Even though the supporting priests from the temples had already cast spells of fire protection on them, they still held their breath, for fear that their lungs would be burned
…Although they already said the flames wouldn’t cause any physical harm.
That thought ran through Lakyus’ head as she watched the wall of fire from the rear of the formation.
Still, it was too soon to celebrate the fact that the flames were harmless. If they were not meant to cause injury, then there must have been another reason for Jaldabaoth to conjure them. That was what she had to figure out.
If I can’t figure it out, there’s no point wasting energy on it. Who was it who said that I should be using my head for better things… Evileye, or Uncle?
The barrier of magical flames was like an illusion, offering no resistance and bearing no heat, and just like that, she was through.
Lakyus looked around at the worried faces of the adventurers who were stepping through the barrier.
The plan had called for the formation of a defensive line, but forming a neat line of battle in the middle of a city was very difficult. Therefore, they had used four parties of orichalcum ranked adventurers as the linchpins of the formation, assigning each of the adventurers to one of them. Someone looking down from above would see something like four amoebas spreading out..
Since they were the cores of the formation, it was only natural that the orichalcum-ranked adventurers would become the leaders. But right now, they were filled with unease and tension. Lakyus hoped that they could hide their fear and inspire courage in the others around them.
Should I take the lead after all?
Certainly, if an adamantite-ranked adventurer like herself stood at their head, morale would surely increase. But right now, Lakyus had no reliable allies by her side. Even if she was adamantite-ranked, a lone Blue Rose was less effective than an orichalcum-ranked party. As such, she had handed command of the vanguard to them.
Even if they trusted me, running in and making a fuss would only fill them with unease. But… ah, I should just go to the front and see what happens.
With that, Lakyus stepped through the wall of fire.
A silent world spread ahead of them. The streets were the same as those of any other in the capital, if you overlooked the fact that there was no presence of human life and many of the residences had been destroyed.
“What happened to the residents? Are they hiding? There’s no smell of blood.”
“Impossible. Look, the doors have been broken down. I fear the people might have been taken somewhere.”
“We need to be wary of demons lurking within the houses, should we do a room-to-room search? That will take a lot of time.”
“It’ll be safer to contact Lakyus-san and wait for further instructions, right?”
“Then, let’s hurry up and—”
“There’ll be no need for that.”
Straightening up by reflex at the sound of the voice, the speaking adventurers turned to look behind them. They stared in goggle-eyed surprise at Lakyus, who had just arrived.
“The iron and copper-ranked adventurers will stay behind to search the houses. One mithril-ranked team will remain behind to supervise. The people behind will spread out into the formation and advance. Any objections?”
The shaking heads said there were none.
“Then, let us advance.”
Lakyus walked in line with the orichalcum-ranked adventurers. An uncomfortable silence settled around them. It was hard to believe that there had been life here until this evening.
“…Speaking of which, Momon-san will be alright, won’t he?”
Lakyus understood how uneasy they were with pinning all their hopes on Momon.
“He’ll be fine. Evileye herself admitted that he was even stronger than her. The real problem is the one that fought him to a standstill, the enemy leader Jaldabaoth. How strong is he, anyway…”
The nearby adventurers heard this and their faces drooped in despair.
“Ah, sorry, don’t worry about it. We just need to do what we’ve been assigned to do, that’s all.”
“Aye, that’s true. It makes me jealous as hell to admit it, but I guess each of us has been tasked to do what we’re most suited for. In that case, everyone, forward!”
“That’s right, let’s go!”
Standing at the head of the group, together with the orichalcum-ranked adventurers, Lakyus stepped forward
One hand gripped the Demonic Sword Kilineyram. Its surface was like a stretch of night sky, speckled with sparkling stars.
They had not walked for long before the sound of a distant explosion carried over softly from the distance. The lower-ranked adventurers trembled. The middle-ranked adventurers prepared for battle. The high-ranked adventurers scanned their surroundings. And the highest-ranked adventurers looked straight ahead. Amidst this sea of reactions, Lakyus stared off into the distance with a piercing gaze.
“The party on that side has entered combat.”
Probably not Tina’s group.
“If they’ve been moving in at the same rate as ourselves, we ought to be encountering enemy resistance soon.”
“…What about from above?”
“We have scouts in place, and none of them have reported anything so far.”
“That’s good. Demons have a lot of flying monsters among their ranks. If they spread out in the capital, it would be pretty bad. So we need to draw their attention to the ground where we are now.”
“Which means that the plan is essentially unchanged.”
“That’s right… hm, what’s that, did you hear something?”
“Aye, I hear it. Dogs barking. Hey, what’s that?”
The arcane magic caster answered the question.
“I haven’t confirmed it with my eyes yet, but I think it’s a hellhound. Its special ability is fiery breath. I think it has a difficulty ranking of 15 or so.”
“Difficulty… yeah, speaking of which, what rank were Jaldabaoth and the insect maid?”
Lakyus was lost as to how she should answer. If she was honest, it would most likely shatter their resolve, but if they went into battle with a false impression of the enemy because she lied to them, it would be just as disastrous. She agonized about it for a while before deciding to tell the truth.
Everyone who heard Lakyus’ voice had the same reaction.
“The insect maid’s difficulty ranking was at least 150. Jaldabaoth himself is estimated at 200 or more.”
Everyone aside from Lakyus was speechless. That much was expected. Even the highest-ranking orichalcum adventurers would only rate around 80 on the difficulty rankings. Although one could still triumph over a foe ranked roughly 15 points over oneself, trying to do the same with an enemy ranked almost twice as high as oneself was nothing short of laughable. And then—
“Wait a minute! Are you saying Momon-san is going to fight that difficulty 200 monster by himself?”
“Exactly. That’s why I said we’d just be getting in the way.”
“But that’s not the same… you said 200? Are you kidding me? Are all adamantite-ranked adventurers that strong?”
“If only. Even we’re ranked around 90 at best.”
“Then… then how the hell are we even supposed to win?!”
The adventurers looked around, holding their breath.
Lakyus had not lied, but neither had she told them the whole truth. Although Lakyus herself was rated at 90, Evileye was over 150, which was how she had come to the conclusion about the insect maid and Jaldabaoth. And that was also why Evileye was not part of this defensive line.
In order to quickly recover her expended mana, she had chosen to meditate and rest. After that, she had followed Momon to where Jaldabaoth was, in order to provide support so Momon could battle Jaldabaoth one-on-one. Their fear was that they would encounter the insect maid again.
While Lakyus was lost in thought, she felt the depressive mood around her prickling on her skin. Everyone’s morale had plummeted, and there were murmurs about abandoning the whole thing and fleeing the capital.
As she had predicted, everyone was feeling demoralized. Lakyus knew because the first time she heard Evileye talk about their battle, she had felt the same way herself.
“You heard Evileye, right? Momon-san is the kind of man who can fight evenly with Jaldabaoth. Because of that, we’re trusting everything to Momon-san, and instead we’re going to do what we can do.”
“B-but if Jaldabaoth is fighting Momon-san, then what if the insect maid appears here?”
“Leave that to us, Blue Rose. Evileye has a special item that allows her to teleport over to us. She’s got a way of dealing with the insect maid, so she can overcome that difficulty gap and beat her.”
That brought a wave of cheers from the adventurers. It seemed that their fighting spirit was restored.
Just in the nick of time.
The roars of beasts came from the way ahead, along with the sound of footsteps.
“They’re coming. We’ll build our defensive line here. The people on the flying disks above will drop into the side roads. Leave the main road to me!”
The beasts were on the main road. Though they looked like large dogs, their eyes were filled with an infernal intelligence, and in place of drool, flames leaked from their maws.
There were 15 of those hellhounds here. Standing before them was Lakyus, who gripped the Demonic Sword Kilineyram with both hands.
“You petty demons, don’t you dare look down on me.”
With a prayer to the Water God on her lips, Lakyus cut a leaping hellhound in half with a single stroke.
The floating swords surrounding her acted as shields, blocking the attacks of the hellhounds from her flanks. She kicked away another one that was snapping at her ankles.
Lakyus was handling six hellhounds by herself, and the rest went on to attack the other adventurers. The weaker ones took them on one at a time, while the stronger ones handled multiple hellhounds at once. In this way, they whittled down the numbers facing them. By the time Lakyus had slain all six of hers, the others were done as well.
“Tend to the wounded!”
“No problem, Lakyus-san!”
Of course, they hadn’t gotten through untouched, but the injuries weren’t severe. Considering they had to conserve their mana, it was quite an auspicious start.
“People on the sides, repeat this command! Advance 50 meters and hold!”
The cry to advance echoed from both sides. Holding her sword, Lakyus went forth as well.
♦ ♦ ♦
Lower Fire Month (9th Month), 5th Day, 02:41
Three men ran down the dark and narrow alleyways. Nobody else was there with them.
These three men were Climb, Brain, and the former orichalcum ranked thief that had accompanied them during their attack against Zero’s base.
The adventurers working for Marquis Raeven were all patrolling the capital’s streets in order to hunt down any demons who broke through the containment line.
Climb had only managed to obtain the services of the thief because according to Marquis Raeven, the man himself had asked to help Climb out. That was to repay the kindness Climb had shown by catching him after he had taken that blow from Zero and for healing him.
In addition, Raeven wanted to repay the favor he owed to Renner.
Thanks to the thief’s choice of routes, they had not encountered a single demon so far.
They might not even have made it here without him.
Although they had some confidence in facing demons who relied purely on strength and speed, they would be done for if any demons who could use special abilities showed up. Given that this party was a largely mundane one that lived and died by their steel, they would have a hard time defending against attacks that were not purely physical in nature.
Their acquaintance had only been a brief one, but because of this, the thief understood that Climb and Brain were sorely deficient in this department, which was why he had joined this pair of clearly suicidal men.
Brain silently thanked him as he ran on, hunkering down to reduce the size of his silhouette. Gradually, the style of the surrounding buildings began to change; the amount of non-residential buildings began to increase. It seemed they were nearing their objective.
“I have to ask, why are we headed for the warehouses?”
Climb answered the thief, who was inspecting their surroundings.
“Renner-sama mentioned that if they were rounding people up and taking them prisoner, they would need a big space to control and imprison all of them. With that in mind, it would be easier to separate families and lock them up in several big warehouses instead.”
“I see. If the families are split up, they’ll think they’re all being taken hostage and be less likely to flee. If that’s the case, we have to hurry… well. Even if we double back on our original route, we still need to pick a safe path.”
“Thanks. We’re counting on you.”
There was more to do after the rescue. While thinking about how they would make it out of there, one thing that stood out as absolutely important was a safe axis of retreat. The choice of route was crucial, especially since they would be moving a lot of people.
But how long could this streak of luck last, Brain wondered.
This mission was essentially ordering Climb to die.
Since the other side was rounding up the civilians, that meant they had a plan for them. In turn, that meant they would be watching them closely. And according to what he had heard, the enemy leader Jaldabaoth was a being who could kill adamantite-ranked adventurers in one hit. Any sentries he placed would be formidable indeed.
Brain’s attention turned to Climb by his side.
He had worn his white armor to let people know that he was Renner’s knight. Currently, he was stroking his gauntlet… or rather, the ring he wore on the ring finger underneath it.
Gazef himself had given him that ring.
It was something he had obtained from an ancient granny who used to be part of Blue Rose. According to the legends, it was an extremely rare item born of ancient magic, that could raise a warrior’s powers beyond its limits.
You must return alive. Brain recalled Gazef’s face as he said that.
Gazef had not shown any particular emotion at that time. No anger, sorrow, or despair. He understood that as a warrior in service to a lord, there would eventually come a time when he would be ordered into a battle that would result in his death. However, in order to aid Climb without being physically present, he had lent him the ring.
Brain had been following the thief’s hand signals when he suddenly sensed a presence. Looking up, his line of sight followed the building— in that instant, Brain felt an impact that seemed to stop his heart.
On the edge of a roof of a nearby warehouse was — judging by her height and body type — a girl with long, blonde hair. She wore a dress made of pure white fabric that had been elaborately embroidered, and under the hem he could see that she wore a pair of sparkling high heels which reminded him of crystals. Combined with her necklace, earrings and other accessories, it made one think that she was some noble’s daughter, or a wealthy heiress of some sort.
The light from the curtain of fire behind her reflected off her body in a bewitchingly seductive way, in stark contrast to the bone-white mask she wore, shrouding her in an air of mystery. In contrast to her striking appearance, her presence seemed subdued, as though she had descended from a wraith-like plane of existence.
Her clothes and the color of her hair were completely different from that time. Back then, she might have been said to have been born of the night, but this time, she seemed to have descended from the moon. But even so, there was no doubt that they were the same person. The image Brain had seared into his soul from before layered itself over the person he was looking at now.
He was sure of it. Under the mask of the young girl above him was the face of that monster— Shalltear Bloodfallen.
It would seem that she had not noticed them yet, but if it was truly that same monster standing before him, then no matter how far apart they were, they would be instantly killed if she discovered them. Was there a way they could flee without being detected?
There was none.
