’s charge, 「Icy Burst」, all of them were decoys.
While he had to be wary of Zaryusu stabbing him with Frost Pain, Shasuryu’s overhead chop with the greatsword was more damaging, so that must have been their true intention. However—
“Surprise attacks ought to be conducted in silence.”
As long as they could not erase the sound they made as they ran across the marsh, it could not truly qualify as an unexpected attack. Cocytus was puzzled — was this really worth taking cold damage? Or was it just a meaningless struggle.
Still, it was true that his foe had entered his strike zone.
Now that Zaryusu’s weapon was within his grasp, there was nothing to fear from him. Only the order in which they died would change. Having decided that, Cocytus swung God-Slaying Slash Emperor.
Shasuryu was cloven in half along with his greatsword. Before the body could hit the ground, Cocytus withdrew his blade, planning to attack Zaryusu—
♦ ♦ ♦
—And then, the fingers grasping Frost Pain slipped.
Surprised, Cocytus looked at his fingers to see what had made it slide forward.
He saw the bright red of blood amidst the white mist hanging in the air.
In an instant, Cocytus realised why his fingers had slipped.
He was confused.
He wondered when it had gotten there, and then as he saw Zaryusu’s face through the mist, it suddenly dawned on him.
The blood smeared on his face was not to paint himself, but to coat his sword.
Neither had 「Icy Burst」 been intended to hurt Cocytus, or conceal Shasuryu’s form. Its purpose had been to hide the blood coating the sword. So was keeping it behind his back.
When he blocked Zaryusu’s attack, Cocytus had done so with his fingers. Zaryusu remembered it, and had bet on the slim chance that he would do it again. Thus he had gone to these lengths to set up the battlefield to pull it off. Just then, a flash of lightning surged through Cocytus’s brain.
So that was why his thrust felt so weak! No wonder! There’s no way the plan to lubricate the sword with blood so it could pierce through would work every time. In order to create this chance, he slowed his strike to make me think it was easy to catch!
The blade slowly slid over, inching towards Cocytus’s pale blue body. Now that Zaryusu had thrown his full strength and even body weight into the thrust, not even Cocytus could stop it — not with two bloodstained fingers.
If he had grasped it further away from him, there might be something else he could do. But at this short range, he was out of options.
Cocytus was so moved that he trembled.
While it had relied on a bit of luck, this was an attack which had required multiple gambles, each of which had paid off. The most important thing was that without Shasuryu, none of this would have been possible.
Shasuryu should not have understood Zaryusu’s gambit, but as an elder brother, he had placed all his trust in his younger brother, to the point of sacrificing his own life. That pointless surprise attack and shouting were all to divert Cocytus’s attention from his brother for just a moment.
A single moment.
And for just a single moment — as Zaryusu was forcing Frost Pain at him with all his might — Cocytus’s mandibles trembled.
And so the blade struck Cocytus’s body — only to deflect lightly off. His body, which glowed a faint blue, did not have so much as a scratch on it.
This was the result of the impassable gulf that separated the highest level NPCs of Nazarick from mere Lizardmen.
“—Forgive. Me. But. I. Possess. A. Skill. Which. Briefly. Negates. Weakly-Enchanted. Weapon. Attacks. Once. I Activate. It. Your. Attack. Is. Useless.”
That blow had been well-struck, and Cocytus felt that leaving a scar as a mark of respect for these warriors would be appropriate. However, he was under the eyes of a Supreme Being, and he could not do so in his position as a Guardian.
Cocytus deliberately took one step back, splashing up the mud and staining his beautiful blue body.
It was just a single step.
There was no meaning to it. Backing up would not have made any difference to him. Zaryusu would still die, and Cocytus would still win.
However, that step back was a sign of praise from the strong — Cocytus — to the weak — Zaryusu.
Zaryusu smiled, in the way someone did when he knew full well what sort of fate was in store for him, yet ran towards it anyway. As he did, Cocytus swung his sword down—
“That was a spectacular battle,” Ainz said in praise to Cocytus, who was kneeling before him.
“However, I trust you understand that while we we used the stick this time, you must employ the carrot in the future. You are not to rule them through fear.”
After Ainz nodded, he looked to the other Guardians in the room.
“Very good. Now then, listen well, you Guardians. Like I said earlier in the Throne Room, Cocytus will administer the Lizardman village. If he needs help, I hope you will give it to him. Cocytus, I hope you will foster a deeply-rooted loyalty to Nazarick in the Lizardmen. I also hope that you will cultivate the growth of talented members of their species. I will leave these tasks to you. If you need 「Wings of Ascension」 or other special items, let me know. I will also lend you a 「Powered Suit」 for the time being.”