When Brain realised this, he felt as if he was putting a foot on cracked ice. He was suddenly aware of the oily, disgusting sweat oozing out of his pores.
Brain signaled to Climb and the thief, indicating he had something to say. Sensing that he had spotted something, the two of them halted and held their breaths.
What now? What can I do to get out of this? If we fight her, we’ll be killed for sure. Even if we tried to run, we’d be chased down and killed anyway. Back then I used an escape tunnel, but there aren’t any here now. But why is she here? Is she looking for me?
Brain smiled bitterly at that last thought.
If that was the case, then there was only one solution to this problem.
“Climb-kun, I’ll go buy us some time. Use it to flee.”
After that, Brain looked to the thief, and bowed his head.
“I’ll leave him to you.”
He did not waste time waiting for a response. Brain immediately leapt up the building where Shalltear was, hoisting himself up in a single motion. Although he did not have the climbing skills of a thief, the building was only two stories high, and a warrior’s arm strength could easily scale it. On the roof, Shalltear remained where he had first seen her.
Brain’s heart pounded mightily.
He was scared, terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. The memories of his desperate flight from her reappeared in his mind. In spite of that, he was still able to muster up the courage to face her head-on.
“…Is something the matter?”
The ice-cold woman’s voice called out to Brain, only slightly muffled by the mask she wore.
Doesn’t she recognize me? What’s this, some kind of game?
The best course of action now should be to pretend he didn’t know her and observe her responses. With that in mind, Brain raised his voice and answered her.
“I’m here because I saw a strange woman on a rooftop. What are you doing in the Royal Capital?”
“And why, pray tell, must I answer you? Perhaps you could tell me what a human is doing in this area. Are you the only one who has gotten this far in?”
His heartbeat sped up and increased in intensity. Although he didn’t know where Climb was, he knew he could not let his eyes leave hers. In order to confuse her, he raised his voice and continued speaking.
“Are you looking for someone else? Not me?”
“And why would I seek you out in particular?”
“This is the second time we’ve crossed paths. From the start, I’ve been unable to forget your beautiful face.”
Shalltear reached out her hand, and lightly stroked her mask.
“…Do you have the wrong person, perhaps?”
Brain was momentarily at a loss for words. He wanted to ask if he had gotten the right person, but he immediately abandoned that idea.
It was her. There could be no other.
Even through the mask, there was absolutely certain of her identity. Only one person in all the world sounded like that, and to Brain, that person was Shalltear.
…So she’s saying, I can’t be bothered to remember a puny ant?
If she was not taunting him, if Shalltear truly did not remember, then that must mean she did not have even the slightest bit of interest in him.
For an overwhelmingly powerful being like Shalltear, that was not arrogance or overestimating one’s abilities.
“No… my apologies. Maybe… perhaps. Yes, this is the first time we’ve met.”
“…Is it, really? Well, even if you understand that now, it makes no difference. Perhaps it would be safer to just kill you off. Do you wish to live? To die? If you genuflect before me and lick my shoes, it might please me enough to change my mind.”
“Sorry, but I think I’ll pass on that.”
Brain settled down into a sword-drawing stance as he slowed his breathing. The technique he was using was, of course, [Field]. Needless to say, though, Brain knew it was useless against Shalltear.
The dumbfounded Shalltear gently shook her head.
“You don’t understand the difference in strength between us, do you? How annoying…”
Actually, I do understand, Brain thought as he looked at her.
Shalltear scared him so badly he wanted to throw up. That much he understood. But knowing this, why had he not fled yet?
The corner of his mouth turned up as he thought about this question.
If his heart was a lake, then it was perfectly still and calm. Even in the face of a being that made him want to flee at all costs, he still managed to retain his composure. This serenity was quite unnerving.
Shalltear stalked forward again. It was like a repeat of the last time, and surely the outcome would be Brain’s utter defeat. The sum total of his life’s work, his effort and dedication and dreams, would be shattered with the contemptuous ease of a child breaking a toy.
That’s right. That’s how it’ll be.
He was terrified.
Up till now, he had been through countless battles, wagering his life on the edge of his blade.
Suddenly admitting his fear of death now would be very embarrassing.
It felt like he was throwing himself off a cliff.
Even if could muster up the determination to die in battle, he could not prepare himself to commit suicide.
However, strangely enough, the feeling of abject terror that he had carried with him, from the bandit hideout all the way to the Royal Capital, was mysteriously absent.
Suddenly, the back of a certain young man appeared in his mind.
He was a youth who was far, far weaker than himself. Who had, even in the midst of a roaring torrent of murderous intent, stood firm, despite his body trembling like jelly.
And then, Brain laughed.
The old man had said that sometimes humans could display unexpected power, but Brain knew that it was impossible for him.
He was not like that youth, who would give everything he had for the princess he served, and he was not like Gazef who could offer his body and life for king and country. Those two could do it, but not him. Brain was a selfish man who could only think of doing as he desired.
Even if that’s the case… huh. Maybe this is how I square things with him, by buying him time to flee.
Taking one step at a time, Shalltear raised her left pinky finger, approaching at an unnaturally slow pace.
Was it because his heightened perceptions made it seem as though time had slowed down for everyone but him, or was it because Shalltear really was moving that slowly, to prolong his fear? It felt like both were the case, and he smiled ruefully.
Well, that’s just how she is.
Even though they had only met for a total of a few minutes, Brain felt like he understood her better than any other woman he had ever met.
Two more steps, huh… two steps until my sword is doomed…
He wanted to run, but more than that, he did not want to let go of the weapon in his hands.
He had lived his whole life with a sword in hand. Perhaps it was fitting that his life should end while holding one as well.
Brain had found his answer. With that in his mind, he followed Shalltear’s silhouette with his eyes.
“I lived my whole life… to swing this sword?”
In that moment, Brain’s mind cleared. The enemy was a distant existence. He had no energy to spare on useless thoughts.
Brain used [God Flash]. It was a martial art that no human opponent could detect, let alone defend against.
Even so, he could not touch the monster before him, not even if he combined his [Field] and [God Flash]
At that level, his opponent could still stop it between her fingers. Therefore, Brain added one more technique to the mix.
The face of Gazef Stronoff rose before his eyes.
He had thought that the next time they met, they would have a showdown once and for all.
However, after meeting him in the Royal Capital, Brain had changed his mind.
Brain now felt nothing but camaraderie for his greatest foe — once an obstacle he had to overcome, now his best rival.
He had accepted that he would die, here and now.
Perhaps it’s too late… but thank you, my greatest enemy (dearest friend)…
With that, his heart lightened. Without confusion, he allowed himself to let go. Even the shame of the past had vanished.
Brain cried out like some sort of strange bird. It came from the depths of his soul, carrying the full power of his being.
He executed an incredibly high-speed [God Flash], aiming it based on the information gained from the use of his [Field]. But he did not stop there— from the [Instant Flash], he continued into another move.
That move was—
—Four simultaneous sword strikes.
That was Gazef Stronoff’s technique, the very same one that had defeated Brain Unglaus at the martial arts tournament where they had first fought. It was a move that Brain had admired, even as he told himself he was only learning and imitating it in order to fully understand his opponent. It was a technique that he had sealed away with his hatred and resentment.
But now, in this moment, freed of all self-doubt and restraint, Brain used it without hesitation.
“[Fourfold Slash of Light]!”
In truth, the Fourfold Slash of Light had a massive weakness.
Executing four simultaneous attacks would place a massive burden on the body, and it would cause the attacks to scatter in different directions. Because this technique’s accuracy was low, even its creator Gazef only used it when surrounded by multiple opponents.
Although the Fourfold Slash of Light did not make as many attacks as the Sixfold Slash of Light, it was easier to direct all the attacks toward the same opponent. Even so, getting them all to connect was still quite unlikely.
This wild attack should not have been able to strike Shalltear Bloodfallen. Brain was very clear on that.
But Brain possessed a martial art that Gazef did not. It was a support technique that provided an accuracy boost within its radius— [Field].
The four wild swings were corrected mid-flight by the superhuman precision of [Field], following the path Brain had visualized for them.
All four blows struck home with complete accuracy at super-speed.
♦ ♦ ♦
Even a hero — one who had surpassed all other humans — would have had trouble blocking that attack. Mortals, wrought of weak flesh and bones, would not be able to even muster up the stamina to defend against it. This was an inhuman blow.
But Shalltear Bloodfallen was well above humanity herself, standing in a league of her own that nobody could ever hope to exceed. To someone like her, those four simultaneous strikes were little more than a snail taking a stroll in the sun.
Shalltear snorted at him as her left hand moved faster than the eye could see. A sound of metallic clashing rang out through the night air. What had happened was that the simultaneous deflection of the four strikes had blended into a single sound.
All four blows had been repelled, leaving her untouched.
Shalltear shrugged her shoulders, laughing under her mask. It was not directed at the foolish warrior before her eyes, but rather at herself for having played along with him thus far.
But then, in the next moment, Shalltear’s eyes went wide.
♦ ♦ ♦
Right now, if someone had converted their ability into data and compared them, he would undoubtedly be cheering for Brain.
Indeed, it was a miracle, like the sun rising from the west, a sight that would fill people with awe and respect.
♦ ♦ ♦
Before her eyes, the nail of her left pinky finger had been shortened. It was a tiny flaw less than a centimeter in length.
Shalltear considered the current situation. The place which had been cut was the same place which had been used to repel all the strikes.
Come to think of it, those four strikes had been executed in two pairs, one above and one below. They had intersected on the spot where Shalltear had intercepted the attacks.
“…Were you aiming for this?”
Suddenly, the man in front of her began laughing. Is he insane? Shalltear wondered. But it did not feel that way. More likely, he was laughing heartily over the fact that he had managed to slice off the tip of her fingernail, but she did not understand. So what if he managed to do it?
Shalltear’s nails and teeth were natural weapons, so using specialized weapon-destruction skills to sunder them was technically possible. However, they would simply grow back with the application of healing magic, and they were more easily broken than weapons of a similar level. That was all they were. They were inferior to Divine-class magic items like the Spuit Lance.
As such, Shalltear could not understand the reason for this man’s laughter.
Cutting off a fragment of her fingernail would not change anything. Shalltear looked at the other four fingers of her left hand. Even if the nail of her pinky finger was shaved down a little, it would still be enough to tear a human body to pieces.
“…so, cutting it off means you pass, then?”
The man’s eyes went round, and his jubilation intensified.
“I’m very grateful to you for such praise. My sword… my life was not spent in vain, after all. At the end, I still managed to make some progress towards the peak!”
That was not praise, however.
Shalltear was just mocking him.
However, she could tell that his feelings were honest. In other words, the man was truly rejoicing about being able to clip a fingernail.
Did he have a few screws loose? Come to think of it, he had spouted a pack of rubbish when they had first met. All in all, it made her feel uneasy, so she had better kill him quickly.
With that in mind, Shalltear stepped forward and—
—and Demiurge’s call to battle came through.
Shalltear knew what that meant. Despite herself, she looked over to the distance, but she could not sense a presence.
“Is that the effect of the Master’s ring?”
One of the rings that Ainz wore would completely conceal him from all kinds of divination-type magic. It was normally issued to all the guardians, but it could also erase the presence of the ruler of the Great Tomb of Nazarick.
With a sense of regret for not being able to sense her master, Shalltear turned her head back, and found that the human with a screw loose in his head had vanished.
Ah! I completely forgot about that strange fellow!
After a quick look around, Shalltear discovered that the man had turned his back to her and was busy jumping down into an alley. He must have made his move while she was distracted.
There’s no way a mere mortal could escape unscathed from me.
If she used magic to slow down the flow of time, she could catch up to him before he even hit the ground. Without hesitation, Shalltear cast her spell.
The world felt thick and viscous around Shalltear as she moved through it at incredible speeds, heading towards the place the man would land. As she descended, she observed his posture as he leapt down with glacial slowness. Although she could not harm him directly while the spell was in effect, she could still set up an ambush and make other preparations.
Just as well. I’ll open my arms to receive him as he falls. Surely a human like him will be overjoyed to be embraced by a full-figured beauty like myself.
The corner of Shalltear’s mouth quirked up as she thought of the expression that she would see on his face. As she landed on the ground, just before the spell ended, she sensed another presence close by.
It was a young man in a suit of pure white plate armor with a roguish-looking companion.
♦ ♦ ♦
Brain landed in the alley and looked back up, but Shalltear was no longer there.
She didn’t pursue me? No, that’s not right, what if she wants me to lead her to the others, like last time?
He had not planned to flee at first. His thoughts had been that it would be easier to buy time for Climb and the rest by escaping to lower ground.
Brain’s every action had been to let Climb escape. It was because of that that he had put on this entire show of running away.
But as he ran, he discovered something that should not have been there. That something was Climb and the thief, who were waving to him.
How could this—
Brain’s mind filled with emotion— intense anger and frustration.
His face distorted by wrath, he charged towards the two of them, grabbed them by the collar and kept running. This was obviously slower than just running by himself, but Brain was not calm enough to have considered that.
After they had run for some distance, and after checking repeatedly behind him to make sure that Shalltear had not caught up with them, he slammed Climb against a nearby wall. Because Brain had not thought to control his strength, Climb practically bounced off it.
“Why? Why didn’t you run?!”
Although his emotions were on the verge of overflowing, Brain still had enough presence of mind to keep himself from shouting out loud.
“That… that was…”
Brain grabbed hold of Climb again.
“That was what?! Were you worried about me?! I clearly told you two to escape!”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, I don’t know what happened, but back then, you just said some stuff and ran off. The fault isn’t Climb-kun’s alone!”
After hearing the thief’s words, Brain began to calm down. It was true that he hadn’t explained anything at all. He forced himself to take deep breaths.
“…Forgive me, Climb-kun. I seem to have gone a little mad.”
“Ah, no, you must forgive me too, for not heeding your words.”
“No, I was the one at fault, and I am truly sorry. Things just… happened.”
“…Hey, Unglaus-san, what happened? We may not have known each other very long, but just now, you seemed like a completely different person, like a novice who just picked up the sword.”
“Stopping here is very dangerous. I’ll tell you once we move. Let’s just say I met a monster who could give Sebas-san a run for his money.”
The three of them moved on warily. It might have been sheer luck that they had not met Jaldabaoth’s underlings while they were fleeing, but counting on that luck to continue would only end badly.
“Then… you’re unhurt, so it must have been a complete victory, right? Or… no, you settled it with words?”
“Not so. It was with the sword… I cut her fingernail off.”
Brain was filled with glee as he said it. There was no mistake about it— he, Brain Unglaus, had clipped the nail of the monster Shalltear Bloodfallen.
“I cut her fingernail off,” Brain repeated. He was trying his best to control the overflowing joy that welled up from the depths of his heart, but even so, he was practically trembling with emotion.
“I… I see. Cutting a fingernail off… I guess doing it with a sword is pretty impressive…”
The thief shook his head and trembled slightly.
“…that nail belonged to someone who could rival Sebas-sama. Don’t you think she must have been very strong?”
“Is that so? As expected of Brain Unglaus…”
Brain struggled to contain his girlish excitement as he was showered in praise. He shook his head to clear these foolish ideas from it.
“Climb-kun, no, Climb. After seeing Sebas-sama you should know, right? There are people stronger than me everywhere. Even someone like Momon the Black has probably reached Sebas-sama’s level too. So keep this in mind, when I tell you to run, run. Even if you try and help, you’ll just get in the way. Please promise me, next time, don’t question what I say and just do it.”
“I… I understand.”
“Then that’s good. You’re serving the Princess, right? Because of that, you could endure Sebas-sama’s killing intent, right? Then make sure you keep your priorities straight.”
Brain patted Climb on the shoulder, and looked back at the direction from which they had fled.
Why? Why hasn’t she pursued me yet? Is there some reason? I totally didn’t expect her to show up here. Could it be, was it because of the warehouse district?
Brain recalled Renner’s words.
Could it be that she was looking for the same item as Jaldabaoth? If that’s the case, wouldn’t that make her one of Jaldabaoth’s agents?
Since a monster like Shalltear had shown up, the only sensible thing to do would be to abandon the mission and flee right away, but would Climb be able to do that? Since he had already heard Brain’s lecture, he would probably listen to Brain and escape.
Would that really be a good thing?
It was obviously good to be concerned for Climb’s safety, but people sometimes chose to put their lives in danger for the sake of something else, and being ordered by Renner on this suicide mission was such an occasion.
Brain did not know what kind of life Climb had lived before he earned his name, or how he had served the Golden Princess afterward. Even so, Brain did not think it would be wise to unnecessarily interfere with Climb’s determination to carry out Renner’s orders.
Brain pulled the thief over, and spoke to him after making sure Climb couldn’t see or hear them talk.
“Hey, do you think it was a good idea to bring Climb here? Wouldn’t it be better to make sure he went home safe rather than completing the mission?”
“…You’re a big old softy, aren’t you?”
“Enough with that nonsense. And considering you’re the one who volunteered to be the emergency stand-in for this suicide mission, I think you’re the bigger softy.”
The thief laughed nervously, and then looked at the confused youth who was facing them.
“How shall I put it… seeing a kid like him fight so hard made me remember the days when I was still young, even if it was just for a while. I think I understand how you feel about this too. Even so…”
The thief’s eyes shone with a sharp and brilliant conviction.
“It was the path he chose. We have no right to force him off it.”
“I’m interested in that brat too. I’m pretty certain how he feels about the princess, judging by the look in his eye and the way he reacts when put in danger. Hell of a kid, isn’t he? He’s got a thoughtless and crazy wish in his heart. Because of that… he’s like a thief who’s set his eyes on the Kingdom’s most valuable treasure.”
“That’s right. He might still die, but at least he’ll have chosen it.”
With that, Brain made up his mind.
“Then, we’d best get a move on. Don’t know when Shalltear might catch up with us.”
Lower Fire Month (9th Month), 5th Day, 03:38
The adventurers from the palace retreated past the barricade to the rear. The guards they passed through had been ordered to hold the line until the adventurers’ wounds could be healed.
Once the adventurers had passed through the opening in the barricade, it was immediately filled up again with planks and other debris.
Nobody else remained in front of the barricade. This meant that this was the frontline.
Looking back, the guards could see the ragged adventurers as they limped towards the rear. Fresh claw and scorch marks adorned their armor, as did the sprays of fresh blood.
Further behind that was the wall of fire burning in the background. They had penetrated roughly 150 meters into enemy territory. Indeed, judging by the dread that the once-familiar capital had inspired in them, it felt like a foreboding, alien world; enemy territory indeed.
The adventurers had spent time wrecking the surrounding houses and tearing parts of them down to form a barricade. The guards had thought it would be a useful obstacle, but now it seemed puny and insignificant. It felt like it would crumble at the first sign of serious resistance.
“It’s okay. The demons haven’t pursued the adventurers. The enemy hasn’t chosen to attack, they’re just shoring up their defense. No problems. They won’t attack.”
Someone else was repeating these words again. They were meant to mask his anxiety and embodied his wish to return home alive. He repeated his prayer to his god.
There were forty-five men manning the barricade. They carried long spears and wore leather armor. Among these was a man in a helmet, Bona Ingray. He was one of several guard captains mobilized tonight.
Though he had the title of captain, in truth he was no different than the other guards. His physique was nothing special, nor was his mind particularly sharp. The younger guards were stronger and faster than him. He had made it to this position simply because he had served as a guard until he was 40, and because there was nobody else to fill it.
His face turned pale, and his hands gripped his spear so tightly the edges of his fingers turned white. Looking closely, one could see that his legs were trembling. His gaze was fixed forward solely because he did not want to see something horrible. His entirely unreliable posture only increased the guards’ unease further.
Then again, it was to be expected, considering this was the first time their lives would actually be on the line in a battle.
The Kingdom fought with the Empire every year, sending troops to the Katze Plain. But the guards were tasked with the protection of the city, and thus they were not dispatched to the frontlines. Because of this, the position of city guard was coveted by those citizens who did not want to fight against the Empire. But now―
They had ample experience dealing with squabbles between drunken peasants, but there had never been a case where they had to fight to the death. Because of that, their fear grew even further. The only reason they did not break and flee was because they knew running away would be an unforgivable sin.
Even if they were somehow absolved, they would still be guilty of not protecting the city properly. That was the sole reason why they had not been sent to the front. If they failed in doing that, then they would surely be forced into the frontlines during the next war with the Empire.
“I’m going to quit my job as a guard if I make it through this in one piece.”
Bona grumbled to himself quietly, and many of the people around him agreed.
“Do you still remember what the adventurers said?”
“Are we talking about what to do if we encounter Hellhounds, Greater Hellhounds, Gazer Devils and Demon Swarms?”
“That’s right. Does anyone know anything about fighting demons? Especially their weak points, what they’re bad at, that sort of thing.”
Nobody answered; they were too busy looking at each other.
Bona’s expression conveyed how useless he thought they were without having to say a word. When he saw dissatisfaction on some of the others’ faces, he looked away and slammed the butt of his spear into the ground.
“Damn it! Can’t those adventurers explain better?”
The adventurers who had shared their knowledge with the guards had been heavily wounded and were falling back as fast as they could. Just telling them the name of the enemy was all they could do, let alone telling them how they looked like, or how to fight them.
However, it would be too harsh on the adventurers to solely blame them for this situation. There was no proper communication between the guards and the adventurers, and as a result the amount of information being shared was low. In fact, forming the defense line out of guards who didn’t know anything could be blamed on the senior guards as well. Also, not all guards were uninformed about the demons. Under different circumstances, some of them might have learned something about the enemy.
One such platoon of guards had sent some of their members to help the adventurers retreating past them, and had learned a lot in the process.
This group, however, had not done so because their leader was frozen with fear and had not even turned to look at the retreating adventurers, and he certainly did not want to decrease the amount of troops guarding the barricade by assisting the adventurers.
“They’re paid more than us to do the same job! They should fight harder! Until they die!”
Several men nodded as Bona shouted.
“Our lives are at risk too! Those guys shouldn’t be running off and leaving it all to us!”
Bona called out to the nearby guards. Those further away stared coldly at him, while the ones closer to him yelled out their displeasure with the adventurers as well.
At the sound of the lookouts’ voices, Bona looked like he had been choked.
Everyone’s eyes filled with the shapes of the demons loping towards them from the shadowed street.
At their head was a demon that looked like a cross between a man and a frog. Its skin was a jaundiced yellow, gleaming with a sticky, shiny coating. Its body was covered in huge lumps which looked like human faces pressed out against its skin from the inside.
A mouth that could swallow a man in one gulp gaped open, and an abnormally long tongue began tasting the air.
Around it were Hellhounds, waiting for their prey.
After that were demons which looked like a human being that had been skinned and its exposed musculature painted with some kind of slimy black liquid.
There were 15 hounds, one swollen-bodied demon covered in faces, and six of the flayed demons.
“There’s too many!” Bona cried like the tolling of a bell. “We can’t hold them! Run!”
“Dammit!” came the angry retort. “Shut the hell up!”
Ignoring Bona’s wails of despair, the guards looked to their comrades, tension knotting up their faces.
“Listen up! All you need to do is stick them with the pointy end! Our job isn’t to kill them! It’s to buy time! It’s not hard! We’re all going to make it!”
We’re going to make it. Some people repeated that cry, and then it was taken up by others.
“Hell yeah! Let’s go!”
Even the guards with terrified faces grabbed their spears and got into their ranks.
“You come join us too!”
Someone grabbed Bona and dragged him to his place. There was no time for playing around.
The demonic beasts howled, and began tearing down the barricade at an incredible speed. The guards’ spears stabbed out at them from between the ever-widening gaps in the barricade.
The pained wails of the hellhounds rose up from all around them. Those demonic beasts that had not been stabbed hastily fled the barricade. They howled mournfully as they paced around the barricade, as though assessing the situation.
Some of the more collected guards thrust their spears through the gaps at the nearer hellhounds, which drove them away.
Slowly, the faces of the guards began to cheer up.
The demons in the back had disgusting grins on their faces, and the guards were still uneasy because they didn’t know what the demons would do. However, letting time pass like this was still good. After all, their job was not to defeat the demons.
“Wh-what the?!” a lone guard cried out as he watched what was happening in front of him.
The enemy had formed into a neat line, just barely beyond the reach of the thrusting spears.
This was completely different from the wild assault just now. The guards began growing uneasy. If they knew what the hellhounds were up to, maybe they could have changed their formation or done something about it. As it was, all they could do was thrust their spears between the gaps.
But just when they thought that was all they would have to do, the demonic beasts opened their maws, so widely that it looked as though they were dislocated. One could see red within their throats.
Jets of crimson flame shot out in unison at the barricade, engulfing the entire thing in fire. The guard’s eyes could see nothing but red.
Although the fire was intense, it still could not burn down the barricades within a few seconds. This did not make much difference to the guards on the other side, though.
Screams broke out all around. Some had their eyes burned up, others had their lungs and gullets scorched because they inhaled the flames. In the end, all of them fell like flies. The only guards to survive were the ones at the sides, because the ones in the center were no longer breathing after being consumed by the flame.
The words nobody wanted to say escaped from Bona’s mouth. His movements thereafter were remarkably fast, as he threw down his spear and discarded his helmet, all to let him flee faster.
The remaining guards were stunned. They had considered retreating, of course, but none of them had fled with such amazing skill as him.
Bona ran away with a speed that was hard for human beings to follow. The surviving guards looked on slack-jawed as Bona’s back faded into the distance.
However, his flight was abruptly halted by a demon falling out of the sky.
The swollen-bodied demon flew without wings, and landed squarely on Bona’s back, making a cracking noise like dried branches snapping as it did.
Bona cried out in pain. Though it could have killed him easily, the demon did not do so. However, that was most definitely not an act of mercy.
The demon opened its mouth and swallowed Bona whole. Its distended belly hardly changed even as it ingested him— no, there was a new swelling, with a human face on it.
Though it was hard to tell, it looked like it belonged to Bona.
Even as the sound of the barricade being torn down reached their ears, the guards did not move. So much for being an obstacle; against demons, it was little more than a pile of matchsticks.