Players could change their character races in YGGDRASIL, but that did not imply that one could freely change race. Some requirements had to be met for the change, and the changes were irreversible.
Part of the requirements were items. Someone who wanted to become an Elder Lich would need a 「Book of the Dead」. Someone who wanted to become an Imp would need a 「Fallen Seed」. The 「Angel Wing」 item which Ainz had mentioned was used for becoming an Angel.
Ainz had mentioned it because he thought that it might be possible to change races in that manner.
“I. Shall. Count. On. You. When. The. Time. Comes. Ainz-sama. May. I. Know. How. You. Wish. To. Deal. With. Those. Lizardmen?”
“Yes. The. Ones. Called. Zaryusu. And. Shasuryu.”
The two who fought to the end. Their corpses should still be in the marsh. However, why did he bring them up?
“Hmm… Recover their corpses and use them for raw materials when I’m not making undead with my skills.”
“—That. Would. Be. A. Bit. Of. A. Waste.”
“Oh? Why is that? Are they that valuable?”
Ainz had watched the battle through the Mirror of Remote Viewing and saw an overwhelming victory. Nothing about them recommended themselves to his eye.
“…They. Might. Be. Weak. However. I. Saw. Their. Fearless. Warrior. Spirit. Turning. Them. Into. Raw. Materials. Is. A. Bit. Of. A. Waste. I. Feel. That. They. Could. Become. Stronger. Perhaps. Even. Exceeding. Our. Expectations. Ainz-sama. I. Believe. You. Have. Not. Yet. Conducted. Any. Practical. Experiments. With. Resurrecting. The. Dead. Could. You. Not. Do. So. With. Them?”
…Does he like those Lizardmen?
In all honesty, Ainz did not feel anything when he heard things like “warrior spirit.” He had heard of terms like “killing intent” in manga and light novels, but he thought nothing of them. It was kind of like how Narberal responded with, “Ah, so that’s what it is, oh~” and so on while he was lecturing her. Similarly, Ainz had no idea what this warrior’s empathy business was about.
That was because Ainz had originally been a normal salaryman, despite his current state. An average citizen who actually knew about a warrior’s spirit or killing intent would probably be considered dangerous. Now, he could understand something like a bureaucrat’s spirit instead.
“I see… So it would be a shame, then?”
However, when Ainz heard about Cocytus’s approval of the Lizardmen, his true thoughts were, Well, you might call it a shame, but I have no idea what that means.
Still, when he thought about it, Cocytus’s words made a lot of sense.
He had wanted to find a place to experiment with resurrection anyway, and Ainz felt that using them for those experiments would be very beneficial. In addition, unlike how Cocytus had been waffling around in the Throne Room, he had now proposed a useful solution for them. If that was a sign of improvement, then he had passed with flying colors.
He paused briefly to think, and then Ainz thought of his other exceptional subordinates.
He thought of them as they stood around him, in a suitably subservient posture — silent and unmoving.
“Albedo, what is your opinion?”
“It would be the same as yours, Ainz-sama.”
“…What do you think, Demiurge?”
“I feel whatever you decide would be best, Ainz-sama.”
“…How about you, Shalltear?”
“Like Demiurge, I shall abide by your ruling, Ainz-sama.”
“Yeah, I’m with everyone else.”
“Ah, ah, ah… yes. I think so too.”
They might as well not have answered at all. Ainz’s head ached.
Ainz thought hard, and finally realized something — perhaps the Guardians did not think it was a big deal. In other words, no matter how he decided, they did not feel there would be any major benefits or drawbacks.
Of course, he had to consider their respective situations. Sometimes, problems might arise due to their varying circumstances.
Simply put, when a rich person said, “Oh, that sum’s not a problem,” one would immediately doubt the truth of those words. In other words, it was the result of differing values and priorities.
I wasted my time asking… still, that means resurrecting the Lizardmen should be fine, right? I was planning to think carefully on this, because I’ve made too many mistakes recently.
With no recourse, Ainz had to ponder the merits and demerits of the situation by himself.
“…We have decided to subordinate the Lizardman village to our rule, but is there a suitable candidate for leader? Do they have a group that manages the entire village?”
“No, but there is a person who is suitable to be the village’s representative.”
“Oh? Who is that?”
“It. Is. The. White. Lizardman. Who. Did. Not. Take. Part. In. The. Fighting. She. Appears. To. Have. Druidic. Powers.”