The demons who broke through the barricade encircled the guards. A strangled cry came up from them, for they knew they would certainly die here.
It was answered by the laughter of the surrounding demons, mocking the foolishness of these humans.
One of the guards looked to the sky, praying for his god to save him. Instead, he saw something bizarre in the night sky.
He saw a group of strange-looking people flying towards them at high speed. Two of them were supporting a third, who was wearing jet-black plate armor. He was wrapped in a crimson cape and carrying a gigantic sword in each hand.
Though they seemed far away, the voice carried clearly over the distance.
The two flying supporters released their grip. The dark warrior picked up speed, as though he had been pushed forward by some force from behind, tracing a trajectory downward that ended in the middle of the road. He skidded across the ground as though there were no friction, only managing to brake after chopping off the head of a hellhound in passing.
Both sides paused to watch this outrageously dramatic entry. The silence was deafening.
“I am the adventurer Momon. Fall back. I’ll take over.”
At first, the soldiers were unable to comprehend what the warrior of darkness had just said to them. Then, the howls of several hellhounds brought them back to reality. He was the savior that they needed.
“Hellhounds… that’s all of them? Even twice the number wouldn’t be enough!”
The hellhounds sprang at the dark warrior Momon from all sides. In seconds they had enveloped him, forming a cordon from which there was no escape.
Even if he tried to parry them with a sword, he would be torn apart by the surrounding hellhounds. Even if he tried to sweep them away, he would still be mauled to death by the rest of the beasts. Being hit by a leaping Hellhound’s charge would break his balance and leave him unable to defend against the attacks that would follow.
This was a brutal strategy that leveraged on superior numbers to win.
The anguish on the face of the guards was only natural, but none of them knew what true power was.
The gigantic sword slashed, and a mighty wind followed in its wake.
Everyone present was speechless.
That was a single swing of his blade. A normal person would only have been able to bring one hound down at most. However, just as the sword’s wielder was no mere human, that stroke was not something a mere human could do.
That single blow cleaved through four of the seemingly invincible hellhounds that the guards had no hope of defeating.
Momon turned with the force of his swing, though he had slightly lost his balance because he had used all his strength. There were still other hellhounds left, and now it seemed impossible for him to avoid their attacks.
Even though he wore a suit of sturdy plate armor, the hellhounds had sharp teeth, and claws that could rend steel. And there would be no way to survive unscathed after being attacked by that many hellhounds.
In the guard’s eyes, they imagined the adventurer who had come to save them taking countless wounds.
However, they had been far too presumptuous, after all.
Momon did not try to forcibly regain his balance, but turned with the momentum. The crimson cape fluttered, like a cyclone of fire. With graceful steps that almost looked like dancing, Momon stepped lightly upon the ground, while his swords spun in a horizontal sweep from left to right, roaring as they went.
The remaining Hellhounds were cut apart, their bodies flung far into the distance by the power of his swings. Any Hellhounds who could still move were long gone.
“Just… just two hits?”
The murmuring from one guard represented the words in their hearts. Or rather, after seeing the majesty of this display, they had nothing else to say.
“Next up… an Over Eating and Gazer Devils, huh. Such meaningless opponents.”
After muttering to himself, Momon strode over to the demons. There was no caution or wariness in his footsteps. It was as though he were walking through a park. Normally, the guards would have called out to him to stop, but after seeing his prowess, nobody could even think of doing that.
The only thing mere mortals could do was watch the back of a great warrior as he went to work.
Unable to bear the encroaching pressure that came from the man approaching him so casually, the Gazer Devils roared and leapt at him.
There was a flash of light.
The dismembered parts of their corpses flew in all directions.
Momon had not broken his stride for even a single second. He continued walking, as though the Gazer Devils had never existed, with an ease like he was alone in the wilderness.
As though reacting to the guards’ words, the Over Eating opened its maw. It was like the jaws of those snakes which could open up and swallow their prey whole. In its depths, one could see the flickers of fires within. The tormented expressions intensified on the faces pressed out from the inside of its body, and theirs were the screams of souls condemned to a fate worse than death.
The Over Eating could consume the souls of its victims to produce a wail that would terrify and kill any living creature.
However, before that, its head had been chopped off.
The thrown sword sprouted from its body as the head fell to the ground.
“There’s no problem if you kill it before it can wail.”
With that, Momon walked over and wrenched his sword out of the corpse.
In just a few tens of seconds, he had exterminated the demons the guards thought were impossible to beat.
The guards cried out. It was the joyous sound of men who had been granted a miraculous reprieve from death.
Though bathed in praise, Momon took no notice of it and instead spoke calmly to the guards.
“…After this, I will be moving to lead the adventurers’ counterattack. You fellows need to hold the line for just a little longer. Well, I guess since I’ve already taken these guys out, the next wave won’t be coming so soon. Nabe, Evileye, you can come get me now.”
The two magic casters descended from the sky to pick Momon up. As he rose into the air, Momon turned to say one last thing to the guards.
“I’m going to take out the enemy leader. Until then, please protect the civilians behind you. I’m counting on you guys.”
As they watched Momon fly from the area, the guards sighed.
After what that hero had said to them, nobody could possibly complain about defending this area with their lives.
“Oi! Get the roadblocks up! We need to get ready to stop the enemy’s advance again! Worry about what happens when it gets torn down later!”
♦ ♦ ♦
Lower Fire Month (9th Month), 5th Day, 03:44
Lakyus stood at the head of the assault team that was formed of mithril and orichalcum ranked adventurers. Tina was by her side too, and together they advanced.
Before she set out, Lakyus had heavily considered her position. Anyone who could use resurrection magic should not be on the frontlines. However, Lakyus’ absence would lead to a huge drop in fighting power. Since the priority was to get Momon safely to Jaldabaoth, it stood to reason that Lakyus should not stay in the back.
They avoided the route Momon had taken, instead choosing to take one that led them to a location which had a barricade manned by guards. All they saw on the way there were streets painted in blood, with chunks of shredded meat scattered everywhere. Of course, the barricade had been destroyed so thoroughly that there was no sign it had ever existed to begin with.
In order not to make too much noise, the adventurers formed up into a group and crept ahead. However, after only about 30 meters of movement, they turned a corner and were beset by demons.
At the start of the battle, the adventurers, with their high personal combat ability, enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in combat.
Gradually, however, the balance of power began to shift. This was because their opponents had a numerical advantage that overwhelmed the adventurers’ prowess in single combat. Their numbers were so great that it seemed as though every demon in the area had converged on them.
“Hold fast! Keep fighting!”
Lakyus called out while casting her group support spell. Of course, none of the adventurers would retreat. They knew how important this battle was.
In contrast with Evileye’s task, which was to eliminate the trash that tried to get in Momon’s way, their task was to put pressure on the demons and keep them from spreading out.
In that sense, fighting so many demons head-on was, in a way, Momon’s greatest support. The longer they fought here, the higher Momon’s chances of victory would be.
Warcries and the clashing of steel blended together, and the sound of spells being cast and special abilities being used — like flame breath burning up human bodies — blended together in a chaotic mix.
After Lakyus confirmed the situation, her face contorted. The words of a certain adventurer stuck in her mind.
“The demons have become stronger.”
Could it be that they had opened the door to the demon world, and summoned even more powerful demons? Was the wall of fire the boundary between this world and the next? What would happen if they let things progress over time? Even if they defeated Jaldabaoth, could they restore the capital to peace? Would this all be for nothing?
“There’s no point thinking about this!”
As she shouted it out, Lakyus’ countless worries dispersed.
If she did not give it a try, she would never know. For that reason, Lakyus drew her sword.
One of the Floating Swords hovering at her shoulders rose up and shot out at her command. With a speed that split the air, it pierced a leaping Hellhound right through the mouth, destroying it without leaving so much as a corpse behind.
Looking around, Lakyus realised they had been surrounded. The advance which had just begun had halted, and since they were encircled by multiple layers of the enemy, there was no chance of relief. There was nothing to do but fight.
The vanguard cast aside their broken weapons and drew their spares. The magic casters who had run out of mana used their scrolls or wands to cast their spells instead. They were running on fumes.
The outer ring of adventurers were orichalcum-ranked, while the mithril-ranked defended the wounded in the middle and the magic casters who had run out of mana.
This is bad… if this keeps up, we’ll be worn down and defeated. Haven’t they done it yet? Haven’t they defeated Jaldabaoth yet?
A cry rang out, and as Lakyus turned her head, she saw a warrior who had been knocked down by a demon.
Before Lakyus could move, Tina was charging at the demon, filling the gap that had been formed.
The fallen warrior was carried off by other adventurers. It was good that he was still alive, but the situation was still very bad. The fact that nobody was casting healing spells was a clear sign that the mana of the priests who used divine magic was completely depleted.
We have to fall back.
If their lines were broken, they would be routed in an instant. Lakyus could not let them die like this. She considered what might happen if Momon were to be defeated, and realised that she would have to be very careful about it.
Retreating while completely worn out would be extremely difficult. It would be better to fall back while they still had the strength to do so.
Just as Lakyus was about to give the command to retreat, she gasped as a new demon descended from the sky.
It was roughly three meters tall, and its muscular body was covered in reptilian scales. It had a tail that resembled a snake.
Its head was a goat skull, and its eyes were beacons of bluish-white fire in empty black sockets.
In its mighty arms, it held a gigantic maul.
It spread the bat-like wings on its back. With a flap of its wings, it sent a wave of freezing air cascading forth, and a wave of soul-shattering terror accompanied it. Although they had fear-resistance magic cast and thus did not panic, this was a clear demonstration of the power of this demon, which was stronger than any they had encountered so far.
Sweat flowed like a river.
“―This is bad.”
With ample mana and the adventuring parties at full strength, they would probably have been able to beat it. If they could just learn more about their opponent and fight it later, they would definitely have triumphed, but right now, none of these conditions were present. Evileye, who was very knowledgeable and could use powerful magic, was not here. Gagaran, who could defend against her opponent’s blows and immediately press the advantage to counterattack, was not here. Tia, who could deftly evade her enemies’ attacks and attack them with her ninjutsu, was not here either. The only ones here were two tired people.
She looked over to Tina, who nodded to show that she was ready to die here. Lakyus closed both her hands around the hilt of Kilineyram and began walking toward the demon. At this moment, a nearby orichalcum-ranked adventurer grabbed her shoulder and shouted.
“We’ll hold him back! You should escape!”
Seeing the look of surprise on Lakyus’ face, he continued speaking.
“If you’re alive, you can use resurrection magic. Because of that, you have to make it back alive, no matter what. The rest of us are counting on you to revive us!”
The man smiled, his expression filled with masculine charm. It was a smile that suited an orichalcum-ranked adventurer like him. The adventurers around him nodded in unison.
When one thought calmly about it, they were right. Rather than prepare herself to die, she should prepare herself to live, so she could extend a lifeline to the ones who would fall in battle.
“The material components for a resurrection spell are very expensive. How about giving us a discount?”
“Hey, didn’t you say you wanted to be the pride of the princess or something?”
“Let the damn nobles pay for it! They’ve certainly got the coin!”
And just like that, as though they were going for a picnic, several adventurers peeled off from the huddled group. There was no discussion, not even a glance in each others’ eyes— they simply walked out in perfect synchronization to stand before the demon.
Seeing the carefree way in which they went to their deaths, Lakyus bit her lip and turned away.
“Break out with all your strength! As long as you can walk away in the end it’ll be fine!”
With that, Lakyus charged the demonic hordes, raising Kilineyram in her hands. She trusted her defense entirely to her armor and her magic. Abandoning the nearly-broken defensive line, she prepared to carve a crimson road through the demons.
It felt like she was being ripped to shreds, her flesh pierced by daggers, forcing Lakyus to grit her teeth against the pain that assailed her. From a detached point of view, she knew that her body was nearing its limits, so she cast a silent healing spell. Although Lakyus absolutely had to survive this encounter, she could not do it without exerting herself to her utmost.
Lakyus channelled most of her remaining mana into Kilineyram. The stars in its body began to shine with an unearthly radiance, and the body of the blade swelled up as well.
“Super move! [Dark Blade Mega Impact]!”
With a horizontal sweep, black power flowed out in a vast, slashing wave. The lower ranking demons were reduced to sightless atoms by the explosive burst of non-elemental energy.
Strictly speaking, calling the attack was not necessary, but if it worked, it worked. However—
“Still… not… enough?!”
Lakyus’ tired eyes could only see a veritable wall of low-tier demons. Although she had just blown away so many of them in one stroke, the breach she made had been immediately filled back up.
Could she break through? Lakyus’ unease began growing again. Kilineyram had returned to its original dimensions.
At this moment, Lakyus saw behind the demons— a flash of metal, the roar of a man’s voice.
“—[Sixfold Slash of Light]!”
The six simultaneous cuts cleaved the demon hordes apart.
“[Sixfold Slash of Light]! [Pace of the Wind]! Hnnnnnn!”
Another seven demons were slashed through like a hot knife through butter. That sharpness made her think of Razor Edge, the sword that could cut through anything, and it scared the demons senseless.
“Kill them all!”
In time with his wrathful cry, a hedge of spears bristled out from behind Gazef.
There was no mistaking the glint of that metal. Countless spears stabbed out from behind Gazef. Those were the Royal Guard and the knights who defended the Royal Palace, a force of hundreds of soldiers that looked like they were going to flood the alley.
Seeing that they were outnumbered more than two to one, the demon horde’s encirclement began to waver.
Shouts of joy rang out, and the ragged adventurers began to retreat, covered by the soldiers.
“Why— what is Stronoff-sama doing here?”
Was he not supposed to stay behind to protect the palace and the royal family? As though in response to Lakyus’ words, his face turned in a certain direction.
Lakyus’ line of sight followed his, and her eyes widened. There were four priests and four arcane magic casters protecting an old man. Upon his head was the crown which only one person in the kingdom was permitted to bear. His body was clothed in sturdy armor.
King Ranpossa III.
This was a supremely dangerous move.
Although his body was protected by plate armor, some demons’ attacks could easily pierce steel. Also, even if he were protected, area-effect spells that overwhelmed his protectors could still harm the king. And the king was still an ordinary person, so he would probably die if struck by some magic. Even if resurrection spells could be used on him, the king would surely be unable to bear the life force drain it would cause.
“His Majesty so declared— ‘are you to protect this lifeless city, or me?’ There can only be one answer to that. To guard the King’s body is my duty. That being the case, this is a battlefield where we must fight! Charge!”
The soldiers let out an earthshaking cry, and thundered forward.
Force clashed against force, but just when everyone thought the tide had turned, the body of an orichalcum ranked adventurer flew through the air, hitting a nearby wall and leaving a bright red splatter mark.
As though saying, “come get some”, the giant demon’s body halted the soldiers in their tracks.
There were monsters which could not be beaten by mere numbers alone.
“Stronoff-sama! Give me a hand!”
The voice that followed Gazef’s answer made Lakyus’ eyes go wide.
“Hang on. Don’t you need an awesome fighter backing you up?”
“And an excellent ninja-to-be as well.”
There was no mistaking these voices. Still, Lakyus called out in surprise, still barely able to believe her ears.
The two of them slowly stepped out in front of her. They were fully armed and ready for battle.
“Yo. I’ve gotten stiff from all this sleeping around, so I asked Stronoff-san to bring me along.”
“Ready to fight.”
It should not have been like this. She already told them they were forbidden to fight right after being resurrected. Normally, one would need to get complete bed rest and even then they would still feel drained. Even so, they knew how important this battle was, which was why they had joined the fight.
Getting everyone back together was the biggest boost she could receive.
Lakyus prayed with all her heart.
She prayed that Momon would defeat Jaldabaoth, and get rid of the demons in the capital.
Lower Fire Month (9th Month), 5th Day, 03:46
“I see him.”
Looking ahead, one could see the masked demon standing in the center of the plaza, making no attempt to hide himself. Although she could not see the forms of other demons, Evileye was not foolish enough to think that they were not there.
Having noticed them approaching, Jaldabaoth turned and bowed elegantly. There could only be one meaning behind this.
“A trap… what now, Momon-sama?”
“It doesn’t matter what awaits us. We just have to smash it all.”
Momon’s tone no longer had its original seriousness and formality, which was probably because their travel together had made them more familiar with each other. With this in mind, Evileye began switching to a more casual way of speaking as well. If she kept concealing her true self, when they started going out seriously, they would probably break up right away. So even though revealing her true self might have been too early, taking a more casual tone would probably be a good idea, Evileye thought.
“It seems it’s starting right on schedule.”
From behind, the sound of drums and battle cries rang out. In order to ensure Momon could fight Jaldabaoth one-on-one, the troops would begin their attack. This was the only chance they had. As such, there was no other way to save the capital other than by defeating Jaldabaoth.
“Ahh, that seems to be the case. It would appear that it’s time for the final battle. Momon-sama… leave the other enemies to myself and Nabe. You should focus all your attention on fighting Jaldabaoth, Momon-sama.”
“Understood. In that case, since you’ve come this far with me, when I defeat Jaldabaoth and return in triumph, can I hope that you will stand by my side? Nabe, please work with her. I hope the three of us can return together.”
The three of them landed in front of Jaldabaoth. Evileye looked around, and from a house adjoining the plaza, a maid appeared.
She wore a mask like the last time she saw her, with a fixed expression. But Evileye could feel the hatred directed at her.
There’s probably more than one of them.
Jaldabaoth already knew who was stronger between herself and the insect maid. Now that their side also had Nabe, a magic caster who might be able to rival him in power, there was no way he would join the battle alone. Was he planning to swamp them in demons, or was there another subordinate of a comparable level waiting in the wings? Both possibilities made Evileye break out in a cold sweat.
After that maid, more people in masks similar to his appeared.
They were all wearing strange maid uniforms.
And they numbered…
“…Four of them?!”
There were a total of five people with fighting power comparable to herself. Two against five would be far too great a difference in power. The battle seemed unwinnable from the very start.
“Damn it! I underestimated Jaldabaoth’s forces!”
If this kept up, they would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers, and then the maids would go on to interfere in Momon and Jaldabaoth’s duel.
In an evenly-matched battle, even a little bit of support could make the difference between victory and defeat, just like that battle with the insect maid.
“Then I will leave the five of them to you.”
Saying that, Momon grasped his swords in his hands, striding naturally toward Jaldabaoth.
As his mighty back receded from her, Evileye’s heart filled with sadness. If only she could lose herself in that flowing red cape of his, it would clear away all her unease and frustration.
Evileye rebuked the part of her that wanted to reach out a hand to him.
She had originally come here with the determination to die. Even if her opponents were stronger than expected, she could not do anything as shameful as beg for help. And Momon’s earlier words were clearly a sign of how much he trusted her. A man like him would never be so callous or cruel.
Come to think of it, he definitely said something from behind his back. If it was Evileye and Nabe, they would definitely be able to hold the enemy back until I won, something like that.
A fire blazed up from within the depths of Evileye’s heart.
“Then here I come, De… demon!”
Momon roared, and slashed at Jaldabaoth. A fierce battle started. In order to keep the other two from being drawn in, Momon pressured Jaldabaoth, slowly forcing him away.
“Then, I’ll take three and you take two, how about that?”
“Are you sure? I’m alright with three people too.”
“Hmph,” Nabe smirked.
“You take two, I’ll take three.”
Evileye felt she had a better grasp on Nabe’s personality, and smiled.
To be more precise, Evileye’s impression of Nabe as a rival was improving, as a fellow mage who could stand by Momon’s side.
Really, if it was just Momon and Nabe, I could just take off my ring and reveal my true form… Well, first I need to go back alive.
“You’re so stubborn. All right, I get it. I’ll take care of these two quickly, and then come to support you. Fight like you want to live— what?”
Evileye had the feeling that everyone present — all five maids and Nabe — were all looking at her. Something seemed out of place, as though they had already planned out everything in advance.
“No, there’s nothing.”
After that cold answer, Nabe took the first step to the side.
“Then, although I said I would handle three of them, our opponents will be the one deciding who they will send at us.”
The ones who were lured out were the insect maid, the twin-braided maid, and the drill-haired maid. The ones who stayed with Evileye were the maid with the bunned-up hair and the long-haired maid.
“My name is Alpha. This is Delta. We shall be your opponents.”
“Are you now? This is all quite formal. My name is Evileye. I am the one who shall defeat the two of you!”
Evileye had not intended to prolong the fight with conversation. Had she thought that way, her opponents might have picked up on it and killed her instantly. She had to be patient.
“Is that so? How scary.”
Evileye’s first move was to activate her ace in the hole. It was a special ability that would cause the negative energy flowing through her body to overload, and infuse every attack she made with negative status effects.
“Here I come!”
With a cry, Evileye began her spell.
♦ ♦ ♦
Lower Fire Month (9th Month), 5th Day, 03:59
“Don’t look down on me!”
The negative energy-infused crystals sprayed out at the running maid, Alpha. This was a bludgeoning and piercing physical attack, and the negative energy would drain her life force.
At least, it should have. However, Alpha kept running, with no sign that she had been hit at all.
Evileye took to the sky. Close combat was a very bad idea for an arcane magic caster. Putting more distance between them would increase her chances of victory.
As she floated into the sky, something bounced away before her eyes. It must have been an attack deflected by her [Crystal Shield], but at the same time, the sparkling light wrapping her body began dimming rapidly.
Although it could neutralize fairly powerful attacks, she would be lucky if the only things they threw at her were things the [Crystal Shield] could negate by itself. The [Crystal Shield] would only work against attacks below a certain level, and it was completely useless for anything more.
The one using ranged weapons was the maid in the rear, Delta. She had fired on Evileye when she was flying earlier.
Alpha’s spirits rose as she lunged at Evileye. It made her click her tongue.
Normally, Evileye would not even take anyone coming at her with their bare fists seriously, but that was only the arrogance she felt toward the insignificant beings who had always been beneath her. Shortly after fighting with Alpha, she was keenly aware of that. Alpha was truly a fearsome opponent. Every time she tried to open a gap between them, her opponent would come in swinging, several times faster than herself. If she took a direct hit without the protection of her barrier, she would be destroyed.
If she was still with Gagaran and Tia, she would not have been so careless. Now, Evileye felt like she was walking on a tightrope.
The most annoying thing was their flawless coordination. Teamwork could greatly increase the fighting power of adventurers. Right now, the two of them were giving her an object lesson in jolly cooperation.
“Shit! how can demons work together so well… what the hell!”
I have no right to say that, Evileye thought. The others in her party were humans, but she was one of the undead.
A gang sound rang out, and the protective [Crystal Shield] grew ever thinner. One more hit and it would be pierced.
Evileye cursed, trying to get away from Alpha, who was intent on chasing her down and beating her up. Although Evileye’s body was superior to a normal human’s by virtue of being a Vampire, Alpha’s physical abilities were even better than hers. The only reason why Alpha had not caught her already was entirely because of her [Fly] spell.
Using magic required focus, during which the body could not move. As a result, having to constantly back away was very difficult. Movement would disrupt one’s sense of balance and make concentration difficult. This was why magic casters stood still to cast their spells. Because of this, Evileye had chosen to use [Fly] to maintain a distance without disrupting her concentration, and thus fight a mobile battle. That was nothing special by itself; any magic caster who could use [Fly] had mastered that tactic. How well they did it was a matter of talent, but as a Vampire, Evileye had the natural ability to fly and 250 years of experience to master it in.
Even so, it took effort to escape from Alpha. And although she could kite one opponent in circles in the large plaza, there were two opponents.
Another gang sound rang out, and the barrier protecting her was completely destroyed.
It was hard to believe anything could break the [Crystal Shield] in three hits, but there was nothing to be done about it.
“[Sand Field— All]!”
Sand particles dispersed throughout the surroundings. Although Delta was too far away to reach, Alpha was completely caught in the area. Because it would affect one’s comrades too, this spell was useless in a group fight. Any opponent within its area would be immobilized, as well as being blinded, silenced and dazed. On top of that, because of Evileye’s trump card, the sand was infused with negative energy that would drain life force.
This 5th tier spell was her own creation. It was one of the strongest cards Evileye had up her sleeve.
However, Alpha did not slow down, nor did she look like she was hurt at all.
Was she immune to immobilization and negative energy?
“You deserve praise for that! What a splendid set of resistances!”
Alpha’s answer was to blur into a haze. As though she had performed a short-range teleport, she materialized in front of Evileye and kicked her in the face.
Her mask cracked with a mekii sound as Evileye was flung far away.
She bounced off the floor with a dang, dang before she managed to recover, groggily shaking her head.
Alpha’s fist collided with the suddenly-materialized crystal wall, producing a thunderous crash. Cracks spread where Alpha had struck it, as though it had been hit by a wrecking ball.
Another “dang” rang out, and as Alpha’s foot struck the ground, she transmitted her inner force into the cracks in Evileye’s wall, and it crumbled before her eyes.
“Is this fa jin?!”
At this moment, while trying to clear some distance with her [Fly] spell, Evileye felt a great tremor run through the earth. She did not know where it came from, but her instinct told her that it was the aftershocks of the battle of those two.
“Are they still fighting… no, most likely their fight has reached its climax. That means… I have to buy more time!”
As she said that, Evileye charged at the attacking Alpha.
She just needed a little bit longer. She had to drag this fight out. With that in mind, Evileye fully prepared herself for death, and carried out her kamikaze attack.
Alpha’s hands were moving in circles in preparation to receive Evileye. She stood tall, like an invulnerable fortress, but even seeing this, Evileye did not stop—
♦ ♦ ♦
Lower Fire Month (9th Month), 5th Day, 03:53
While Ainz and Jaldabaoth struggled with each other, they crashed into a house. The door shattered as Ainz drove Jaldabaoth into it, scattering splinters everywhere. The interior was dark and cramped, unsuited for Ainz to swing his sword.
Ignoring Jaldabaoth, Ainz rose to his feet and walked off. Jaldabaoth got up as well and followed him. They entered another room, with a small table, two chairs, and Mare.