“Her, then! Hm, well, that is workable…
She should be worth using, Ainz thought. We could also use her to keep an eye on the others.
However, having her execute Ainz’s plan might undermine Cocytus’s plan to administer the village. That being the case, what should he do?
At this point, a flash of inspiration struck Ainz.
…Wouldn’t it be faster to ask her directly? Granted, I didn’t get any usable answers just now…
Ainz shared his plans with Cocytus, who replied in the affirmative.
Given Cocytus’s reaction, the fact that he might be caving in to his master’s wishes could not be ruled out. However, after glancing at Demiurge and Albedo, he noted that neither of them seemed to be acting out of the ordinary, which reassured Ainz that he was doing the right thing.
“Very well. How soon before she can be brought here?”
“Forgive. Me. If. I. Have. Overstepped. Myself. But. I. Sensed. That. You. Might. Wish. To. See. Her. And. So. I. Ordered. Her. To. Wait. In. A. Nearby. Room.”
Ainz glanced at Demiurge, who shook his head.
Nicely done indeed. He’s settled the matter without anyone’s instructions and it doesn’t look like someone else gave him the idea.
Ainz wondered if this was how a superior felt when he saw his subordinate grow as a person. He was all smiles — although one could not tell his expression given that he was a skeleton.
“No no no, you’ve done well, Cocytus. Wasting time is foolish, and your judgement was correct. All right, bring her in, then.”
“Ah, please wait!”
“What’s the matter, Aura?”
“While they are not strangers, meeting them in an unremarkable place like this will damage your reputation, Ainz-sama. I feel you should receive her in Nazarick’s Throne Room.”
The other Guardians nodded, with the exception of Mare.
“…My. Apologies. I. Had. Not. Considered. That. Please. Forgive. Me!”
I hadn’t thought of that at all. With that in mind, Ainz wondered how he should resolve this problem. At that moment, he remembered the words from back then. In that case —
“Did you not once say that you built this place in imitation of Nazarick? You were right. Cocytus, bring her over. I shall meet her here.”
“Aura, that’s enough.”
Not knowing why she had been told to stand down, Aura looked at Albedo, her face red with protest. However, Albedo merely glanced at her and then paid her no heed, looking at the main door instead. It was Demiurge who answered the angry Aura.
“…Ainz-sama would not make a mistake. That being the case, if Ainz-sama says this place is as good as Nazarick, then—”
“—It can’t be wrong,” Shalltear continued.
Well, I don’t think I’m totally correct, and I hope they don’t think that way… Still, it ended up helping me out here.
“Aura, I shall say it again. I feel that this place — built by you, one of my most trusted subordinates — is as good as Nazarick, even if it is still a work in progress… Do you understand?”
“…Thank you, Ainz-sama!”
Aura bowed in gratitude, and so did the other Guardians.
There’s no need to be so moved, I guess… I feel so embarrassed now.
“In that case, bring her over, Cocytus.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Cocytus immediately brought the white Lizardman to the room. She knelt with her head bowed before Ainz.
“What is your name?”
“I am Crusch Lulu, representative of the Lizardmen, oh Supreme Overlord of Death, Ainz Ooal Gown-sama.”
Well, that’s pretty far-fetched. Ainz wondered who had come up with that title, but in the end he decided to adopt the calm, poised attitude of a king.
“Thank you, Gown-sama. Please accept the utmost loyalty of we, the Lizardmen.”
Ainz studied Crusch carefully.
These scales are beautiful. They glittered under the light of the magical lighting.
I wonder how they’d feel, Ainz wondered out of curiosity.
Just as Ainz lost himself in his thoughts, he realised that Crusch’s shoulders were trembling. Cocytus should have disabled his cold-emanating skills, so it was probably due to some other reason.
As he thought on the matter, Ainz realised that her shuddering made perfect sense.
If Ainz said that he was displeased with the Lizardmen, every single one of them would be deprived of their heads. Therefore, Crusch was hanging on to every word Ainz said. Given that she was jumpy and nervous as it was, Ainz’s unnatural silence would have filled her with terror.
Ainz was not the sort of person who amused himself by tormenting the weak. He could commit atrocities for the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, but his mental state had not degraded to the point where he would perform such acts as part of daily life.
“The Lizardmen shall live under my banner from this day forth. However, Cocytus will be ruling you in my place. I trust there are no problems with that?”
“That’s it, then. You may return.”