Mare pulled up a chair for Ainz to sit. Then, with Ainz’s permission, Jaldabaoth removed his mask, revealing Demiurge’s face.
“Firstly, is this room secure?” Ainz asked.
“There is no problem. The words spoken here are for our ears alone.”
“Is that so… Well, then. First off, I have a favor to ask of you. Do not harm the guards I passed on the way here. While this place is fairly distant from E-Rantel, helping people in distress is good publicity.”
“Understood. Will it be acceptable to transmit orders by telepathy?”
“Go ahead. In the meantime, tell me about your plan.”
Even though Demiurge had already explained the plan to Narberal via [Message], she had not told him anything about it yet. He was forced to remain silent and not express his displeasure in order to make sure the plan was not ruined, but in his heart he was worried about it.
“Very well. This operation has four main objectives—”
“Ho… I only counted three. Four, you say?”
Demiurge smiled. It was a smile of smug satisfaction.
“I feel as though I have gotten the better of Ainz-sama for once.”
Ainz magnanimously waved his hand. Of course, he did not even know what the first three were, but Demiurge’s words still made him uneasy all over.
“You’ve always been one step ahead. I’ve got a long way to go.”
“What are you saying, my liege? Truly, you are too humble.”
“No, really— hn, forget it. Then, tell me about these objectives.”
“Indeed. To begin with, the objective of attacking the warehouse district was to secure the wealth and goods within and transport them to Nazarick. To facilitate this, I had Shalltear open [Gate] in front of the warehouses, and let Pandora’s Actor handle the matter of transportation.”
This was a very profitable objective indeed. Ainz silently praised Demiurge from the bottom of his heart.
Losing so much wealth would make life in the Royal Capital more difficult in the future, but at this point in time, Ainz had no way of knowing that. Right now, all he felt was relief that the problem of funds was solved for the moment.
“The second is to cover up our involvement in our attacks on the hideouts of the Eight Fingers in the area. As you have no doubt surmised, a direct attack on the Eight Fingers’ hideout would arouse suspicion. If we are unlucky, it might even lead to the exposure of Sebas and his contacts. As such, we expanded the area of operations in order to make others think our true aims lay elsewhere.”
In other words, they were using torn-off branches to conceal themselves in the forest.
“But can you do this? What will you use to convince them that you had another objective?”
“Please take a look at this, my liege.”
Demiurge gestured, and Mare brought in a bag, which he opened. Inside was a statue of a demon. Each of the demon’ six arms were grasped a different kind of jewel. A strange, pulsing light radiated from within.
“These jewels are imbued with the spell known as [Armageddon – Evil].
The 10th tier spell [Armageddon – Evil] was one that summoned a demon army. Although it could summon a massive amount of troops, each individual demon not very powerful. And if angels were hard to control, demons were even worse, with their tendency to go berserk at the worst possible moments, making it a very difficult spell to use. The normal usage capitalized on the fact that the summoned demons were not allies by default, so they could serve as live sacrifices for certain rituals and skills.
Much like how Shalltear used her Spuit Lance to kill her own summoned minions, this magic existed for a similar purpose.
“Though this item was created by Ulbert-sama, I feel it would be best used here.”
From the perspective of this world, it would make sense that an item like this would draw Jaldabaoth’s attention.
Ainz recalled the past.
It was about a friend called Ulbert, back when the Guild’s power was at its peak.
Originally, there had been a World-Class Item which could summon an unlimited number of demons that would eventually consume the entire world. Although that would cause a huge disturbance, Ulbert had been overjoyed when he heard about it and strove to create an item to imitate it. But when it turned out the item could not cast six spells simultaneously, he lost interest in it and gave up.
It was plain to see that Demiurge was reluctant to give up a possession like this. That was because it was a relic of his creator.
Ainz reached his hand into a pocket dimension, and withdrew a certain item.
“Demiurge, there is no need to use that. Take this as a substitute.”
The device Ainz withdrew looked similar to the demon statue Demiurge had prepared. However, its hands only held three gems, and it looked cruder in general.
“This was also a device made by Ulbert-san. Because it was a prototype, he wanted to dispose of it, but I thought that it was too much of a waste and kept it. How about using this instead?”
“How— how could I expend your treasures for my own schemes, Ainz-sama?”
“Is that how you see it? Very well, then. Demiurge, this is yours. Use it as you see fit. However, don’t you think Ulbert-san might be embarrassed that his failed experiment was still around?”
“This is… how can I express my gratitude to you for gifting me with such a wondrous magic item?”
Demiurge rose from his chair and knelt on the floor. Mare, seeing him, frantically knelt down beside him.
“Enough, Demiurge. Do you not have something else to do? Think of this as a token of my appreciation for your loyalty.”
“We Guardians were created by the Supreme Beings. As such, until the very moment of our extinction, we shall be utterly loyal to them. Even so, you have not only bestowed your mercy and care upon us in abundance, but you have even given into my keeping such a valuable treasure… although, I, Demiurge, have already sworn his complete and undying loyalty to you, permit me to once more offer my faithful service unto you, Ainz-sama!”
“Ah… erm, well, then, I shall look forward to your loyal service. Now, now, stand up. Demiurge. You had something else to say, no?”
“Ah, indeed I did! My sincerest apologies!”
Demiurge sat back down, and Mare returned to his standby position.
“Then, as I said earlier, Jaldabaoth targeted the hideouts of the Eight Fingers, and then proceeded to take control of the Kingdom’s warehouse district. Seizing the resources of the warehouses was also an aim. Naturally, this device created by Ulbert-sama will be found in one of the hideouts’ coffers.”
“That much is clear now. And what about the third objective?”
“Yes. I have already transported roughly half the humans within this firewall into Nazarick. There are many uses they can be put to, and the blame for this will fall squarely on the demon Jaldabaoth.”
So that was what he was up to, Ainz thought, but he still had some questions. Was there a benefit to letting Jaldabaoth’s villainy grow? Rather, instead of inventing the character of Jaldabaoth, would it not have been better to let some other demon do it?
“…So you intend to build infamy, then?”
“That is correct. The intention is to place Jaldabaoth upon the throne of the Demon King.”
“Now I see. So accomplishing my order was part of your plan, then?”
Ainz looked at Demiurge, who was bowing low to acknowledge that that was the case. He remembered the order he had given. He had handed out several of them, and one of them was to give rise to a Demon King.
“This touches on the fourth objective, which is to use this incident as a proving ground for our actions in the Holy Kingdom.”
At that moment, Ainz understood. He asked a question which had been weighing on his mind.
“Come to think of it, were these demons summoned from Nazarick?”
“How could I? I would not dream of doing so without your leave, Ainz-sama!”
“Hm? Given that I entrusted the task to you, and you received Albedo’s permission, I thought you would have used the forces of Nazarick…”
“No, my lord. Those were merely the summons of my Evil Lords. After a day has passed, they can be called forth again. The net loss to Nazarick is zero.”
“Is that so… I see why there are so many demons without memories in Nazarick. No matter, I understand. Then, another question, you said you sent every human here to Nazarick. That was regardless of whether they were male, female, young or old, correct?”
Ainz was vaguely upset by the way Demiurge could so easily and casually answer in the affirmative.
Humans were irrelevant. Perhaps Ainz had once been a human, but this body he had now felt no sympathy or closeness to them. It was as though they were a whole other species that could be casually kicked out of the way with one foot. He would slaughter any number of humans for the benefit of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. Even then, killing children still upset him. This was a vestige of the man who had once been Suzuki Satoru.
Ainz took a deep breath—despite having no lungs—and exhaled heavily.
“Demiurge. If a person has not given offense to myself or the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, they shall be slain swiftly and without suffering.”
Demiurge bowed deeply, without saying a word.
Ainz Ooal Gown’s priority was to ensure the stability and loyalty of his subordinates.
Since they had brought children back with them, releasing them safely would mean the details of Nazarick would escape with them. While it might be possible to raise them into zealots who were slavishly loyal to Nazarick, there were very few benefits to such a plan at the moment. As such, this was the greatest mercy he could give them.
“Then, are we done here?”
“There are two more matters for your consideration. Firstly, Mare has given us an excellent opportunity.”
Ainz turned his vision toward Mare, the nervous, fidgety boy.
“And that would be?”
“At the moment, we are still in the training phase, so the exact degree of success is debatable. I shall elaborate further when we return to Nazarick. Secondly, from my observations of the situation thus far, It is very likely that the ones who brainwashed Shalltear have no connection with the Kingdom.”
“I understand. Then, I look forward to receiving your help soon.”
“It will be gladly given. During our battle afterwards, please feel free to defeat me. I would do anything for you, Ainz-sama.”
“I see. Then, before I drive you off, could you damage my armor? It will be more convincing if I bear the signs of a hard fight.”
“That is to say, you will remove it, and then I will damage it? It is unthinkable for one such as myself to dare raise a hand against Ainz-sama—”
“What happens if I remove it and it’s so badly damaged that I can’t put it back on? During the Shalltear incident, I had a smith create flaws in the armor before putting it on. If I took it off here and you beat it out of shape, I would probably be unable to wear it again.”
Ainz laughed softly. The guardians before him, not understanding why, took on expressions of puzzlement.
“A-ah, Ainz-sama? I-isn’t th-that armor m-made by magic?”
“That is incorrect. This armor was not created from magic. I can see how you would think that way given that I, as a magic caster, am wearing it so naturally. But the truth is, I cast a warrior transformation spell and put it on. During the break before we travelled to the capital, I sent a [Message] to Albedo to have her begin future preparations. It seems it was the right choice.”
Sustaining the transformation spell and other magic would both lower mana and mana recovery rates to zero. Even though he could dispel the transformation if there was an emergency and use magic, he would be starting out from a depleted state. However, in this case it had been the right thing to do. Without it, the first battle with Demiurge might have been much more troublesome.
Demiurge’s already narrow eyes narrowed even further when he heard Ainz’s response. “As expected of you, Ainz-sama, everything dances within the palm of your hand. To think I would dare to match wits with such a great person… I should have expected nothing less of yourself.”
As Demiurge chuckled to himself, Ainz’s back ran with nonexistent sweat.
“Then, shall we begin? Demiurge, I’ll leave the battle damage to you.”
“Assuredly. Mare, send the signal. It will be an earthquake, like the last time.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Lower Fire Month (9th Month), 5th Day, 03:56
“Take my lightning!”
The [Lightning] spell lashed out, striking one of the maids.
The maid making the incredibly fake cry of pain was blown away like she was jumping by herself, until she vanished into the distance.
The drill-haired maid threw her knives. They travelled in a lazy arc and struck Nabe’s body.
As Nabe let out a deadpan cry of pain, she followed after the maid that had been blown away. Entoma pursued her silently.
They landed in the alley, forming a straight line. Ahead of Narberal was the maid with the two braids. Behind was Entoma and the drill-haired maid. This was a classic pincer attack, but there was no tension at all. Then again, how could there be? Back then, there had been the pretense of a fight, but now even that had completely evaporated, and the mood was like a group of schoolgirls chatting in a cafe.
“So anyways, this place’s been warded against spying by Nigredo-san. It should be okay now~”
“Is that so? Then… it’s been a while, Lupu~.”
The two-braided maid — Lupusregina Beta — laughed under her mask.
“It really has been a while su~ this is the first time we’ve met since you started running around with Ainz-sama, Nar-chan.”
“I did return to Nazarick from time to time, but during those times, you were at the village.”
“Oh well~ you know how it is, these things just happen. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen you in a while, Sol-chan~”
“The same. However, your way of speaking…”
“Oya? Sol-chan and Yuri-neesan were concerned about the same thing su~. But it’s okay~ I’ll be careful. En-chan’s the same way su~”
“That’s good… speaking of which, why is Entoma so quiet?”
“Ah… En-chan doesn’t seem to want to talk right now~”
“tHat lItTle bRaT ToOk mY VoicE!”
Narberal nodded to her. Entoma hated her original voice, so she tried to use it as little as possible.
“i WAnT To TAKe hERs In eXCHangE!”
Even though her true face was covered by a mask bug, her murderous intent and anger were still overflowing in her direction.
“You know that’s impossible. Since she is travelling with Ainz-sama, it will ruin his reputation if she doesn’t come back alive with him.”
Entoma was not happy with what Narberal said, but she kept quiet. It was obvious which came first between her master’s good name and her own desires. Every battle maid knew this.
“That little lady was quite strong. What is her name?”
“I have no interest in the names of oversized mosquitoes. Although, I think her name was Evil-something.”
“How mean su~ Didn’t you guys come together as comrades su~?”
Narberal frowned at her companion’s words, so Solution answered for her.
“…That would probably be Blue Rose’s Evileye. Sebas-sama wrote as such in one of his reports.”
“Ah, that sounds right.”
Narberal was sure that Solution had the correct name.
“Nar-chan, are you becoming retarded su~? Are you all right su~?”
“Can you all actually remember human names?”
“That is no problem for me. I might end up needing to know them during the course of my duties. I took care to commit a few important names to memory.”
“No probs here su~ actually, you could say I get along pretty well with humans, yanno?”
”No pRObLEMs HErE.”
Narberal was slightly shocked to realize that she was alone among her fellow maids. Just as she was considering whether to pay more attention to names, the sound of an explosion rang forth. Because the buildings on either side blocked visibility, they could not tell what had caused it.
“Ah, they must be getting serious over there.”
“Well, it’s Yuri-neesan and Shizu~ they’re always serious. But if the fight’s not over yet, that means they haven’t used their real strength yet.”
”If iT wAs Up tO Me I WoUlD fIgHt hER tO tHe DeATh!”
“Evileye is quite strong. Going by levels alone, she might not be an opponent Yuri-neesan or Shizu could beat.”
A shadow passed over the face of the battle maids for the first time. Only Narberal was different. She was confident.
“It will be fine.”
As everyone’s attention turned to her, she continued, “Evileye is probably an elementalist like myself. We are arcane magic casters that specialize in the use of a particular element. Although this means our attack power increases greatly, it also means that outside of our area of expertise, we are quite weak.”
“Earth-type, then… there should also be acid, poison or gravity, right? Why crystals su~?”
“It must be a further specialization on gemstones within earth-type magic. So she’s limited to crystal-type spells, but those are probably quite strong..”
“Bludgeoning and piercing physical attack magic… Seems ominous…”
If it were up to me, how would I kill Evileye? While the four of them were pondering this question, the earth shook. There was a slight difference between that and the shaking of the earth caused by a shockwave.
“ThiS EArtHqUAke mUSt HaVE BEEn caUsEd By MaRE-sAMA. thEn, ShALl WE moVE On to tHE nEXt stAGe?”
“Was that a sign of some kind?”
“That is correct, Narberal. Then, is it alright if we hurt you a little? It will not look good unless we rough you up a bit.”
“I’ll try not to hit you too hard, so forgive me su~”
“There’s nothing to be done about it. It’s work, after all.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Lower Fire Month (9th Month), 5th Day, 03:57
“Calm down! Please, calm down!”
Climb tried not to raise his voice too high as he called out to the people. However, the warehouse had been packed with a lot of agitated people, so his current volume was completely insufficient to get them to quiet down.
“My wife was taken—”
Male, female, young and old voices all blended together, washing over Climb like a wave. He could no longer make out what they were saying any more.
Climb had found the 300 people here at great risk to himself, and they were the only residents he had managed to find. The people locked in this small warehouse had no idea what was going on outside, and all they could do was whine about how their family members had been taken elsewhere.
It was a very natural response to the current circumstances, but it was also a very dangerous one.
Even though they had not encountered any demons on their way here, that did not mean that there were no demons present. In fact, they had already seen the silhouettes of the demons several times in the alleys they passed through on their way here. If they heard the cries coming from this warehouse, then it was only a matter of time before the demons arrived here.
“You are the only ones we’ve found so far—”
“Where’s my wife? Go find her!”
Perhaps if he raised his voice he might be able to shout them down. Climb, as a warrior, was far stronger than any mere city guard. If he roared at the man, he could easily seize the hearts of everyone present. But Climb did not do this.
Climb was the ambassador of the princess. He was here because Renner had seen fit to put her trust in him. If he used methods that terrorized the citizens and made them dislike him, that might easily spill over to Renner as well. With that in mind, Climb found it impossible to work himself up to using harsh methods on them.
“Hurry up and answer us—”
“My kid’s still young—”
“—Shut up, all of you!”
It felt like the trembling air in the warehouse had suddenly blown all the voices away. Brain could no longer tolerate them, and his shout — the anger of a first-rate warrior — had devoured the hearts of all the weaklings present.
“The lot of you are chattering like chickens just because he kept quiet. We’re in the territory of these guys, and there’s no way to guarantee your safety. If you don’t move quietly, the demons will come and they’ll kill every last one of you. If you understand, shut your mouths.”
Brain surveyed the now-silent warehouse, then looked straight at Climb. The citizens who were closing in wilted under his fiery gaze and slowly backed away.
“Now then, Climb. Time for you to make a decision.”
Climb was largely sure what decision he had to make. However, he had no confidence that it would be a wise one.
“It’s hard to say, then? Never mind, I’ll do it. First things first, you lot had best get it into your heads, the next time someone speaks when I do, I’ll kill him on the spot. I can’t even be sure you lot are all humans.”
Brain exposed a little of his katana, and the reflected light seemed almost blinding.
“I’ll bet you lot are wondering what I’m on about, but take a look at the person next to you. Are you sure all the people here are humans?”
The captives looked at each other in shock.
“Listen up. We saw a lot of demons on the way here. Some with wings, some with tails. Some even looked like people without skin. There were a lot of those. The ones roaming outside might be those guys… you should have seen them on the way in, right?
Everyone Brain turned his attention to nodded, their faces pale.
“Then, who can guarantee that there aren’t any demons among you? No skinless demons wearing someone else’s skin?
They had not been allowed to speak, but there was still a disturbance. They looked at each other with suspicious eyes, and then began adjusting their positions. The warehouse was small, but not small enough that everyone had to squeeze. There was enough space for everyone to avoid contact with everyone else.
“Relax. If any demons make it here, we’ll kill them. As long as you understand where we’re coming from, it’ll be alright.” As the mood seemed to relax, Brain capitalized on it and continued, “But, if the demons from outside come in like an avalanche, then I can’t make that guarantee. Don’t you think, if a demon infiltrated in here, wouldn’t he want to loudly shout that there were intruders? Do you see what I mean by killing anyone who made noise? Oh sure, some of you will think, “but I’m human, why are you killing me?” but the rest of us won’t know that. So for the sake of protecting everyone here, anyone who makes a noise that draws the demons will die.”
Once again, he bathed everyone in the killing intent brimming from his eyes.
“Looks like you get it. First up, we’ve searched a few warehouses before this one. However, not only did we not find anyone, all these warehouses were empty. Taking the area surrounded by the firewall into consideration, even if this is a warehouse district there should be more than 10’000 people here. Since there’s only 300 here, that means there ought to be at least 33 warehouses like this, right?”
Brain took a deep breath.
“A question, then. Why haven’t we found anyone else besides you? Maybe it’s just bad luck. After all, we were avoiding the areas where the demons were on alert. But… do you think anyone could accept that? Most likely they were transported from the warehouse district to somewhere else. Don’t panic! We have no idea where they’ve been taken. But anywhere the demons take them can’t be good.”
Those who understood raised their heads, and there was also the sound of sobbing.
“And you lot were slated to be taken away by the demons. That means for now, you’ve avoided a nasty fate. But remember, we’re still in the middle of the demons’ territory. If you’re not careful and don’t move quickly and quietly, you’ll be killed while fleeing. Oi, you look like you have a question. I’ll allow you to speak.”
The man who had the katana pointed at him asked his question in a frightened, small voice.
“What if we stay here?”
“Then you’ll be taken away. And it’ll be by those guys whom you know very well are demons, to wherever kind of hell these demons come from.”
Brain glared at him, and the woman who had raised her voice cut it out immediately.
“I allow you to speak.”
“…My child is only three years old. If I stay here, and go to the same place as him…”
“Really now. I have no interest in helping anyone who doesn’t want to run. But this guy is different. Just so you know, if your son’s been taken to another warehouse, there’s the chance he’ll be rescued by another team. If you want to ignore that and stay, then I won’t stop you. A kid without his mom can live by himself, but I haven’t seen anyone take care of their kid to this extent.”
Brain spoke coldly to the disheartened civilians.
“Then I’ll say it one more time. If you stay here, you’ll be taken away by the demons. If you accept this and want to stay, I won’t stop you. After all, when you leave this warehouse, there’s a chance you might get killed in a demonic attack while fleeing.”
Climb had to interrupt here. Since Brain had said this much, it was necessary.
“However, we will defend anyone who wants to flee.”
“I don’t like troublesome things, but I’m doing it because of this soldier of Renner’s. So I’ll protect you lot. We’ll move out in a few minutes. Staying or leaving is your choice. If you want to discuss your freedom softly, that’s your choice as well. Do as you like.”
There was no discussion. This was because they were worried that their neighbors might be demons but because many of them were hoping that their relatives would be rescued by another team and they would be reunited.
There shouldn’t be another team. We checked so many warehouses, and only a couple weren’t empty.
Brain decided not to think too much on the matter, instead gripping his sword and glaring fiercely at the captives, making sure that none of them made too much noise. Climb walked over to Brain, and spoke softly.
“Thank you, Brain-san. You did what I couldn’t do for myself.”
“Don’t worry about it, all that crap was stuff that someone like you, who serves Renner, couldn’t say. But for a mercenary like me, it shouldn’t cause any problems in the future. Just think of me as a whip.”
“Even so, I’m still grateful.”
A wry grin appeared on Brain’s face.
“It’ll get troublesome if we get stuck in an endless loop. I get it, I’ll accept your thanks. Hm? That fellow’s back.”
The thief entered Brain’s field of vision. He should have been keeping watch on the outside and remaining on standby. Since he wasn’t coming back in a hurry, that meant it wasn’t a dangerous situation.
“Ah, no, Unglaus-san. The demons don’t look like they’re coming over yet. But like you said, it’s only a matter of time.”
“That it is. Who knows, this might be their final objective. Did you take a look around outside? What was that earthquake just now?”
“I have no idea. Maybe the ground caved in and demons came crawling out of the earth?”
“Don’t say that sort of thing, that’s the worst-case scenario…”
“Sorry, sorry, Climb-kun.”
“Then, let’s get ready to move.”
Just as Brain was about to order the citizens around, there was a sound of something landing outside the warehouse.
The warehouse fell silent immediately. The thief stuck close to the doors to carefully check out the outside. His hand began moving in signs. They formed the shapes that the three of them had decided meant “demon”. Following that, he signalled, “a strong one”.
Climb and Brain exchanged looks. Then they quietly moved to where the thief was.
They saw a demon outside. It was completely different from the ones they had encountered before. It gave off the feeling of tremendous power.
Its body was nearly three meters tall, and it had bat wings upon its back. Its head was a goat skull, and in its hands it held a large hammer.
The demon turned its gaze to the warehouse, and Climb’s concealed party felt its eyesight on them. Had it used magic to sense them? It was definitely waiting for them to show themselves.
“That guy looks really strong…”
“No doubt about it.”
Brain muttered, and the thief answered. Climb nodded his head in agreement.
Climb quietly watched Brain. He had angered him during that encounter with Shalltear. As such, if Brain told Climb to flee, Climb fully intended to obey.
“…Climb, fight with me.”
Climb answered in a soft yet earnest voice.
“Will it be all right?”
“Ah, just look at that guy. He must have fled from a fight. He’s covered in wounds. If he were unhurt, I don’t think all of us together could beat him. But now, if we can charge him simultaneously, we might be able to win in one blow.”
“I’m counting on you,” Brain said as he patted Climb’s shoulder.
Climb nodded his head vigorously, and activated his ring’s power. This ring, made by the Dragon Lords using Wild Magic, contained a spell that could temporarily increase a warrior’s strength. If the strongest man in the Kingdom Gazef Stronoff used it, he could step into the realm of heroes, but Climb had not reached that state yet. Even in combination with his martial art [Limit Breaker — Mind], he could not even touch the bottoms of Brain’s feet. However, it would still grant Climb the power of a mithril-ranked warrior.
“All right, let’s go.”
The thief stopped Brain, who was leading the way.
“Shouldn’t you call me Brain? You’re older than me, calling me -san or whatever makes me uncomfortable.”
“…then, Brain. What should I do?”
“Just stay here, Lockmeyer. That guy might think we’re just a decoy.”
“…I’ll come to help you if you’re in danger.”
“Then I’ll count on you. Come on, Climb-kun. Although you probably know by now… don’t get cocky.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Lower Fire Month (9th Month), 5th Day, 04:03
Evileye grunted as she took a hit to the belly. Although she was largely insensitive to pain, her sense of touch from her days as a human being was not completely gone yet. If she was attacked, she would definitely feel it.
In the brief window when her concentration was broken, Evileye ate another hit from Alpha.
The explosive force of the blow knocked the air out of Evileye, and sent her flying. SHe felt the negative energy inside her depleting.
Evileye’s objective was to draw the battle out. As such, she could not use the strategy of converting physical damage to mana damage. Without mana, Evileye would be unable to fight. This meant she would have to expend her health and mana evenly.
Her mud-stained body was dragged back up into the air by the [Fly] spell.
At this moment, Evileye saw Nabe, who had been knocked flying by her own opponents.
She looked like she had been beaten up pretty badly too. Evileye flew over to her. The enemy did not follow— were they waiting for us to join up before killing us together?
“Oh, it’s you.”
Evileye had been planning to help up the fallen Nabe, but she stood back up immediately and spoke coldly.
Although her injury-covered body looked like she had been in the fight of her life, something felt wrong about her. There was no fear of death, or rather, she believed that Momon could defeat Jaldabaoth before she died.
Goes for me too, Evileye thought.
“Can you still fight?”
“Of course. No problem.”
That had been a stupid question.