“Eh? May I?” Crusch exclaimed in surprise from where she was bowing. She had thought Ainz would demand the moon from her, so this utter betrayal of her expectations brought that reaction forth from her.
“You may go back for the time being, Crusch Lulu. The Lizardmen will soon enter a period of prosperity. Your future generations will give thanks with all their hearts that they were allowed to swear themselves to me.”
“You are too kind. We are already deeply grateful for the mercy you have shown us despite our opposition to a supreme being like yourself.”
Ainz slowly rose from his throne, and then approached Crusch. He knelt down, and put a hand on her shoulder.
Surprised, Crusch shuddered, and the vibration travelled up Ainz’s hand.
“Also, I have a special request for you.”
“May I know what it is? If it is within my power, then I shall strive to fulfill your desires as your faithful servant, Gown-dono…”
“The idea was not originally mine — but if you agree, I shall restore Zaryusu to life in exchange.”
As he spoke the name he had heard from Cocytus, Crusch suddenly raised her head, the very picture of shock.
Ainz smugly studied Crusch’s face. She seemed to be trying to hide her feelings, but her expression changed by the moment. Lizardmen and humans had very different facial expressions, so Ainz could not be certain what was there, but at the very least he could pick out joy, anger, and sorrow.
“Is that even possible…?”
“I possess power over life and death. Death is nothing more than a state of being to me.”
After hearing Crusch’s almost imperceptible words, Ainz continued:
“It is like being sick or poisoned, but I cannot extend one’s lifespan.”
Perhaps it would be impossible to do so through conventional means, but it might be possible with 「Wish Upon A Star」… but now was not the time for such things.
“…Then, what do you wish of your loyal slave? … My body, perhaps?”
Ainz was dumbfounded.
“No, that’s a bit too…”
As if! Even if I did desire that sort of thing, it’s not as though I’d go so far as to breed with a reptile… Having nearly said that, Ainz struggled to maintain his image.
He decided to ignore the sound of grinding teeth that came from nearby.
“Ahem! Of course not. It is simple — I want you to observe the Lizardmen and see if any of them are going to betray me.”
“No Lizardman will betray you.”
After hearing Crusch’s firm reply, Ainz smiled coldly to her.
“I am not nearly stupid enough to believe that. Indeed, I am not mighty enough to know what every Lizardman thinks, but if they are sufficiently human-like, treachery will be common enough. Therefore, I would like someone to quietly keep an eye on them.”
Crusch resumed her blank expression, which made Ainz worry that he had phrased it poorly. While he had wanted to resurrect Zaryusu from the beginning, Ainz wanted her to ask for it and thus bind her to him with chains of obligation. What should he do if she refused?
If I’d known, I shouldn’t have been so greedy… Well, I guess there’s no point crying over spilt milk.
“…A miracle hangs before you right now, but it will not last forever. If you do not seize the moment, it will be gone forever.”
Crusch’s face seemed to be twitching.
“It is not as though I am going to conduct some horrific ceremony. Does resurrection magic not exist in this world? I am simply going to use a spell like that.”
As Crusch hesitated over whether or not to speak, Ainz spoke to her in tender tones, but with an arrogant attitude.
“Crusch, I would like you to think about what is most important to you.”
Ainz watched Crusch’s eyes as his words slowly got to her. It felt like he was about to clinch a sale.
After this, Ainz would need to impress upon Crusch that the miracle he provided did not come free of charge. After all, people would suspect free things, but their suspicions would be eased if there was a reasonable fee attached to them.
“I want you to secretly observe your fellow Lizardmen. Depending on how things turn out, you may be faced with a dangerous choice. In addition, to guard against your treachery, I will cast a certain spell on Zaryusu when I resurrect him. It is a spell that will instantly kill Zaryusu if I judge that you have betrayed me. It might be hard on you, but it ought to be worth it if you can get Zaryusu back, am I wrong?”
That said, there’s no such spell.
Ainz stood up, as though to say that he had said his piece, and then he spread his arms.
Crusch looked at Ainz with a tormented expression in her eyes.
“Ah, yes, when Zaryusu is resurrected, I will tell him that he was recalled to life because he was useful to me. I can guarantee that your name will not come up. Well then, Crusch Lulu, make your choice. This is the last chance you have to return your beloved Zaryusu to your side. What will you do? Will you seize this opportunity, or abandon it? Decide.”
Ainz slowly extended a hand to Crusch as he looked to the Guardians and said:
“If she refuses, none of you are to do anything. Well then, Crusch Lulu, what is your answer?”