Speaking of which… this woman has exceeded humanity as well. Could she be a God-kin too?
She had suffered assorted injuries and her clothes were stained by blood, but none of the wounds were lethal. For all she knew, Evileye might have been more badly hurt.
Compared to Evileye who had only two opponents, being able to perform this well against three opponents… though Evileye was loath to admit it, she had to admit that Nabe was better than her.
“You look like a mess.”
Evileye laughed at the reply, which was so much like Nabe.
Although the mask covered Evileye’s expression, Nabe could still feel that the air had changed, and surprise showed on her face.
“No, I was thinking that that reply was just like you.”
“…Was it now. So, what will we do now?”
“What can we do? How can we draw this battle out?”
Evileye turned a sharp look at the five enemies. Apart from the insect maid, whose murderous intent stabbed at her like a lance, the others did not radiate any hostility at all, though from their attitudes they seemed pretty confident of killing them both easily.
“Your enemies are there too.”
“Looks like we’re out of options. If the numbers were even we might have a chance to win. But if they’re on the same level as us and there’s more of them, then we’ll lose for sure.”
“How about running? If you turned around and fled, they might not pursue.”
“If you want to do that, I’ll cover you from the rear.”
Dissatisfaction twisted Nabe’s otherwise prim face. Although even an ugly expression on her face would not detract from her beauty in the slightest, Evileye thought in with a rather out-of-place sense of appreciation for a rival.
Suddenly, a person was blown through the air as a building collapsed. He bounced several times on the floor, tumbling head over heels before grinding to a halt.
Evileye did not need to breathe, but she still held her breath.
For a moment, she thought it might be Momon who was sent flying, but that was not the case. It was Jaldabaoth.
Seeing Jaldabaoth unsteady on his feet, Evileye became excited. It was obvious who had wounded him so badly and knocked him back so far.
Evileye’s vision spotted the warrior standing where the body had come flying from.
The jet-black armor was heavily damaged, making it clear just how intense their duel had been. Even so, the man standing there did not waver in the slightest, showing Momon’s clear superiority in comparison to Jaldabaoth, who was getting to his feet.
Evileye’s body was filled with joy, and she tightly clenched her fists.
Momon slowly lowered his swords, and spoke to the rising Jaldabaoth.
“Well, that was fun. How shall I put it… it felt real. I could feel myself really battling with you. So this is what it feels like to be the vanguard… in the past, I used to overpower all my opponents in melee combat, so I didn’t feel anything, but now I feel like a battle maniac. So, can you show me your full strength now?”
Telling one’s opponent to use their full strength was a grave insult. Thinking about this, Evileye shook her head. Perhaps this was Momon’s true desire.
A strong man like Momon rarely had the opportunity to go all-out. Most of the time his opponents would be slaughtered before he could get serious. A man like him would be overjoyed if he got the chance to face an opponent that required his full strength.
“Then, please allow me to do so.”
Jaldabaoth had probably understood it as an insult, and so he repaid it with exaggerated, sarcastic politeness.
As she watched him, Evileye was filled with the pride of knowing that she understood Momon better than Jaldabaoth.
“Then, I shall come at you seriously.”
“Bring it, Jaldabaoth.”
With those words as the signal, the two of them clashed in the middle of the plaza.
Their exchange was like a replay of the time Evileye had first met Momon. His high-speed, consecutive attacks were deflected by extended claws. Since they could parry his greatswords, the hardness of those claws must be beyond human understanding.
Momon leapt back in a grand, soaring arc. His jumping strength made her think that he might have been using the [Fly] spell. In the moment where her view of Momon was blocked by his spinning swords, she saw him produce a spear from nothing, from the corner of her eye.
It was a crimson spear whose point was like a cyclone of fire. Momon hurled it at Jaldabaoth. So fast did it fly that all she saw was its crimson trail seared into her vision as it headed for Jaldabaoth.
“—[Aspect of the Demon: Hellfire Mantle].”
As the spear struck, a roaring flame blazed up from the ground, and a massive shockwave erupted from Jaldabaoth.
In order not to be blown away by the titanic displacement of air, Evileye crouched down and tried to weather the storm. Fortunately, because she wore her mask, she was able to keep her eyes open during the tempest.
Looking ahead, she saw Momon picking up his sword from where it lay at his feet, amidst the wildly-blowing wind. Then, he charged Jaldabaoth again.
Jaldabaoth was ready to receive the attack. His body was wreathed in flames, and the spear from earlier was lodged in the ground by his feet.
As Momon swung down on him, Jaldabaoth caught the sword with both hands. Smoke rose from his palms, and the metal between his fingers started to melt.
“So, you’re able to melt a weapon like this… the ability has gotten stronger.”
Since it was a blade favored by Momon, an adventurer of the highest caliber, it must have been made of an amazing material indeed.
But that was not important. What was important was that Jaldabaoth could summon fire that could melt steel, and that Momon could still talk casually to him despite being so close to the deadly flames.
“―These two are incredible.”
Evileye was terrified. She already knew how strong the two of them were, but her body was still trembling uncontrollably.
“It is as you have surmised. The fire-type damage was strengthened by a special ability.”
On closer observation, the flames wreathing Jaldabaoth had a blackish tinge to them.
“Hellfire, is it?!”
“Just so. Even a being protected with fire immunity will not escape unscathed, don’t you think?”
For the first time in their battle, Momon took a step back in retreat, but Jaldabaoth would not permit it.
This time, it was Jaldabaoth’s turn to close the gap, launching a flurry of blows at Momon. That attack could have slain a human being in an instant, but Momon expertly parried them all with his gigantic swords.
While engaged in close combat that was slowly melting his armor, Momon once again reached into nothingness and drew forth a strange weapon.
“[Frost Pain Modified— Icy Burst]!”
A wave of frigid air rushed forth from the weapon, dropping the surrounding temperature instantly. Although it seemed as though the cold could even freeze fire, Jaldabaoth’s hellfire burned hotter than normal flames. Still, for a moment, the heat was suppressed.
Jaldabaoth’s surprised exclamation reached Evileye’s ears.
“What was that? It was like the spear from just now.”
“Since I can’t use magic, I made up for it with elemental weapons. Although this was a copy of Frost Pain made as an experiment… well, I should count myself lucky it turned out stronger than the original. Granted, it’s a tool that lets me use a high-level spell three times a day, but without skills to power it up, it should be nothing to you.”
The dialogue between the two of them beggared belief.
They were supposed to be engaged in an intense struggle for their lives, but the mood felt like they were merely testing each others’ strength in an easy and relaxed manner.
Evileye recalled something Gagaran had said once. When warriors put their lives on the line, sometimes they would be able to fully grasp the thoughts of their opponent, and it would create a feeling as though they were close friends who had known each other for a long time.
At that time, she had wondered what she was talking about. But now―
“Maybe she had a point after all.”
Evileye had learned to accept a lot in the space of one day. She was determined not to reject potential wisdom in future.
She was starting to become jealous of the closeness between them.
The man in the jet-black armor, which had lost its shine due to its melted surface, and the demon whose tuxedo had been shredded by countless sword blows.
The two of them who had dueled each other in a domain beyond the grasp of humanity seemed like old friends to Evileye.
“Your puissance is unparalleled.”
“Indeed, so is yours, Jaldabaoth.”
“In that case, might I make a proposition?”
Momon raised his chin to Jaldabaoth, as though telling him to carry on.
“If I concede this battle and the victory to yourself, perhaps we can both take a step back from the edge? Or rather, to be more precise, I will withdraw myself from this incident, and I hope you will cease your pursuit of myself.”
“Are you kidding me!”
Evileye’s cry was fueled by intense emotion. For someone who had filled the capital with this much chaos and death, a plea for mercy and forgiveness was nothing short of shameless.
However, a calm voice accepted Jaldabaoth’s proposal.
“It’s all right.”
Under her mask, Evileye stared goggle-eyed at Momon. She could not understand why Momon, who was in such a superior position, was accepting Jaldabaoth’s terms.
Sensing Evileye’s confusion, Jaldabaoth shrugged his shoulders. Much as she hated to admit it, he looked quite stylish while he did.
“It baffles me why Momon-san would bring an air-headed woman like yourself along. A moment’s consideration should reveal why Momon-san accepted my proposition.”
Turning to Evileye, Jaldabaoth continued speaking.
“In order to bring Momon-san here, and to keep others from interfering with our battle, you committed a lot of your friends and allies to the fight, did you not? Did you really think they would be enough to keep the demons from intruding into this conflict?”
Evileye felt as though she had been impaled through the spine with an icicle.
“The demon army is always waiting for a chance to assault the capital.”
It was the worst-case scenario.
Although Marquis Raeven was patrolling inside the capital with his troops, she honestly could not believe he could deal with all the demons Jaldabaoth had in store. A similar conclusion awaited if the demons started taking hostages from throughout the city.
But if they defeated Jaldabaoth here—
“Even if you kill me, do you think they will vanish? I have but to give a single mental command and my infernal hordes will immediately begin rampaging through the city. Granted, their numbers might be somewhat diminished… but how many casualties do you think they will cause in the time it takes to kill them?”
“But then, how do we know that you’ll actually keep your promise?”
If Jaldabaoth continued fighting with a top-class warrior like Momon, he had no guarantee of actually winning. That being the case, why not withdraw all his troops and beg off from the pursuit? If not— well, then if he died, he was going to take everyone else with him. Something like that.
However, with the capital’s population as hostages, their circumstances were not even.
It was a truly manipulative and cunning offer.
I see, Evileye thought, her opinion of Momon rising even further up. He had grudgingly accepted Jaldabaoth’s proposal because he had already foreseen this development. Indeed, he had no other choice.
“Then, since this outsider has accepted it as well, I will begin my withdrawal, though it is a shame I could not recover the item. I pray we will never meet again.”
“Same here, Jaldabaoth.”
Jaldabaoth laughed under his mask, and then gathered the maids around before they vanished via a high-tiered teleportation spell.
Evileye floated in the sky, her eyes looking to where the wall of fire had been. Nothing was left; only a slightly livelier patch of the night skyline.
The curtains were drawn on this disturbance. But what had been born of today’s sacrifices?
The fact remained that Jaldabaoth existed, a demon with power surpassing the Demon Gods by far. And against him stood Momon, a top-ranked warrior. What would the world make of these two once the word spread, and how would the world change after that?
Evileye shook her head to scatter the thoughts which had blended into a big pile inside it. She would consider these things slowly, in the future.
There was something far more important than this. Evileye landed on the ground and opened her arms.
With a joyous cry, Evileye broke into a run. Although her [Fly] spell’s duration had not yet expired, this was a situation which called for running.
Evileye ran toward Momon. Perhaps out of surprise, Momon took a ready stance with his swords. Ignoring this, Evileye leapt through the air toward him. Since she had been running at full tilt, it felt like she had hit a wall. But because of her Vampiric physiology and endurance, no harm was done.
And so, Evileye tackle-hugged Momon.
“You did it! You won! You won! As expected of Momon-sama!”
“I… uh… do you mind, I’d like some space here.”
Momon spoke calmly to Evileye, who was hugging him like a koala. Maybe he was embarrassed.
I win as long as I hug him.
Evileye was banking on a piece of trivia she had heard of in the past. Some men would use members the opposite sex to bleed off tension after a battle. She was hoping that Momon would be such a man, and that he would pick her for that duty.
Evileye glimpsed at Nabe, who was glaring at her.
First girl wins.
Although Evileye was grinding her soft body against Momon, his armor meant that he probably did not feel anything, and if she bumped a wound, it would hurt.
“Haaah… forgive me, Nabe, hold my swords.”
Realizing that this was just wasting her strength, Evileye let go, falling from the tree that was Momon.
Well, that’s true. I should keep an eye out for a good opportunity next time. Now that Jaldabaoth’s seen Momon-sama’s power, there’s no way he’ll break his part of the bargain. But even so, there were those who fought, and those who died… ah, pursuing my own desires will be bad in so many ways.
The battle for the capital had ended.
But Evileye’s battle as a woman had just begun.
Evileye, who was thinking of her next move, turned at the sound of ringing steel.
Before her was a group of people. They were adventurers and soldiers and—
“Is that the Warrior Captain? With everyone else?”
Beside Gazef Stronoff were Lakyus and Tina. Gagaran and Tia were there too. Everyone was covered in grime, a testament to the vicious battles they had fought to get here. They looked around at the aftermath of the intense battle that had taken place here, and then, with an intake of breath, they all looked at Momon.
Sensing the meaning of that gesture, Evileye whispered to him.
“Momon-sama, lead us in a cry of victory.”
But Momon did not do so. Just as Evileye was starting to get suspicious, she heard a still, small voice.
“I’m feeling a bit shy right now.”
The surprisingly human reaction from the superhuman warrior made Evileye laugh out loud.
“…But, doesn’t that honor belong to the one who did the most for us? Don’t let this chance go by.”
Momon gripped his sword tightly and thrust it toward the sky.
In the next moment, everyone in the plaza raised their fists to the sky, shouting in celebration of their victory. In everyone’s mouths was the name of Momon, the hero who had saved the nation—